Problem of Evil Essay
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The traditional problem of evil emerges when people believe in and argue for the existence of a God who is both omnipotent and wholly good. According to Mackie’s study (1955), few of the solutions to the problem of evil could stand up to criticism. Today, someone suggests an alternative: God is not perfectly good, but maximally cool. By cool he means to be free from tension or violence. Since God is maximally cool, he is not so much concerned about either eliminating evil or maximizing goodness than promoting coolness.
This God appears to be logically valid, but this essay will show that the existence of such God is impossible.
First, we should ask this: if God aims to promote coolness, why would he bother to create evil? It is clear that evil is not cool, given that evil creates tension and violence. It may be replied that God is maximally cool and therefore creates anything based on his will and is not concerned with what happens to his creation afterwards.
This reply is arguing that God created some cool thing which later then turned into the uncool evil. Then, the fact that uncool evil exists implies that God cannot make this uncool evil to be cool again, which contradicts with the premise that God is omnipotent.
Secondly, good is also uncool. According to most theists, good is defined to be opposite to evil and thus always fights to expel evil (Mackie, 1955), so that good is in constant tension and possible violence with evil. Though the God in argument is claimed to be not perfectly good, this God is still good to a certain degree. Then he will still fights against evil and therefore is not always cool. This leads us to conclude that this God cannot be maximum cool. This guy in defense of the existence of a maximally cool God might argue that uncool is necessary as a counterpart to cool.
It seems natural and necessary to consider why there should be uncool things if God is maximum cool. He might argue that if there were no uncool, there could be no cool either, in that if there were no violence or tension to be created and involved in, there could be no violence or tension to be free from. It might be that out of randomness, God created evil that generates tension and good that engages in tension against evil. To detach from involvement in tension or to destroy tension might create another tension and may incur violence. If God were to eliminate uncool things that he created, he would enter a tension between cool and uncool.
Then, it would be uncool to make uncool things cool. Because God is maximally cool, he will not enter such tension and therefore he leaves good and evil as uncool as they are. By claiming that cool cannot exist without uncool, this guy shows that God cannot create cool without simultaneously creating uncool. This sets a limit to what God can do, which involves two possibilities: either God is not omnipotent or that omnipotence has some limits. If it is the first case, then we can deny the existence of a God who is omnipotent and maximally cool. If it is the second case, one may argue that these limits are logically impossibility.
However, according to Mackie (1955), some theists hold the view that God can do what is logically impossible, while many theists maintain that God created logic. This leads us to the paradox of omnipotence, where we consider whether an omnipotent being can bind himself. According to Mackie, although we can avoid the paradox of omnipotence by putting God outside time, we cannot prove that an omnipotent God binds himself by logical laws. Therefore, it is a fallacious approach to prove the existence of a maximally cool and omnipotent by claiming that cool and uncool are counterparts to each other.
To summarize, if a God is omniscience, then he must know the existence of uncool. If he is omnipotent and maximum cool, he will promote coolness to the maximum. However, we observe that there are uncool things which are against God’s will to promote coolness and which God cannot make them cool. Therefore, a God that is omniscience, omnipotent and maximally cool cannot exist. Works Cited J. L. Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence,” Mind, New Series, Vol. 64, No. 254. (Apr. , 1955), pp. 200-212. In Pascal’s Wager, Pascal concludes that rationality requires people to wager for god. He bases his argument on mainly three premises.
The first premise is his construct of the decision matrix of rewards. The second premise suggests that we are required by rationality to assign positive and not infinitesimal probability to God existing. The third premise states that we are required by rationality to perform the act of possible maximum expected utility. This essay will argue that Pascal’s Wager does not demonstrate solid prudential reasons for us to believe in God, by showing the third premise is not necessarily true. We consider that it is not in all cases that we are required by rationality to maximize expected utility.
In Pascal’s Wager, we pay ‘one life’ to wager for God and obtain infinite expected utility. Paying finite amount to play a game with infinite expectation appear to be at our interests and can therefore serve as a prudential reason for us to wager for God. However, in certain cases, this action could be regarded as absurd and alternatively, and to the contrary, taking intuitively sub-optimal actions would actually maximize the expected utility. For example, the St. Petersburg paradox could be representative of this kind of situations. In the St. Petersburg game (Martin, 2011), we keep flipping a coin until we get a coin.
The total number of flips, n, yields the prize which equals $2n. There are infinite sum of flips possible, so we have infinite number of possible consequences. The expected payoff of each consequence is $1 and therefore the ‘expected value’ of the game, which equals the sum of the expected payoffs of all the consequences, will be an infinite number of dollars. Then, intuitively we will be willing to play the game as long as we only need to pay a finite number of dollars, given that the ‘expected value’ of the game is infinite. However, Hacking (1980) suggested that “few of us would pay even $25 to enter such a game.
” If we were to pay $25 for the game, half of the time we receive $2 and one quarter of the time the game pays $4, so the probability to break-even is less than one in twenty five. Still, because of the very small possibility of the number of flips to be greater than $25, the expected payoff of the game is larger than the $25 payment. According to standard Bayesian decision theory (Martin, 2011), we should play this game. Then again, because of the very small possibility of getting high enough payment, it is very likely that we will need to flip a coin longer than our physical possibility.
In that sense, it will be absurd to pay this finite amount and flip longer than physical constraints for the infinite expected payoff. Therefore, it is not always true that rationality will require us to perform the act that yields maximal expected utility. In the St. Petersburg game we experiment infinitely many trials which yield infinite expectation. In Pascal’s wager, we have a single-trial which also yields infinite expectation. It seems natural for Pascal to assume that expectation is a good guide to solve this decision problem.
However, according to Hajek (2012), we need to take variance into consideration to make better decision, because in this one-time shot, a large variance could lead us to an outcome which is much worse than the expectation. When the variance is small, it is probable to get an outcome close to the expectation. However, the further the distribution of outcomes spreads out, the more likely it is to get a bad outcome, and the less compelling the third premise seems to be. Assuming that the expectation of wagering for God is infinite, we can calculate the variance of the outcomes of the wager.
Given the infinitely good of the good outcome and the status quo of the bad outcome, the variance is infinite. In the case of an infinite variance, due to our risk-aversion, we might be better off choosing to minimize variance than maximizing our expected utility. Indeed, if f2 is made as low as possible, the variance of wagering for God would be much greater than wagering against God. If the probability of the probability of receiving infinite good, is made as low as possible, the resulted variance might make we deviate much further away from the expected utility in an undesirable direction.
Both cases above could happen, and if they do, we would feel less compelled by our rationality to maximize our expected utility because the large variance could lead us to a situation that is much worse than expectation. To summarize, Pascal’s premise three is not necessarily true. This premise says that we are required by nationality to maximize expected utility where there is one available. However, the St. Petersburg paradox suggests that rationality does not always require us to maximize our expected utility. Furthermore, in consideration of large variance, expectation might not be a good measure of choiceworthiness (Hajek, 2012).
Without the validity of premise three, we cannot draw the conclusion that rationality requires us to wager for God. Therefore, Pascal’s wager does not solidly demonstrate that we have prudential reasons to believe in God. Works Cited Hajek, Alan, “Pascal’s Wager”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed. ), URL = http://plato. stanford. edu/archives/win2012/entries/pascal-wager/ Martin, Robert, “The St. Petersburg Paradox”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Hacking, Ian, 1980, “Strange Expectations”, Philosophy of Science 47: 562-567. According to Pollock (1986), you might be a brain floating in a vat filled with nutrient fluid. You do not realize that you are a brain in a vat because this brain is wired to a computer program that produces stimulation in brain to cause experiences that are qualitatively indistinguishable from normal experiences of being a human being. The problem lies exactly in that whether you are a brain in a vat or not, everything seems to be the same to you.
Many philosophers have attempted to prove that you are not a brain in a vat and their approaches seem to be valid. Among those, Moore’s argument and Putnam’s argument are two influential but different approaches. This essay tries to show that you cannot use either of these arguments to prove that you are not a brain in a vat. While going through Moore’s argument seems to be an easy way to show that you are not a BIV (brain in a vat), it is not difficult to show how this approach is flawed either. By Moore’s argument, first you open your eyes and form perceptual knowledge that you have hands.
Then you deduce that you are not a BIV which does not have hands and thereby you come to know that conclusion. However, it should be argued in the first place that your senses are not reliable. As Descartes argued in Meditations (1986), while you might form the perception that you are wearing a dress in the dream, you are actually undressed in your bed. The flaw in the logic of this approach can be demonstrated in the following analogous story. You see an empty glass on a table. The glass looks orange and in fact it is. You form perceptual knowledge that the glass is orange.
You deduce that it is not colorless and filled with orange juice. You thereby come to know that the glass does not appear orange to you because it is colorless with orange juice filled in it. By assuming that there is orange juice in the glass, you establish that the glass does not appear orange to you because it is colorless with orange juice filled in it. Here the problem is that there is no orange juice and you are trying to prove there is orange juicy by assuming its existence. For the same token, if you are a BIV, then the hands that you perceive are hands* produced by one feature of the computer program.
The premise asserting that you form a perception of hands is assuming that you are not a BIV and therefore can form a perceptual knowledge of hands. This is begging the question because we want to prove that we are not BIV. Therefore, you cannot prove that you are not a BIV by going through Moore’s argument. Another famous discussion is Putnam’s semantic arguments. One problem of this approach is the narrow scope of the arguments. Putnam started his arguments by drawing analogy between the mental image of a Martian and that of a BIV.
Claiming that Mars does not have tree, Putnam established that BIV’s utterance of ‘tree’ has a different referent from the referent of a non-BIV speaking of a tree. While it is possible that you have always been a BIV since you come into being, so you have never seen a tree that a non-BIV sees. It is also possible that you have lived certain part of your life as a non-BIV and then at some point you are made into a BIV. For example, if you recall in The Problems of Knowledge (Pollock, 1986), by the time that Margot tells Mike that he is a brain in a vat, he has been a brain in a vat for three months.
According to Margot, Henry, or the brain in a vat that Mike sees, receives a fictitious mental life that merges perfectly into Henry’s past life. To merge perfectly, the language and its referents that the computer generates for Henry must be indistinguishable from those before his envatment. Similarly, if Mike has been speaking English up until three months ago when he was envatted, his utterance of ‘Margot’ after envatment must have the same referent as the one he had before. It must be that now his words retain the same English referents to the same contents in order to achieve a perfect merge (Brueckner, 2012).
This perfect merge makes brain* in a vat* the same as BIV, which means whether you are BIV or not, you always speak English rather than vat-English. Because there are no differences in the languages between BIV and non-BIV, the semantic arguments have nowhere to start in this case. Unless you know with certainty that all BIVs have been BIVs since they came into beings, you cannot use semantic arguments to prove that you are not a BIV. To summarize, Moore’s arguments appear to be an easy solution to the problem of knowledge, but these arguments are begging the question and therefore cannot refute the brain-in-a-vat hypotheses.
It seems that Putnam’s arguments are more compelling, but still they fail to rule out all possible versions of the brain-in-a-vat hypotheses. Therefore, you cannot prove that you are a non-BIV by using either of these arguments. Works Cited Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960. Print. Pollock, John L. Contemporary Theories of Knowledge. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1986. Print. Brueckner, Tony, “Skepticism and Content Externalism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed. ), URL = .