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A Moral Argument Against God's Existence

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  • A Moral Argument Against God's Existence

    The philosopher Stephen Maitzen has recently argued that the existence of ordinary moral obligations argues against the existence of God:

    Maitzen presents and defends the the following premises from the argument (my account of these premises comes from paper 2, with the brackets {} around the page number where the premise appears):

    (TI or theodical individualism) Necessarily, God permits undeserved, involuntary human suffering only if such suffering ultimately produces a net benefit for the sufferer.
    {108}

    1) If God exists and TI is true, then, necessarily, all undeserved, involuntary human suffering ultimately produces a net benefit for the sufferer.
    {111}

    2) If, necessarily, all undeserved, involuntary human suffering ultimately produces a net benefit for the sufferer, then (a) we never have a moral obligation to prevent undeserved, involuntary human suffering or (b) our moral obligation to prevent undeserved, involuntary human suffering derives entirely from God’s commands. {111}

    (3) We sometimes have a moral obligation to prevent undeserved, involuntary human suffering, an obligation that does not derive entirely from God’s commands.
    {114}

    (4) So: It isn’t the case that, necessarily, all undeserved, involuntary human suffering ultimately produces a net benefit for the sufferer. [From (2), (3)]
    {114}

    (5) So: God does not exist or TI is false. [From (1), (4)]
    {115}

    (6) If not even God may treat human beings merely as means, then TI is true.
    {116}

    (7) Not even God may treat human beings merely as means.
    {117}

    (8) So: TI is true. [From (6), (7)]
    {117}

    (9) So: God does not exist. [From (5), (8)]
    {117}


    I think the argument is sound. Any other views?
    "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

  • #2
    It seems to assume the suffering in and of itself is what is good, rather than living in a universe where suffering is present

    If, necessarily, all undeserved, involuntary human suffering ultimately produces a net benefit for the sufferer, then (a) we never have a moral obligation to prevent undeserved, involuntary human suffering
    That suffering provokes us to help people, produces empathy, etc. could be one of the benefits of suffering existing in the first place. Or it could be that suffering, being helped, and helping others are all good things. Allowing the suffering could produce a benefit for the sufferer but that doesn't rule out that it's an opportunity for another good (or better) thing to take place
    "Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ." - That Guy Everyone Quotes

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by hamster View Post
      It seems to assume the suffering in and of itself is what is good, rather than living in a universe where suffering is present
      It argues that the suffering needs to bring about a net benefit for the sufferer.

      That suffering provokes us to help people, produces empathy, etc. could be one of the benefits of suffering existing in the first place. Or it could be that suffering, being helped, and helping others are all good things. Allowing the suffering could produce a benefit for the sufferer but that doesn't rule out that it's an opportunity for another good (or better) thing to take place
      That would be akin to Swinburne's theodicy, and amounts to treating the suffering person as a mere means, like a tool. In this case: treating the sufferer as a mere means for producing empathy, provoking others to help, etc. And Maitzen already addresses some of the problems with that approach.

      It'd be akin to saying that one does not have a moral obligation to prevent a homicide in a crowded theater, since preventing the homicide would keep people from having an opportunity to help the grieving victim's family. That's implausible. Imagine if someone that as apart of their reasoning for not reporting a homicide they knew was being planned. They'd be laughed out of polite society, since they're just viewing people's suffering as a mere means or just tools. So why does that response become plausible when offered in defense of a deity? It's just special pleading.

      Furthermore your response sounds somewhat utilitarian or consequentialist, where you're saying that the undeserved, involuntary suffering is justified because of the consequences for other people. I find that fairly ironic, given how many Christians object to consequentialism. In any event, this consequentialist route would work only if God had no better way of getting these consequences, other than undeserved, involuntary suffering. And I see no reason to think that's the case. After all, an omnipotent God has quite a number of different means for achieving these consequences. And one can be helpful and empathetic (i.e. have these as character traits) even if these dispositions are never occurrent since there's no suffering individual in need of them, since dispositions can exist even if they aren't occurrent. Additionally, the consequentialist route would work only if on balance the negative consequences for the sufferer were outweighed by the positive consequences for other individuals. And that does not seem to be the case, since there are plenty of plausible cases of very negative, undeserved, involuntary suffering, where this is not outweighed by greater positive consequences for other's. This includes cases where people suffer alone, forgotten by others.
      Last edited by Jichard; 04-05-2015, 01:59 AM.
      "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Paprika
        You're assuming a false dichotomy between suffering being only for the sufferer's benefit and being only for others' benefits.
        False, since the argument allows for a third option where the suffering is a net benefit for the suffering and benefits other's. If you doubt this, then feel free to show where the OP's argument assumes a false dichotomy.

        Also, please read the post I was responding to. I was addressing someone who was objecting to the OP's by noting that suffering can benefit other people. Call that Y:
        Y : the suffering is a net benefit to the person suffering
        And call this X:
        X : the suffering is a net benefit to others
        The OP's argument involves ~X ["(4)" in the argument]. So suppose hamster was objecting to the OP's argument by claiming X. Then the OP already addresses that by it's argument for ~X, an argument based on premises 2 and 3. But instead suppose hamster was objecting to the OP's argument by claiming "X and Y" (so benefit for the suffer and benefit for other's). Then the same rebuttal applies, since an argument for ~X rebuts "X and Y" just as much as it rebuts "X". Now, suppose hamster just meant Y without X, that is: "~X and Y". Then that would be treating the sufferer as mere means, and would fall prey to the objections I mentioned in response to hamster. And finally suppose hamster just meant Y. Then it's unclear how hamster's point address the OP's argument.



        Originally posted by Paprika
        Originally posted by Jichard
        And Maitzen already addresses some of the problems with that approach.
        Then cite or otherwise demonstrate his refutation, because argument by weblink isn't allowed here.
        First, I already cited his refutation by citing the paper.

        Second, I already checked before I registered: this website does allow people to link to external sources, as long as they discuss those sources. For example: http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/sh...ses-of-atheism
        And since I clearly did discuss it, I'm fine. So please don't try to intimidate me with things you made up, just because you think I'm new here.

        Third, congratulations on quote-mining. You left out the following explanation which immediately followed what you quoted:
        Originally posted by Jichard View Post
        It'd be akin to saying that one does not have a moral obligation to prevent a homicide in a crowded theater, since preventing the homicide would keep people from having an opportunity to help the grieving victim's family. That's implausible. Imagine if someone that as apart of their reasoning for not reporting a homicide they knew was being planned. They'd be laughed out of polite society, since they're just viewing people's suffering as a mere means or just tools. So why does that response become plausible when offered in defense of a deity? It's just special pleading.

        Furthermore your response sounds somewhat utilitarian or consequentialist, where you're saying that the undeserved, involuntary suffering is justified because of the consequences for other people. I find that fairly ironic, given how many Christians object to consequentialism. In any event, this consequentialist route would work only if God had no better way of getting these consequences, other than undeserved, involuntary suffering. And I see no reason to think that's the case. After all, an omnipotent God has quite a number of different means for achieving these consequences. And one can be helpful and empathetic (i.e. have these as character traits) even if these dispositions are never occurrent since there's no suffering individual in need of them, since dispositions can exist even if they aren't occurrent. Additionally, the consequentialist route would work only if on balance the negative consequences for the sufferer were outweighed by the positive consequences for other individuals. And that does not seem to be the case, since there are plenty of plausible cases of very negative, undeserved, involuntary suffering, where this is not outweighed by greater positive consequences for other's. This includes cases where people suffer alone, forgotten by others.
        I may be to new to this forum, but where I come from we take a dim view of quote-miners, especially Christians who quote-mine to avoid points they are unable or unwilling to address. Please feel free to address what was written, without quote-mining.
        "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Jichard View Post
          False, since the argument allows for a third option where the suffering is a net benefit for the suffering and benefits other's. If you doubt this, then feel free to show where the OP's argument assumes a false dichotomy.

          That was a response to Post #3, not the OP. Try again.

          First, I already cited his refutation by citing the paper.
          You still have to demonstrate it.

          Second, I already checked before I registered: this website does allow people to link to external sources, as long as they discuss those sources. For example: http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/sh...ses-of-atheism
          And since I clearly did discuss it, I'm fine. So please don't try to intimidate me with things you made up, just because you think I'm new here.
          Idiot. I didn't say you can't link to external sources, but that you can't argue via them: you have to make the argument in your post instead of pointing them to the weblink. Merely saying that "Maitzen already addresses some of the problems" means nothing."

          Third, congratulations on quote-mining. You left out the following explanation which immediately followed what you quoted:
          My point was and is that if you want to use Maizen's alleged refutations to have any argumentative force you need to demonstrate it.

          your explanation
          "implausible", "laughed out of polite society", "ironic", "only if" - let me know when you actually have a sound argument instead of mere assertions and meaningless claims.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Paprika View Post

            That was a response to Post #3, not the OP. Try again.
            If you'd finished reading the post you just replied to, you'd realize that the OP was relevant to my response to post 3.

            You still have to demonstrate it.
            I already cited the refutation. The citations are given in the OP as links.

            Furthermore, I already stated the reply in the sections of the post which you intentionally cut out in your quote-mine.

            Idiot.
            Please don't call me an idiot. It's not a Christian thing to do. I've been polite with you; please do the same.

            I didn't say you can't link to external sources, but that you can't argue via them: you have to make the argument in your post instead of pointing them to the weblink. Merely saying that "Maitzen already addresses some of the problems" means nothing."
            First, what you actually said was that I needed to cite or otherwise demonstrate his refutation:A link counts as a citation.

            Second, I already demonstrated a portion of his refutation (in addition to my own refutation from a consequentialist angle): it was in the very portion of the post you left out in your quote-mine. Here it is, once again:
            Originally posted by Jichard View Post
            It'd be akin to saying that one does not have a moral obligation to prevent a homicide in a crowded theater, since preventing the homicide would keep people from having an opportunity to help the grieving victim's family. That's implausible. Imagine if someone that as apart of their reasoning for not reporting a homicide they knew was being planned. They'd be laughed out of polite society, since they're just viewing people's suffering as a mere means or just tools. So why does that response become plausible when offered in defense of a deity? It's just special pleading.

            Furthermore your response sounds somewhat utilitarian or consequentialist, where you're saying that the undeserved, involuntary suffering is justified because of the consequences for other people. I find that fairly ironic, given how many Christians object to consequentialism. In any event, this consequentialist route would work only if God had no better way of getting these consequences, other than undeserved, involuntary suffering. And I see no reason to think that's the case. After all, an omnipotent God has quite a number of different means for achieving these consequences. And one can be helpful and empathetic (i.e. have these as character traits) even if these dispositions are never occurrent since there's no suffering individual in need of them, since dispositions can exist even if they aren't occurrent. Additionally, the consequentialist route would work only if on balance the negative consequences for the sufferer were outweighed by the positive consequences for other individuals. And that does not seem to be the case, since there are plenty of plausible cases of very negative, undeserved, involuntary suffering, where this is not outweighed by greater positive consequences for other's. This includes cases where people suffer alone, forgotten by others.
            I'm beginning to think you left this out because you wanted to act as if I was arguing by links.

            My point was and is that if you want to use Maizen's alleged refutations to have any argumentative force you need to demonstrate it.
            Then how about you address the refutations when they are presented, instead of quote-mining posts in order to leave out the refutations?

            "implausible", "laughed out of polite society", "ironic", "only if" - let me know when you actually have a sound argument instead of mere assertions and meaningless claims.
            I already made the argument.

            If you think the use of terms like "only if", "implausible", etc. make an argument unsound, then you don't know what a sound argument is, you don't know what "X ===> Y" translates to in English (hint: X only if Y), etc.

            Let me know when you can actually address what was written, instead of leaving it out in your quote-mines.
            "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Jichard View Post
              If you'd finished reading the post you just replied to, you'd realize that the OP was relevant to my response to post 3.
              I already cited the refutation. The citations are given in the OP as links.

              Furthermore, I already stated the reply in the sections of the post which you intentionally cut out in your quote-mine.
              That's his refutation? I must apologise, I didn't think he'd spout that kind of crap so I thought it was all yours.

              Please don't call me an idiot. It's not a Christian thing to do. I've been polite with you; please do the same.
              I'll do as I like.

              Second, I already demonstrated a portion of his refutation (in addition to my own refutation from a consequentialist angle): it was in the very portion of the post you left out in your quote-mine. Here it is, once again:
              See above.

              Then how about you address the refutations when they are presented, instead of quote-mining posts in order to leave out the refutations?
              See above.

              If you think the use of terms like "only if", "implausible", etc. make an argument unsound, then you don't know what a sound argument is, you don't know what "X ===> Y" translates to in English (hint: X only if Y), etc.

              Let me know when you can actually address what was written, instead of leaving it out in your quote-mines.
              I have already addressed it: it only consists of meaningless claims of "implausible", "laughed out of polite society" and "ironic" and mere assertions that certain points hold "only if" others do. When there's any hint of a sound argument, please let me know.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                That's his refutation? I must apologise, I didn't think he'd spout that kind of crap so I thought it was all yours.
                Nothing of substance to respond to there.

                I'll do as I like.
                Alright. As will I.

                I have already addressed it: it only consists of meaningless claims of "implausible", "laughed out of polite society" and "ironic" and mere assertions that certain points hold "only if" others do. When there's any hint of a sound argument, please let me know.
                Already addressed:
                I already made the argument.

                If you think the use of terms like "only if", "implausible", etc. make an argument unsound, then you don't know what a sound argument is, you don't know what "X ===> Y" translates to in English (hint: X only if Y), etc.

                Let me know when you can actually address what was written, instead of leaving it out in your quote-mines.

                At this point, I'll assume you have nothing more of substance to say.
                "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jichard View Post
                  Nothing of substance to respond to there.
                  No need to; I'm just explaining why I assumed that wasn't Maitzen's refutations. Though I really should have known better.

                  If you think the use of terms like "only if", "implausible", etc. make an argument unsound
                  I don't, dumbass. My point is that the 'refutation' has no semblance of a sound argument and only consists of meaningless claims and assertions.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                    No need to; I'm just explaining why I assumed that wasn't Maitzen's refutations. Though I really should have known better.
                    Nothing of substance to respond to there.

                    Originally posted by Paprika
                    Originally posted by Jichard
                    If you think the use of terms like "only if", "implausible", etc. make an argument unsound
                    I don't, dumbass.
                    No, you actually do. You said:

                    And please try to be polite.

                    My point is that the 'refutation' has no semblance of a sound argument and only consists of meaningless claims and assertions.
                    It's actually a sound argument. You apparently object to terms like "only if" and "implausible", yet you have no actual grounds for doing so.
                    "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I don't, dumbass. Nowhere did I claim that the use makes "the argument unsound" but that there is no sound argument there.

                      And please try to be polite.
                      Nah. This is Apologetics 301.

                      It's actually a sound argument.
                      It isn't.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm not at all religious. However, Maltzen's argument doesn't sit well with me. Let me examine the opening statement.

                        Originally posted by Jichard View Post
                        (TI or theodical individualism) Necessarily, God permits undeserved, involuntary human suffering only if such suffering ultimately produces a net benefit for the sufferer.
                        {108}
                        I see suffering as an inevitable aspect of free will. Suffering and enjoyment are flip sides of the same coin. You can't really have one without the other. They contrast and help define each other. To prevent suffering, God would have to prevent free will, which kind of defeats the purpose of having humans around. By allowing humans to have free will, humans gain the ability to recognize both enjoyment and suffering.

                        Then of course the argument takes the common atheist mistake of focusing entirely on our current lives in an argument about religion. When you factor in the religious view of the existence of the soul, and eternal life beyond our current physical selves, then suffering in our current lives is insignificant compared to an eternal afterlife. With that in mind, there would be no need for humans to benefit from suffering in any way during our current lives. The situation could be rectified in the afterlife. If there is a benefit, it could come in the afterlife. "Suffering is good for the soul," so to speak.
                        Middle-of-the-road swing voter. Feel free to sway my opinion.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Yttrium View Post
                          I'm not at all religious. However, Maltzen's argument doesn't sit well with me. Let me examine the opening statement.



                          I see suffering as an inevitable aspect of free will. Suffering and enjoyment are flip sides of the same coin. You can't really have one without the other. They contrast and help define each other. To prevent suffering, God would have to prevent free will, which kind of defeats the purpose of having humans around. By allowing humans to have free will, humans gain the ability to recognize both enjoyment and suffering.
                          Maitzen deals with the free will reply from pages 120-122 of paper 1.

                          And suffering is not an inevitable aspect of free will. After all, one can have free agents who always choose to do good things that never cause involuntary, undeserved suffering for other people. The standard example of this is heaven. Anyway, I've always found it confusing why some people think free will necessitates evil or suffering. That makes no sense, since free will only requires that one has the ability to do evil or cause suffering, not that one actually does that [to put it another way: people are confusing a disposition with an occurent state). To give a non-moral example: I am free with respect to marrying a man, since I have the ability to do so and could do so if I wanted to. However, I won't ever marry a man since I have no interest in doing so. Similarly, God could have created agents with free will, who God knew would never choose to do evil and who God knew would never choose to cause involuntary, undeserved suffering in other's (unless you go with something like open theism).

                          Furthermore, one can have suffering without enjoyment, and vice versa. Just because the two are flipsides of each, doesn't mean one requires the other. And even if they were defined in terms of one another another, that still wouldn't imply that one of the needed to exist for the other to exist. Enjoyment is it's own distinct mental state, and can occur even if one has never experienced the mental state known as suffering. For example, suppose that a child first becomes conscious at time t1. If the child experiences suffering at time t1, then that suffering still counts as suffering, even though the child has not had the chance to experience enjoyment yet.

                          Also, it doesn't make much sense to cite free will as a rationale for allowing involuntary, undeserved human suffering. For example, imagine I know that Bob is planning to torture Sam, and that Bob will do so in a week. Sam's torture will be undeserved and involuntary. Now, suppose I decide to not report Bob to the police nor do anything else to stop Bob. And my justification for this is that I don't want to prevent Bob from acting on his free choice. Was my justification OK? No. The sensible response is who cares what Bob wants to freely do? Stop him. To quote Maitzen:
                          "It overstates the intrinsic value of free choices because, as Derk Pereboom notes, from the ordinary moral perspective “the evildoer’s freedom is a weightless consideration, not merely an outweighed consideration.” (121)"

                          So why should it be any different in the case of God? Why would it make sense for God to allow evildoers to cause undeserved, involuntary suffering, just because God wanted to evildoers to be able to act on their free choice? To give one answer for God and another answer for humans, is just special pleading.

                          So suppose you stick with your above free will answer. Then you've done away with our ordinary moral obligation to prevent undeserved, involuntary suffering caused by evildoers. After all, we shouldn't interfere with the evildoer's freely chosen act, right? Which is Maitzen's point: the defense here does away with ordinary moral obligations.

                          Then of course the argument takes the common atheist mistake of focusing entirely on our current lives in an argument about religion. When you factor in the religious view of the existence of the soul, and eternal life beyond our current physical selves, then suffering in our current lives is insignificant compared to an eternal afterlife. With that in mind, there would be no need for humans to benefit from suffering in any way during our current lives. The situation could be rectified in the afterlife. If there is a benefit, it could come in the afterlife. "Suffering is good for the soul," so to speak.
                          Actually, the argument already implicitly addresses the afterlife. For example: paper 1 on pages 110 and 122-123.

                          Maitzen grants that an afterlife could provide a net benefit to the sufferer. But the argument already accounts for that by arguing that if the suffering was a net benefit for the sufferer, then we have no moral obligation to prevent it. So, once again, the defense does away with ordinary moral obligations.
                          Last edited by Jichard; 04-05-2015, 04:14 PM.
                          "Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they [denialists] employ and identifying them publicly for what they are."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                            I'll do as I like.
                            A very arrogant immature way to communicate with others who believe differently. Particularly a problem with new members of Tweb.

                            His objections to your hostile attitude is justified. Your hostility is never justified.
                            Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                            Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                            But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                            go with the flow the river knows . . .

                            Frank

                            I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jichard View Post
                              Maitzen deals with the free will reply from pages 120-122 of paper 1.
                              Not about the aspect of free will that I described.



                              And suffering is not an inevitable aspect of free will. After all, one can have free agents who always choose to do good things that never cause involuntary, undeserved suffering for other people.
                              These agents can nevertheless understand the concepts of both suffering and enjoyment, and will inevitably experience both at points in their lives.

                              Furthermore, one can have suffering without enjoyment, and vice versa. Just because the two are flipsides of each, doesn't mean one requires the other.
                              They're contrasts. You don't recognize one without the other. There's no such thing as experiencing nothing but suffering, because any improvement will be relative enjoyment. You can't spend all your life in joy, because any reduction in that joy will be relative suffering. Wealthy people can suffer in conditions that impoverished people would cherish.


                              Maitzen grants that an afterlife could provide a net benefit to the sufferer. But the argument already accounts for that by arguing that if the suffering was a net benefit for the sufferer, then we have no moral obligation to prevent it. So, once again, the defense does away with ordinary moral obligations.
                              Let's just go with something more basic then. There is no inherent requirement for the suffering to produce a benefit for the sufferer. As I said, the suffering would be insignificant to an eternal afterlife. In that case, the opening statement doesn't hold up, and the logic fails before it starts.
                              Middle-of-the-road swing voter. Feel free to sway my opinion.

                              Comment

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