Saturday, June 23, 2007

The evil I

[In response to Michael Liccione's paper, "The Problems of Evil"]

I enjoy your paper, although I would prefer to read it in a formal tone. It was originally a lecture, which makes it accessible, but I think it would be tighter and could be more substantive as an essay through and through.

I'd like to read it again before making any major suggestions. But my initial response is a Q: How do you differentiate between a person's created essence and his historical reality in this argument?

You seem to be saying that, while evil is not a positively desired end on God's part, it is a permitted means to the end of creating an individual person. Because Elliot B emerged from a particular complex of historical and biological contingencies, necessarily, to bring him about, God would have to use good as well as evil determinants (events), to bring about the Elliot-B-producing complex. There would be no Elliot B without the actual history into which (and out of which) he was born. That such an actual history includes evil is an unfortunate consequence of God's overriding desire to create Elliot B.

Elliot B can't really complain about the evil which preceded him, since to remove all such evil would be to annihilate the necessary historical complex that brought him about. (He also can't really complain about the evil he commits, since that is even farther from being God's fault!) It reminds me of S. Hasker's challenge that unless a person is willing to say ceasing to exist (suicide, metaphysical liquidation, etc.) is better than continuing to exist, one can't coherently say the world is unbearably evil, and therefore can't charge God with evil. Recognizing one's own existence a good greater than all the evil in the world is ipso facto proof that God can and has brought about a greater good by allowing numerous lesser evils.

My Q, again, is how one can separate who I am from the complex which produced me. Couldn't I (in essentia) have existed nine hundred years ago in Sweden? If I am, necessarily, a result of a given state of affairs, aren't God's hands tied? Couldn't I have existed in a world in which Hitler never did? If he has to allow certain evils to produce me, then doesn't he have to allow certain diachronic evils to produce the final good? That may be true, but something in it smacks of theistic necessitarianism (not mention anthropological historical determinism). If God always, by nature, wills the greatest good, then it seems he MUST always will the good in a certain way.

Conversely, assuming God could create me in essentia without necessarily "waiting for" the right complex to produce me, then what need is there to say regrettable evils are all part of God's otherwise free and good decision to make the world and me? What is the limit between allowing a proper complex to produce me and not allowing undue evil?

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