Re: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order & Belief)

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 22:21:43 -0800

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Tom Caylor writes:
>> On Dec 24, 3:49 am, Stathis Papaioannou
>> <> wrote:
>> > Tom Caylor writes:
>> > > Bruno,
>> >
>> > > I have been doing a lot of reading/thinking on your former posts
>> on the
>> > > Hypostases, other reading on Plotinus and the neo-Platonist
>> hypostases,
>> > > and the Christian "interpretation" of the hypostases. There is a lot
>> > > to say, but I'll start by just giving some responses to your last
>> post
>> > > on this.
>> >
>> > > On Dec 11, 8:46 am, Bruno Marchal
>> > > > I agree that the problem of evil (and thus the equivalent
>> problem of
>> > > > Good) is interesting. Of course it is not well addressed by the two
>> > > > current theories of everything: Loop gravity and String theory.
>> With
>> > > > that respect the comp hyp can at least shed some light on it,
>> and of
>> > > > course those "light" are of the platonic-plotinus type where the
>> notion
>> > > > of goodness necessitates the notion of truth to begin with. I
>> say more
>> > > > below.
>> >
>> > > The discussions over the last two weeks on Evil, and just how to
>> define
>> > > good and bad, underscore how puzzling this problem can be. I agree
>> > > that at the base of this is the question, "What is Truth?" I am not
>> > > satisfied with the Theaetetus definition, or Tarski's "trick". I
>> > > believe the answer to the question, "What is Truth?" which Pilate
>> asked
>> > > Jesus, was standing right in front of Pilate: Jesus himself. The
>> > > Christian definition of truth goes back to the core of everything,
>> who
>> > > is personal. As I've said before, without a personal core, the word
>> > > "personal" has lost its meaning. In the context nowadays of
>> > > impersonal-based philosophy, "personal" has come to "mean" something
>> > > like "without rational basis". But when the personal IS the
>> basis, not
>> > > an impersonal concept of personal, but the ultimate Person, and with
>> > > man being made in the image of that ultimate Person, we have a basis
>> > > for truth, personality, rationality, good...
>> > I'm not sure that this is what you meant, but there is in a sense an
>> objective
>> > basis to the personal or subjective, which is simply that when I say
>> I feel or
>> > desire something, this is an empirical statement: either I do feel
>> it or I am
>> > lying.
>> This looks like Tarski's trick to me. It is an act of faith any time
>> we take what we say as truth. This is unsupported without an ultimate
>> Person who gives the ultimate source of bringing truth into existence
>> through words.
> Have you considered the possibility that we can never know the ultimate
> truth? I can't even be certain that I had a particular thought a moment
> ago; I believe I did, and all the evidence suggests that I did, but I
> can't be *absolutely certain*. This seems obvious to me and I am quite
> comfortable with it, but even if I weren't, that is no reason to create
> ex nihilo a source of ultimate truth (if such a thing were even
> logically possible, which it is not).

And what does "ultimate truth" even mean? Does it mean complete and accurate description of everything? Does it mean the set of all "true" propositions; where "true" means...what?, in accordance with observation?, provable in some axiomatic system?, referring to a fact?
>> > Also, there is an objective explanation for why I have the feeling in
>> > terms of neurophysiology, evolution and so on. But this is not
>> enough for some
>> > people and they think, for example, that there must be more to
>> "love" than
>> > just particular feelings and the scientific basis for these
>> feelings. But this
>> > mysterious love-substance would appear to make no difference
>> whatsoever. > The evidence is that if certain chemical reactions
>> occur, the love feeling also
>> > occurs, and these chemical reactions occur because they have evolved
>> that
>> > way to assist bonding with family, community and so on. That
>> explanation
>> > covers everything, and the love-substance remains superfluous and
>> undetectable,
>> > inviting Occam's Razor to cut it down.
>> >
>> > Stathis Papaioannou
>> Reducing everything to particulars results in the loss of meaning.
>> Schaeffer describes this process as nature "eating up" grace.
>> Reductionism has resulted in "cutting out" the basis for knowledge.
>> Knowledge has to be personal, as shown by the epistemologist Michael
>> Polanyi, particularly in his book "Personal Knowledge". Of course
>> Bruno maintains that after Godel we have gone beyond reductionism, but
>> I don't think so. I will say more in response to his post.
>> I don't have my notes with me, but a few examples of what happens with
>> reductionism are: Jacques Monods (?) in his Chance and Necessity
>> reducing everything basically to the roll of the dice -> B.F. Skinner,
>> eliminating freedom and dignity of man, and saying farewell to man qua
>> man. The result: the rule of the elite. I had the privilege of
>> hearing a guest lecture by Skinner at UCLA in the '80s, and the
>> question & answer section was pretty lively, with agnostics defending
>> freedom and dignity as if they really believed in it. Marvin Minsky
>> and his colleague (don't recall his name) at MIT, saying that basically
>> we have to act "as if" we have free will, even though we "know" that we
>> don't. Talk about a loss of the concept of truth.
> It seems to me that you go one step further than Marvin Minsky and say
> that not only must we behave as if we have free will, we must *believe*
> that we have free will. You have skirted around this question without
> really answering it directly: if believing something has positive
> consequences, should we believe it even though, were we unbiased, we
> would not? And even if you answer "yes",
> does that make it more likely to be true?
> Stathis Papaioannou

That raises a fundamental question - should we believe what's true? Of course in general we don't know what's true and we never know it with certainity. But we do know some things, in the scientific, provisional sense. And we also have certain values which, as Jef says, are the basis of our action and our judgement of good and bad. So what happens when we know X and believing X is *not* conducive to realizing our values?

Of course you could argue that this can never happen; that it's always best (in the values sense) to believe what's true. But I think this is doubtful. For example, person who is certainly dying of cancer (and we're all dying of something) may realize more of his values by believing that he will live for much longer than justified by the evidence.

On the other hand you could argue that one can't just believe this or that as an act of will and so it is impossible to know X, even in the provisional scientific sense, and also believe not-X.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Mon Dec 25 2006 - 01:22:05 PST

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