Evil isn't the absence of good

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Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby patrick » Sat Jul 16, 2016 1:51 am

The idea that good can exist without evil but evil can't exist without good has never really sat well with me. This topic usually comes up because of the need to defend the idea that God is goodness and is the creator of all things, thus evil must not be a "thing" per se. Now that said, I don't think this is something that necessarily must be defended to defend Christianity -- It seems the issue could equally be conceptualized as God initially being the creator of all things, since all things were initally considered good. It was only because God saw giving humans free will as good, that evil came to exist -- thus allowed rather than created by God. So assuming you believe that, there's little reason to engage in debate here, but it might be an interesting perspective regardless.

While some things have a fairly standard way in which they're good, if someone were to declare that a rock is "good," without context we're led to wonder in what regard. A big, sturdy rock may be good as a foundation for a doghouse, while a small, smooth rock may be good for skipping on water, neither being good for the opposite purpose. One may argue that there are better or worse purposes for a rock, but it seems difficult to supply an ultimate purpose for rocks that renders other conflicting purposes as secondary, moot, or incidental.

Similarly, when it comes to good actions, while some acts can be seen as moral or immoral, others may be more aptly described amoral. Consider that while there are things we should or shouldn't do, there are other issues where the application of moral judgment seems irrelevant, if not inappropriate. Continuing with the rock analogy, stopping in the middle of a hike to pick up a rock and skip it across a lake is difficult to judge in moral terms. We might imagine people stopping to skip rocks together for fun, in which case the activity is probably good. Or if someone's off skipping rocks instead of dealing with an immediate problem, it might be seen as bad. But in most cases, raising the distinction of good or bad doesn't seem a fitting way to describe this activity.

Usually when I see people defend the idea that evil is merely the absence of good, it's analogically compared to darkness or coldness, which both are the absence of a type of energy (light or heat). But goodness isn't tangible; it exists purely as a conceptual distinction. And that conceptual distinction cannot exist without the creation of its opposite -- evil.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Katabole » Sat Jul 16, 2016 1:41 pm

patrick wrote:It was only because God saw giving humans free will as good, that evil came to exist -- thus allowed rather than created by God. So assuming you believe that, there's little reason to engage in debate here, but it might be an interesting perspective regardless.


I have a different perspective.

If God does exist the universe has a purpose. If God does not exist, the universe has no objective purpose. The problem of evil is a major factor to show that the world we live in, is not the best of all possible worlds.

What is evil? Some may define evil as "morally bad". Others as the "absence of good". Evil is a departure from the way things "ought" to be and a violation of purpose. In the Bible, Lucifer or Satan is the personification of evil as he was the first to violate his purpose (Ezekiel 28). He was the first to depart from the way he ought to be. The Bible claims Satan was a sinner from the beginning (1 John 3:8). Not that God created him as an evil sinner. He didn't. That would make God the author of sin. Lucifer sinned sometime after he was created. He violated God's purpose for him.

If we agree that there is evil in the world and it is a departure from the way things ought to be, then there is evidently a way that things ought to be. But if there is a way things ought to be, then there must be some transcendent design, plan or purpose to determine the way things ought to be. And so there must be some transcendent being, a Creator in fact, whose will is the basis for the way things ought to be. And therefore, evil is actually evidence that God does exist.

Using your "rock" analogy, if I picked up a rock and threw it at you and knocked out your teeth, what I have done is an evil act. I violated the purpose of the rock because evidently the rock's purpose is not to use it to knock out someone's teeth unprovoked. I violated you as a person by bringing violence on to you unprovoked for no reason and I violated my own purpose of living, which as a Christian is to love God and enjoy the things that God has given us in this life to enjoy. And only a sociopath or someone mentally deranged or a person determined to violate purpose and depart from the way things ought to be, would use a rock to knock out someone's teeth, unprovoked.

If atheists are right and God does not exist, then there is no design plan, hence, no way things ought to be, hence, no departure from the way things ought to be and therefore no evil. And no good either. From the hard atheist perspective, human beings are simply biological machines for the propagation of DNA with no objective meaning or purpose. As Nietzsche once said, "How can a person rationally justify any commitment to timeless values whatsoever without implicitly invoking God? They cannot." But does anyone want to make the claim that evil does not exist in this world? Every day human beings depart from the way they "ought" to be and violate their God-given purpose. The theist, therefore, is not committed to Leibniz's claim that this is the best of all possible worlds.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby patrick » Sun Jul 17, 2016 3:55 am

Katabole wrote:If we agree that there is evil in the world and it is a departure from the way things ought to be, then there is evidently a way that things ought to be. But if there is a way things ought to be, then there must be some transcendent design, plan or purpose to determine the way things ought to be.


Well, I agree that there is evil in the world, but to me evil is that which causes unnecessary suffering. I don't much agree with the rest of what you have here. Regarding Lucifer, it seems more straightforward to say that Lucifer disobeyed God, or departed from God's wishes. His departure would only be evil, however, insofar as it caused unnecessary suffering. Throwing a rock at my face, on the other hand, certainly would cause me suffering, and it seems quite unnecessary.

FWIW, I am not in any way arguing that God doesn't exist. I simply don't find your formulation of evil to be very convincing.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Kurieuo » Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:09 am

You're only getting half my message here, as I decided to make it more on point. But, you raise a good question, and I'd even add that the confusion can be clarified, again, if we look through a lens of Divine Simplicity.

What of "goodness"? We see "goodness" in the world. We intuitively acknowledge it. AND, I think it is reasonable to say that we truly see evil in the world also which automatically presupposes good. One does seem to presuppose the other. Yet, when we talk in terms of "good" in the world, I think we're talking of a "thing" that is quantifiable. That is, we measure what is good by seeing evil, and equally define evil by acknowledging what is good.

Understand, if something is measurable, if something is a "thing", then such isn't infinite. Such cannot possess aseity, being "a thing" excludes it. "Goodness" as a property or thing therefore, I believe you are logically right that such cannot exist alone by itself, even without evil. For evil or imperfection allows good to finally be measured. Nonetheless all this points then to some actual reality, an underlying essence or source, of what we distinguish in the world and measure as "good".

I think therefore it is correct to identify this things we call "Good" or "goodness" as being derived and dependent upon something other. It never in fact existed alone without evil. And then, when God created, goodness was visible and expressed within the creation. This, I don't care if you're Atheist, Christian, Muslim or what-have-you, we all acknowledge "goodness" exists even if we disagree in detail.

So then, when we call something "good" a person shouldn't say that "goodness" in and of itself has always existed without bad or evil... even calling "evil" a deprivation of "good", well then I'm not sure I'm willing to admit that "evil" doesn't truly exist in the world, for I hear about it and see it even. No, evil is as real as good to me. It won't do to merely describe evil as a deprivation of good, or if one does so, then there are ontological questions that need answering regarding why "evil" appears so real in the world. And indeed, as you seem to have reasoned, if we deny the reality of "evil" then one might very well be denying the reality too of "good" (if one truly can't be had without the other, which seems possible but still unclear to me).

What I'd have you consider, is that "goodness" is figurative, in fact a metaphor for something other. For example, consider the following:
  • it was such a good day today
  • that dinner was really good
  • it is good to help the poor and weak
  • that smooth and flat rock was good for skimming across the water
I'm using "good" to describe very dissimilar things. I'm using "good" in a figurative manner. The term "good" is a metaphor. There is something about the word "good" above in each case holds true on some level. Figures and metaphors point to something true or real. If we identify something "good", and "good" is figurative, then we're abstracting "good" from something that is real. The real is the source of this thing that we abstract "goodness" from and use in a figurative way to call something good. This source isn't "good" alone, while we might describe such as goodness itself... to be more correct, the source is really something other than goodness, something lower level from which good is derived. The source of goodness isn't goodness itself, it is the source.

Jesus made the comment that only God is good. When He did so, I believe He was making an ontological statement just as much as making any moral statement. He wasn't merely pointing out no one can be good, morally good, except God alone (which was also a cheeky revealing of His true nature to those who see it i.e., "Only God is good[, so do you know what you are saying of me? ;) ;)"). Rather, what we call good itself, God is the source. The essence of "Good", the hypostasis -- the underlying substance or fundamental reality that undergirds "Goodness" -- is on the most fundamental levels simply God.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby patrick » Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:22 am

Kurieuo wrote: This source isn't "good" alone, while we might describe such as goodness itself... to be more correct, the source is really something other than goodness, something lower level from which good is derived. The source of goodness isn't goodness itself, it is the source.


You mentioned Divine Simplicity, so I decided to take a few days and cut through Jac's DS book to try to properly understand your perspective.

So if I'm understanding correctly, what you're saying here is that
1)evil is actualized as a thing as much as good is
2)God is the law that prompts us to even think to classify things as good or evil, and
3)calling God "good" points to something real in a way that calling God "evil" does not

While I don't see much of a problem with this view in regards to good and evil, nor the issue of God's omnipotentence, I would be curious how you reconcile this with God's omnipresence. It seems omnipresence falls from the idea that God is existence itself (since it's impossible for existence itself to not exist somewhere). But if evil exists and God isn't at all evil, it seems God doesn't exist where evil does.

Now that said, your emphasizing that "good" is figurative wasn't entirely lost on me. I took it initially to mean that good (and by extension, evil) are a manner of speaking that ultimately points to the major thrust of all that is caused (i.e. God's will) and minor, temporary forces that act in opposition of this. But that didn't seem to really solve the issue unless it's a way of saying that God's "evil" is justified since what's really at stake here is something deeper that's neither good nor evil. Which personally I don't have a problem with, but didn't sound like something you'd agree with as it seems to stretch the traditional meaning of omnibenevolence.

Regardless of your take on these additional issues, your first reply was very helpful and I thank you for it.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Byblos » Sat Jul 23, 2016 6:10 am

patrick wrote:
Kurieuo wrote: This source isn't "good" alone, while we might describe such as goodness itself... to be more correct, the source is really something other than goodness, something lower level from which good is derived. The source of goodness isn't goodness itself, it is the source.


You mentioned Divine Simplicity, so I decided to take a few days and cut through Jac's DS book to try to properly understand your perspective.

So if I'm understanding correctly, what you're saying here is that
1)evil is actualized as a thing as much as good is
2)God is the law that prompts us to even think to classify things as good or evil, and
3)calling God "good" points to something real in a way that calling God "evil" does not

While I don't see much of a problem with this view in regards to good and evil, nor the issue of God's omnipotentence, I would be curious how you reconcile this with God's omnipresence. It seems omnipresence falls from the idea that God is existence itself (since it's impossible for existence itself to not exist somewhere). But if evil exists and God isn't at all evil, it seems God doesn't exist where evil does.

Now that said, your emphasizing that "good" is figurative wasn't entirely lost on me. I took it initially to mean that good (and by extension, evil) are a manner of speaking that ultimately points to the major thrust of all that is caused (i.e. God's will) and minor, temporary forces that act in opposition of this. But that didn't seem to really solve the issue unless it's a way of saying that God's "evil" is justified since what's really at stake here is something deeper that's neither good nor evil. Which personally I don't have a problem with, but didn't sound like something you'd agree with as it seems to stretch the traditional meaning of omnibenevolence.

Regardless of your take on these additional issues, your first reply was very helpful and I thank you for it.


Posting from my phone so I can't quote properly.

As to your point 1, no you have that wrong. Goodness is not actualized, it just is a se. Pure actuality by definition does not entail actualization because, well it is pure actuality which IS pure goodness which IS pure existence. Everything else just follows from that, anthropomorphized to our understanding of such. If you nail that idea down you've come a long way in understanding DS.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Jul 23, 2016 10:35 am

In addition to Byblos' point, I think you might have slightly misread K on goodness being a metaphor. You seem to be presenting his idea in such a way that the words are really equivocations (I take this from you're conclusion that "God's 'evil' is justified since what's really at stake here is something deeper that's neither good nor evil"). You should note that there are three ways in which words can be related: univocally, analogically, or equivocally. If univocally, then the words mean the same thing. So you are a human and K is a human, "human" is used univocally. If equivocally, then the words mean something different. So a feather is light and the sun produces light, "light" is used equivocally. If analogically, then the uses are related but not identical. So a rock is hard and a test is hard, "hard" is used analogically.

Now when K says that "good" is used metaphorically in those various sentences, he isn't saying that is being used equivocally, but rather analogically. The uses are not exactly the same but there is a common idea to all. So to use the classic example, an eye is good if it can see and bad if it cannot. A rock, though, is not bad if it cannot see. Or to use one of K's, a dinner is good if it is healthy and has an enjoyable flavor; it is bad if it has no nutritional value and has a terrible taste. The goodness of the eye and the dinner are not exactly the same thing, even as the hardness of the rock and test are exactly the same thing. But just as the hardness of the rock and the test are truly related, so the goodness of the eye and the dinner are truly related. In the case of the latter, the analogical relation is has to do with our lack of power of it, that is, the difficulty we have to "conquer" it--a "hard" rock is one that we have great difficulty breaking (you wouldn't call a rock "hard" that you can easily break with your fingers), and a test is hard that we have great difficulty passing (you wouldn't call a test "hard" that you can easily pass).* In the case of the former, the analogical relation has to do with what something is supposed to be--a potential that it ought to actualize that it does not, and therefore, a fault in the thing when it is absent.

Now, obviously, what a thing ought to be is dependent on what it is, so a rock is good in way way, a day in another, dinner in still another, pets is another, organs in another, and moral acts in yet still another. But in all of these differences, the relation between them is the same: a connection with how something ought to be (in a mixture of scholastic and analytic language, a perfection that ought to obtain).

So bottom line: K isn't using the terms "good" or "evil" is equivocal terms, as if it is just a manner of speaking. We can't speak of God's "evil" and justify it by pointing to something that isn't really or is neither good or evil. That's just misunderstanding the point.

--------------

*Just for fun and for your own reflection, notice that the hardness of a rock or test is more often than not directly related to the goodness of that thing. A rock that is not hard enough is not good; one that is too hard is not good. A test that is not hard enough is not a good test. A test that is too hard is not a good test, either. So "good," while comparable to other attributes, transcends them all. In fact, there is a very good reason (pardon the pun) that we say "good" is identical with "exists" just thought about under different terms (the other so-called transcendentals, in addition to goodness, if you are curious are "unity", "truth", "beauty", and "thing" (and some would add, I think incorrectly, "sameness" and "otherness")). But yeah, just food for thought. y:-B
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And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby patrick » Sat Jul 23, 2016 5:31 pm

Byblos wrote:Goodness is not actualized, it just is a se.


Is the last word cut off here? I do get the impression I'm missing an important concept here, but unfortunately I'm getting lost at this distinction between evil not being an illusion (in K's words "evil is as real as good to me") and goodness being "pure existence." Are you saying that evil can be actualized but good cannot because it's already actuality?

I'm aware you don't necessarily have the same perspective as Kurieuo, but my problem so far is that evil seems to be treated somehow as outside of pure existence whereas good not only isn't but has no distinction from it. Which sounds a lot like saying evil is used only equivocally to stand for something else while good isn't, making me wonder what exactly I'm missing here.

Jac3510 wrote:In fact, there is a very good reason (pardon the pun) that we say "good" is identical with "exists" just thought about under different terms (the other so-called transcendentals, in addition to goodness, if you are curious are "unity", "truth", "beauty", and "thing" (and some would add, I think incorrectly, "sameness" and "otherness")).


I think this may be the crux of my misunderstanding of the philosophy. Does this fall out of the idea of hylomorphic compounds? Equating "good" with "exists" implied to me you were equating "evil" with "not exist," but if you're saying good exists everywhere since every thing has a potential good form, well alright. While that's a bit different from what I thought was meant by "exists" it at least seems to resolve the issue.

ETA: I skipped replying to your distinction between equivocal and analogical relations not because I didn't assume what you suggested but because that assumption was under a secondary interpretation at odds with my primary one. But I bring it up because if the matter of hylomorphic compounds and transcendentals is not really centrally relevant here then perhaps there's something about the issue of the relation between "good" and "exists" that's analogical (as opposed to, in this case, univocal?) that I'd better understand more clearly -- not really sure those terms apply here but if not hopefully you get my meaning without my having the terms for it.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Jul 23, 2016 7:02 pm

It doesn't directly fall out of hylomorphism, but you can't get to this idea without some form of hylomorphism. So there is a Platonism that imagines that there is a second form "good" that is added to and distinct from other forms. So Socrates participates in the forms "human", "white", "male", and he hopes to participate in the form "good". That would be hylomorphic, but not what I'm getting at. I'm saying that a thing's form determines what capacities ought to be actualized. There's a teleology that is intrinsic to each form. The natural end of the eye is to see. That is certainly not the natural end of the rock. So on this interpretation of hylomorphism, the eye is good that is actualizing that capacity. The eye that cannot is bad. It has been deprived of its natural end. And that privation is called "evil." So you should be able to see that "good" is directly related to a potentiality being reduced to actuality; that is, to real existence. When "the capacity to see" becomes "is seeing," the eye is good. But "is seeing" does not exist, then the eye is so deprived and has suffered an evil.

One more caution about hylomorphism: you don't need hylomorphs at all. Angels and demons are not hylomorphs, and all we've said here applies to them as well. Thus, we see this ultimately has far more to do with final causality than it does with hylomorphism per se.

Lastly, I'd say that the relation between "good" and "exist" is not analogical or metaphorical. They are related as transcendentals. Both are ways to think of the same thing, but given our limited capacities, by thinking of that thing under a particular mode. When we think about the teleology of being, we think about it as goodness. When we think about the fact of being, we think of it as existence, and so on.

------------------

Beyond all that, there's a very simple reason your OP is just mistaken. If evil is not the absence of good, then evil literally does not exist or else it does. But evil obviously exists, and so your philosophy suggests that evil is an actual thing--that is, that there is a form called "evil" that has real existence. But if evil has real form, then it has a teleology, a final causality, which means it has a perfection. But then God would have to have this perfection infinitely if He is to be God, which would mean that God is infinitely evil. Alternatively, if God does not have this perfection, then He is not Being In Itself and is thus merely a being with all the attendant problems (including the fact that God would become a contingent being in need of a cause). Still further, this would imply that evil is literally good, insofar when the form of evil is actualized according to its proper teleogy (final causality), evil would be properly ordered, which is to say, it would be good. But that's just absurd (just as it's absurd to say that evil is properly ordered!). Lastly, all of this would imply that evil, being a real thing, could be desired in and of itself. But while this is not only absurd (for a LOT of reasons), it is also contrary to all experience and reason. No one, absolutely no one, desires evil for evil's sake. All desires that are evil are desired under a good. So a person who desires to murder desires an evil, but he is actually seeking a good, whether it is justice (which he has twisted into revenge), self-actualization (which he has twisted into self-gratification or lust), or self-preservation (which he has twisted into misanthropy), etc. Stealing is wrong, but the thief is desiring a good--to have this or to have that. Lust is wrong, but the pervert is desiring a good (sexual union). You are simply not capable of desiring evil for its own sake. You may desire something that you know to be evil, but in every case and all cases, the evil desired is in pursuit of a good. Simply ask them, "Why do you want (to do) that?" long enough and you'll get to the good being sought.
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And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Byblos » Sun Jul 24, 2016 11:30 am

patrick wrote:
Byblos wrote:Goodness is not actualized, it just is a se.


Is the last word cut off here?


Nothing was cut off. A se is Latin which stands for 'from self'. It describes an entity that is completely self contained not needing or relying on anything outside of itself. Look up asiety.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Kurieuo » Sun Jul 24, 2016 7:08 pm

patrick wrote:
Kurieuo wrote: This source isn't "good" alone, while we might describe such as goodness itself... to be more correct, the source is really something other than goodness, something lower level from which good is derived. The source of goodness isn't goodness itself, it is the source.

You mentioned Divine Simplicity, so I decided to take a few days and cut through Jac's DS book to try to properly understand your perspective.

So if I'm understanding correctly, what you're saying here is that
1)evil is actualized as a thing as much as good is


Yes, I believe so, however the keyword to emphasize here is “actualized”. That is, I’m saying “evil” and “good” appear to be visible only when revealed through something in existence that has been actualised, it can be an action (creating) but also in things (creation).

Note: God to be God can never be actualized but is more rather the Actual, or as Jac might say “Pure Act”. So to be very clear, "good" and "evil" can never be actualized in God. Goodness can be seen when it shines out of “Actual Goodness” (God), that is, God acts upon a potentiality to bring about some new reality. For example, with God existing alone creation was a potentiality, only with God's acting to create is goodness displayed in creation and His act of creation.

God without creation, without an acting upon a potentiality, without anything “shining out”, would be just God. We can say God possesses “Goodness” in retrospect, however strictly logically speaking, I’d argue that without creation that goodness isn’t had, doesn't exist in and of itself, rather we simply have God who is the central source of such.

William Craig (who rejects Divine Simplicity), if you’ve read his ideas regarding God’s relationship to time and eternity, he does something similar in exploring the issue of God existing at a time before time. Craig’s idea of God’s relationship to time is this: Without creation God is timeless, but subsequent to creation God logically becomes temporal and enters into time in virtue of His true relations with the created order. Craig argues that unless God enters into time, then God cannot exist alongside us, cannot know what day it is for us today. If God remains timeless, Craig reasons, God only knows that on 25 July 2016 10:58AM AEST that I was writing this post but cannot know I’m actually writing this NOW. So then, a relationship with a timeless God appears logically impossible to Craig. Scripture advocates a God we can enter into a relationship with, therefore we need to reject any ideas that God cannot be relational, therefore we ought to reject the idea that God remained timeless.

Now some counter Craig saying that God’s creative act, which brought about time, now means God existed in a time before time and such is absurd! Therefore, they conclude, we ought to reject Craig’s idea that God was timeless and became temporal in virtue of willing a change. Craig has a rejoinder though, which to loosely paraphrase would be something like (without digging out Craig’s book these words should capture his thoughts well enough):

    “No! There is nothing illogical with saying that God alone was timeless, that God willed from His changeless timeless nature actualising a temporal world like ours. This doesn’t really create a time before time, such is an illusion created by looking at matters retrospectively after time’s creation. The reality of the matter is that there was just timeless God and then subsequent to God’s creative act, God and Creation (time). An effect caused to come into existence can’t logically retro-cause something to exist before it does. So it is simply an illusion which time conjures up for us, to think that time coming into existence really does retro-create time to exist before it does in fact exist.”

So, then, to be clear I agree with Craig here on many points. It might appear to make sense talking of a time before time; yet that is because we now exist in time, right? Of course after time’s creation, there now appears to be a time before time; such is the nature of time. In actuality though, when time hadn’t yet arisen, there was just timelessness (i.e., eternity) and as a consequence of God's creative act from eternity there is now time.


Let me now draw upon an analogy that compares God’s relationship to time with God’s relationship to goodness. God is the source of time, right? In relation to goodness, I’ve also argued that God is also the source of goodness. God who possesses time eternal, also possess goodness eternal. To be perfectly clear, God possesses attributes NOT like “things” that God takes to Himself (which would suggest God is incomplete in and of Himself), rather combined together they simply represent God who is one i.e., Simple.

Timelessness (or Timefulness as I’d prefer and see as a more logically accurate term) and Goodness both “shine out” of God. With God alone, God is just God and such qualities are cloaked in God. To borrow Byblos’ words, such attributes are just God se, or to use my own phrase we just have “God as God”. (Divine Simplicity I believe can be seen most fascinatingly in Scripture with how God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM”, and then we have the Jewish Shema, “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” – Deut 6:4)

It gets really tricky when talking of God’s attributes (righteousness, goodness, love, power, etc). This is one reason why I’ve spent a lot of words to articulate clearly what I mean in relation to God and His attribute we identify as “goodness”. Byblos, Jac and I need to run a tight line, to be careful not to veer left or right to suggest that God possesses a thing separate from Himself. Byblos, accepts Divine Simplicity as does Jac obviously, and now I suppose in the last year it crept up and has claimed myself as an advocate.

So it needs to be carefully articulated how “goodness” is in God se (i.e., of God’s self), and yet God strictly speaking doesn't possess "goodness" but is nonetheless the source of such. Further, I should add that God also doesn’t have a self. ;) To say otherwise is to suggest something God lacks which He must take to Himself to be God. If God even needs “a self,” this means God isn’t foundational and therefore does not possess Aseity. I hope that’s making sense, for once you know the principles we’re trying to follow you’ll understand better, then thinking over such matters will just fall into place and you may even be able to answer your own opening post and resulting questions.

Understand DS doctrine is always correcting others, even adherents to itself, to be more logically tight with how we describe God; and it does lead some to consider it absurd. Yet, such absurdness I’d argue is necessary when we’re discussing matters so deeply such as where goodness comes from, existence itself, and you know concepts such as time and eternity. Just wander into Quantum Mechanics right? Seeing strangeness when also trying to get at the fundamental realities of our apparent physical world is unavoidable. Yet, in such strangeness there is much sense too.

I’ve got more writing coming, that I actually wrote yesterday, but I feel this post was a better opening post. What I’d like to delve into is more the nature of goodness and evil, and God’s relationship to each. Understanding God's relationship to each I see is very important to articulate, a correct understanding helps to resolve difficulties many see with God's goodness. For example, God, who is the source of goodness, having created a world wherein there is much pain, suffering and evil.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Kurieuo » Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:42 pm

Patrick wrote:2)God is the law that prompts us to even think to classify things as good or evil, and

I think I can answer this question more quickly than your first, since Jac wrote many words in his last post that I find myself in much agreement with.

We've identified that "goodness" isn't something simply attributable to "moral" questions. So while, we might have an impulse to tie in "good" and "evil" (aka "bad") with a foundational "[moral] law", such misses the broader notion of what "good" and "evil" represent. And I'd say that it is this: Perfection.

Jac really explains this well in his last post. An eye is more or less good depending upon how closer to the perfection of its telos to see. A skimming rock is more or less good so much as it fulfills our intended use of it, which is the perfect form and weight for skimming across the water.

God as the source of all must be perfect. If God lacks any perfection then God cannot be God, cannot possess Aseity as Jac reasoned. Yet, if we observe goodness, or even evil, then we know there is a perfection that such points to. Very powerful argument for God's existence once you understand.

Also, why I love this quote of CS Lewis that Nessa recently posted. Many Atheists just seem to not get it, but their eyes have been dulled and darkened due to their hearts (Romans 1:20-21). Again, CS Lewis ties goodness back to a moral perfection, but their are other perfections too such a power, justice, righteousness, fairness, love to name just some others we identify (though some of these could perhaps fall under the other).

So then, to re-word your point, I'd say it more like this:

    God is the perfection that prompts us to even think to classify things as good or evil.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby Kurieuo » Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:53 pm

Patrick wrote:3)calling God "good" points to something real in a way that calling God "evil" does not


And to knock this point on the head too, as per CS Lewis' quote, I'd say rather that evil and good both point to a moral law and a perfect source of goodness as such.

A question I think you're also asking, is why "goodness" rather than "evilness" should be seen as that which extends out of God? In other words, why is God considered to be the source of goodness rather than source of evil?

I think if one reflects just a little, they'll just see "goodness" works better rather than "evil". This is one question I intend to answer in my posts exploring God's relationship to good and evil. Such should also answer the remaining parts of your post.
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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby patrick » Sun Jul 24, 2016 10:22 pm

Kurieuo wrote:A question I think you're also asking, is why "goodness" rather than "evilness" should be seen as that which extends out of God? In other words, why is God considered to be the source of goodness rather than source of evil?

I think if one reflects just a little, they'll just see "goodness" works better rather than "evil". This is one question I intend to answer in my posts exploring God's relationship to good and evil. Such should also answer the remaining parts of your post.


Fortunately, I found Jac's explanation regarding how human evil always being motivated by seeking to get to some kind of good to be a satisfying explanation. I didn't initially find the teleological approach to morality very satisfying, but I do now in the sense that moral actions can be fairly explained in a teleological sense. That, and that telelogical statements are implictly saying that something is good as an example of something.

For instance, someone saying "the moon is good" seemed on the face of it to not really be a statement of anything. But understanding it as "this object is good when taken as a moon" or "this object is a good example of a moon" -- even though I'd hesitate to say that it's supposed to be conceptualized as a moon, the statements themselves seem perfectly justified. So in that regard, I do feel it satisfactorily makes out "evilness" to be less coherent than "goodness." "This object is bad (when taken as a moon)" seems to prompt a question of how it should be taken (or just plainly should be, if referring to an evil person) in a way that calling such good doesn't.

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Re: Evil isn't the absence of good

Postby patrick » Sun Jul 24, 2016 11:54 pm

Kurieuo wrote:Let me now draw upon an analogy that compares God’s relationship to time with God’s relationship to goodness. God is the source of time, right? In relation to goodness, I’ve also argued that God is also the source of goodness. God who possesses time eternal, also possess goodness eternal. To be perfectly clear, God possesses attributes NOT like “things” that God takes to Himself (which would suggest God is incomplete in and of Himself), rather combined together they simply represent God who is one i.e., Simple.


Okay, so it sounds like you're saying just as timefulness isn't something that God has, but rather is something that must have been to cause a propagation of time, so too goodness must have been to cause good and evil. And moreover just as we wouldn't say God is timelessness/timefulness or even has this quality as a thing does but rather possesses timefulness in the sense of being able to be described as in such a state, so too we could say the same of God's relationship with goodness.

Kurieuo wrote:So it needs to be carefully articulated how “goodness” is in God se (i.e., of God’s self), and yet God strictly speaking doesn't possess "goodness" but is nonetheless the source of such. Further, I should add that God also doesn’t have a self. ;) To say otherwise is to suggest something God lacks which He must take to Himself to be God. If God even needs “a self,” this means God isn’t foundational and therefore does not possess Aseity. I hope that’s making sense, for once you know the principles we’re trying to follow you’ll understand better, then thinking over such matters will just fall into place and you may even be able to answer your own opening post and resulting questions.


This is honestly pretty confusing, but if I'm understanding your analogy between timefulness and goodness properly, perhaps I am just understanding this distinction under different terminology. Would calling it "of God's (fulfilled) jurisdiction to cause" be another way of describing this "of God's self"? But then perhaps this part will just make more sense as I get more familiar with the importance of the notion of aseity.

I otherwise think I'm understanding the purpose of distinguishing God as the source of goodness rather goodness itself though, and I at this point feel I've internalized a position based on your posts here that's stronger than (and at odds with) my opening post. I guess the way I currently understand it, since God is perfection (e.g. Jesus as God means Jesus is a perfect human) and since calling something good/bad is a measure of its perfection (with good being the end that approaches perfection) then that's sufficient to say that God is omnibenevolent. Conversely, since perfection is a standard that allows the measuring of good and evil, evil doesn't have a "perfect" standard in any sense and is better understood as the degree of absence of good, in its teleological sense.


ETA:

Craig’s idea of God’s relationship to time is this: Without creation God is timeless, but subsequent to creation God logically becomes temporal and enters into time in virtue of His true relations with the created order.


This is a bit of a tangent, but I get the impression this isn't necessarily in conflict with Divine Simplicity? (You mentioned you agree with a lot of Craig's points as well as coming into adherence with Divine Simplicity.) I ask less because I see a conflict but rather that I currently see these as not essentially incompatible and feel inclined to agree with both ideas myself.


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