A few years ago Christian apologist Cameron Bertuzzi wrote a short piece on the problem of evil for his website entitled “If God Exists, Why is There so Much Suffering?” . Since it is clearly written and covers the issues well, I thought it would serve as a good springboard for talking about the subject in general. Let’s begin this discussion (as he does) with an example to make the problem more palpable. In Fydor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” there is a discussion between two characters about the suffering of children, and a picture is painted of a young girl enduring horrific abuse from parental figures. Here is a window into some of the dialogue:
Imagine the little creature, unable even to understand what is happening to her, beating her sore little chest with her tiny fist, weeping hot, unresentful, meek tears, and begging “gentle Jesus” to help her, and…
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This is a quick note to my readers about where I am at and what I’m doing.
This blog, of course, has been about religion and philosophy over the last few months.
I have put off blogging somewhat for a while for various reasons. I plan to restart maybe in a few days or couple weeks, depending on my time availability and energy level (and topics of choice and information on such).
Some potential topics include:
• The possibility of an infinite past
• The coherence of classical theism, especially omnipotence and omniscience
• Biblical morality
• Whether the term “God” is even meaningful
• The epistemic regress problem and the debate about foundationalism
• Design arguments such as the fine-tuning argument
I plan to soon hopefully start a second personal blog where I discuss other topics (like maybe politics and science and others) and maybe also a YouTube channel.
Eventually I hope to write a few books, such as a compilation of essays about these things, a novel about my personal life and some strange and disturbing things that have happened to my family over the past several years, and maybe a book defending skepticism and one about my epistemic philosophical views.
I plan to remain anonymous at least for the time being for privacy reasons but for now you can call me Henry James Anderson, a young guy living near the east coast of the United States.
Happy Holidays (to anyone who celebrates them).
Have you ever had a strong desire to bang your head against a wall? Do you like talking to people who have a fetish for attempting to dominate others in conversation? Well, have I got some news for you. These desires can be met, and more! All you have to do is try to engage a presuppositionalist on the internet! To be fair, not all presups are as obnoxious as some of the knuckle-dragging examples online might have you believe. The ones who actually participate in academia are much more nuanced, and generally seem to be likable people (James N Anderson of RTS is one example). But this is unfortunately not true of many others. Philosopher Alex Malpass explains:
The best representatives of the presuppositional apologetic are trying to illicit a ‘Copernican’ shift in the way that the worldview is argued for. The worst representatives are not trying to…
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Religious experience is an important aspect in the life of faith for many people. Individuals from every religion make claims regarding what they take “to involve an encounter with a transcendent divine reality”, and it often fills adherents with confidence that the contents of their beliefs are true . There are two questions that arise from this state of affairs:
- Can such experiences ground a person’s religious convictions with incorrigible certainty?
- If they can’t establish this level of certainty, how much weight should a person grant them?
I will be limiting my post to a discussion of why the answer to question one is no, though there are other resources available if one wanted to know how I think we should answer question two . Taking the opposite position, many believers indicate that the answer to question one is yes. Consider the following statement from one Christian apologist:
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One claim often made to argue against the thesis that there are no absolutes and nothing is independent of one’s own personal opinions is that it would imply that everything is therefore equally valid and nothing is preferable to anything else. I shall in this article examine this claim and explain why I think it fails.
- An overview and formulation
An objective (absolute) truth claim: A proposition P whose truth value is independent of whatever belief or feeling a subject S may have about P.
A truth claim or proposition is subjective (relative) if and only if it is not objective.
The issue here can be thought of as whether the two are best thought of as binary, which treats all such dependencies and beliefs equally, or as on a spectrum or scale where they come in degrees like the following:
• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that it’s truth value is a free variable, free to be determined by one’s opinion of P and objective to the extent that one position is more rational than another given the beliefs one holds.
• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that it is free to cohere with whatever beliefs a subject S may hold and objective to the extent that one position is more coherent than another.
• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that any opinion on P is equally useful and objective to the extent that some models are more useful than others.
• A proposition P is subjective to the extent that a subject S’s opinion on P is irrelevant to other subjects and objective to the extent that a rational community of subjects would agree on an opinion about P.
2. A review and some counterexamples
The claim being made and discussed here is as follows:
If there is no absolute truth, then it is equally rational to assent to any view.
This (binary -ist, as I will call it from here on) claim depends on the theories listed above that postulate a spectrum (hereafter the non-binary models) being incoherent. I argue that they are not and provide some examples of them that are quite coherent.
The following propositions form a triad:
- If P, then Q.
A rational subject has the following options when choosing a “worldview” from those propositions:
- Proposition 1 (P1) + proposition 2 (P2) + Q
- P1 + not-P2 + Q
- P1 + not-P2 + not-Q
- Not-P1 + P2 + Q
- Not-P1 + not-P2 + Q
- Not-P1 + not-P2 + not-Q
- Not-P1 + P2 + not-Q
So if a subject S is evaluating the 7 worldviews listed on their acceptance of Q, then it is, on the basis of the other 2 propositions, more rational for S to assent to Q than not-Q, since there are 4 that accept Q and 3 that don’t.
Therefore, we have an example of a belief where non-binary model 1 is applicable, and some similar examples could be constructed for the other 3, such as:
• A subject S who assents to P because it coheres with X, Y, and Z, while Q coheres better with P than not-Q, in which case Q is more coherent than not-Q, even if it is possible for not -Q to be coherent is some cases.
• A proposition P that is useful in contexts X, Y, and Z, and is the most useful model available.
• A subject S who holds an opinion A considered only personal and another opinion B agreed by S’s community to be in the community’s best interests.
Contrary to what is often claimed, rejection of absolutism does not mean that one must accept every worldview as equal. It doesn’t mean accepting the opinions of a flat-earther or gravity -denier or neo-Nazi as being equally as reasonable as the common sense opinion on these things. It definitely doesn’t make one a nihilist who holds that there are no grounds for morality and discourse.
In the next post in this series, I plan to address the common objection that relativism is self-refuting and incoherent. Then I plan to discuss this issue in more detail.
- Being purely sure (100% confident) of something (or, likewise, assigning anything zero probability) is claiming that it is indefeasible (completely irrefutable) – literally, nothing whatsoever could possibly refute it, for the simple reason that the lower the probability (or uncertainty), the stronger the evidence must be for that. (That is, for an event with low probability, the probability of the information favoring it must be high, and of course lowering it makes the requirement even higher). In the 0% case the requirement would be infinite and so there is no amount of information that would suffice.
- Claiming indefeasible knowledge equals claiming unconditional belief – the same as saying “I believe no matter what”, for the simple reason that if there is no information that could refute it, then one’s belief is independent of whatever the evidence might say and so even overwhelming evidence to the contrary wouldn’t affect it.
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