Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason


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An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

Either way, the use of different speech elements to reinforce the communication of a message is something we cannot do without in many cases. It can be viewed from a rhetorical perspective, of course, but it also can be viewed as a fragment of a logical argument, with several of the propositions left implicit. Sign up to join this community. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top. Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. Ask Question.

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Asked 7 years, 2 months ago. Active 7 years, 1 month ago. Viewed times. I found the following passage in The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine When Samson ran off with the gate-posts of Gaza, if he ever did so, and whether he did or not is nothing to us, or when he visited his Delilah, or caught his foxes, or did anything else, what has revelation to do with these things?

Omniscience And The Rhetoric Of Reason

Is the the last statement a rhetorical argument? Does the author make any faulty assumptions? Green Noob Green Noob 6 6 silver badges 14 14 bronze badges. I don't think that this is meant to be a piece of formal argumentation. Instead, Paine seems to invite the reader to contrast two hypotheses: a that the Judeo-Christian god has limitless power and insight into the mysteries of nature, on the one hand, and b that the Bible, including the Old Testament, both of which contain a large quantity of stories which don't really teach you anything and which are pre-occupied with individual people living around the Mediterranean, is the best message that god could formulate for everyone to learn, for all people and for all time.

Did you already know the answer to your question when you asked it? I kid, I kid I get the impression that maybe your doubt is not about rhetorics but something more specific in the reasoning behind that passage.

[Read book] Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason: Santaraksita and Kamalasila on Rationality

Could you explain further why is that you think there is some faulty assumption there? What exactly is bothering you in that passage? Tames Tames 1 1 gold badge 6 6 silver badges 18 18 bronze badges. The reconstructed argument would go something like this: There is a God, who is omniscient and omnipotent axiom The Bible is the Word of God, and represents God's message for mankind axiom Therefore, the stories of the Bible must be important from 1 and 2 Some of the stories in the Bible are trivial, and appear pointless, in contradiction to 3 Therefore, at least one of our axioms is false.

This is a common reduction ad absurdam form. Michael Dorfman Michael Dorfman Sign up or log in Sign up using Google. To arrive at a more complete understanding of this vexing problem, it is necessary to unpack further some of its philosophical baggage. I turn, therefore, to some important concepts and distinctions associated with the problem of evil, beginning with the ideas of "good" and "evil. The terms "good" and "evil" are, if nothing else, notoriously difficult to define. Some account, however, can be given of these terms as they are employed in discussions of the problem of evil.

Beginning with the notion of evil, this is normally given a very wide extension so as to cover everything that is negative and destructive in life. The ambit of evil will therefore include such categories as the bad, the unjust, the immoral, and the painful. An analysis of evil in this broad sense may proceed as follows:.

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Condition a captures what normally falls under the rubric of pain as a physical state for example, the sensation you feel when you have a toothache or broken jaw and suffering as a mental state in which we wish that our situation were otherwise for example, the experience of anxiety or despair.

Condition b introduces the notion of injustice, so that the prosperity of the wicked, the demise of the virtuous, and the denial of voting rights or employment opportunities to women and blacks would count as evils. The third condition is intended to cover cases of untimely death, that is to say, death not brought about by the ageing process alone.

This is partly why we consider it a great evil if an infant were killed after impacting with a train at full speed, even if the infant experienced no pain or suffering in the process. Condition d classifies as evil anything that inhibits one from leading a life that is both fulfilling and virtuous — poverty and prostitution would be cases in point. Condition e relates evil to immoral choices or acts.


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And the final condition expresses the idea, prominent in Augustine and Aquinas, that evil is not a substance or entity in its own right, but a privatio boni : the absence or lack of some good power or quality which a thing by its nature ought to possess. Moral evil. This is evil that results from the misuse of free will on the part of some moral agent in such a way that the agent thereby becomes morally blameworthy for the resultant evil. Moral evil therefore includes specific acts of intentional wrongdoing such as lying and murdering, as well as defects in character such as dishonesty and greed.

Natural evil. In contrast to moral evil, natural evil is evil that results from the operation of natural processes, in which case no human being can be held morally accountable for the resultant evil. An important qualification, however, must be made at this point. A great deal of what normally passes as natural evil is brought about by human wrongdoing or negligence.

For example, lung cancer may be caused by heavy smoking; the loss of life occasioned by some earthquakes may be largely due to irresponsible city planners locating their creations on faults that will ultimately heave and split; and some droughts and floods may have been prevented if not for the careless way we have treated our planet. As it is the misuse of free will that has caused these evils or contributed to their occurrence, it seems best to regard them as moral evils and not natural evils.

In the present work, therefore, a natural evil will be defined as an evil resulting solely or chiefly from the operation of the laws of nature. Alternatively, and perhaps more precisely, an evil will be deemed a natural evil only if no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence. Thus, a flood caused by human pollution of the environment will be categorized a natural evil as long as the agents involved could not be held morally responsible for the resultant evil, which would be the case if, for instance, they could not reasonably be expected to have foreseen the consequences of their behavior.

A further category of evil that has recently played an important role in discussions on the problem of evil is horrendous evil.

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A horrendous evil, it may be noted, may be either a moral evil for example, the Holocaust of or a natural evil for example, the Lisbon earthquake of It is also important to note that it is the notion of a "horrendous moral evil" that comports with the current, everyday use of "evil" by English speakers. When we ordinarily employ the word "evil" today we do not intend to pick out something that is merely bad or very wrong for example, a burglary , nor do we intend to refer to the death and destruction brought about by purely natural processes we do not, for example, think of the Asian tsunami disaster as something that was "evil".

Instead, the word "evil" is reserved in common usage for events and people that have an especially horrific moral quality or character. Finally, these notions of good and evil indicate that the problem of evil is intimately tied to ethics. Firstly, one who accepts either a divine command theory of ethics or non-realism in ethics is in no position to raise the problem of evil, that is, to offer the existence of evil as at least a prima facie good reason for rejecting theism.

This is because a divine command theory, in taking morality to be dependent upon the will of God, already assumes the truth of that which is in dispute, namely, the existence of God see Brown On the other hand, non-realist ethical theories, such as moral subjectivism and error-theories of ethics, hold that there are no objectively true moral judgments.


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But then a non-theist who also happens to be a non-realist in ethics cannot help herself to some of the central premises found in evidential arguments from evil such as "If there were a perfectly good God, he would want a world with no horrific evil in it" , as these purport to be objectively true moral judgments see Nelson Secondly, the particular normative ethical theory one adopts for example, consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics may influence the way in which one formulates or responds to an argument from evil.

Indeed, some have gone so far as to claim that evidential arguments from evil usually presuppose the truth of consequentialism see, for example, Reitan Even if this is not so, it seems that the adoption of a particular theory in normative ethics may render the problem of evil easier or harder, or at least delimit the range of solutions available. For an excellent account of the difficulties faced by theists in relation to the problem of evil when the ethical framework is restricted to deontology, see McNaughton The problem of evil may be described as the problem of reconciling belief in God with the existence of evil.

But the problem of evil, like evil itself, has many faces. It may, for example, be expressed either as an experiential problem or as a theoretical problem. In the former case, the problem is the difficulty of adopting or maintaining an attitude of love and trust toward God when confronted by evil that is deeply perplexing and disturbing.

Alvin Plantinga provides an eloquent account of this problem:. The theist may find a religious problem in evil; in the presence of his own suffering or that of someone near to him he may find it difficult to maintain what he takes to be the proper attitude towards God.

Omniscient

By contrast, the theoretical problem of evil is the purely "intellectual" matter of determining what impact, if any, the existence of evil has on the truth-value or the epistemic status of theistic belief. In this article, however, the focus will be exclusively on the theoretical dimension. This aspect of the problem of evil comes in two broad varieties: the logical problem and the evidential problem. The logical version of the problem of evil also known as the a priori version and the deductive version is the problem of removing an alleged logical inconsistency between certain claims about God and certain claims about evil.

Mackie provides a succinct statement of this problem:. In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions: the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three.

Evil is a problem for the theist in that a contradiction is involved in the fact of evil, on the one hand, and the belief in the omnipotence and perfection of God on the other. Atheologians like Mackie and McCloskey, in maintaining that the logical problem of evil provides conclusive evidence against theism, are claiming that theists are committed to an internally inconsistent set of beliefs and hence that theism is necessarily false.

More precisely, it is claimed that theists commonly accept the following propositions:. Propositions 11 - 14 form an essential part of the orthodox conception of God, as this has been explicated in Section 1 above. But theists typically believe that the world contains evil. Of course, 15 can be specified in a number of ways — for example, 15 may refer to the existence of any evil at all, or a certain amount of evil, or particular kinds of evil, or some perplexing distributions of evil. In each case, a different version of the logical problem of evil, and hence a distinct charge of logical incompatibility, will be generated.

The alleged incompatibility, however, is not obvious or explicit. Rather, the claim is that propositions 11 - 15 are implicitly contradictory , where a set S of propositions is implicitly contradictory if there is a necessary proposition p such that the conjunction of p with S constitutes a formally contradictory set. Those who advance logical arguments from evil must therefore add one or more necessary truths to the above set of five propositions in order to generate the fatal contradiction.

By way of illustration, consider the following additional propositions that may be offered:. It is not difficult to see how the addition of 16 - 20 to 11 - 15 will yield an explicit contradiction, namely,. The subject of this article, however, is the evidential version of the problem of evil also called the a posteriori version and the inductive version , which seeks to show that the existence evil, although logically consistent with the existence of God, counts against the truth of theism.

As with the logical problem, evidential formulations may be based on the sheer existence of evil, or certain instances, types, amounts, or distributions of evil. Evidential arguments from evil may also be classified according to whether they employ i a direct inductive approach , which aims at showing that evil counts against theism, but without comparing theism to some alternative hypothesis; or ii an indirect inductive approach , which attempts to show that some significant set of facts about evil counts against theism, and it does this by identifying an alternative hypothesis that explains these facts far more adequately than the theistic hypothesis.

A useful taxonomy of evidential arguments from evil can be found in Russell and Peterson , Evidential arguments purport to show that evil counts against theism in the sense that the existence of evil lowers the probability that God exists. The strategy here is to begin by putting aside any positive evidence we might think there is in support of theism for example, the fine-tuning argument as well as any negative evidence we might think there is against theism that is, any negative evidence other than the evidence of evil. The aim is to then determine what happens to the probability value of "God exists" once we consider the evidence generated by our observations of the various evils in our world.

The central question, therefore, is: Grounds for belief in God aside, does evil render the truth of atheism more likely than the truth of theism? A recent debate on the evidential problem of evil was couched in such terms: see Rowe a: But if evil counts against theism by driving down the probability value of "God exists" then evil constitutes evidence against the existence of God.

The Problem of Logical Omniscience (Bayesian Epistemology)

Evidential arguments, therefore, claim that there are certain facts about evil that cannot be adequately explained on a theistic account of the world. Theism is thus treated as a large-scale hypothesis or explanatory theory which aims to make sense of some pertinent facts, and to the extent that it fails to do so it is disconfirmed.

In evidential arguments, however, the evidence only probabilifies its conclusion, rather than conclusively verifying it. The probabilistic nature of such arguments manifests itself in the form of a premise to the effect that "It is probably the case that some instance or type, or amount, or pattern of evil E is gratuitous.


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  6. The inference from this claim to the judgment that there exists gratuitous evil is inductive in nature, and it is this inductive step that sets the evidential argument apart from the logical argument. Evidential arguments from evil seek to show that the presence of evil in the world inductively supports or makes likely the claim that God or, more precisely, the God of orthodox theism does not exist.

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