Intelligent Design

Laszlo Bencze responds to the view that evil is the absence of good

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Dostoevsky in 1872
Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1872

Earlier today, we noted that, in the debate between Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty at the Hindu site Theology Unleashed, Egnor expressed the view, held by many Christian philosophers, that evil is best understood as the absence of good.

Philosopher and photographer Laszlo Bencze now writes to say — citing novelist and philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky(1821–1881) :


You know, Dostoevsky was responsible for one of the most famous enthymemes in history. (An enthymeme is a syllogism in which one premise is not stated.) He wrote “If there is no god, then all things are permitted.” The normal completion of this premise would be affirmation of the antecedent like so:

If there is no god, then all things are permitted.

There is no god, therefore,

All things are permitted.

However, there is another logically valid way to complete the first premise which is by denial of the consequent like this:

If there is no god, then all things are permitted.

All things are not permitted.

Therefore, there is god.

Interesting eh? I have found that all people, even diehard progressives,agree that there are some things that are prohibited. They might balk at homophobia. Surely that can’t be permitted? Or abusing women? Or maybe child molestation. They might condone stealing from the Man but not stealing from “me.” So, if not all things are permitted, then, logically speaking, god must exist. In this way the existence of evil points to god. No god, no evil. All things are permitted. If evil (prohibited things) exists; god exists. How about that?


Readers?

You may also wish to read: Egnor vs. Dillahunty: 11. Is evil in the world simply the absence of good? The Thomistic understanding of evil is that it’s an absence of good. It’s not a thing that exist independently in itself. It’s a deficit of goodness. God’s creation necessarily fall short of goodness because if he created something perfectly good, He would just be creating himself.

11 Replies to “Laszlo Bencze responds to the view that evil is the absence of good

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Interesting eh? I have found that all people, even diehard progressives,agree that there are some things that are prohibited. They might balk at homophobia. Surely that can’t be permitted? Or abusing women? Or maybe child molestation. They might condone stealing from the Man but not stealing from “me.” So, if not all things are permitted, then, logically speaking, god must exist. In this way the existence of evil points to god. No god, no evil. All things are permitted. If evil (prohibited things) exists; god exists. How about that?

    First, the concept of “permitted” implies an authority that can grant or withhold permission. That does not necessarily mean the Christian God. It could mean human societies deciding what is evil without any need for a god.

    Second, is it necessarily true that everything is either good or evil, anyway? Is there no middle ground of behaviors that are neither, behaviors that are morally neutral?

    Third, do those who believe God is the sole arbiter of what is good or evil accept the corollary which is that they have no way of knowing what is good or evil except by what their God tells them? In other words, you would not know that the rape and murder of babies was evil unless God tells you specifically that is the case?

  2. 2
    Latemarch says:

    Seversky @1,

    First, the concept of “permitted” implies an authority that can grant or withhold permission. That does not necessarily mean the Christian God. It could mean human societies deciding what is evil without any need for a god.

    Ah, comrade, the State tells us what is evil and what is good. All hail the State!

  3. 3
    ram says:

    No. Evil is suffering. Good is pleasure.

  4. 4
    EDTA says:

    Sev @ 1,
    >” It could mean human societies deciding what is evil without any need for a god.”

    Which would mean the standard would change with every generation, like it does now. That might have worked when cultures changed very slowly. No chance it will work today when standards change as rapidly as they do. It confuses the heck out of young people for one thing. Western civilization today is fumbling around in the dark trying to distinguish good from bad on its own. We look absolutely clueless.

  5. 5
    jerry says:

    God’s creation necessarily fall short of goodness because if he created something perfectly good, He would just be creating himself.

    How could God create something less than perfect?

    Creation implies an objective. Did God create something that does not achieve His objective? We may not know His objective but how could it be flawed?

    Aside: again no good definition of the term “evil.” Pun intended. (Is the definition of “evil” evil?)

  6. 6
    Fasteddious says:

    Sorry, but the second syllogism is wrong:
    – If there is no god, then all things are permitted.
    – All things are not permitted.
    – Therefore, there is god.
    The first premise is an “if-then” statement.
    The “then” part being false does not make the if part false.
    i.e. “if-then” statements cannot always be reversed.
    For example: if I am a living human then I have human chromosomes.
    Reversing that does not prove I am alive, just because I have human chromosomes.

  7. 7
    Origenes says:

    Seversky:

    Third, do those who believe God is the sole arbiter of what is good or evil accept the corollary which is that they have no way of knowing what is good or evil except by what their God tells them? In other words, you would not know that the rape and murder of babies was evil unless God tells you specifically that is the case?

    Good question.

  8. 8
    Querius says:

    Jerry @5,

    How could God create something less than perfect?

    Because God is all powerful and can indeed create a universe that, according to Genesis 1, is “very good.” God also created humans with a purpose stated in Genesis 1 and gave them the ability to choose (free will).

    God also can and will create a better world. Better, but not perfect. This provides a domain for less-than all-powerful, omniscient, God-like, perfect people to act freely in love, compassion, creativity, generosity, honor, and everything else that’s wonderful about being human!

    -Q

  9. 9
    EDTA says:

    Sev,
    >” In other words, you would not know that the rape and murder of babies was evil unless God tells you specifically that is the case?”

    As finite (and pretty self-centered) beings, I would expect us to have to be told of higher things by our creator, yes. (Higher things, which includes standards that apply to all of us.) On our own, we do a lousy job of telling right from wrong, just based on the fact that we change our minds all the time.

    I would expect our creator to be able to tell us this in more than one way though, say by direct communication, and by giving us a conscience that works some of the time, and maybe via other means.

  10. 10
    es58 says:

    Fe@6 if you have no human chromosomes your not a living human , it works just fine

  11. 11
    ET says:

    Humans have chromosomes but there aren’t any human chromosomes because DNA did NOT determine that you would be a human.

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