Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Righting wrongs

The following argument is sound:

  1. (Premise) All injustices are righted.
  2. (Premise) If God does not exist, some injustices are not righted.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Of course, an argument can be sound but no good. Recall Plantinga's example, which was basically: "God exists or 2+2=5; but not 2+2=5; therefore, God exists", the logic is impeccable, and all the premises are true, but ordinarily only someone who is already a theist will accept the first premise. Is the present argument like this?

Well, I think (2) is fairly plausible. Think of someone innocent who is murdered. Who is there to right that injustice, unless it be God? Of course, one might posit other supernatural hypotheses than that of the existence of God that would suffice to ensure that injustices are righted, but the other hypotheses just do not strike me as very plausible—finite beings like the Furies aren't likely to be able to know and right all injustices.

Of course, premise (1) is not going to be at all plausible to the typical atheist. However, it may well be that some people have an intuition to the effect of (1). This intuition may be related to intuitions about how everything has a purpose, how bad things come to good, etc. These intuitions are ones that even an atheist can have (I once had an atheist student who had such an intuition about her own life—she wondered if the intuition was compatible with her atheism, and I told her that was something she'd need to figure out herself). So the argument need not always be question-begging.

46 comments:

Gabriele Contessa said...

How exactly do you right an injustice? If only God can right injustices, then obviously premise 2 is true, but if things other than God can do so, I don't see any reason why even a theist would not concede that at some possible worlds all injustices happen to be righted by something or someone other than God even if God does not exist.

Now, probably you would deny that the actual world is one of those possible worlds, but then what independent reasons does one have to believe that premise 1 is true?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't have a worked out theory of how injustices are righted, but there do seem to be parallel cases. If George is unjustly fired from a low-paying job, giving him a high-paying and more satisfying job in some intuitive sense rights that injustice.

I am not claiming that only God can right wrongs, and I am not making any claim about non-actual worlds. I am claiming that if there is no God, then some of the actual world's wrongs will not be righted. It's really hard for anybody other than God to right a murder, for instance.

As for independent reason to believe 1, well there may be non-theists who have an intuition that 1 is true. How many such non-theists are there? I don't really know. My only claim for the argument is that it is sound, not that belief in the premises is justified independently of belief in the conclusion. :-)

MG said...

I think the argument might elicit some wonder from agnostics or "friendly atheists" (as Rowe called them). It's really a sort of moral argument, isn't it? Wasn't Cardinal Newman's moral argument specifically about injustice? I think he said something like, If all the injustices of life are not to be made right by God, then...why I think I shall go mad.

radical_logic said...

"Of course, one might posit other supernatural hypotheses than that of the existence of God that would suffice to ensure that injustices are righted, but the other hypotheses just do not strike me as very plausible—finite beings like the Furies aren't likely to be able to know and right all injustices. "

What about karam?

radical_logic said...

*karma

radical_logic said...

I don't think premise (1) is intuitive at all unless we already assume there exists some mechanism that will right all injustices; and in the absence of any evidence for such a mechanism, our intuition seems no more than wishful/hopeful thinking.

For those who disagree, unless you have good non-subjective evidence that all injustices will be righted via some mechanism (e.g. Divine punishment, Karma, etc), what exactly is the difference between believing in (1) on the basis of intuition and believing it on the basis of wishful/hopeful thinking?

Moreover, even if there is a difference, the intuition doesn't strike me as so plausible that its denial would be unreasonable (just the opposite, in fact).

larryniven said...

"If George is unjustly fired from a low-paying job, giving him a high-paying and more satisfying job in some intuitive sense rights that injustice."

I wonder about this, though, and it's not the first time this sort of thing has come up: isn't this sort of asymmetric? George gets recompensed, but what of the one doing the firing? I think justice ought to apply to that person, too. And also, if George was a particularly fun person to work with, what about all the people at George's old job who now unjustly have to work without him? And so on.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Larry:

As often, you're right. More may be needed. There may need to be a punishment of the unjust firer, and something may need to be done for George's coworkers (of course, maybe the coworkers all conspired to have him unjustly fired, in which case punishment might be the thing for them).

RL:

Yeah, karma and reincarnation might also work. To support (2), I'd need to argue against karma and reincarnation. (I think reincarnation may push one to an overly Cartesian view of the human self, and that might be a good argument against it.)

radical_logic said...

I know the following is a bit off topic, but since it deals with justice and theism I was wondering what your take on it would be.

1. It is unjust to punish people for the crimes/wrong doings that others have committed in the past, when the former group was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing the crimes of the latter group.
2. God has punished the descendants of Adam and Eve for the crimes/wrong doings they committed in the past, when the former group was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing the crimes of the latter group.
3. Therefore, God has acted unjustly.

I don't see how anyone can deny (1); we know of instance where it would be just to punish a person for the crimes/wrong doings that someone else committed in the past, when the former was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing those crimes/wrong doings. Imagine if some thought everyone under 25 in the U.S. should be punished for a murder that took place in ancient Greece--no rational person in this day and age would think the punishment just. Hence I believe premise (1) on solid, rational grounds.

Therefore, if (2) is true, as many Christians claim (i.e. when they attempt to explain why natural calamities occur), then I am forced to conclude that God has acted unjustly.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Good question. I think one either has to deny 2, or else affirm that we have some kind of a mysterious union with Adam and Eve so that we form a single whole. I think the simpler solution is to deny 2. We suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve's sin (it's not uncommon for one person to suffer the consequences of another's sin), but we are not being punished for their sins.

radical_logic said...

I have two responses to what you say.

First, I think we can agree there's a distinction between having inherited Original Sin (which makes us more likely to sin) and actually sinning. But consider aborted fetuses and deceased infants--clearly, neither have "sinned" even though they have inherited Original Sin. But the fact that they have inherited Original Sin means they can die, regardless of whether or not they actually sinned. Hence, an aborted fetus or deceased infant still suffers the same penalty used to punish Adam and Eve--i.e. death--and they suffer this penalty for the mere fact that the latter disobeyed God. And if they suffer the same penalty for that fact, without actually having sinned, then how is this any different from punishment? Specifically, how is this any different from me going to jail for the mere fact that Sam Jones did X? I think this needs to be explained.

Second, I can simply revise the argument to read:


1. It is unjust to cause people to suffer a penalty imposed on others for the mere fact that the latter committed crimes/wrong doings, when the former group was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing the crimes of the latter group.
2. God has caused descendants of Adam and Eve to suffer the penalty imposed on the latter for the mere fact that they committed a crime/wrong doing, when the former group was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing the crime/wrong doing of the latter group.
3. Therefore, God has acted unjustly

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't think God has any obligation to let us live forever. Consider this: God had the right not to create us at all. To create us so we'd live for, say, a year, or 70 years, is better than to not create us at all. So while taking away immortality from Adam and Eve counts as a punishment, maybe not bestowing immortality on us in the first place might not count as a punishment. I am not quite happy with this answer for theological reasons, but it's the best I have off-hand.

Eric Telfer said...

(1) And it may be that it is a category mistake to worry about God's moral standing or how well He behaves or whether He is morally justified in this or that. For He is not on the same moral plane with us. He is not a creature.

(2) Additionally, a distinction may be noticed between punishment and consequence here with respect to the Fall.

(3) And, we might say that God cannot act unjustly, by His nature, which means that there must be something that we are missing when we think He has.

radical_logic said...

"So while taking away immortality from Adam and Eve counts as a punishment, maybe not bestowing immortality on us in the first place might not count as a punishment."

My response would be to say that the same doesn't apply to sickness. Adam and Eve were not only punished with mortality, but with sickness and old age. Presumably, before the fall, they couldn't get sick or suffer very much if they did.

The same can't be said about many infants who suffer a very short miserable existence.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Sometimes a just punishment has negative consequences for innocent people. Think of the family of someone who goes to jail.

I actually think life is always worth having, no matter how miserable.

radical_logic said...

But it's clearly unjust to punish the family. If the person was justly executed, it would not be just to execute his family.

Moreover, I don't see how you can say life is *always* worth living. How can it be worth living for the infant or child who experiences nothing but misery and suffering? And even if such a life were worth living, it doesn't explain why God would cause the infant or child to share Adam and Eve's penalty--i.e to become susceptible to sickness--for the mere fact that they broke the law.

Eric Telfer said...

One way to say that life is worth living is to consider the greater context. If, for example, an infant suffers here, but is to go on to share in infinite happiness with God, no amount of finite suffering here can counter-balance that, by virtue of the greatness of being with God and by virtue of the difference between finite and infinite.

On why we have to share in suffering because of the fault of another, we have to keep in mind the solidarity of man, where we came from, i.e., Adam, Adam's co-governing role, what Adam gave over to the devil, etc.

On why God would permit any of this at all we bump into a great mystery. But there is good reason to think that God exists and good reason to think that there must be a good reason for things being this way, even if we do not fully understand it, which is not to say that it is totally incomprehensible for I think we get glimpses of why it might be the case. For the rest, in terms of natural theology or natural religion, we must rely on the fact that we are dealing with God here and recall to mind His nature, which demands that there must be a good reason for this state of affairs, I think.

Eric Telfer said...

Sometimes what we call a punishment is in fact the allowance of natural consequences.

Moreover, if we are truly talking about God as God then we either cannot talk of God acting justly or not, as if He were a mere creature or on the same plane as mere creatures, or there is no injustice in His acts by virtue of his perfect goodness. If we start there, then we can go looking for reasons why things might be the way they are. What is more certain- God as God cannot act unjustly- an impossibility- or there being some other data point that we are missing that would make sense of it all in a way that exonerated God from the guilty charge? I take it that it is more certain that we are missing something, or, put differently, that God as God cannot act unjustly and so there must be something we are missing when we go to piece the history together.

radical_logic said...

-----------------
One way to say that life is worth living is to consider the greater context. If, for example, an infant suffers here, but is to go on to share in infinite happiness with God, no amount of finite suffering here can counter-balance that, by virtue of the greatness of being with God and by virtue of the difference between finite and infinite.
----------------

I'm talking about this Earthly-life--there are clear cases where the life of an infant or child is not worth living here on Earth. Perhaps their lives would be worth living up in heaven, but that's irrelevant.

To say that life is worth living here on Earth is to say that for those who continue to exist here on Earth, living would be worthwhile.




----------------
On why we have to share in suffering because of the fault of another, we have to keep in mind the solidarity of man, where we came from, i.e., Adam, Adam's co-governing role, what Adam gave over to the devil, etc."
-----------------

I don't see how these facts about Adam explains why we share in his penalty.



-------------
But there is good reason to think that God exists and good reason to think that there must be a good reason for things being this way, even if we do not fully understand it, which is not to say that it is totally incomprehensible for I think we get glimpses of why it might be the case.
--------------

I disagree--I don't think there's good reason to think that God exists. And even if there were good reason to think that God exists, there is no good reason at all to think that the Christian God exists.


------------
Sometimes what we call a punishment is in fact the allowance of natural consequences.
--------------

What do you mean by "natural?" Perhaps you mean it in this sense: thirst is a natural consequence of not drinking liquids. If so, then by "natural" you mean "causally inevitable," and clearly this doesn't apply to God. God was perfectly free to decide what the consequences were for the descendants of Adam, and so they were not "natural" but "freely chosen."


--------------
What is more certain- God as God cannot act unjustly- an impossibility- or there being some other data point that we are missing that would make sense of it all in a way that exonerated God from the guilty charge?
-------------------

I agree that if God really exists, then he can't act unjustly. Hence my argument demonstrates, I think, that the Christian God-conception cannot be true.

Eric Telfer said...

I would distinguish between arguments against (a) a necessary, incomposite, purely actual, rational, independent, personal, omnipotent, omniscient, supreme, ultimate, first, uncaused being whose essence and existence are one, (b) certain accounts of history within revealed religion or this or that special revelation, and (c) certain conceptions of God handed down within revealed religion or from ecclesial authorities. Your arguments seem to mostly be challenging (b) and not (a) at all, as far as I can tell.

The classical Christian conception of God is an incomposite, necessary, purely actual, independent, supreme, infinite, ultimate being spoken of in (a). It is just that Christian sources then claim that such a being did this or that in history or revealed this or that in this or that way to this or that people or persons (or something along those lines) and that part of this tells us a certain history of man. It is possible, I think, for Christians to be wrong about the acting in history or special revelation aspect, in theory, but still be absolutely on target with respect to the conception of God being employed. It is whether or not that God- the only God- acted in that way that is at issue, even if His existence and His being infinite, incomposite, independent, rational, personal, omniscient, purely actual, supreme, ultimate, first, and the rest are not in question. The Christian God cannot act unjustly. He is not the cause of evil. He is absolutely innocent. So, whatever is missing or misleading in those accounts of world history or the history of man, if those accounts are true, must fall in line with this notion, eventually. And there is obvious wiggle room for we get into interpretational issues, as well as a great many language issues, as when God is referred to as acting like a human person.


I do not think heaven would be irrelevant at all, if we consider life here and life there as a continuum or as connected. I can take this or that moment of my life and think of them in isolation in a limited way and then conclude that those moments were not worth living, but that is different than saying that life is not worth living given the greater context, a context which will be most clear in heaven, not here on earth.

We do have good evidence that the type of being I am talking about in (a), referring to as 'God', exists: contingent, dependent, caused, composite things, of which we are examples.

radical_logic said...

Before you can confidently claim that the Christian God cannot act unjustly, you must first show that the Christian God actually exists. What my argument attempts to show is that the Christian God does not exist, since the actions attributed to him are inconsistent with justice.

In the absence of good evidence FOR the Christian God, my argument should tell against this God-conception, the same way many similar arguments tell against the Muslim-God conception.

But I will concede: IF you can show that there's good evidence for Christian theism, then my argument will be less persuasive. But I don't think you can show this, and here's why.

1. If the Resurrection cannot be established, then Christianity cannot be established. (premise)
2. If it cannot be established that Jesus acquired an immortal/indestructible body after he rose from the dead, then the Resurrection cannot be established. (premise)
3. It cannot be established that Jesus acquired an immortal/indestructible after he rose from the dead. (premise)
4. Therefore, the Resurrection cannot be established. (3, 2)
5. Therefore, Christianity cannot be established. (4, 1)

(3) is true because there is simply no evidence whatsoever that Jesus acquired an immortal/indestructible body after--assuming--he rose from the dead.



------------
I do not think heaven would be irrelevant at all, if we consider life here and life there as a continuum or as connected. I can take this or that moment of my life and think of them in isolation in a limited way and then conclude that those moments were not worth living, but that is different than saying that life is not worth living given the greater context, a context which will be most clear in heaven, not here on earth.
-----------------

But again, what I mean - and what people usually mean - by the phrase "life is worth living" is that our continued existence *here on Earth* is worthwhile. For the infant or child whose life has been filled with constant suffering, their continued existence *here on Earth* is not worthwhile--unless, of course, their situation changes. This is not to say that their continued existence in the afterlife wouldn't be worth living.

Now consider the case of the infant or child who lives a very short, miserable life *here on Earth.* Specifically, consider the case of the infant or child who knows nothing but immense pain and hunger, who doesn't experience anything resembling a mother's love, friendship, brotherhood, or kindness. What about their Earthly existence can you point to that would have made enduring their suffering worthwhile?

Eric Telfer said...

(1) One can speak of whether life is worthwhile or whether it has been or whether it will be, and in light of a variety of considerations, frames of reference, etc.. There is no doubt about that. Some of us mean that it will all be worthwhile, when all things are considered. We speak with faith and hope, but not without reason. For we have reason to think that God exists and that the beatific vision will be so much greater than anything we experience here that we will truly be able to say that it was worth it.

(2) At most your argument would only show that God did not act in history in the way Christians claim or that there is something wrong in their account of history. At most, it questions special revelation or how that revelation is interpreted. It does not seem to call into question the existence of God, which we can know (or have good reason to believe) apart from special revelation. Within the domains of natural religion or natural theology, without special revelation and without ecclesial authority, we can reason to the existence of God. That God is the God of Christians and the God of Christianity. That is the conception of God that classical Christianity asserts as true, in general outline. Based on those general outlines, known by reason apart from revelation, we can know that God cannot act unjustly. We are still within the realm of natural theology or natural religion here. We then have to turn our attention to revealed religion and special revelation, which is what you are challenging with your argument. But your argument does not challenge the notion of a necessary, independent, self-sufficient, purely actual, supreme, intrinsically underivative, first, uncaused being known by reason. It only challenges whether that being acted in such and such a way or whether history, in light of the possibility of such a being, could have unfolded the way special revelation claims.

Showing that God exists by reason and offering reasons for believing claims made within special revelation are two different projects. Christians do not have to prove that the claims made in special revelation are true before they have good reason to think that God exists. That is because we can know that God exists apart from special revelation and revealed religion, by the use of reason. Whether a person has good reason to believe that an independent, self sufficient, purely actual, first, uncaused being exists is one thing. Another is whether we have good reason to believe claims made in the realm of special revelation. Christianity, of course, adds up to both of these, but the first part does not depend on special revelation.

radical_logic said...

1. If God caused the descendants of Adam and Eve to suffer the penalty imposed on the latter for the mere fact that they committed a crime/wrong doing, when the former group was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing the crime/wrong doing of the latter group, then God would have acted unjustly
2. God cannot act unjustly.
3. Therefore, God did not cause the descendants of Adam and Eve to suffer the penalty imposed on the latter for the mere fact that they committed a crime/wrong doing, when the former group was not involved in anyway in committing or allowing the crime/wrong doing of the latter group.

Eric Telfer said...

Much could be said regarding the specifics of the argument, but it does seem to go either of two or three ways for you;

(1) either God does not exist, or
(2) the historical account offered by Christians is false, not consistent with what they say about God otherwise, as you might want to say, or,
(3) a particular interpretation of that account is false.

Or,

(4) God was acting justly, for reasons which we have yet to consider, or,
(5) God is above and beyond being treated as a a moral agent in the way that human beings are, which means that the entire line of reasoning commits a category mistake, acting as though God is a moral agent like human beings.

radical_logic said...

Since there is no good reason to think that Christianity is true, as I maintain, then (2) is much more plausible than (3), (4), and (5).

Eric Telfer said...

In the end, focusing on the argument, (1) is false because the antecedent in the conditional is false. We were all in Adam because we all received our human nature from Adam. There is a solidarity to man.

And, as we have noted, there are many possible options aside from that being the case, i.e., God is not to be treated as a moral agent like we treat human moral agents, there is more to the story, the story is being interpreted wrongly, etc. You say one claim is more plausible than another (regarding the list I offered) but also suggest that you are influenced by a 'pre-test' probability or a prior conclusion, i.e., that Christianity is false or that it cannot be 'established' to be true because certain claims within it cannot be 'established' to be true. What do we mean by 'establish' here. We are not doing geometry when we assent to God acting in history as Christ. Someone can always say that we are not proving or establishing this or that in some stricter sense or with respect to some other method of reasoning. That is fine.

There are two sides to keep in mind, however, both resting on a different evidentiary base, *one* having to do with arguments for the existence of a necessary, incomposite, intrinsically underivative, purely actual being known by reason, and *another* having to do with special revelation- that being acting in history in this or that way and history unfolding in this or that way as told by and through special revelation.

radical_logic said...

1. The claim that we were all "in" Adam needs fleshing out--what does it mean? And how is it relevant? The fact that we received our (sinful) nature BECAUSE of what Adam did is simply to repeat the antecedent of premise (1).

Moreover, to say that the antecedent of premise (1) is false is to deny either: that God caused the descendants of Adam and Eve to suffer the penalty imposed on the latter, or if he did cause this, that the descendants of Adam were not involved in committing the crime/wrong doing being punished. Which do you deny?

It is false that God caused the descendants of Adam and Eve to suffer their penalty.

Or,

It is false that they were not involved (i.e. they WERE involved) in committing the crime/wrong doing.



2. Since God is perfectly just, he cannot act unjustly. This follows. I don't know what more needs to be said.



3. By "established" I simply mean "show to be probably true." Can you show that Christianity is probably true? My argument demonstrates that you cannot.

Alexander R Pruss said...

In 1, there is a false dichotomy, in that the first option presupposes without argument that what the happens to the descendants of Adam and Eve is a penalty. A couple of things that could be said here:

1. We can look at God as having given Adam and Eve great freedom to choose the future of the human race.

2. It is not intrinsically unjust to punish x in a way that causes y to suffer. Often, punishment does make others suffer. We put someone in jail--and honest citizens need to pay taxes to keep the person in jail. This is not unjust.

3. I think a relevant consideration is that when criticizing the Christian view, one needs to take the view as a whole, not just a part of it. For instance, it would be silly to argue that the Old Testament God was unjust to the Israelites by forcing them to leave Egypt. It would be silly, because when considering the justice or injustice of this divine command, one needs to consider (a) that God had a better place for the Israelites, and (b) they were slaves in Egypt.

In the case at hand, one needs to consider the fact that while we suffer the bad effects of Adam and Eve's sin, according to Christianity, through the Incarnation God offers us a greater good than Adam and Eve themselves had, and so we sing of Adam's sin: "O felix culpa" (O happy fault). God perhaps wouldn't have been unjust if he left Adam and Eve's descendants in paradise, simply punishing Adam and Eve. But what he has done for us is better than that, or so Christianity says. This does not settle the justice question--one might think that sometimes a better action is less just--but it does shift the burden of proof at least.

radical_logic said...

1. We can substitute "penalty" for "consequences." The descendants of Adam and Eve suffered the same (kind of) consequences they did--old age, sickness, death, and in many cases, all three. Is this not so?

If this is right, then there's a clear, unmistakable difference between punishing x with imprisonment in a way that causes y to suffer monetary damages, and punishing x with imprisonment in a way that causes y to suffer the same (kind of) imprisonment. The situation with the descendants of Adam and Eve is more analogous to the latter scenario, which is clearly unjust.

2. Your last comment is interesting. In what way do the descendants of Adam and Eve in this world--the world in which the Fall occurred--benefit MORE than the descendants in the world where the Fall did not occur? The ultimate happy ending in both cases is paradise and intimate fellowship with God, is it not?

Alexander R Pruss said...

The supernatural fellowship we are offered in Christ seems to be deeper than the natural fellowship with God that Adam and Eve had.

radical_logic said...

Deeper in what way? Adam and Eve communicated with God in a direct, unmistakable way that left no room for doubt. Christians still need faith.

Moreover, if God *prefers* the supernatural fellowship to humanity, then why couldn't he have *also* offered the same fellowship to Adam and Eve and their descendants? The fact that our supernatural fellowship is "deeper" than Adam and Eve's natural fellowship doesn't mean their descendants in the other world couldn't have an *upgraded* relationship at a later time.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Deeper, through the Incarnation. There is a unity of human nature that we now have with God, in that God is literally one of us--a human being.

Of course, he could have done this even if we did not sin. But he did not owe that to us. So we can run the following "suggestive" argument.

1. If acting so that A happens to x is not treating x unjustly, and B is better than A, then the presumption is that acting so that B happens to x is not treating x unjustly.

2. Having the descendants of Adam and Eve live naturally in paradise without the deeper kind of union through the Incarnation is not unjust.

3. A life of death, illness, suffering and pain, together with the virtues made possible by death, illness, suffering and pain (e.g., courage, sacrificial love), as well as the possibility of the deeper union with God through the the Incarnation is better for the descendants of Adam and Eve than living in paradise without the deeper kind of union through the Incarnation.

4. Therefore, the presumption is that expelling Adam and Eve was not unjust.

There is also some additional work on the argument that would be needed to consider the case of the damned. If God has middle knowledge or compatibilism holds, this is problematic.

radical_logic said...

There are several reasons why I don't think your argument works.

1. Because God could have become "one of us" in the other world, you cannot rely on the assumption that the descendants in this world are really better off. You could rely on this assumption only if you can show that God would not have become one of us in the other world, and I don't think you can show this.

2. In the other world, Christ wouldn't have needed to BECOME "one of us," because the descendants in that world--who are without sin--would have already been more like him from the outset. So I don't see how the descendants in this world have it better, and thus I don't see how premise (3) is true.

3. Premise (1) is subject to numerous counter-examples. In case one, suppose x has to give up 1,000 dollars to pay for y's imprisonment, and this is not unjust. In case two, suppose someone steals 800 dollars off of x. Clearly, it is better that x loses 800 dollars than 1,000 dollars, but we wouldn't say that x in the second case was not treated unjustly. He was.

4. The descendants in this world who end up in hell are obviously not better off!

Alexander R Pruss said...

Ad 1: I am comparing a world w1 where God does not become incarnate, and where we're not kicked out of paradise, to our world. World w1 is a possible world, and God is not unjust in w1. That's all I need.

Ad 2: There is a metaphysical component to the union, which goes over and beyond mere knowledge of God and personal righteousness.

Ad 3: The principle is a presumptive one. Note that on the natural reading of your counterexample, too, we are comparing actions with different agents.

Ad 4: Suppose Adam and Eve's descendants weren't kicked out of paradise. Would fewer people have ended up in hell? Who knows. After all, we don't know how many are going to end up in hell. One? Two? Ten? A hundred billion? Scripture does say "many", so that suggests more than one or two (but doesn't prove it conclusively, because in the case of something as horrendous as hell, one might think even one or two are "many").

radical_logic said...

1. I can make the same agent do the "stealing" in both cases--the government. In case one, the government takes away 1,000 dollars from x to pay for y's imprisonment. In case two, the government simply takes away 800 dollars from x.

2. Can you flesh out the metaphysical component of the union? Why would this make our fellowship with God deeper or better?

3. I don't see how there can be any uncertainty in knowing which of the two worlds has more people going to in hell. In the world where no one is kicked out of paradise, no one goes to hell. In our world, "many" go to hell.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Ad 1: Are the two actions done in the same circumstances? Moreover, in the first case, x is benefited by participating in the work of justice.

Ad 2: Well, there is something to the idea that God shares a nature with us. Love has a tendency towards equality. Moreover, God offers us, after death (though some people may get glimpses in this life, perhaps?), the beatific vision, an intuitive vision of God, where God joins himself to us. Adam and Eve were not offered the beatific vision.

Ad 3: Adam and Eve still sinned, despite being in paradise. So even if their descendants stayed in paradise, they might have sinned.

radical_logic said...

1. With my example, I'm simply trying to conform it to your principle: If acting so that A happens to x is not treating x unjustly, and B is better than A, then the presumption is that acting so that B happens to x is not treating x unjustly.

In case one, the government acts so that it takes away 1,000 dollars from x, and in case two, the government acts so that it takes away 800 dollars away from x. The second "taking away" is clearly better than the first "taking away" FOR x, even though the former - and not the latter - is just.

Moreover, I can avoid your counter by stipulating that x ceases to exist 30 seconds after both "taking aways", and so he benefits in neither case.

2. If God has a tendency towards equality, then this should hold true in the other world as well. Wouldn't the descendants in the other world also have some special, deep union with God?

3. I thought we're comparing the world where the Fall occurred to the world where the Fall didn't occur. In the latter, no one sinned.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Ad 3: Actually, I thought your worry was that it was unfair of God to let Adam and Eve's descendants suffer as a result of Adam and Eve's actions. So I was imagining a scenario where Adam and Eve still sin, and are themselves punished for it, but their descendants stay in paradise, each individually having the option to sin, just as Adam and Eve did.

If Adam and Eve didn't sin, maybe some of their descendants would have, anyway?

radical_logic said...

No, you're right. Let's compare the world where the descendants of Adam and Eve weren't kicked out of paradise to the world where they are.

In the former, none of the descendants go to hell because none of them are kicked out. In this world, at least some of the descendants go to hell. Hence there are more descendants in this world that go to hell than the descendants in the other world.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I guess I meant that they weren't kicked out en masse. Individually, each got the same deal as Adam and Eve did: don't sin and stay in paradise, or sin and leave.

Here's another thought. God wouldn't have wronged anybody if he had just killed Adam and Eve right after they sinned (they were warned). But God instead kicked them out of paradise, and gave them some span of life after that. This wasn't unjust in itself--we've admitted, for the sake of the argument at least, that Adam and Eve deserved it. So now the question is: Does God wrong Adam and Eve's descendants by allowing Adam and Eve to have descendants outside of paradise?

God could have made Adam and Eve sterile, I guess, after kicking them out of paradise. But we wouldn't be the better off for that. :-) And God could have miraculously transported the descendants to paradise, one by one. But I don't see why he would have a duty of justice to do that.

radical_logic said...

And you can't say: well maybe some of the descendants in the other world sinned and got kicked out. Because if they did, then they would have needed Christ to save them, and so that world would no longer be relevantly different from ours (for in both worlds, the Incarnation would have occurred).

Alexander R Pruss said...

Actually, I can say that. For God was not under an obligation of justice to become incarnate. So we may suppose that that's a world where he doesn't become incarnate.

radical_logic said...

Then to be fair, we should compare: the world where the descendants are not *automatically* kicked out of paradise as result of Adam and Eve's actions (W1), and the world where they are *automatically* kicked out (W2). Let's assume in both worlds that the Incarnation doesn't happen.

In W2, God imposes the same (kind of) consequences on the descendants as he did on Adam and Eve for mere fact that the latter sinned, but not in W1 (God actually waits for people to sin first before imposing unpleasant consequences).

Two questions:

1. Does God act unjustly to those in W2 (assuming the Incarnation doesn't occur). If so, how is this any different from imposing imprisonment on x for the mere fact that y committed a crime the required imprisonment?

2. If God DOES act unjustly to those in W2, how would the Incarnation make it so that God's action here is not unjust?

radical_logic said...

1. It is unjust for a moral agent to impose the same kind of harsh consequences on x, as he did on y, for the mere fact that y committed a crime/wrong doing.
2. God imposed the same kind of harsh consequences on the descendants of Adam and Eve, as he did on Adam and Eve, for the mere fact that the latter committed a crime/wrong doing.
3. God acted unjustly.

Assuming the Incarnation did not happen, do you dispute the argument?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Observe that we do not think it is unjust to impose a financial penalty on a parent even if that has an adverse effect on the parent's children.

I think in your (1), there is an ambiguity in "impose". There is a difference between imposing F something on x, and allowing F to happen to y as a result of imposing F on x.

Anyway, my considered opinion now is that God does nothing wrong in W2. Consider this sequence of worlds:

A. God kills Adam and Eve, and that's that for the human race.
B. God kicks Adam and Eve out of paradise, and as a punishment for their sins, sends them infertility. And that's that for the human race.
C. God kicks Adam and Eve out of paradise, but lets them have children, who also live where Adam and Eve do.

I think that God wouldn't be acting unjustly either in A or in B. But the only difference between B and C is that in B, God sends infertility on Adam and Eve. If B is a world where God is just, and C is a world where God is unjust, then it follows that by not sterilizing Adam and Eve, God has acted unjustly towards us. But that seems deeply implausible. Moreover, I suspect that any argument that God was obliged by justice to sterilize Adam and Eve would also show that it is wrong for us to reproduce, which is absurd.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Don't comment on my last comment. I will make it an independent post. This thread is long enough.