Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Evil and utopian fiction

If the following proposition were true, we would have made some progress in answering the deductive problem of evil:

  1. The actual world is better for beings of our sort than any world that has no evil in it.
Is (1) true? Here is one possible piece of evidence for it: Utopian fiction does not present compelling evil-free worlds where one would like to live.

9 comments:

Matthew said...

Hey, that's exactly the response I used against the LPOE from the very beginning.

graham veale said...

Huxley's"Brave New World" tackles this issue.
However, Orwell used a dystopia to criticise Theism in 1984. This presents Hitchens with his only interesting argument. Why fear "Big Brother", but love God?

To my mind Orwell was construing God as the "nominalist" God. A God of pure will and power. Human dignity and freedom count for nothing before such a God. We are his to do with as He will.

GV

Heath White said...

Every semester I ask my students imagine that they are pre-incarnate souls who have to choose between existence in two worlds. "Actual World" is our world. "Utopia" is much like our world except there is no free will in it and no moral evil. Every semester, a large majority of students choose "Actual World."

Eric Telfer said...

Without real secondary causality we would not be what we are, would not be able to become what we are to become, and heaven might not even be heaven, or obtainable by us through the grace of God and our cooperation with that grace. Saddled with moral responsibility regarding the highest things and a real causal powers in real relationships, we have introduced evil into the world and learned first-hand that doing so has real consequences because our causality is real. It may be that we would not even be able to speak of heaven if we did not first speak of earth and the causality that we exercise here. Our own causality makes a real contribution to what heaven is and to it being the kind of place it is, I think.

Mike Almeida said...

The actual world is better for beings of our sort than any world that has no evil in it.Interesting way to put it. So, worlds that don't contain beings of our sort--but, say, better sorts of beings--are ruled out of the comparison. But how come? That aside, it might be true that all of the worlds in the relevant comparison class contain God alone (no other free and rational creatures). It might be that in every one of them someone goes wrong (as I guess Plantinga might say. . . .:).

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think, following Robert Adams, that God is supremely loving, but he need not be a maximizer of the good. One of the features of the God of the Bible is he chooses the little and bestows his love on them. Likewise, then, God could choose an insignificant species and then bestow his love on them. He could have chosen a better species. But he is not less than perfectly loving for choosing the less significant species. (For to whom would he be less than perfectly loving by doing so?)

todd said...

Fascinating post, Alex. Here's an interesting reference: In a book entitled, The Grasshopper, Games and Utopia, Bernard Suits presents an evil-free utopia in which one might like to live. The Grasshopper is, of course, the character from Aesop's fable, devoted to a life of play. Suits defends an account of games (i.e., the voluntary undertaking of unnecessary obstacles) and presents a life devoted to games as a utopia. There are some interesting questions about whether there is anything worth living for in the Grasshopper's utopia. Shelly Kagan discusses some of these questions in an essay in the fescrhift for Bob Adams, entitled Metaphysics and the Good.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Todd:

Either the life of games would end in death or not. But death is one of the chief evils for being of our sort. So, if it's a life that ends in death, it's not a life without evil. Suppose not. Then I simply do not feel any pull to saying that it would be a satisfying life for eternity. It would seem that it would either be unsatisfying, and forever leading an unsatisfying life seems pretty bad, or else the sensibilities of beings like us would have to be dulled to find it satisfying, and such dulling is an evil.

Matthew said...

I wonder how much a world based on games would contain,