Sunday, May 2, 2010

The price of goods

If someone tells us that there is some great good to be achieved, we expect that either she's telling us something false or there is a string attached—a price to be paid. We are incredulous when it is suggested that there is a great good at no price. (Back when PalmOS was a going thing, I noticed more than once that raising the price of one of my apps would increase the volume of sales.)

Moreover, when a great good can be achieved at a price and at no price, we tend to think that it is more valuable when achieved at a price.

All this makes it implausible to suppose that one could have great goods, at least of the sort humans are capable of (and if it is suggested that God could have created other beings, capable of other goods, the response is: "For all we know, he did, too"), without heavy prices.

In other words, we should not expect a world with great goods and beings like us to lack evil. Moreover, we should not expect it to lack great evil.

Objection: The pessimistic intuition here is based on an inductive argument from the goods and evils of this world, while the space of possibilities is much broader.

Response: Could be. But either we do or we do not take the kinds of goods and evils we can observe to be representative of the goods and evils possible to beings like us. If we do take them as representative, the above remarks apply. And if we do not take them as representative, then a sceptical theist response to the problem of evil is very reasonable.

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