Saturday, July 6, 2013

Theology, ontology and hatred

This argument seems sound.

  1. It is wrong to hate a creature of God.
  2. It is wrong to hate God.
  3. Everything is either God or a creature of God.
  4. So there is nothing which it is permissible to hate.
(Some theists think that there are abstract beings that are neither God nor creatures of God. To satisfy them, I can restrict the argument to concrete beings.)

But on the other hand, surely one should hate sin, vice, war, divorce, etc. (Note that one can say this even if one thinks that sometimes war and divore are permissible.) Thus there must be a sense in which sin, vice, war and divorce do not exist. In the case of sin and vice, and maybe divorce, this is handled by Augustine's old move: evils are privations. But war is not a privation, though it involves privations.

So our initial argument teaches us some ontology. It must be true to say that war does not exist. For this ontology not to be ad hoc, I think we need to say that there are no such things as situations, non-abstract states of affairs or events.

If we further think there are some artifacts which it is permissible to hate—perhaps there is nothing wrong with hating nuclear weapons or certain books—we will have to conclude that there are no such things as mere artifacts.[note 1]

Of course, we still have to be able to say things like: "There are wars and nuclear weapons." So we need a way of using existential language that isn't tied closely to the correct ontology.


Richard Davis said...

I wonder if there's more to say in defense of premise (1)? I'm concerned by the following analogy:

Plausibly, a perfect painter might paint a picture some portions of which were ugly but nevertheless positively contributed to the beauty of the whole painting. Both the painter himself, as well as wise critics of the painting, would regard those portions of the painting as ugly. If they regard them as ugly, then they should, to some extent, dislike them. So both the perfect painter of the painting, and wise critics of the painting, should dislike (to some extent) certain portions of the painting.

If all that goes through, then it seems we might be able to tell a parallel story with God in place of the painter, the world in place of the painting, bad things in the world in place of ugly portions of the painting, the goodness of the world as a whole in place of the beauty of the painting as a whole, and hatred instead of dislike. The result would be that both God himself, as well as wise persons in the world, should hate (to some extent) certain things in the world.

Is it clear that this analogy doesn't hold? If so, then at which point is it clearest that the analogy breaks down? Or is the thing to do to deny at the outset that a perfect painter would ever make a painting any portions of which were ugly?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Every creature exists by participation in God. It's a reflection of God. And God is love, which, plausibly, entails that each of his relationships is a relationship of love. Thus, his creating and sustaining x is a relationship of love. Thus God loves every creature. But it is wrong to hate what God loves.

Richard Davis said...

'Each of his relationships is a relationship of love.' Is this strictly true? What about relationships like non-identity? If God is not identical to John, is God's relationship of not being identical to John a relationship of love? If it is --- if something as apparently distinct from love as non-identity is nevertheless a relationship of love --- then how can we be sure that God's relationship of hating war is not a relationship of love?

I'm not trying to dance with semantics. I genuinely want to understand this.

ediblesound said...

Could it be this simple:

God Loves for there to be the enrichment of Perspective (and what is) via the multiplicity and characteristic, yay, even definingly characteristic uniqueness of such multiplicity of perspective.

John -merely by the tacit "act" of being "john", a unique and therefore additively considerable
--with respect to One perspective and/or all other perspectives (? that "all other" bit might be redundant?)--
(or additional/another?) perspective-
has capacity to be able to and as well he may or does love being, which I think implies being this unique and therefore ameliorative
(to the abstract notion- much like the notion of nothing- the notion of whatever was before he- john, that is...Was.)

(Would the notion of the infinite as being indistinguishable from the notion of eternal increase be a superfluous bias or unnecessary complexity that could vanish with some further clarification through some yet by me unconsidered insight? And might that in some way affect what I have described here in a substantial way?

Is there a beginning to John? or perhaps, in what way(s), and does it here matter?)

es2013-07-07 15:20:18 -06 MDT

Alexander R Pruss said...


A relationship is not the same as a relation. It is a complex of relations. The complex of relations between God and each creature constitutes a relationship of love. But that does not by itself mean that any one of these relations is itself love.

Compare the relations between two humans: each appreciates the other, each knows the other, each wills the good to the other, etc. These relations constitute a relationship of love, but none of them is love.

In the case of God, a stronger claim might be made because of divine simplicity, but I am not relying on that here.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

"Every creature exists by participation in God. It's a reflection of God. And God is love, which, plausibly, entails that each of his relationships is a relationship of love. Thus, his creating and sustaining x is a relationship of love. Thus God loves every creature. But it is wrong to hate what God loves."

My aunt who was also my Godmother told me that you are a Christian you cannot hate a single human being.

Ryan said...

What? If your argument sticks us on a dilemma that either we can't hate war, or else war doesn't exist, not hating war is obviously the preferred horn to take, I should think. I mean not only is 'war doesn't exist' obviously false, but putting us in the position to hate something that doesn't exist sounds almost as preposterous as hating one of God's creatures, anyway.
Honestly, I think there's a bit of an equivocation here. When we say "It's wrong to hate any of God's creatures", we imagine rabbits and people and dragonflies and maybe mountains, and it's that imagining that gives the premise it's strength. But if we're including war and famine and boy-bands and stuff, then apparently the definition of "God's creatures" is expanded beyond this imagining to a more formal "absolutely anything that God either brought about, or was brought about indirectly by something that God did". Given that, I don't see what the problem is with hating some of God's 'creatures'.

Ryan said...

Also, I may as well add, that if war is one of God's creatures, then so is hate- so how wrong can participating in it really be?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, the correct ontology has to be one on which neither war nor hate really exist, but rather what exist are people who fight or hate one another. When they do that, it's convenient to say that "there is a war" and "there is a hate", but there is no more a war or a hate than there is an average plumber. Or something like that.

Ryan said...

I hate to leave such a brief comment, but I'm sure you'll see where I'm going with it:

Does cancer exist?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Cancerous cells might, but they don't compose a genuine whole.

Ryan said...

Can we not hate cancerous cells, then?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't think we should hate them any more than we should hate mosquitoes, rattlesnakes and Stalin. But perhaps we should hate their being cancerous, just as we hate mosquitoes' drinking our blood, rattlesnakes attacking us and Stalin doing untold evil.

Ryan said...

So basically, we hate actions or states of affairs or possibly qualities, but not physical things, because physical things are creatures of God, and to hate them would be wrong.
Something about this still seems wrong to me. Like take your mosquito example. If we shouldn't hate mosquitoes because God created them, but we CAN hate that they drink our blood, is that a statement that God didn't intend mosquitoes to drink our blood? Or that it's ok to hate God's intentions but not His creations? I guess I'm not seeing a big moral difference between 'hate mosquitoes' and 'hate that mosquitoes drink our blood' such that one is clearly immoral and one is clearly fine, and retaining the persuasiveness of 1.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think it's actually even more subtle. It's not so much their drinking of our blood that we should hate, but the damage to us from their drinking of our blood. If they could drink our blood without harming us in any way, we should have no hate there at all.

But the damage is a form of non-being: we lose something, namely blood.

Ryan said...

Hmm. I guess I still think you're working premise 1 too hard. It's not deductively certain, it's a moral intuition that we have- admittedly pretty strong. But when you remind the reader that 'God's creatures' includes microbes that cause disease, hurricanes, mosquitoes and so on, the intuitive strength of 1 already goes way down, at least to me. And then when you point out that because of 1 we have to conclude that things like war, cancer and so on don't really exist, the whole thing works for me as an argument against 1.
Another thing I've got on my mind is this "God is Love" thing. Either that's a very, very strange analogy, or else love exists. If love exists, then it seems plausible that hate exists; they seem to be the same class of thing.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That God is love probably requires divine simplicity.

Richard Davis said...

A view: World War II is an entity. 'I hate World War II' is ambiguous between expressing a two-place relation between myself and WII (a relation that I should not stand in with anything) and expressing a different two-place relation between myself and the Mentalese sentence 'World War II took place'. This latter relation is expressed by the sentence 'I hate that World War II took place'. I should stand in this latter relation. However, my standing in it does not involve there being any entity which I hate.

Objection: Why would God have given us the ability to stand in the first two-place relation of hatred if it is wrong for us to stand in it toward anything at all? This would only make sense if it were a corruption of some other relation in which we are supposed to stand with some things. What other relation could that be?

Another view: God made World War II, and it is an entity. At some times I should love World War II and at other times I should hate it. I should love it in a context where my awareness is sufficiently broad that I can understand how even World War II contributes to the ultimate good. I should hate it when I am in context where I cannot or should not entertain such awareness. In such contexts, my hatred for World War II plays a sort of heuristic role which marks out how --- even though it may work toward the ultimate good --- it is nevertheless far inferior in its degrees of *intrinsic* goodness than other events which World War II displaces (for instance, the event of all those people living long happy lives rather than being killed or tortured). For instance, I should not entertain awareness of how WWII contributes to the ultimate good in contexts where it is more important to be deeply aware of the horror and suffering that it caused and where, given the limitations of my finite faculties, I would not be able to be deeply aware of those things while also considering the role of the war in contributing to the ultimate good.

Either of these two views seems consistent both with God creating wars (as entities) and with our hating war. I'm not sure that either is very unreasonable... I find the second kinda attractive.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Why would God have given us the ability to stand in the first two-place relation of hatred if it is wrong for us to stand in it toward anything at all?"

That's a very fine point.

Here's a story. Hatred, unlike love, is directed primarily at states of affairs. When we talk of hating an object, we mean that we hate the state of affairs of that object existing. There "are" some states of affairs--and states of affairs are not items in the right ontology--that we rightly hate. The existence of a bona fide object is never among these. An even worse kind of hatred is when one hates the state of affairs of an object being in a good state.

This means that hatred isn't an exact opposite to love. And that seems right to me, too.