Friday, November 19, 2021

A privation theory of evil without lacks of entities

Taking the privation theory literally, evil is constituted by the non-existence of something that should exist. This leads to a lot of puzzling questions of what that “something” is in cases such as error and pain.

But I am now wondering whether one couldn’t have a privation theory of evil on which evil is a lack of something, but not of an entity. What do I mean? Well, imagine you’re a thoroughgoing nominalist, believing in neither tropes nor universals. Then you think that there is no such thing as red, but of course you can say that sometimes a red sign fades to gray. It is natural to say that the faded sign is lacking the due color red, and the nominalist should be able to say this, too.

Suppose that in addition to being a thoroughgoing nominalist, you are a classical theist. Then you will want to say this: the sign used to participate in God by being red, but now it no longer thusly participates in God (though it still otherwise participates in God). Even though you can’t be a literal privation theorist, and hold that some entity has perished from the sign, you can be a privation theorist of sorts, by saying that the sign has in one respect stopped participating in God.

A lot of what I said in the previous two paragraphs is fishy. The “thusly” seems to refer to redness, and “one respect” seems to involve a quantification over respects. But presumably nominalists say stuff like that in contexts other than God and evil. So they probably think they have a story to tell about such statements. Why not here, then?

Furthermore, imagine that instead of a nominalist we have a Platonist who does not believe in tropes (not even the trope of participating). Then the problems of the “thusly” and “one respect” and the like can be solved. But it is still the case that there is no entity missing from the sign. Yet we still recognizably have a privation theory.

This makes me wonder: could it be that a privation theory that wasn’t committed to missing entities solve some of the problems that more literal privation theories face?


Michael Birdwell said...

Will you be releasing a paper on your alternative to privation theory in the near future?

Arath55 said...
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