Monday, March 31, 2014

Are Philosophers Too Negative?

If we take Socrates as our model and take his constant tearing down of bad arguments as our example, then, yes, they do tend to be negative.  But right now I'm saying something positive, namely, that philosophers tend to be negative.  I say this in response to my wife's (Eshet Chayil) prompting that not all my blog posts should be negative.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

"As the Deer" [panteth for the water]...

...let's but honest, is just a terrible church chorus.  We sang it today, and it only served to make the fantastic hymn, "Be Thou My Vision," a welcome relief.  OK, maybe it's not terrible; I can certainly think of worse choruses, but it's lousy nonetheless.  It goes off the rails in the first stanza and the chorus is unbearable.  Let's retire it, people.  There are different versions of it, but they all suffer from the same malady of mixing King James English with contemporary English for no good reason.  If you must, you can listen to one version of it here.

"As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after Thee.  [So far, so good]. You alone are my hearts desire and I long to worship Thee."

What is that "you" doing there?  Why is it there?  It's up to no good!  And, seriously, it's just false piety to say God alone is the object of my desire.  Not only is that psychologically impossible, but there's nothing wrong with having other desires.  God built us that way.  Unity with God should be the chief desire but not the only desire.  This song forces all of us to lie every time we sing it.

"You alone are my strength, my shield.  To You alone may my spirit yield.  You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship Thee."

WHERE DID THAT "THEE" COME FROM?  We were doing so well with all the "You's" and then we're blindsided by that "Thee" coming out of the blue.  It doesn't even rhyme with anything!  It just sneaks in like a cancerous cell on an otherwise healthy organ.  Martin J. Nystrom, what were you thinking?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Is THIS a joke?

"This" being this.

Brian Leiter: Beardless "philosopher" without arguments (females and follicly challenged males w/arguments avoiding the ad hominem).  Compare what Leiter says to what Vitale says, or what is said about him here.  As a relative of mine mentions, Leiter will be remembered only for his gossip column.   


Their Guy vs. Our Guy

This made the rounds a while ago but it bears resurrecting, if for no other reason than that I want to officially endorse this excellent piece of artwork on my blog.  The choice of headgear is outstanding.

Their Guy
Our Guy

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"They're Prob'ly Drinkin' Coffee and Smokin' Big Cigars"

Sean Michel, Joey Dodson and other good men went down to the prison tonight.  Word is, Sean really brought it.  I've never been, but hope to in the near future. Of course, there is a history for such things from the great state of Arkansas: 

And there is a history of such things vis-a-vis first century Jews.  Below, though, is not an Arkansan Jew (or Jewish Arkansan).

Sprinkle's Pacifist Reading of the Sermon on the Mount

This is the fourth post on Preston Sprinkle's book, Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence.

I think Sprinkle's strongest argument for his version of pacifism is probably his argument from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, which shouldn't be all that surprising since this is one of the key passages used by most Christian pacifists.  Sprinkle does his best to mitigate the seemingly obvious cases where violence is permitted in the Old Testament, but he seems to concede (a bit reluctantly perhaps) that certain acts of violence and killing were indeed permitted in Old Testament times.  But Jesus changes things, and changes things radically.   Jesus's pacifist position is so radical, Sprinkle's section in Chapter 7 ("Love Your Enemies") is titled "Outrageous Nonresistence."

Problem #1 with Sprinkle's Interpretation:

You Can't Compare the Two! can.  So when you hear someone make that moronic argument stopper (about sodomy and incest, taxation and slavery, etc.) you might point them toward the following, though they probably won't get the joke or see the implicit reductio of their statement:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sprinkle's Book "Fight" and Double Effect

This is the third post on Preston Sprinkle's book, Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence.

In a prior post I discussed how Sprinkle's definition of violence includes an intent to harm and I mentioned how he appears not to stick with this definition throughout.  I ended by briefly noting how a discussion of the "Principle of Double Effect" would have mitigated this problem.  Here I want to discuss that principle and how it bears on his book.

The Principle of Double Effect (its earliest robust formulation often attributed to Aquinas) holds that some action A that has some evil E as a consequence is (at least) permissible if and only if the (a) action is itself neutral or good (b) there is some good G intended (c) E is not disproportionately evil compared with the goodness of G and (d) E is not intended as an end or a means of bringing about G.

Clause (a) rules out actions which, by their very nature, are evil.  Clause (b) rules out there being no good intention.  Clause (c) rules out cases where the evil consequences of an action outweigh the good. And clause (d) specifies that an evil not be intended as the means to the good or an intended result of the action. This last clause, though, allows that E is the means (or a means) to bring about G, but E cannot be intended as a means of E.

Now consider the following two cases where the Principle is applied:

Case #1: Harvesting organs
Dr. Smith knows that Jones will not survive unless he has another heart and a liver.  Sally has a good heart and Mary has a good liver.  Dr. Smith murders Sally and Mary so that he can harvest the organs for Jones.  The action in this case was not permissible.  It violated clauses (c) and (d) and probably clause (a) as well (depending on how the action is to be described).

Case #2: Upping the Speed Limit
Governor Smith is considering whether to sign or veto a bill upping the speed limit on certain roads.  He receives good evidence that upping the speed limit from 60 mph to 65 mph will increase the state's economy.  In addition, 95% of the population are for it.  Nonetheless, he also has good evidence that upping the speed limit will result in 20-30 more traffic fatalities per year.  After weighing the costs and benefits, Governor Smith signs the bill, intending the effect of improving the economy and pleasing his constituents while foreseeing (in all likelihood) that there will be more traffic fatalities but not intending either those fatalities or that the legislation as a means to that end.  Governor Smith has acted in way that is at least permissible (but perhaps has also acted justly).

I believe in the Principle of Double Effect, in part because I'm a deontologist and think that one's intentions matter and not just the consequences.  In addition, because so many of our actions/inactions do have foreseeable evil effects (like the one above), rejecting the principle would seem to me to result in moral paralysis, wherein moral deliberation about whether to act or not would become darn near impossible.

Application to Sprinkle's "Fight":

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In the News: Russia to Annex Crimea, Obama Picks MSU Over Louisville in His Bracket

Are You Liberal? Take the Test and See!
Anyone want to debate?  I'd say "no" to all of them with the exception of 14.  I plead ignorance about that one. Not sure about 6 either, since a case can be made for isolationism.

You say you are a liberal.

Do you believe the following?
1.Standards for admissions to universities, fire departments, etc. should be lowered for people of color.
2.Bilingual education for children of immigrants, rather than immersion in English, is good for them and for America.
3.Murderers should never be put to death.
4.During the Cold War, America should have adopted a nuclear arms freeze.
5.Colleges should not allow ROTC programs.
6.It was wrong to wage war against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.
7.Poor parents should not be allowed to have vouchers to send their children to private schools.
8.It is good that trial lawyers and teachers unions are the two biggest contributors to the Democratic Party.
9.Marriage should be redefined from male-female to any two people.
10.A married couple should not have more of a right to adopt a child than two men or two women.
11.The Boy Scouts should not be allowed to use parks or any other public places and should be prohibited from using churches and synagogues for their meetings.
12.The present high tax rates are good.
13.Speech codes on college campuses are good and American values are bad.
14.The Israelis and Palestinians are morally equivalent.
15.The United Nations is a moral force for good in the world, and therefore America should be subservient to it and such international institutions as a world court.
16.It is good that colleges have dropped hundreds of men's sports teams in order to meet gender-based quotas.
17.No abortions can be labeled immoral.
18.Restaurants should be prohibited by law from allowing customers to choose between a smoking and a non-smoking section.
19.High schools should make condoms available to students and teach them how to use them.
20.Racial profiling for terrorists is wrong -- a white American grandmother should as likely be searched as a Saudi young male.
21.Racism and poverty -- not a lack of fathers and a crisis of values -- are the primary causes of violent crime in the inner city.
22.It is wrong and unconstitutional for students to be told, "God bless you" at their graduation.
23.No culture is morally superior to any other.
Those are all liberal positions. How many of them do you hold?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's Wrong with Inequality?

One hears a lot of talk about inequality these days, and hardly any of it good (economic inequality being the "defining issue of our times").  But what is wrong with inequality?  Sure, there are obvious cases where an unequal state is worse than one which is equal, for example, where one has excess food and one's neighbor is starving to death.  But (a) examples such as this don't demonstrate that there is anything wrong with inequality per se and (b) there are examples of equal states that are worse than unequal states, for example, when I have as much money as you because I stole some of your money.

So maybe there's nothing wrong with inequality per se.  Consider the following from Alexander Pruss who has produced an interesting little argument from Christian theology for the conclusion that there is nothing intrinsically bad about inequality:

1. There is nothing intrinsically bad in heaven.
2. There is inequality in heaven.
3. So, inequality is not intrinsically bad.

There should be little dispute about premise 1 (at least among Christians).  Evidence for premise 2 is that God and humans are in heaven, and everything is infinitely unequal compared to God.  Humans and angels are also not equal in various ways.  Further, rewards in heaven are based on merit (the merit being the work of God's grace) and the merit is unequal.

Is there any non-Christian or non-theistic argument that inequality is not intrinsically bad?  Let's try this one which should appeal to pluralistic sensibilities even if conflicting with egalitarian ones:

1. Diversity is intrinsically good.
2. There being diversity logically entails there being inequality.
3. If something is intrinsically good, then whatever it logically entails cannot be intrinsically bad.
4. Thus, inequality is not intrinsically bad.

Premise 2, if true, is analytic.  There being diversity entails there being either two or more different things or two or more ways of being.  Equality is a relation of oneness and inequality its negation.

Premise 3 seems intuitively plausible.

What about premise 1?  If we think of diversity the way liberals often think of it, namely, as some state of affairs wherein certain political constituencies of the left get special favors, then 1 is surely false.  :)  But here we mean genuine diversity.  Is there reason for thinking that genuine diversity is good?  There is reason for thinking that it is good if there is reason for thinking that there being 2 things is better than there being 1 thing, or (supposing Spinoza is right) if there is reason for thinking that the only thing would be better if there were more than one mode of its existence.  On the other hand, oneness (unity) is something that also seems good and oneness seems opposed to diversity (here I'm thinking of the Medieval doctrine of the transcendentals, i.e., that (roughly) Good, Being, and Oneness differ in intension but not extension).  Perhaps unity and diversity are both intrinsically good (and maybe there's an argument for Trinitarian theology in the neighborhood).  Or perhaps this whole line of thinking is mistaken and there is no meaningful sense in which unity or diversity are intrinsically good; perhaps there is only unity of a certain sort or diversity of a certain sort that is good.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sprinkle's book and the Meaning of "Violence"

This is the second post on Preston Sprinkle's book, Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence.

Since Sprinkle's book advocates a Christian case for nonviolence, it is important to get clear on what the definition of violence is with which he is working.  He gives his definition on pp. 30-32.

He begins with Stassen and Westmoreland-White's definition: "Violence is destruction to a victim by means that overpower the victim's consent."  Sprinkle remarks that, of all the definitions he's read, he likes this one the most (he then goes on to make an adjustment or two and gives his own definition which we'll get to in a moment).

What is it to "overpower the victim's consent"?  This is an odd phrase.  If I consent to your punching me in the face, and you punch me in the face, have I overpowered your consent?  If you're asleep and don't consent to being punched in the face, have I overpowered your consent if I punch you in the face?  Perhaps they mean that violence is the destruction (Sprinkle says they mean "harm") of a victim in cases where they have not consented to be harmed.  This is close to the Oxford English Dictionary's first definition of violence:

a. The exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property; action or conduct characterized by this; treatment or usage tending to cause bodily injury or forcibly interfering with personal freedom.

The OED's second (and following) definitions, however, leave out anything about consent and just focus on harm.  Here is the second definition:

 b. In the phr. to do violence to to do violence unto (or with indirect object): To inflict harm or injury upon; to outrage or violate.

So even though the phrase about overpowering consent is odd, I still think this first definition he offers of "violence" is plausible.  But Sprinkle does not settle on this definition.  Here is what he goes on to say about violence (we should note that he confines himself in the book to physical violence for matters of space and ignores psychological violence):

"I also want to modify the previous definition ever so slightly by adding a statement of intent.  In other words, an act of violence may not actually destroy the victim but is trying to destroy him or her. There are various activities, therefore, that could be violent--corporal punishment, mixed martial arts, etc.--but don't necessarily have to be.  It depends on the intent.
So for the sake of this book, I will use the term violence to refer to: a physical act that is intended to destroy (i.e. injure) a victim by means that overpower the victim's consent."

This is a narrower definition of violence than the previous one.  It's narrow because "violence" does not ordinarily imply anything about intent (in only one of the OED definitions that I came across does it mention anything about intent, the first definition above with the phrase "so as to," though even this is ambiguous).  One can witness a violent collision in football or a violent collision between two cars but have no idea about the intent involved.  In general, we can know that a collision was violent without knowing what the intentions were behind the violent collision (perhaps the car collision was an accident).  Another example closer to the subject of the book: a man takes a lot of drugs and gets so out of his mind that he goes on a violent rampage killing all sorts of people he doesn't know.  He is so high that he is barely conscious of what he is doing.  He had no intention of killing people when he took the drugs and while on the drugs he believes that he is in a video game and isn't intending to do violence to anyone; nonetheless, it is he who commits terrible acts of violence.

So Sprinkle is using the term "violence" in a narrowly defined way that is somewhat unconventional, employing both a concept of intent as well as consent.  "Violence" throughout the whole work will have to be understood as this term of art.  Of course, there's nothing inherently problematic with introducing a word as a term of art which means something slightly different than it would outside of its current context.  But there are a couple dangers: (1) Unless readers are frequently reminded that the term "violence" has a unique meaning, casual readers of Sprinkle's work will get the impression that (for example) when the Bible condemns certain acts of "violence" ("violence" as a term of art) that the Bible is thereby also condemning acts of violence (that is, violence regardless of the intent or consent).  (2) There is a danger that the author himself will slide from saying that (for example) the Bible condemns "violence" (the term of art) to violence (regardless of intent).

The general impression I get from reading "Fight" is that Sprinkle does not remind the reader enough that what is under discussion is (supposed to be) violence in his sense rather than the ordinary sense and many readers will thus likely conclude that violence (in the ordinary sense) is almost always wrong.  Nonetheless he does remind the reader of this from time to time, so perhaps I'm being too picky.  A greater problem, however, is that Sprinkle himself seems to sometimes forget the definition of violence he started out with and slides into discussing violence in the ordinary sense, and this is problematic for his argument.

Here are just two examples:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Preston Sprinkle's "Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence"

This is the first of a series of posts I intend to write on Preston Sprinkle's book "Fight."  The posts will be critical but I want to begin by saying a few positive things about the book before I begin my criticisms.

First, I should begin by saying that I am friends with Preston.  Or, if only hanging out with him and talking to him as seldom as I have aren't enough for our relationship to count as one of friendship, perhaps I should say that I am confident we would be friends if we were in closer proximity to one another.  I like Preston and we agree about way more than we disagree about.  And we have similar interests outside of academia.  I like Preston!  I just disagree with him about some key things in the book.

Second, I think his book is well written and ably covers a lot of ground.  His survey of the Bible and Church Fathers on the issues of killing and violence are interesting and his interpretations are not obviously false.

Third, I think he achieves his aim of writing a book for both scholars as well as non-scholars, but especially the latter.  His style is conversational enough that non-scholars should find the material both interesting and readable.  In addition, the book is well organized.

Finally, the book is fairly nuanced.  Preston is careful to refine his view when needed, and he presents and responds to a number of important objections to his view.  All in all it is a good book and one which counters an uncritical outlook by some Christians who don't take seriously what the Bible and Christian teaching have to say against some forms of killing and violence.

Having said all that, I do think there are some problems worth considering.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cake Baker vs. Politically Correct Fascists Redux

Suppose you are an owner of a store that makes signs.  Professional signs unlike these:

And suppose a member of the local KKK comes to your sign shop dressed like a ghost asking you to make a sign directing fellow KKK members down the street to the next cross burning.  Do you have a right to refuse to make the sign?  Yes you do.  It is your business, and any sign you make is your property until an exchange is made.  It is not the property of the KKK nor is it the property of the government nor is it the property of all U.S. citizens.

Suppose you own a barbershop and are sick of potheads coming in stoned to get haircuts.  Or suppose you just think smoking pot is wrong or unhealthy and want to send a message.  Do you have a right to refuse service if someone smells of pot like this barber here?  Yes you do.  It is YOUR business.

If there is anything parallel to the Jim Crow laws of days past, it is not the current Arizona bill (that lefties refer to as the "anti-gay bill") which simply would restore legal property rights or rights of conscience to their proper state.  The parallel is with current laws on the books which strip property rights by mandating discrimination--discrimination against anyone with a business who is not politically correct.  Adam MacLeod nails it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Another Argument For Annihilationism

Here is an argument for Annihilationism which might be used to try to avoid denying the following love principle:

L:  Any action of God's towards someone S who can be loved must be consistent with that act being an act of love towards S.

And the argument also tries to avoid the problems I've mentioned in the previous posts with annihilation being an unloving [non-loving] action towards someone (by adopting premise 7 below).

1. There is someone S who God knows would forever reject him.
2. If God knows S would forever reject him, at some point S becomes incapable of receiving God's love.
3. If 2 and 3, then at some point S can in no way be loved by God.
4. Thus, at some point S can in no way be loved by God. [from 1, 2, 3]
5. But if at some point S can in no way be loved by God, then God could act towards S in a way that is unloving.
6. Thus God could act towards S in a way that is unloving. [from 4, 5]
7. The annihilation of S would be an action towards S that is unloving.
8. Thus God could annihilate S. [from 6,7]

The first thing to say about the argument is that it doesn't go on to say that God would annihilate S.  One could argue that God would because he does on Scriptural grounds, but I find the Scriptural arguments for annihilationism no stronger than arguments for either universal salvation or the traditional view of everlasting punishment.  And I'm not interested in debating that here.

One might be able to get to the "would" from the "could" on utilitarian grounds, but utilitarianism is false, and I don't want to argue about that either.

I think probably the thing to say is that justice simply demands it, but I wouldn't know how to argue for that in such a way as to rule out the live possibility of both universalism and the traditional view without giving up the above argument.  (Of course one could also reject 7 in the argument, but I've previously said why I think that is incoherent).  So let me just talk about the two premises that I find problematic.

Why think 2 is true?  It seems to confuse the temporal with the modal.  For why couldn't it be the case that someone forever freely chooses to reject God all the while being capable of accepting God?

Premise 3 is also highly suspect.  Why think a deep, unrequited love is not possible?  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

C.S. Lewis's Annihilationism

In C.S. Lewis's Great Divorce (as well as other writings) Lewis seems to entertain a kind of annihilationism.  But the occupation of hell and the sort of annihilation which occurs, according to Lewis is voluntary:

There are only two kinds of people – those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ to God or those to whom God in the end says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it… No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.’
As Lewis sees things (or at least as the "narrator" of The Great Divorce sees things), hell is a place of punishment where people ultimately choose to go.  And out of God's grace, God allows people to continue to do their own will after they die.  The punishment is a natural result of refusing to submit one's own will to the will of God. The illustrations he presents are meant to show that doing our own will apart from God's leads to a road of destruction.  And it is we who willfully bring that destruction upon ourselves.

The road to destruction comes in degrees.  Lewis, it would seem, has in mind man as a "rational animal"--humans are animals with a capacity of reason having both an intellect and a will to choose among various ends.  But the rational element is something that can not only gradually be lost but completely lost, leaving behind the mere animal.  The following illustration of a lady who "grumbles" captures the view nicely:
     "Aye, but ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman-even the least trace of one-still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there's one wee spark under all those ashes, we'll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there's nothing but ashes we'll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up."
     "But how can there be a grumble without a grumbler?"
     "The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. But ye'll have had experiences . . . it begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticising it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticise the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine." 
On this account there is the person (let's call her), Nancy, and through habitual grumbling, grumbling becomes her sole pursuit.  Through years of succumbing to her desire to grumble, her one and only end becomes to grumble.  But then with only one end (Lewis seems to be suggesting), there is nothing else to choose and all she can do is fulfill her animalistic impulse to grumble.  

Thus spoke Lewis.  But what exactly are we to make of Nancy?  I'll assume Nancy was once a person and that the animal that remains is not a person.  So Nancy was a person, and a person presumably has an ability to choose to act on desires other than merely animalistic ones.  Did she cease to exist or is she now a mere animal?  Lewis seems to leave us with the following options w/respect to what we should think of Nancy:
1. Nancy ceases to be and all that remains is an animal not identical to Nancy or 
2. Nancy (the once rational- animal) becomes a mere animal.  

This raises numerous questions.  Here are six:  (a) Is a change of this sort possible? (b) Even if it is possible for this kind of change to occur (say, by God), do I have the kind of nature such that it's possible that I could annihilate myself?  (c) If this is possible, would God allow it?  (d) Is Lewis committing himself to the view that animals are basically machines?  (e) Why would the "grumble itself going on forever like a machine" not be "mercy-killed"?  Why would it go on forever?  (f) Is it the nature of a (mere) animal to live forever (Aquinas thought not) or does it take a special miracle for it to live forever?

Here I will briefly pursue only the first question and will not come down on a definitive answer.

Adopting 2 has the following consequence: If a human is a rational-animal, then Nancy would not be essentially human, for Nancy could become an animal with no capacity for reason or free choice.  We will thus have to adopt one of the following neither of which is intuitively plausible:
3. One can have a human nature while not having any capacity for rationality 
4. Kinds of things such as I am are not essentially human 

Adopting 1, though, also has a theoretical cost, for we will have to adopt one of the following:
5. Nancy was never a living organism (and thus not an animal) in the first place, for Nancy ceases to be but the organism remains (she was a person with psychological properties not identical with all of the properties of the organism) .
6. Nancy was an organism but one which was once co-located with the animal organism that continues to exist after she ceases to be. 

Out of those possibilities 3 and 5 seem to me more plausible than 4 and 6.  But perhaps the best option would be to reject the view of annihilationism that Lewis was entertaining.  Or perhaps there are other options I haven't pondered.

Monday, March 3, 2014

An Argument for Annihilationism

In the previous post I offered an argument against annihilationism.

In an email conversation, a friend called into question my premise two, and in its place offered the following argument (all the premises of which he did not fully endorse):

1.  The finally unrepentant are hopelessly lost, because they have irrevocably rejected God.
2.  God is the ultimate source of flourishing.  
2*  If y loves x, then (among other things) either y promotes x's flourishing or acts to prevent x's languishing.
3.  The finally unrepentant thus have no chance of flourishing in a robust sense.  (That is, apart from merely existing and (perhaps) possessing free will, they are profoundly languishing.)
4.  From 2*, if God loves the unrepentant and knows that they cannot possibly flourish in a robust sense, then God will act to prevent their languishing.
5.  There are two ways to prevent this languishing: (1) Remove their free will and force them to love him, or (2) annihilate them.
6.  Losing one's free will is a fate worse than annihilation.
7.  So, God annihilates the finally unrepentant.

This argument in some ways brings to mind ideas that C.S. Lewis entertains in The Great Divorce.  But more on that in a future post on the subject.

I find premise 5 initially problematic.  Perhaps one could be forced to love someone with a defective kind of love, but not with the perfect kind of love which Christianity teaches is a constituent of the human end.  (Moreover, if one could remove the free will to prevent languishing, presumably one could prevent the person from ever reaching such a hopeless state in the first place calling into question premise 1.)

Sub-conclusion 3 is also suspect, at least as "robust flourishing" is parenthetically cashed out.  Perhaps hell consists in some flourishing beyond the mere possessing of free will (perhaps it consists in exercising free will for some finite goods, knowledge of God, playing a role in God's just plan for the world, having some desires satisfied even if other desires are not, etc.).  I expect to say about this in a future post.

Premise 6 might be incoherent.  It seems to presume that annihilation is an action I can undergo being done to me--an action that can be "enjoyed" by me (relative to suffering).  But my annihilation is not something that happens to me just as the ex nihilo creation of the universe is not something that happens to the universe.  The universe does not change or have anything good or bad done to it when it is created ex nihilo. It simply comes into being.  Similarly with annihilation.  I do not change when annihilated--perhaps the universe changes from having me in it to not having me in it, but I neither acquire nor lose any properties if annihilated.  I simply cease to exist.  So annihilation can be neither good nor bad for me.  But since it cannot be a good for me it cannot be an action of love toward me.  

For that reason in rejecting 6 I also reject 2*.  One can only love someone by preventing his languishing if the languishing for that person is replaced by something positively good for that person.  

But suppose I'm the communist, Stalin.  Might the act of annihilating me be an act of love towards someone else such that God might do it?

Having few Calvinist bones in my body (i.e. zero), I believe God treats none of his creatures as mere means (nor would he).  But God would not be using me as a mere means if he annihilated me, so that line of response won't work.

We can admit that surely someone else's ceasing to experience the pain I'm causing them and instead experiencing tranquility would be good for them.  I think the proper thing to say is that God could just as well isolate me from the ones I'm harming while still willing what is good for me as well.  And it is surely plausible that it would not only be good for them but also good for me to be isolated from them (for it would be good for me do something other than hurting them).  Suffice it to say for now that I think God's nature is such that he wills only what is good for each of his creatures, so annihilating any of them is not a viable option for God.  Whatever hell amounts to, though unpleasant, it must be a product of not only divine justice but divine love for its inhabitant.  But it would be good to have an argument for these latter claims.

An Argument Against Annihilationism

I recently tried this argument out against the view that the ultimately unrepentant are annihilated.  I take for granted in the first premise that God in a deep sense is love and as such all of his actions must be understood as loving ones.

1. Any action of God's towards some x (who can be an object of love) must be consistent with God's loving x.
2. If y loves x (among other things) y promotes some good G for x (e.g. desires G for x/intends G for x/brings about G for x, etc).
3. One cannot promote any goods for x if x does not exist.
4. If x is annihilated then x does not exist.
5. If x does not exist, then there are no goods for x for y to promote for x.
6. Thus, annihilating x is inconsistent with loving x.
7. Thus, God would not annihilate x.

I think probably the initial reaction will be to reject 5: An action of removing your pain, suffering, or languishing is consistent with loving you and annihilating you would do the trick. Annihilation, in such a case, would be a good for me.

Reply: It is only good for me to have my pain removed if I PERSIST through the pain being removed from me.  There is no good FOR ME being promoted at time T if my pain and I both go out of existence simultaneously at T. My annihilation is not a good for me, for I cease to exist simultaneously with my being annihilated.  Just as it makes no sense to think that there are any goods for me to be promoted before I exist, so too it makes no sense to think that there are goods for me when I cease to exist.  And the annihilation of me is my ceasing to exist.  (I assume that my existence is not vague and there is no process I undergo of being annihilated.  Annihilation is an action taken such that I no longer exist, it's not a process I could "enjoy"  undergoing.)

I'm not fully satisfied with this response.  If I go out of existence, it could be argued that my legacy is something which is a good for me, and one could promote my legacy even if I went out of existence.  ("That Tully sure was a great guy!")  Further, one could honor me with a proper burial of my body, if, say, I went out of existence at death.  Still, perhaps we should think that in such cases these actions are in no way goods in my life, and one who believed I truly went out of existence should not think that these actions are really goods for me.  These actions are not actions of loving me (I don't exist), but they are actions done out of love for the memory of me.  People could no longer love me---since there is no me to love--but they could love their memory of me.  Or perhaps such actions are done out of love for my family or loved ones.  Or perhaps they are done out of love for me in one's mind, but they are not loving actions of the extra-mental me (who has ceased to exist).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Would Jesus Bake a Cake for a Gay Wedding?

Homofascist USA Today writer, Kirsten Powers, thinks so:
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest church in Kansas, pointed out to me what all Christians should know: "Jesus routinely healed, fed and ministered to people whose personal lifestyle he likely disagreed with." This put Jesus at odds with religious leaders, who believed they were sullied by associating with the "wrong" people.
Let's set aside for a moment that in our country ruled by its leftist judicial oligarchy, a man could go to jail for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.  He said he'd bake one for the gay couple's birthday, for other holidays, etc. but he would not do it for their gay wedding.  And he could GO TO JAIL for NOT BAKING A CAKE.  And this MAKES SENSE to LIBERALS.  I repeat: a man could GO TO JAIL for NOT BAKING A CAKE.  ("It is not enough that you obey Big Brother, you must love him [by baking him a cake].")

Set that lunacy aside and  instead focus on the fact that "Jesus routinely healed, fed and ministered to people whose personal lifestyle he likely disagreed with."  Well then: what follows is that he disagreed with their lifestyle and treated them with basic human dignity.  Jesus did not aid and abet the tax collectors in ripping off the poor.  He did not miraculously make a condom out of dirt and give it to the prostitute telling her to be sure to practice safe sex next time.  When he did not sentence the adulterous woman to stoning he did not condone adultery--rather he told her to "go and sin no more."  Helping with the wedding arrangements for a gay "wedding" ceremony would be to help someone thought to be sinning in their sinning. It was a clear violation of the baker's conscience.  And unless you think the Bible, Christian tradition, and pretty much every great philosopher and thinker in every major religious tradition in the history of the world are wrong (and instead go with your own or our society's feelings from like, 5 minutes ago), the man's conscience was correct.

Jim Crow Laws for Gays and Lesbians?  Are you kidding me?  Jim Crow laws were laws mandating racial segregation.  The laws forced people to be segregated.  Those laws were a disgrace.  But so are the current laws mandating that businesses can't refuse service on grounds of sexual lifestyle.  Just as the government has no legitimate authority to mandate racial segregation, the government has no legitimate authority to mandate that a business can't discriminate on the basis of religious convictions.  Perhaps Christians would do well to go to jail, if they must, to wake our country from its dogmatic slumber.