Author Topic: Good and Evil  (Read 472 times)

Offline james03

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Good and Evil
« on: July 04, 2020, 04:52:35 PM »
The typical Catholic discussions on Good and Evil have not set well with me.  Now up front I'll say they are the best explanations in main stream thought.  Here's some examples and my now current opinion.  I'm interested if anyone can spot problems this would cause.

1.  Euthyphro dilemma.  In short, is "Good" higher than God such that we can judge God vs. "Good", or is "Good" the arbitrary decrees of God?  The Catholic answer is that God and Good are the same, such that God is called the Form of the Good.  However I have a problem with this, or if I try to salvage it, I'm really just saying horn 2 of the "dilemma" is correct.

Suppose you have your weekend planned out including cracking open a beer, getting a dip of some choice North Carolina leaf, and watching "History of U-Boat Warfare".  You work hard, handle your "stuff", and you like taking some responsible leisure on the weekend to recharge.  And you get hit by a snow storm.  So you shovel your driveway off, but no problem, you still have time to relax.  But you then happen to look across the street at Betty, the 80 yr. old widow's house, and see the snow on her driveway.  So you forgo the war documentary and clear her driveway.  As Catholics, we recognize this is good, but objectively it is evil -- to YOU.

So I now agree with horn 2 of the dilemma, except I object to the unnecessary and even false term "arbitrary".  Since God has a purpose, which I believe is to maximize the people in heaven and minimize the suffering in hell, what is good is not arbitrary.  In short, Good and Evil don't exist.  Good is God's Will, and Evil is opposing God's Will.  I don't see any problem with that.

2.  Definition of Evil.  This one never set well with me.  Evil is a deficit.  So evil is simply a deficit of Good.  I could turn that around.  Good is a deficit.  So Good is simply a deficit of evil.  In my definition, Good and Evil are on the same level, and evil is opposing God's Will.

Comments?  Problems with the above?
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2020, 09:53:34 PM »
Since God has a purpose, which I believe is to maximize the people in heaven and minimize the suffering in hell, what is good is not arbitrary.

Well I don't believe God is a maximizer/minimizer. But regardless, the fact that God has a "purpose" does not solve the problem of arbitrariness. Because we could always ask: Why does God have this particular "purpose" in mind? If we answer: Because it's in His nature, then we're back to the typical Catholic response. If we answer: Because it's good, then we're back to horn #1. And if we answer, Because He wills it, then it's arbitrary.

I personally like horn #2, and I don't have much of a problem with the arbitrariness.


2.  Definition of Evil.  This one never set well with me.  Evil is a deficit.  So evil is simply a deficit of Good.  I could turn that around.  Good is a deficit.  So Good is simply a deficit of evil.  In my definition, Good and Evil are on the same level, and evil is opposing God's Will.

I take it you want to reject the privative theory of evil? Am I understanding you correctly? (Otherwise I'm not sure how you can say that good is a deficit. That makes no sense.)

One problem I see with your definition is that evil isn't always in opposition to God's will. In fact, God wills evil all the time, and always as a means to a good end. What God does not do is will evil as an end. Example: The patriarch Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. What his brothers did was evil. God wanted it to happen though. Not as an end, but for some end.

I think it would be helpful if we differentiated between what God "wills" and what God "loves". God wills the evil that He hates, in order that He may bring about the good that He loves. Joseph's brothers did what God willed, but they did not do what He loved.
 

Offline Xavier

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2020, 06:47:17 AM »
1. Agreed. I think we can see that God is essential Goodness. That is to say, He alone is absolutely, completely and wholly good, and no one is good except by participation in His Goodness, whether supernatural participation by Grace, as of us Christians, or even a natural participation, as of non-Christians who heed the voice of conscience to do good and avoid evil. What we perceive as goodness, I think, is a limited manifestation of His attributes, just as perhaps we cannot directly look at the sun on account of its brightness, but we can perceive light from it, or perceive other things that they are bright on account of the sun that shines there. In a similar way, whenever we see something truly good, we can say, God is at work here. When we see something wholly evil, we can deduce, God has been rejected here.

A material evil is a hardship to those who undergo it, true. But as we know, God often uses that evil (He does not will that evil, but only permits it, in order to help us through it to become a greater good) to build our character, or indeed, in the supernatural order, to increase our merits. Thus as a Christian if you did a work of charity for your neighbor, you will earn merits because of it, and receive a special reward for each such good work in heaven; when suffering is borne well, the work is even more than meritorious, it is also satisfactory, i.e. it can be used as a work of penance to pay off the debt of sins, whether of oneself, or another, e.g. the Holy Souls.

2. As for evil being the absence of good, I would go back to the Light/Darkness analogy. We know that light is something substantial. We can visibly discern where it is absent. In the same way, we say of non-Christians that God's Spirit is absent in them in a supernatural manner, and objectively considered this is a loss for them. Still, because of God's guidance through conscience, they may heed the good that is present in the natural law on their hearts and do some good e.g. oppose abortion, live in fruitful marriages, works of charity, of kindness, of goodness etc. In some people's lives, these things may seem to be absent (only God knows for sure). And thus we say that in them the absence of these is an evil; something which ought to have been there, and would have been there, if God was at work in them at least naturally, was not present. Thus, we call that evil.

Hope that helps.

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Offline james03

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2020, 02:28:52 PM »
Quote
Well I don't believe God is a maximizer/minimizer. But regardless, the fact that God has a "purpose" does not solve the problem of arbitrariness. Because we could always ask: Why does God have this particular "purpose" in mind? If we answer: Because it's in His nature, then we're back to the typical Catholic response. If we answer: Because it's good, then we're back to horn #1. And if we answer, Because He wills it, then it's arbitrary.

It's in His nature would be my response.  Which even more supports my position that Good qua good doesn't really exist.  It's just a term to signify doing it God's way.  Basically I'm saying there is no transcendental called "good".

Quote
One problem I see with your definition is that evil isn't always in opposition to God's will. In fact, God wills evil all the time, and always as a means to a good end. What God does not do is will evil as an end. Example: The patriarch Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. What his brothers did was evil. God wanted it to happen though. Not as an end, but for some end.
That's an interesting point.  I'd say you have to differentiate between permissive will and active will.  God wills men to have Free Will.  Therefore He permits the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery.  The "it" that God wants is more than Joseph becoming a Patriarch, it is also man having Free Will.

As far as God not willing "evil" as an end, according to my definition that is metaphysically impossible.  It would be a contradiction.

Quote
As for evil being the absence of good
  I don't believe this.  I'm showing the problem with the privation theory of evil.  I can flip it around and say good is just an absence of evil.  The two are identical and there is no way to distinguish which one is correct.  QED the privation theory doesn't work.  Note also that whether you say good is just an absence of evil, or evil is just an absence of good you run into problems with amoral acts.  An amoral act violates the definition.  So if you define evil as being an absence of Good, then an amoral act, such as picking ham over turkey for your sandwich becomes an evil act.

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Offline Graham

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2020, 08:54:50 PM »
Good is a name for the object of the will, like truth names the object of the intellect. Since we do have wills, it is impossible to think about them and how they work, without this concept, and so we can be assured that the spiritual reality denoted as "the good" truly exists, since reality is incomprehensible without it. We should not think of the Good as a form that exists independently of the personal God. In God, just as existence and essence are identical, so are his will and the object of his will.
 
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Offline Graham

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2020, 09:14:14 PM »
I think the mistake here is a common one, particularly when handling transcendentals, which is confusing the signifier with the signified. The good needs to first be understood anthropologically as a name for the object of the will. The will is the primary reality here; it calls for an object, it cannot be understood apart from an object , and "the good" is the name used generically for that object. It exists therefore by definition, on both a subjective and particular level, and, by the universal striving seen in all the modes of life, evidently as a universal object as well, which is God. 
 
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Offline Graham

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2020, 09:22:07 PM »
So our philosophical interest should be directed away from interrogating the signifier, and towards the signified reality, which is the structure of will itself; and to how the human interior structure, called anthropology, is a open window into the metaphysics and interiority of the world.
 
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Offline TheReturnofLive

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2020, 10:47:49 PM »
I take it you want to reject the privative theory of evil? Am I understanding you correctly? (Otherwise I'm not sure how you can say that good is a deficit. That makes no sense.)

One problem I see with your definition is that evil isn't always in opposition to God's will. In fact, God wills evil all the time, and always as a means to a good end. What God does not do is will evil as an end. Example: The patriarch Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. What his brothers did was evil. God wanted it to happen though. Not as an end, but for some end.

I think it would be helpful if we differentiated between what God "wills" and what God "loves". God wills the evil that He hates, in order that He may bring about the good that He loves. Joseph's brothers did what God willed, but they did not do what He loved.

Doesn't that just make God a maximizer?

I never understood why God is a utilitarian who ignores evil means for an ultimate good.

I mean, maybe it makes some sense that evil is an illusion in that it's the deprivation of God in some form, and God can never be eternally deprived, whereas God is omnipresent and eternal. Therefore, evil is always a losing battle.

Or perhaps evil, the deprivation of God, always necessarily leads to good. If someone's daughter is murdered, it might be inherently evil, but perhaps good always comes out of it through community support, the growth of that someone or the murderer, the eternal rest of that daughter, etc.

But if that's the case, then why is it that hell is "eternal deprivation" which God Wills?

Also, how does God Will a deprivation of Himself, considering that, according to Divine Simplicity, the difference between positive and negative will is an illusion?

I'm kind of convinced that God being "good in of itself" is a type of good that goes beyond "good" and "evil" as we understand it in our fallen nature, and we aren't allowed to know what "good" truly is as we exist now. Perhaps that's why we need the Church as an external, shaded, dark glass where we can barely view actual good.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2020, 10:55:27 PM by TheReturnofLive »
 

Offline Philip G.

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2020, 03:52:22 AM »
The typical Catholic discussions on Good and Evil have not set well with me.  Now up front I'll say they are the best explanations in main stream thought.  Here's some examples and my now current opinion.  I'm interested if anyone can spot problems this would cause.

1.  Euthyphro dilemma.  In short, is "Good" higher than God such that we can judge God vs. "Good", or is "Good" the arbitrary decrees of God?  The Catholic answer is that God and Good are the same, such that God is called the Form of the Good.  However I have a problem with this, or if I try to salvage it, I'm really just saying horn 2 of the "dilemma" is correct.

Suppose you have your weekend planned out including cracking open a beer, getting a dip of some choice North Carolina leaf, and watching "History of U-Boat Warfare".  You work hard, handle your "stuff", and you like taking some responsible leisure on the weekend to recharge.  And you get hit by a snow storm.  So you shovel your driveway off, but no problem, you still have time to relax.  But you then happen to look across the street at Betty, the 80 yr. old widow's house, and see the snow on her driveway.  So you forgo the war documentary and clear her driveway.  As Catholics, we recognize this is good, but objectively it is evil -- to YOU.

So I now agree with horn 2 of the dilemma, except I object to the unnecessary and even false term "arbitrary".  Since God has a purpose, which I believe is to maximize the people in heaven and minimize the suffering in hell, what is good is not arbitrary.  In short, Good and Evil don't exist.  Good is God's Will, and Evil is opposing God's Will.  I don't see any problem with that.

2.  Definition of Evil.  This one never set well with me.  Evil is a deficit.  So evil is simply a deficit of Good.  I could turn that around.  Good is a deficit.  So Good is simply a deficit of evil.  In my definition, Good and Evil are on the same level, and evil is opposing God's Will.

Comments?  Problems with the above?

St. Paul said "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him." If evil is a deficit of good, and we do not fully know the good, that would mean that we potentially do not fully know evil.  And, that seems to be a problem.  For, Christ bound Satan upon his passion and resurrection.  And, Mary is Ever-Virgin.  What does that leave us?  That leaves lukewarmness as that which we do not know.  For we know what evil is.  It has been taught.  We have the commandments.  "Thou shalt not" has an object.  And, the object is evil.  Finally, we know what we have to hope for.  And, that is for God's goodness in heaven, which earthly scandal cannot spoil.  We confess the four last things, and these are death, judgement, heaven, and hell.  There is a separation between heaven and hell, good and evil.  If evil is simply a deficit of good, it leaves no room for the divide.  But, there is a divide.  And, that divide is the lukewarm, and in this life, it is something we do not know.  But, in the next life, we shall see things as they truly are.

As for your example of 80 year old widow betty in her house surrounded by piling snow, Christ said "Beware of the scribes who devour the houses of widows, feigning long prayer.  These shall receive greater damnation."   

« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 04:04:35 AM by Philip G. »
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2020, 08:32:09 AM »
I take back much of what I said in my previous post. My current view would be more like this:

physical good / physical evil - I think the privation theory works (at least most of the time)

moral good/ moral evil - The privation theory doesn't seem to work, so we go with this instead:

moral good = wanting/doing whatever God wants us to want/do, and not-wanting/not-doing whatever wants us to not-want/not-do
moral evil = wanting/doing whatever God wants us to not-want/not-do, or not-wanting/not-doing what God wants us to want/do
morally neutral = God doesn't care one way or the other, so anything goes

Good and evil would vary from person to person, but there are trends such that certain actions are universally (or near-universally) wrong. Like God doesn't want anyone to murder (or for anyone to even want to murder), so murder is always wrong. God doesn't want anyone to blaspheme, so blasphemy is always wrong. etc. God generally doesn't want people committing genocide, so genocide is wrong in almost every case; but when God does want someone to do it (such as when He commanded the Jews to kill off entire tribes) then it's good for that particular person to do it. God generally doesn't want human sacrifice, so human sacrifice is generally wrong, but when God commands Abraham to do it, it's good that Abraham do it (and then when God later commands Abraham to not-do it, it's good that Abraham not-do it).

Also, there seems to be a correspondence between the things that God wants us to want/do, and the things that God wants/does. Obviously it's not a one-to-one correspondence since we aren't God. But generally, the stuff that God wants us to want/do mirrors the stuff that God wants/does. We don't see God going around hating blasphemy but wanting everyone to blaspheme. It just doesn't make sense.

With respect to God, everything He wants is good and none of it is evil. Because God only ever wants what He wants to want/do, and He never wants what He wants to not-want/not-do.


So, the moral standard is determined by God's will. If God's will is arbitrary (this is what I'm leaning towards), then we go with horn #2. If God's will is compelled by His nature, then we go with the typical Catholic response.

Regarding the 80 year old widow -
I'd say that your inability to watch the war documentary is probably a physical evil, not a moral evil. So it's irrelevant.
Morally, it's (presumably) good to help the widow because God (presumably) wants you to help the widow.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 08:33:52 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline clau clau

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2020, 08:33:29 AM »
I take back much of what I said in my previous post. My current view would be more like this:
...

Have you got a job yet, or a girlfriend?  My guess would be No.
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Good and Evil
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2020, 08:40:21 AM »
.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 08:48:30 AM by Daniel »