Templeton prizewinner Alvin Plantinga


Yes. A Being who could and would create a world where babies and small children do not suffer and die from fatal diseases such as cancer, Batten diease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Chronic Atypical Neutrophilic Dermatosis with Lipodystrophy and Elevated Temperature Syndrome, Gaucher disease, Krabbe Disease, etc. The present situation seems to be unfair to an innocent child who is afflicted with one of these deadly and painful diseases. What did they do to deserve that.?
Do you think that a Being who could and would create a world where children do not suffer horribly in pain and eventually die at a young age would be a greater or lesser Being than the current Maximally Great Being?


That all depends on which “great-making” qualities the MGB chooses to enhance and build into the world. Having autonomous moral agents as against programmed automatons would, at first blush, appear to be a preference for greatness. Even humans can build programmed robots, and given that we have a predilection to do so, we seem to have a preference for the security and comfort of a deterministic world as against a world of free moral choice.

Given that virtues such as courage, fortitude, temperance, charity, etc., require a world where these need to be freely chosen and exercised to be developed as an aspect of responsible moral agency, a world with suffering might just be a great-making world after all. Personally, I don’t have the capacities of omnibenevolence and omniscience to know for sure. Do you?
I know what I instinctively feel about getting such diseases and about suffering and possibly dying from them, but how they make me feel doesn’t really answer the question of whether they are necessary to consistently form great moral agents in this world.


I don’t see what programmed robots have to do with painful childhood killer diseases? Would it be better or not for children not to have to suffer and die from these terrible diseases?


Obviously you can. Anyone can. :slight_smile: There is no such thing as objective greatness, but they cannot understand it. I had this kind of conversation many times. I was very pleasantly surprised when the other party understood that “greatness” is a composite and subjective attribute, and we agreed that the MGB is sheer nonsense. But such agreements are very rare. You just waste your time. :wink:


Would it be better or not for every child and every adult to have everything the little hearts desire from the moment they are born?

There is no either or, all or none. Not every child suffers from or dies from terrible diseases.

There are gradations and periods of possessing, of suffering, of pleasure or joy, of experiences of all kinds, and of all other goods or ills.

What is determinably “better or not” according to you or I, is not necessarily the end of the story. I’ve had my own share of suffering and pain and of pleasure and joy. I wouldn’t say that in the end the significant long term benefits in terms of growth, learning and development from the “good times” was determinably better than from the rough times. Quite the opposite, really. There is no obvious conclusion like the one you try to draw.

I find it rather interesting that those, like Scowler and yourself, who try to make the most hay out of “subjective experiences” including suffering, are the ones who will quickly discount all the value and merit of subjective experiences, as if subjective determinations of value or greatness have no worth or significance in the “real” scheme of things, opting for pure “objectivity” in your merit calculus. And yet here you are arguing that the subjective experience of suffering should be counted above everything else.

So which is it? Do subjective valuations have merit or don’t they? If they don’t, then the “greatness” of suffering is also merely a “composite and subjective” attribute, and really can be disregarded as not worth thinking too much about.


Why didn’t you quote my second paragraph. I laid out the connection there. Yet, you pretend I didn’t have anything to say on the question.

Given that virtues such as courage, fortitude, temperance, charity, etc., require a world where these need to be freely chosen and exercised to be developed as an aspect of responsible moral agency, a world with suffering might just be a great-making world after all. Personally, I don’t have the capacities of omnibenevolence and omniscience to know for sure. Do you?
I know what I instinctively feel about getting such diseases and about suffering and possibly dying from them, but how they make me feel doesn’t really answer the question of whether they are necessary to consistently form great moral agents in this world.


But would it be better if there were fewer children who suffer and die from these terrible diseases?

They do, but why should children have to suffer from these terrible diseases and then die a horribly painful death?
Do you think that a maximally great Being would prevent the horrible suffering of an innocent child?


Of course not! Their suffering is a wonderful incentive to pray for the healing of those children. The parents would have no opportunity to offer up the sufferings of the children to glorify God. And they could not offer up their own sorrow what they feel at the demise of those children. Pain and suffering is GOOD! Well, OTHER people’s pain and suffering is GOOD… their own… not so much. Sometimes people turn to God in their misery, and that alone is worth that suffering… would you prefer that everyone would be just happy and carefree and healthy? Surely not!

Indeed! I am ready to go out with a baseball bat and spread some wonderful “suffering”. I have one right here… and will be happy to use it on your kneecaps. Where can we meet? Oh… you don’t want it? What a hypocrite!


An interesting insight into your personality.


Except that the objective greatness of subjects isn’t a subjective attribute at all. I suppose the reason there are disagreements about the relative greatness of things in general is because the quality of the subjects that make such judgements is in itself at varying levels. After all, I wouldn’t trust a Neanderthal’s judgements about moral principles, or what constitutes good art or literature, or the quality of a philosophical argument. Not even with regard to what is good food.

Judging by your last post, I would be skeptical about your capacity in several of those areas, as well. Did you also threaten the “other party” with a baseball bat before they “pleasantly surprised” you by their agreement? I’d be very pleasantly surprised if you didn’t.

And ironically, you were implicitly judging the objective greatness of subjects in your last post – the word “hypocrite” must have some qualitative standing. You must obviously think the objective greatness of subjects can be objectively determined, or you wouldn’t go around threatening to form other subjects in your image with baseball bats. :roll_eyes:

Like I said, I wouldn’t trust a Neanderthal’s opinion on what constitutes a well-reasoned argument.

Remind me to wear a full-body suit of armour next time we “discuss” things.

By the way, here you tacitly agree that some pain and suffering in the world might not be such a bad thing…

Way to undermine your own argument. :smirk:


Yes, I am quite sarcastic. And I was only talking about the subjective value of “greatness”, not making value judgments in general. But that flew right over your head. :slight_smile:


And I was speaking about the objective greatness of subjects which isn’t merely a “subjective” value judgement as you are wont to propose. It seems that went right over your head.

By the way, you abused the word hypocrite because a “hypocrite” is someone who knowingly acts in a manner discordant with their beliefs with the intent to deceive. Since you believe value judgements are purely subjective then you should be as untroubled by someone who disagrees with you on values to the degree you would be untroubled by someone who disagrees with you on which flavour of ice cream they prefer. Your antagonism towards others who don’t agree with you on the value of, say, suffering in life or “greatness,” betrays your real position on the “subjectivity” of value judgements – which is that you clearly believe values do matter. Much more than you intentionally let on.

So you are either a hypocrite in this regard (if you intentionally set out to deceive,) or are simply inconsistent. At this point I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.


I never would have guessed.


But wait. Suppose hypothetically there are two Beings: Being A and Being B. Both have the power to prevent infants and young children from getting any one of three horribly painful deadly diseases such as cancer, Batten disease, or Chronic Atypical Neutrophilic Dermatosis with Lipodystrophy and Elevated Temperature Syndrome, Suppose then, hypothetically, Being A, although he did have the power to prevent these diseases in infants and young children, did not do so. But suppose now that Being B did act to prevent any one of these three diseases from occurring. Could it be said that Being B had a greater amount of compassion and sympathy for these wretched infants and young children suffering in horrible pain? Or would you say that they both had the same amount of compassion for them, even considering this possibility?


We aren’t speaking of “beings” when we speak of God. We are speaking of Being proper. There is no comparison to be made between God and some other competing limited being. We are speaking of omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence or we are speaking of nothing of any such significance. If God doesn’t exist, reality is indeed pointless, purposeless and all meaning illusory and our actions are mere play acting and pretense since they have no lasting significance. Speculation by a couple of know nothings proves nothing.

Either God exists or he does not. If he exists then whatever happens to human beings happens because of God’s will. Hypotheticals are meaningless. And since God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient then he has the power, goodness and wisdom to bring good from whatever happens to us here on earth. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will.

There is no point in whining and kvetching since none of the final ends are in our control, except those small matters for which we ourselves are responsible.

You can raise yourself to the position of judge over all reality and all outcomes if you wish – presuming that you have the kind of wisdom, insight and moral perspective necessary to judge all of existence as if your parochial determinations have some kind of absolute binding power upon reality itself and upon God.

I have no interest in pretending to have that kind of capability. It is far beyond my capacities and I am sufficiently challenged with carrying out what I am responsible for doing each day. I will let God be God and I will be content with being a human being to the degree that I am best able. That is all.


Yes, WE certainly do, and God comes out as the loser of comparison.

These omnimax attributes are only parts of a hypothesis, and they need to be properly defined, and then substantiated.

No kidding. So instead you opt for closing your eyes, ears and scream on the top of your lungs: “God is above criticism! No matter what God does, we have to accept it. If God spits on the sidewalk, we are obliged to lick it up, and keep on glorifying him!”

In the meantime you forget, that THIS thread is about Plantinga’s ideas, not yours. :slight_smile: About “maximally great beingS” (observe the plural) and about “necessary” existence.


It appears you are all out of anything meaningful to contribute and are now resorting to pettiness and insult. The course of the discussion has been recorded in this thread and can be accessed by anyone interested in assessing where things stand.

I’m not interested in doing forensics on the flotsam caught between your toes that appears to form the “grounds” for your perspective.


The question concerns your concept of MGB and has nothing to do with kvetching. It appears that you are going off on a tangent of discussing kvetching rather than to discuss the possibility that the concept of MGB is contradictory or at least ill defined.


Actually, you are kvetching and it is actually you who are taking this discussion off on a tangent.

The “logical problem” of evil has been widely viewed by philosophers as having been answered by Plantinga himself, in fact, and by other philosophers such as Eleonore Stump and John Hick.


Therefore, you bringing up the evidential problem of evil as if it functions as a logical impediment to the idea of the MGB; i.e., that the MGB is inconsistent with the existence of evil, is merely an example of you clutching at straws and trying to score cheap points relying upon the lack of philosophical acumen of some thread readers.

Try again. If you want to insist yours is a logical rebuttal to the MGB, then it needs to be a logical rebuttal and not a rhetorical one.

If you wish to begin a thread on the logical problem of evil vs the evidential one, feel free to do so, but don’t assume your appeal to heartstrings functions as a rationally bullet-proof argument. It doesn’t.

And merely pretending that it does betrays the inconsistency of your view since you would be the first to deny subjective evaluations are in any way objectively binding. Your special pleading that they are in this one case vis a vis the existence of the MGB is transparently without substance.

And Scowler doesn’t seem to have the self-control or foresight to resist falling into the same trap.


You should have said: “by SOME philosophers”. You can always find such people. Nevertheless Plantinga is wrong.

Do you really think that this article has not been contemplated by others? And found wanting? The basic assumption is that “unlimited” or “virtually unlimited freedom of action” is desirable (or a “greater good”) is nonsense. “Good for whom”? The victims? Or the bystanders? By the way, there is no consensus among philosophers about the definition of “free will”. Does “free will” extend to carrying out the free decision, or is it sufficient to “will” something even if it is impossible to carry it out? This is not a trivial question.

The whole problem with your assumption is that the MGB is a nonsensical concept. The linked article does not even mention the MGB.

As for the article, the world W4 is possible, and Plantinga admits it. So even according to him, a state of affairs with “libertarian freedom” and without “moral evil” is logically possible - and yet God did not instantiate it.

Then the writer of the article really botched up the existence of “natural evil”, by brining in the “fall”. The “fall” has nothing to do with reason and logic, it is simply a religious superstition.

To create a world without natural or moral “evil” is very simple - in principle, of course. All one needs is sufficient constructor skills - not even “omni”-potence, which is just another nonsensical concept.

It is always fun to flesh out the details, provided that the other party is able and willing to understand the arguments. Such partners are hard to find… actually, next to impossible.

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