Templeton prizewinner Alvin Plantinga


No. I have made my logical and reasonable points and there is no sense in repeating them since your response is to discuss the question of kvetching and to engage in off topic ad hominem arguments. Besides what I have already mentioned, and you have not answered, it is clear that there are other objections to the MGB concept. The MGB concept does not hold up to close study. For example, MGB is only possible if you admit the axiom of choice and of course everyone knows that accepting the axiom of choice results in accepting many counter intuitive results such as the Banach Tarski paradox. There is no logical proof for the validity of the axiom of choice.


I see. Your “everybody knows” is a broader and more inclusive term than “widely viewed by philosophers,” so you must be correct.

At least, you are moving beyond the mere self-assurance that you are correct by appealing to the knowledge of “everybody,” unlike Scowler, who merely keeps making assertions without substantive reasoning.

Still, “everybody knows” functions as a euphemism for what you think to be true in your post. It is clearly not the case that “everybody knows that accepting the axiom of choice results in accepting many counter intuitive results such as the Banach Tarski paradox.” I would think quite the opposite it true. “Everybody,” spoken loosely, literally do not know that. At least, it doesn’t ever enter into everyday conversation, as far as I can tell.

I will concede that not “everybody” exercises free will, which may give some the impression of not having it, but that isn’t a refutation of anything. Besides, what free will is or could be remains beyond the full apprehension of pretty much “everybody.” So you cannot use your apprehension or misapprehensions about something as irrefutable proofs of anything.

Except, of course, where MGB is concerned :wink:


Everybody who understands and knows about the problems with accepting the axiom of choice should know about the Banach Tarski paradox. This paradox comes up in discussions about the validity of the axiom of choice.


I see, so your view of moral agents is that they shouldn’t be required to invest any blood, sweat or tears in their moral development, but that it ought to be as effortless as putting on socks in the morning. Moral development should be “constructed” by something somewhat less than omnipotent and then simply handed holus bolus to the lesser agent. No serious or stressful choosing involved, then. The choice ought to be made for the moral agent by the “higher power” and then handed over like a pre-packaged TV dinner?

Very convenient and modern.

No determination, no commitment, no stamina, no long-suffering, no guilt, no real responsibility, no autonomy, no courage, and no virtue in the face of evil. Just the assurance that morality requires nothing from you since YOU will have no real role in “constructing” the purportedly “moral” agent which is “you.”


There is no need for “moral agents”. Life is much more fulfilling if you don’t need to worry about a potential killer, if you don’t need to be afraid where your next meal will come from, if you do not suffer from toothache, or a spreading cancerous growth in your lungs. When you can spend the time and energy on creating something new and beautiful, like sculptures or sonatas or poems… whatever your talent might allow. And if you don’t have any special talents, you could enjoy the result of the work of others. How many books can you read during your life? Especially if you are dead tired every evening because you had to work all day to earn enough to buy some stale bread for your next meal. There is always something new on the horizon, which is worth to discover and explore.

Explain please why is suffering is so wonderful? What is the point of allowing children to be kidnapped, raped and tortured before killing them? Do you prefer moral or natural evil? Do you ever choose suffering? Of course you don’t. And if suffering comes your way, you do everything to get better, to cure whatever ails you? Of course you do. There are no idiots who would prefer suffering.

And if you (personally) would choose to get rid of suffering, why would you wish that suffering should happen to others? What is the point? If you WOULD think that suffering is “good”, you WOULD not try to avoid it. And since you try to avoid it, you don’t really value suffering. I played this “game” quite a few times before. I asked how would people improve on this existence? Most of the Christians said that they see no reason to make improvements. This is what God created, therefore it is the best possible world - they said. Of course they still ran to the dentist when they had a toothache, and still took an aspirin when they had fever. So they preached water and drank wine - as the old saying goes. Using a more explicit phrase, they were full of that proverbial substance.


There is a fallacy in there somewhere.

And another one in here…

At the moment I don’t have the time nor the inclination to make either one obvious to you. Not that it would make any difference.

Suffice it to say, no idiots would “prefer” suffering, and no idiots would say it is “wonderful,” but there are many “idiots” who know that some outcomes are worth suffering for. And that is an important distinction to be made, i.e., the “idiots” who would choose to suffer if the need arose and the “idiots” who avoid suffering at all cost. Now which camp are you in? :thinking: It isn’t at all obvious.



What a surprise! Every time I present this challenge, I get the same response.

Aha! So the suffering has no intrinsic “value”. So far, so good.

Only the ones, who refuse (or are unable) to do a real analysis. What you say is called “Aus einer Not eine Tugend machen” - to make a virtue out of necessity. Which is another nonsense. But even if you would be right, you forget (as all the other ones) to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Is the assumed benefit “worth” the cost? Could the cost (the suffering) be lessened and still reap the reward? In other words: “is the suffering LOGICALLY necessary?” Could not even the “omnipotent” God decrease the suffering, and keep the benefit? Because the question is NOT: “does this suffering have some value?”, it is “could the suffering be decreased, and still keep the value?”.

Not to mention, that an overwhelming amount of suffering has no “value” in its outcome. And to this obvious objection the nincompoops say: “well, we are not privy to the whole picture, and if we had access to it, we would agree with God’s non-interventionist policy”. In other words, they retreat into the “BLIND faith” type of argument. They do not realize that they just uttered the fallacy of “argument from ignorance”.

And THAT is the problem. The “problem of evil” is alive and well. Plantinga could not resolve it. His essay is wrong on many levels. His “trick” is simple: “MAYBE there is some value in what seems to be gratuitous suffering, and as such there is no contradiction in the alleged attributes of God and the existence of suffering”. And he does not understand that “MAYBE” is not an argument.

Of course I would see no problem if you (the general apologists) would be willing to realize this, declare that it is a “mystery”, and accept that the faith in God’s goodness is totally unfounded, blind faith. But that is an impossible outcome. Because it would be the moment to realize that God is NOT benevolent, that there IS unnecessary suffering in the world. And that would be the moment to change from a believer into an atheist.


This seems like Anselms argument I studied in Theology class 10 years ago.


Well, let me make it obvious. All the logically necessary sufferings are fine and dandy. All, which cannot be eliminated or lessened even stipulating God’s omnipotence. All, which actually lead to some greater goods, and the existence of that greater good is WORTH the suffering - in the eyes of the sufferer. Because no “idiot” would be so idiotic as to assert: “the suffering of ‘A’ will bring forth a greater good for ‘B’ and therefore it is WORTH to inflict the suffering on ‘A’, so that ‘B’ would benefit from it - whether 'A” agrees or not".

Is this sufficiently clear now?


So you are calling my wife’s cardiac surgeon, “an idiot?” In case you don’t understand, I would be your ‘A’ and my wife your ‘B’.

Even if it is true that ‘A’ does not agree to it, ‘B’ would still benefit from it. Sometimes it would be downright selfish of A not to be willing to undergo the suffering in order to bring about the good for B.

The principle of double effect enters into consideration here because the objective of the agent is not purely to cause the suffering, but to bring about the good for B. All the conditions for the PDE would hold.

The way out of this for you is to simply come clean and admit that for you the suffering of anyone is never justified, that goods that involve some suffering are never worth it. That the well-being of others is never worth the suffering of pain or discomfort. You would prefer a morally bland or insipid world where nothing grave or serious is ever on the line to one that requires a modicum of suffering because some things are worth putting up with it.


Ah, but suffering does have value as an indicator of harm. A great amount of the time suffering is a symptom of actual harm occurring. Without suffering, there may be no other way to recognize harm. Not that harm is necessarily accompanied by suffering and not that all suffering involves actual harm, but more often than not they go together.

This is why suffering, for me, is not the issue you make it out to be. Actual harm is more crucial.

In a complex world where the prioritization of goods is an important aspect of the development of moral agency, weighting of harms is more important than the mere presence of suffering or its intensity.

I begin to suspect fraud is about to take place when the person speaking of the problem of evil restricts his analysis of evil to mere suffering as if that is the entire case to be made. Suffering relates to the emotional state of a person. In itself, suffering does not induce harm, it merely indicates possible harm to warn or alert of it.

Explicating evil – what it is and what results from it – is far more important than focusing inordinately on suffering.


Since your post has no concrete details, I cannot reflect on it. What did the surgeon do to you? And how did it benefit your wife?

So what? According to the Catholic teaching it is impermissible to use a human as a TOOL - it goes against the innate dignity of the “used one”. Not to mention that you are not allowed to perform some “evil” so that something good will come out of it. And to “dismantle” someone into organs to save many lives is one of these “evils”. In the case if someone agrees to be used, there is no problem.

I already reflected on this in the post you did not answer. You forget the cost-benefit analysis. Is it acceptable to put some into slavery, just so that the slaveholder will benefit from it?

I already explained in clear words, that I have no problem with “logically necessary suffering”. The requirements are:

  1. The suffering leads to some greater good.
  2. The result is so “good” that it justifies the suffering,
  3. The suffering cannot be eliminated or even lessened without jeopardizing the result.

If all these requirements are met, we have a justified amount of suffering. If any of these are NOT met, we have gratuitous, unjustified suffering. Looks like I need to repeat this every time, because none of you seems to have a sufficient attention span to remember it. Or maybe don’t understand it.

The point is that achieving some greater good is contingent upon the ability or power of the person, who provides the good. Also the ability to avoid the suffering. Since you guys assert that God is omnipotent - able to do everything except logically nonsensical results, the onus is on you to show that every piece of suffering is logically necessary, that none of them could have been lessened or eliminated without sacrificing that “greater” good.

And this is the point where each and every one of you, Plantinga included - WILL FAIL.

…Continued below…


I reflected on this, too. It is simple to create a world without physical problems. Especially for an omnipotent creator.


This has been answered multiple times, but you keep insisting it hasn’t been.

The problem with 1) is that you want the “greater good” to be obvious to you, an agent with a perspective that is skewed to one location in space and time. What you, as the self-proclaimed arbiter of all that is good, consider to be “some greater good” or not, does not logically entail that it is or isn’t. From a strictly rational position, a complete and comprehensive analysis of possible goods attained relative to suffering permitted coming from the judgement of the 3-Omni God, would be a far more reliable ground from which to assess whether any particular suffering can be justified by “some greater good,” compared to your limited, temporal judgement. Ergo, your judgements on the matter do not amount to a complete and proper assessment regarding 1) where God is concerned. Since you are using 1) to buttress your argument against God’s moral bona fides you will have to demonstrate that your judgement on the matter ought to, in principle, supersede the 3-Omni God’s judgement. You haven’t shown that. Strike 1.

As with 1), your determinations with regard to 2) suffers from the same issue. You have no idea how good the results will be down through all time AND eternally, so you are in no position to assess this. Strike 2.

Since you have no idea of the actual “results” through all space and time, you have no idea which suffering can or cannot be eliminated without jeopardizing the result. Strike 3.

The logical problem of pain his been set aside by most philosophers. You must have missed the memo.

It isn’t that your points were forgotten or not understood, it is simply that most thinking individuals have moved beyond them.


For clarity’s sake, my wife went through open heart surgery. She is the ‘B.’ The heart surgeon, as a result of the prognosis, surgery and recovery, put us both through great suffering. Clearly, his intent was to bring about a “greater good” for her, ‘B’ which would make it worth her suffering. However, being the empathetic person that I am, the entire episode caused great suffering to me, who would be your ‘A.’

Clearly, the surgeon would be no “idiot” even if he was to assert, “the suffering of ‘A’ will bring forth a greater good for ‘B’ and therefore it is WORTH it to inflict the suffering on ‘A’, so that ‘B’ would benefit from it - whether 'A” agrees or not".

Granted, the suffering of those who love others isn’t generally recognized as suffering, because most people, like you, only seem to recognize direct physical pain as suffering, but that isn’t true, is it?

If the surgeon was even half human, he would recognize – and not be an “idiot” for recognizing – that the empathetic suffering of a spouse ‘A’, for the greater good of the other spouse ‘B,’ would be worth inflicting the suffering on ‘A’ so that ‘B’ would benefit from it. Logically speaking ‘A’ would de facto be agreeing to it merely by suffering, because if s/he didn’t, the suffering wouldn’t even occur since absent any love for ‘B’, ‘A’ would not suffer in the first place.

Now you might claim, the doctor isn’t inflicting suffering on ‘A’ so that ‘B’ could benefit from it, but I think that it is in the nature of love that only by the empathetic suffering of ‘A’ would ‘B’ benefit from that suffering that results from empathy. A doctor wouldn’t be “an idiot” merely for recognizing that his actions are causing empathetic suffering to ‘A’ and thereby benefiting ‘B’ by bringing about that level of empathy. The risk would be that the doctor might not be certain that ‘A’ will, in fact, rise to the occasion or have any empathy at all. In that case, ‘A’ would not agree to being put through the suffering or would be too self-centered to suffer or care at all in the first place.

So it isn’t merely the worth of goods “in the eyes of the sufferer” that are the goods and suffering to be considered and balanced, unless your view is that all men are merely islands onto themselves where the worth of goods and suffering are concerned.

Now, you might respond that you included all sufferers, even empathetic ones, in your consideration, and that even ‘A’ benefits from 'B’s good fortune, but then you would be moving in the direction of admitting that your suffering calculus is far too inadequate to truly account for all benefits and all sufferers through all time in its results.


I am not a defender of the ontoological argument. But i want to know what you mean by the following…

On the other hand it is quite simple to find two possible worlds which have no intersection

Edit: I guess i’m going to have to wait for your reply…:roll_eyes:


If a child is born with a deadly disease and suffers throughout his life until the age of 5 and then dies a horribly painful slow death, what would be the “greater good.”


I suppose if you put complete store in temporal existence as the only reality, then there is little opportunity, though still not impossible, for any “greater good” to be had in such cases. However, if eternal life is a reality then that changes the calculus regarding the trade offs substantially. Besides that, your example is a purely hypothetical one which may never actually occur to the degree you present. You may be overstating the case somewhat.

Eternal existence does have implications for the problem of suffering, in a more general sense. In comparison to eternal life shared with the absolute fullness of Being (aka God) where all possibilities for greater goods become realities, the trade offs regarding this life vs eternal life become very different relative to the stakes in play.

This is the presumption that, I think, causes you such grief. Your determinations regarding possible goods are limited to what is observable to you, yet if God exists there is no reason to assume omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence would be limited to the level of this-world outcomes.

Certainly, there is the question of why this world is the way it is, if God is as he is conceived in classic theism, but the limitations on human life here and now may be a function of the need to restrain human moral agency by placing constraints on what is possible to corruptible human agents as far as both goods and evils are concerned. Imagine if pleasures, joys or happiness were exponentially more desirable than they are in this life. How would that impact corruptible moral agents regarding their motivations to attain corresponding goods illicitly? Perhaps, in order to form incorruptibly good free will agents destined for eternal existence, this life is a kind of training ground or simulation of what is possible for all eternity, where each moral agent must “prove” themselves in terms of love, virtue and trustworthiness.

Perhaps you place too little stock in the personal responsibility each of us should bear for our choices and too much stock in what human beings simply “deserve” merely for being human, as if all goods are simply owed to us as a function of existing.


The problem with your analysis is that in the case that I am thinking about, parents do not choose for their babies to suffer and die early. They are responsible parents and do the best they can for their suffering child.


It is true that these parents might be to some or great degree helpless with regard to what they can do, but that realization itself might be a good realized, though clearly it wouldn’t be for someone like Scowler. Where your point is overextended is that you see the situation only from the position of the parents. God would have reasons which consider all future repercussions, to say nothing of eternal ones, that determine what he does or does not permit.

Again, your problem seems to be that you define “goods” in a limited way and disallow goods that God alone would have access to because you view the situation from a limited perspective and try to foist that perspective on God as well.

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