Continuing on Gottfried Leibniz’s Theodicy (1710). What is the metaphysical necessity for evil? It’s a privation (a lack), not a positive, caused thing: the absence of the good that is God. Also God’s antecedent vs. consequent will, eternal verities, monads, God as “conserver” of the world, and more.
On Gottfried Leibniz’s Theodicy (1710).
Why does God allow so many bad things to happen? Leibniz thought that by the definition of God, whatever He created must be the best of all possible worlds, and his theodicy presents numerous arguments to try to make that less counter-intuitive given how less-than-perfect the world seems to us.
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On Gottfried Leibniz’s Theodicy (1710).
Why does God allow so many bad things to happen? Leibniz thought that by the definition of God, whatever He created must be the best of all possible worlds, and his theodicy presents numerous arguments to try to make that not so counter-intuitive given how less-than-perfect the world seems to us.
As it turns out, if our purpose is to test the simulator hypothesis against religious belief, it is only in the specifics that we can easily distinguish between the two. The Deist God, who creates the universe, and then leaves it to run entirely on its own, is not easily disambiguated from the hands-off simulator. One might well call them one and the same. Similarly, the Platonic ideal of good, which remains removed and remote in eternal perfection while the demiurge creates the world in imitation of it, needs not change at all if we choose to think of the demiurge as working with pixels and electrons rather than with primal matter. Such abstract, philosophical conceptions of God are general enough that even a shift as dramatic as reconceptualizing reality itself as a simulation can be integrated relatively easily. It is more of a challenge, however, to reconfigure the simulation hypothesis in order to yield the specificity of Christ.
As we sink deeper and deeper into the realm of religion, we find ourselves forced to face up to a core religious dilemma of the modern, globalized world, the same dilemma glossed over by Pascal in his wager: In a world filled with so many different and often contradictory religions, how would we choose one as more plausible than the others?
From a Neoplatonic point of view, what goodness there is our world must come from the world deeper than ours, the one doing the simulating. The evil and chaos and disorder could all be nothing more than random numbers firing, but the beauty and the nobility and the truth in the world demand some source. And if the next world deeper is somehow a dirtier, nastier, less good place than ours, then our world must be reflecting some yet higher-still world toward which the artisans who created our simulation are striving.
When God is in everything, and everything is within God, does that not implicate God in our crimes of the spirit as well? Is God present in our angers, and our wars; our dirty jokes and our pornography? Here, perhaps, we have made a mistake by conflating God, as traditionally conceived, with our conception of “the Dungeon Master,” who is merely the maximally simple simulator. But then again, our entire purpose was to determine if there is any necessary connection between the two; between the simulator predicted by Nick Bostrom’s theory and God as envisioned by theologians and believers throughout the ages.
The simulation theory, however, does not have to be turtles all the way down. For example, imagine that somewhere along the chain of simulators, perhaps directly above us (what Bostrom calls “below”), or perhaps much further on up toward the top, we reach an entity we might call the “maximally simple simulator,” an entity of pure and limitless intellect, unbounded in time (and therefore eternal), with no body at all, in a universe containing nothing else but itself, the simplest possible universe.
The reason, perhaps, that Bostrom’s demonstration of the probability of God’s existence has received so little attention and notice (especially as compared to the stir and commotion caused by his demonstration of the probability that we live in a simulation, and despite the fact that both conclusions are entailed by the exact same line of argument) is because readers have failed to note the connection between Bostrom’s simulator and God.
The setup of Pascal’s Wager, as this argument is generally known, is quite similar in form to Newcomb’s paradox. The glass box with the visible $1000 bill is your ordinary life on earth: you know it exists, and is yours to spend. The opaque box is your eternal reward. It might be empty, or it might be filled with a vast reward far beyond the one in the glass box. You will discover which one is the case only when you die and the box is opened. Do you take the glass box with the known, but finite reward, or the opaque box that could have nothing or everything inside it?
In our last two articles, we’ve explored one book in the exciting new field of cognitive science of religion. And we’ve seen how one of the findings in this area is that belief in God, or something like God, is natural to us, given the types of minds we have. Of course, this doesn’t show that one ought to believe Continue Reading …
In our last article, we explored some recent findings in the cognitive science of religion (CSR). We saw how current research suggests that belief in God, or something like God, comes naturally to most human beings, most of the time, in virtue of the types of brains we have. I’d like to explore Justin L. Barrett’s arguments on this front Continue Reading …
“Belief in God is an almost inevitable consequence of the kind of minds we have.” —Justin L. Barrett
“Faith is not to be contrasted with knowledge: faith (at least in paradigmatic instances) is knowledge, knowledge of a certain special kind.” —Alvin Plantinga
“To preach skepticism to us as a duty until ‘sufficient evidence’ for religion be found, is tantamount therefore to telling us, when in presence of the religious hypothesis, that to yield to our fear of its being error is wiser and better than to yield to our hope that it may be true. It is not intellect against all passions, then; it is only intellect with one passion laying down its law.” —William James
Imagine a ship owner who sells tickets for transatlantic voyages. He is at the dock one day, bidding his ship farewell, when he remembers a warning he had received from his mechanics the week before, that the integrity of the ship’s hull was questionable and that it might not be seaworthy. But on some plausible grounds or other he forms Continue Reading …
“If it is to be established that there is a God, then we have to have good grounds for believing that this is indeed so. Until and unless some such grounds are produced we have literally no reason at all for believing; and in that situation the only reasonable posture must be that of either the negative atheist or the agnostic.”
In our last article we explored Charles Taylor’s concept of “the buffered self,” a peculiar kind of self-consciousness engendered by Enlightenment rationalism, and which has become customary (at least for educated elites) in our own time. We saw how it can be at once a source of pride, a profound source of accomplishment and self-worth, and also a source of Continue Reading …
In our last article, we explored Charles Taylor’s discussion of a new religion that took shape in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Providential Deism. Yet, as we saw, it was not entirely new but in many respects a development and expansion of themes already expounded on by the Protestant Reformation. Where the Protestant Reformers accused Catholicism of being authoritarian, superstitious, Continue Reading …
In the last article, we saw how the Protestant Reformation challenged the premodern conception of reality, and began to put in place some of the elements we can recognize today in modern, Western-style secularism. In particular, there was a “flattening effect” when it came to time, space, and devotion. More and more, secular, ordinary time came to the forefront. The Continue Reading …