Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Problem Of Pain II

The argument in the preceding post was not: God (fore)knows our actions, therefore our actions are unfree. It was:

God (assuming that He exists etc) creates everything, including our dispositions, motivations, mental and physical abilities, will-power, environmental interactions etc, thus causes our actions, therefore cannot judge our actions in the way that we can and do judge ourselves and each other;
caused actions are free if they are unconstrained;
uncaused actions would be random, therefore not morally significant.

Such arguments are presented on a Poul Anderson Appreciation blog because Poul Anderson's fiction addresses these issues. In "The Problem of Pain," i.e., Anderson's short story, not CS Lewis' work of apologetics with the same title, the Christian Peter Berg and his unbelieving colleague discuss both the problem of evil and the problem of pain.

The Problem of Evil
Why does God allow (I would say cause) moral evil? Berg thinks that Christian free will apologetics is a perfect answer whereas the Ythrian response, that God allows wickedness so that we can gain honor by fighting it, is weak.

The Problem of Pain
"'Why does a merciful God permit [I would say cause] undeserved agony?'"
- Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), p. 46.

"'Why? What possible end is served? It's not adequate to declare that we'll receive an unbounded reward after we die and therefore it makes no difference whather a life was gutsy or grisly. That's no explanation.'" (p. 47)

My answer is that no end is served because we evolved and were not created. Pain exists because it has survival value but this does not prevent it from often continuing long after it has served that function. Anderson presents an excellent alien response to the human belief in a hereafter. When asked whether he believes that the spirit outlives the body, Enherrian of the Ythrian New Faith, whose daughter has just drowned, snaps, "'How could it?...Why should it?'" (p. 38) (Despite this, we later learn that the Old Faith did involve a hereafter with a deity.)

Berg wonders whether the Ythrian response to the problem of pain is better:

"'...at last He comes after us. Our noblest moment is when we, knowing He is irresistible, give Him a good chase, a good fight.
"'Then he wins honor.'" (p. 48)

Berg's colleague, the narrator, says:

"'I looked into the abyss once, and saw nothing, and haven't looked since. You keep looking. Which of us is the braver?'" (ibid.)

The narrator's look into the abyss is another of Anderson's many untold stories.

Berg's priests tell him "'...to deny a false creed and to acknowledge a mystery.'" But he thinks that, "'Neither instruction feels right.'" (ibid.)

I would say: acknowledge mysteries but keep looking and do not call alien creeds false. The narrator points out that the New Faith has been held for centuries by millions of beings and that it solves some paradoxes, if not all.

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