Thursday, November 17, 2016

Second-order theodicies

What may be the two the best theodicies can be consolidated under a single principle: second-order goods.

What are second-order relations? For instance, you can't die unless you were alive. Jacob can't be Abraham's grandson unless he was Isaac's son. 

Even an omnipotent God can't produce a second-order effect directly. For instance, God can create Jacob ex nihilo, but God can't make Jacob Abraham's grandson if Abraham and Isaac never existed. 

Or take a second-order evil. Suppose I embezzle company funds, then lie to cover up my embezzlement. I can't lie about my embezzlement unless I was guilty of embezzlement. 

Take an example of a second-order good. I can't forgive someone unless I've been wronged. I can't be forgiven unless I've wronged someone. 

i) Soul-making

Soul-making virtues are second-order goods. They presume the existence of first-order natural or moral evils. 

Suppose it's better to be a redeemed creature than a sinless creature. If so, that's a second-order good. 

ii) Domino effect

To take an example, some folks marry people they've known for years. But in other cases, they meet by chance. Some people meet their future spouse because they just happen to be at a particular place at a particular time. Had they gone to the same place at a different time, or gone to a different place at the same time, they would have missed connections. 

If you were to change a single variable in the past, that could throw it off. And many different individual variables could have the same disruptive effect. Had the recent past been even slightly different, they might end up meeting a different future spouse, and making a life with that person. A different forking path. A different family tree. 

Suppose the weatherman forecast sunny weather, so you didn't dress for rain. But there's a brief rain shower, forcing you to take cover in a bookstore, where you bump into your future spouse. 

It may be little things like that. Or it may be big things. Take the Holocaust. About 6 million European Jews perished in the Holocaust.

However, one side-effect of the Holocaust was to create a new Jewish Diaspora. There are Jews living in Israel or America who wouldn't exist if their parents or grandparents hadn't fled Europe, either in anticipation of the Final Solution, or as blighted survivors.

That's a second-order consequence of the Holocaust. They live because some of their Jewish ancestors died. (Indeed, were murdered.)

So there are tradeoffs. The Holocaust is a paradigm evil, yet there are resultant goods that wouldn't have occurred apart from that paradigm evil. 

There is no best possible world. There is no single world that combines all the goods of different possible worlds. There might be a best possible multiverse, but not a best possible world–in the sense of one actual timeline to the exclusion of others. 

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