Quote: David Hume

Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.

Source: A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) Part 4 Of the sceptical and other systems of philosophy, Sect. 7 Conclusion of this book

Knowledge as a kind of belief… maybe

I was just discussing this over at FreeRatio.org. I made the claim, which seemed intuitively true to me, that knowledge (JTB+) is a kind of belief. This caused some controversy. I made this simple illustration clarify how I intuitively grasped the idea.

A flaw was discovered in the above. It implies (wrongly) that there are no true or justified things which one does not belief in. This is false. Here is an extended diagram:

Formal debate: third and last round

Link to the debate

Link to the peanet gallery viz. the thread to discuss the debate.

Wiploc’s Third Post

Deleet characterized my argument like this:

Quote:

1. God is omnipotent.

2. God is omniscient.

3. God is omnibenevolent.

4. God exists.

5. If (God is omnipotent and god is omnibenevolent and god is omniscient and god exists) then evil is nonexistent.

6. Evil exists.

7. God is essentially omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

8. Therefore, God does not exist.[/strike]

.

.

Number five is the only one I can get behind. But, hey, #5 is the one Deleet is arguing against …

Quote:

…then necessarily I have to deny (5). This is exactly what I am doing.

…so that’s cool.

Quote:

I would have thought we were [here to discuss the “real” definitions of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.]

.

.

No, I’ve already conceded that if we use other (perfectly legitimate) definitions, then the LPoE (logical problem of evil) won’t necessarily work. I’m not defending any version of the PoE but my own. So all that’s left to discuss is whether my version works.

If it bothers you that I define those words in that way, we can use other words instead. F’rinstance:

X-factor: able to do anything that doesn’t violate logic.

Y-factor: knows everything, including the future and counterfactuals.

Z-factor: totally, purely, infinitely, unconflictedly, opposed to the existence of tribbles.

In which case, the PoT (problem of tribbles) becomes this:

5. If a grilled cheese sandwich is x-factor, y-factor, and z-factor, and if the grilled cheese sandwich exists, then it follows that tribbles are do not exist.

That’s my case. It is patently unbeatable. So I can’t let myself be distracted by arguments over peripheral stuff like whether my definitions are “real.”

Quote:

It seems that Wiploc wants to force me to accept his definitions, but I don’t see why.

.

.

I want to force you to deal with my argument. We can dispense with definitions altogether, if that helps:

If thing-A is able to do anything except violate logic, and also knows everything including the future and counterfactuals, and also desires (purely, totally, infinitely, unconflictedly) the nonexistence of thing-B, then thing-A and thing-B cannot logically exist in the same universe.

Quote:

Again, it seems to me that even given this, god could still have a morally sufficient reason not to remove evil.

.

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No way, because god is limited only by logic. If he wants a taco, he can have a taco plus no evil. If he wants a chinchilla, he can have a chinchilla plus no evil, Except for evil itself, he can have anything plus no evil. If evil itself is what he wants, then he isn’t z-factor. If there’s something other than evil that he can’t have, then he isn’t x-factor. Either way, if evil exists, the tri-factored grilled cheese sandwich does not.

Quote:

If Wiploc wants to define omnibenevolence in a way that makes a morally sufficient reason impossible he should say so.

.

.

I’m telling you straight out that evil cannot exist if an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god exists. I don’t know how I can be more clear.

Any theist who wants to rationally believe in a tri-omni god is going to have to disavow one or more of those definitions.

I’m told that there is a branch of Christianity that says that god doesn’t know the future. They still call him “omnibenevolent,” but they say he was just guessing when he picked which world to create. That’s fine. That works. They don’t have a problem with the PoE, and the PoE doesn’t have a problem with them. They can even use the PoE as a tool for winning more people to their belief. They get to tell anyone who believes god is omnipotent and omnibenevolent (as I have defined those terms) that god logically cannot also be omniscient (as I have defined that term).

Other theists back away from believing that god can do anything other than violate logic. Others yet say god isn’t all that opposed to evil. Some say there is no evil. Others simply admit that their religion doesn’t make sense.

Those are the five possible relevant responses to the LPoE. Everything else is evasion, obscurantism, equivocation, or distraction.

The LPoE is the tool we use to prove that a particular kind of god cannot exist. Not letting people distract us with irrelevant debate over other possible definitions is how we hold people’s feet to the fire for long enough that they have to admit that the LPoE works, that it’s bulletproof.

Quote:

… that being’s single highest wish is to remove all evil. Maybe this is what Wiploc means with the ‘unconflictedly’ above.

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I don’t care if the god has another goal, even an equally strong goal. Free will, for instance—there’s a nice goal. But if this other goal conflicts with the goal of eliminating evil, and if it is a strong enough goal that the god acts on it as opposed to acting on his goal of not having evil, then the god is not omnibenevolent.

Quote:

Given this definition … of omnibenevolence only the greater good defense would be left. … I think the LPoE is sound and ‘bulletproof’.

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Wow! You’re my hero. Do you know how many times I’ve had this debate with people who were just too stubborn to admit the obvious?

Morally Sufficient Reason:

Quote:

[An MSR] might even be unthinkable, non-imaginable and unknowable for humans but that doesn’t matter as long as it is logically possible.

.

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There are no secret rules of logic. The only thing that logically conflicts with the absence of evil is the presence of evil. If god wants the presence of evil, then he isn’t omnibenevolent. If he wants something else but isn’t strong enough to combine that with the absence of evil, then he isn’t omnipotent. Either way, he isn’t the tri-omni god.

Deleet’s Third Post

About the structure of the argument

Wiploc writes:

Number five is the only one I can get behind. But, hey, #5 is the one Deleet is arguing against

Sorry. Bad language choice by me. Here is a fix for you:

1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent.

2. If God exists, then God is omniscient.

3. If God exists, then God is omnibenevolent.

4. God exists.

5. If (God is omnipotent and god is omnibenevolent and god is omniscient and god exists) then evil is nonexistent.

6. Evil exists.

7. If God exists, then God is essentially omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

8. Therefore, God does not exist.

Your argument could be called a reductio because you show that assuming god exists implies a contradiction (evil and no-evil, or god and no-god), or you could view it as an extended modus tollens. Either way it’s valid.

Different LPoE’s

Wiploc writes:

No, I’ve already conceded that if we use other (perfectly legitimate) definitions, then the LPoE (logical problem of evil) won’t necessarily work. I’m not defending any version of the PoE but my own. So all that’s left to discuss is whether my version works.

Okay. I’ll then just remark that Wiploc has not proved what Wiploc set out to prove viz. the debate resolution:

The logical problem of evil proves the nonexistence of tri-omni gods.

What Wiploc have proven is that:

The logical problem of evil proves the nonexistence of tri-omni gods using special definitions that need not be “good” definitions and are chosen by Wiploc.

This doesn’t strike me as very impressive.

Theists and definitions

Wiploc remarks:

Any theist who wants to rationally believe in a tri-omni god is going to have to disavow one or more of those definitions.

But I don’t there are any theists that believe in a tri-omni god as defined by Wiploc. That’s why I think Wiploc’s proof is unimpressive: It’s simply not hitting the mark.

Closing remarks

I used the possible morally sufficient reason objection against Wiploc’s logical problem of evil. He responded to that by claiming it’s against the definition of omnibenevolence i.e. that all I was doing was redefining omnibenevolence. I pointed out that his definition is probably not what is commonly meant by theists or any theist at all. Wiploc conceded this to my surprise. We both agree that his argument works against the god it was supposed to work against. I don’t think that it really hits any god a theist believes in.

There was a bit confusion, or at least I was a bit confused. I think that we ought to better discuss the debate before engaging in it next time.

I think the space limit was a problem. It turned out only to be a problem with me first post though.

With these remarks I’d like to close the debate. Thanks to Wiploc for participating and thanks to FreeRatio.org for hosting it.

The modal fallacy

This is a translation of my earlier article on the subject. Link.

The modal fallacy

By Emil Kirkegaard, Deleet.dk

This fallacy is rather common among persons who are not well versed in logic (especially modal logic). Consider these two not logically identical sentences:

I) If there exists at least one subject S that knows which outcome U situation F will have at time t1, then outcome U will necessarily happen at time t1.

II) Necessarily, if there exists at least one subject S that knows which outcome U situation F will have at time t1, then outcome U will happen at time t1.

An unlucky property of the natural language is that it does not distinguish between these two sentences and that one normally almost always uses (I) if one is not aware of the difference. This problem is actual in Danish and English and maybe other languages as well. What happens is that ‘necessary(-ily)’ gets misplaced. It gets placed in the consequence of an implication but in reality it speaks (or should speak) of the entire implication. Logically the sentences can be formalized like this:

I’) P→ □Q

II’) □(P→ Q)

Now the difference should be clear and it should also be clear that (I) is false and that (2) does not support what one normally believes that it supports. Let us consider two arguments where the first is very common among young atheists who are not well versed in logic:

Argument a

If God knows which outcome situation F will have at time t1, then the situation will necessarily have the outcome he knows it will have. If the situation necessarily will have the outcome, then all humans who are involved in situation F have no free will in F. Moreover, if God knows the outcome of all situations, then no man has a free will.

The argument is a little complicated, let us just look at the first part of it:

1. God knows which outcome situation F will have at time t1. (premise or hypothesis)

2. If God knows which outcome situation F will have at time t1, then the situation will necessarily have that outcome. (premise)

3. The situation will necessarily have that outcome. (1, 2)

4. If the situation will necessarily have that outcome, then no human in the situation F has a free will.

5. No human in situation F has a free will. (3, 4).

[snip a bit about the Danish language not having a future case]. Note that ‘necessarily’ will typically not be placed in the start of a sentence in natural language like one does in philosophy to reduce ambiguity (cf. (3)). The argument (a) can me formalized like this:

1′. P

2′. P→ □Q

3′. □Q

4′. □Q→S

5′. S

The argument is valid but the problem is that (2) is false. Defenders of the argument or similar will typically argue (2) by noting that if someone knows something, then it is necessarily true, because otherwise they would not know it. This is also false in this specific formulation. That whatever one believes is true is a necessary condition for knowledge (cf. JTB+) but from here it does not follow that it is necessarily true.

Remember that a necessary truth is true in all worlds and therefore it follows that if a person knows something then that something is true in all logically possible world. But this is false because there is a logically possible world where Earth is flat but still I know that Earth is round.

Recall sentence (I) and (II) from earlier. The analogue sentences for knowledge are these:

I”) If someone knows p, then p is necessarily true.

II”) Necessarily, if someone knows p. then p is true.

(I”) is false and (II”) is true. But for argument (a) to be sound, then it is required that (I”) is true. If we substitute (I”) with (II”), then the argument is no longer valid because □Q doesn’t follow from (1) and (2).

Let’s consider another argument.

Argument b

If my mother knows which education I will choose after high school, then I will necessarily choose that education. My mother knows which education I will choose after high school, therefore I will necessarily choose that education.

The we can again spot the problem where ‘necessarily’ is misplaced. It is true when it speaks of the entire implication but false then it only speaks of the consequence. If this argument was sound then it would prove that I cannot change my mind, but this is false.

References

An awesome source by professor Norman Swartz (Indiana University Ph.D., 1971 (History and Philosophy of Science)):

www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/modal_fallacy.htm

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy about the modal fallacy in divine foreknowledge.

www.iep.utm.edu/f/foreknow.htm#section6

The Fallacy Files about modal fallacies in general. There is a subpage about the specific fallacy I have in mind.

www.fallacyfiles.org/modalfal.html

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy about modal logic. They mention the fallacy just before the section on deontic logic.

plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-modal/

Formal debate with Wiploc: Second round

Wiploc’s second post

I love these debates. My sincere thanks to FRDB, to the moderators, to the peanut gallery, and to Deleet.

I completely concede that if, as Deleet suggests, we change all of my definitions to mean other things, then the LPoE (logical problem of evil) would fail. It would fail dramatically. It would be just stupid.

Deleet can concede that if we don’t change my definitions, then the LPoE is bulletproof. I’d like to see that concession.

Or I’d like to see an on-point dispute of the case I made in my opening post: Does Deleet think that my version of the LPoE can be disputed on its own terms? Elsewhere, Deleet recently said the validity of an argument should be evaluated independently “of the truth value of its premises.” That’s what I’d like to see here. If Deleet accepted my definitions, would he have to accept my conclusion?

If Deleet doesn’t like the terms “omnipotent,” “omniscient,” and, “omnibenevolent,” he is free to change them to x-factor, y-factor, and z-factor. We aren’t here to discuss the “real” definitions of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. I readily concede that many people use them differently than I do. What we’re here to discuss is just exactly this:

If something

  • were able to do anything that didn’t violate logic, and
  • knew everything, including the future and counterfactuals, and
  • totally, purely, infinitely, unconflictedly, absolutely opposed the existence of evil, then

could there be any evil in a universe in which that something existed?

Morally sufficient reason:

Deleet suggests that god might allow evil for moral reasons. There are two ways that could happen. Either god just doesn’t mind evil, or god has to make some kind of tradeoff (as when a dentist gives you some unhappiness now in order to prevent a greater unhappiness later). In the first case, god isn’t omnibenevolent. In the second case, god isn’t all-powerful (an all-powerful dentist could prevent one unhappiness without causing another).

The first case involves the implicit claim that evil can be good. That’s obscurantist nonsense, a linguistic impossibility. We can dismiss that out of hand.

The second case deserves a closer look, if only because many people are unclear on the subject. Let’s say that god wants two things, X and Y. If god is omnipotent, he can have both at once unless they are logically incompatible. What is logically incompatible with X? Only not X (~X). If X is the absence of evil, then ~X is the presence of evil. Even an omnipotent god cannot have both of those. But an omnibenevolent god doesn’t want both of those. And an omnipotent god can have X plus any Y that isn’t ~X; he can have the absence of evil along with anything that isn’t the presence of evil. That’s what omnipotence is.

Conclusion:

In my opening post, I listed the five relevant responses to the LPoE:

1. God isn’t really omnipotent.
2. God isn’t really omniscient.
3. God isn’t really omnibenevolent.
4. Evil doesn’t exist.
5. Belief in tri-omni gods is contra-logical.

Deleet’s redefinitions amount to the first three of those: God isn’t really all that strong, knowing, and benevolent. In other words, the LPoE is correct; if god were stronger, more knowing, and more benevolent, evil could not exist.

Deleet’s other purpose defense splits the difference between 1 and 3: either god isn’t that powerful, or he isn’t that benevolent. Either way, the LPoE is still bulletproof.

—–

Deleet’s Second Post

Confessions

Wiploc wants to talk about confessions. He confesses that the LPoE doesn’t work if we change all the definitions. I think that’s a bit too much. It might work with a new definition and it might not. I’d just say that it doesn’t necessarily work with new definitions. I suppose that the amount of changed definitions changed makes it more improbable that the LPoE is still sound.

Wiploc wants me to accept that:

Deleet can concede that if we don’t change my definitions, then the LPoE is bulletproof. I’d like to see that concession.

I’ll have to answer no. I think even with Wiploc’s definitions the possible morally sufficient reason (MSR) objection works. Wiploc writes:

That’s what I’d like to see here. If Deleet accepted my definitions, would he have to accept my conclusion?

The answer is no. This is because all the premises are not definitions. I’m interpreting Wiploc’s argument like this:

1. God is omnipotent.

2. God is omniscient.

3. God is omnibenevolent.

4. God exists.

5. If (God is omnipotent and god is omnibenevolent and god is omniscient and god exists) then evil is nonexistent.

6. Evil exists.

7. God is essentially omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

8. Therefore, God does not exist.

Premises (1) through (3) are the definitions Wiploc is talking about. (4) is not a definition but I am committed to not deny it per the debate parameters. I’m also committed not to deny (7) per the debate parameters. This leaves us with (6) and (5). I’m not going to deny (6), so if I want to claim that the LPoE is unsound; has a false or unjustified premise, then necessarily I have to deny (5). This is exactly what I am doing.

Discussion of definitions

Wiploc writes that:

We aren’t here to discuss the “real” definitions of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.

I would have thought we were. It seems that Wiploc wants to force me to accept his definitions, but I don’t see why. It’s not in the debate parameters though it seems that we should have discussed this beforehand.

Another question

Wiploc asks that if god is punk omnipotent and omniscient and:

totally, purely, infinitely, unconflictedly, absolutely opposed the existence of evil, then

Again, it seems to me that even given this, god could still have a morally sufficient reason not to remove evil. If Wiploc wants to define omnibenevolence in a way that makes a morally sufficient reason impossible he should say so. One way of doing so would be to define it like this: if a being is omnibenevolent, then that being’s single highest wish is to remove all evil. Maybe this is what Wiploc means with the ‘unconflictedly’ above.

Given this definition (or rather a characterization based upon a definition) of omnibenevolence only the greater good defense would be left. I think however that the greater good objection is faulty. So given this specific definition discussed I think the LPoE is sound and ‘bulletproof’.

A morally sufficient reason

About my writings about a possible morally sufficient reason Wiploc writes:

There are two ways that could happen. Either god just doesn’t mind evil, or god has to make some kind of tradeoff (as when a dentist gives you some unhappiness now in order to prevent a greater unhappiness later).

I’m not granting this disjunction. Why are these two ways the only possible? Remember that the reason need only be logically possible not plausible. It might even be unthinkable, non-imaginable and unknowable for humans but that doesn’t matter as long as it is logically possible.

Wiploc notes that whatever the MSF might be it has to be contradictory with evil in some way viz. make it logically impossible for whatever God wants to be actual and evil to be absent at the same time. This I grant. All this does however is set a condition for what reason a god might have, it does not tell us whether there is a possible MSF or not.

Formel debat på FRDB: The logical problem of evil

Jeg deltager i en formel debat på FRDB. URL:

www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=259224

Her er min modstanders første indlæg og mit svar:

Wiploc’s first post

The Logical Problem of Evil: If god exists, why is there evil? Doesn’t the existence of evil prove that god does not exist? The answer is yes. If evil exists, the tri-omni god does not exist.

Tri-Omni: A tri-omni god is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and omnibenevolent (all good-wishing).

Omnipotence: A truly omnipotent god could do anything, including contralogical things like making square circles. But you can’t draw logical conclusions about what would happen if logic didn’t work. So this discussion is about a punk-omnipotent god: one who can do anything except violate logic. And, from here on, that’s what I shall mean by “omnipotent.”

The absence of evil is not a square circle. An omnipotent god could prevent evil if he wanted to.

Omnibenevolence: An omnibenevolent god would choose to eliminate evil if he could. If there were a god both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, he both could and would eliminate evil. There would be no evil.

Therefore, if evil exists, it follows that the omnipotent omnibenevolent god does not exist.

Omniscience: We throw in omniscience so nobody can say, “Well, what if god was that powerful, and was that benevolent, but was too stupid or ignorant to realize that evil exists? (What, for instance, if Jehovah assumed circumcision would cure all our problems?)

An omniscient god knows everything. He knows the future; knows counter-factuals (what if Hitler had died as a child?); knew at the time of creation (per Plantinga) every choice that would ever be made in every possible and impossible world. (Which means that, if he chose to create this world, he did so knowing that it would contain evil.)

Tri-omni gods, then, are omniscient, omnibenevolent, andomnipotent: they know all about evil, want to prevent evil, and are able to do so. If such a god existed, there would be no evil. If evil exists, there is no such god. Evil and the tri-omni god cannot logically coexist.

Benevolence is the desire for good, the desire that there not be evil. In the case of omnibenevolence, this desire is total, infinite, unalloyed, unconflicted, on the front burner.

Good and evil: I hardly care how these are defined. Given the definitions already established above, it is clear that the tri-omni god cannot exist if evil exists. But, nonetheless, here’s my understanding: good is anything that causes happiness; evil is anything that causes unhappiness. Stubbing your toe is both good and evil if it makes one person happy and another person unhappy.

Evil is distinguishable from sin. Sin is doubting or disobeying god. In the Adam and Eve story, evil is the punishment for sin. Sin that causes unhappiness is moral evil.

Those are just the definitions that I know. I’m not wedded to them. If Deleet, says, “What if god wanted to give people free will more than he wanted people to be happy?” that will mean that, by definition, god is not omnibenevolent. But, if he wants, we can change the definition. We can say that free will and happiness are both good. Then, god can have both of those desires and still be omnibenevolent. Of course, if those desires conflict, then god isn’t omnipotent—an omnipotent god could have both free will and happiness.

It hardly matters how we define good and evil, so long as they are opposites. If good were blue, and evil is other colors, a benevolent god would want things to be blue. An omnibenevolent god would want everything to be blue. The existence of other colors would prove that one or more of the following statements is true:

1. God isn’t omnibenevolent (he doesn’t want everything to be blue).

2. God isn’t omnipotent (he isn’t able to make everything blue).

3. God isn’t omniscient (he isn’t smart/knowing/wise enough to exploit his omnipotence so as to achieve omni-blueness).

So the LPoE (logical problem of evil) is bulletproof almost regardless of how good and evil are defined.

Five relevant responses to the LPoE: There are many irrelevant responses to the LPoE (logical problem of evil), like, “Atheists suck!” or like, “If god doesn’t exist, then morality doesn’t exist either.” But there are only five relevant responses:

1. God isn’t really omnipotent.

2. God isn’t really omniscient.

3. God isn’t really omnibenevolent.

4. Evil doesn’t really exist.

5. Belief in tri-omni gods is contra-logical.

Each of these “defenses” amounts to a concession that the LPoE is correct. The art, then, of “defending” against the LPoE consists entirely of not realizing what you have conceded. Or at least of not letting your audience realize it.

Thus, Plantinga says god is omnibenevolent, but follows that with the deadpan question, “Why would you believe that a good god would be good to you?” (Yes, I’m paraphrasing.) Thus, he claims god is “omnibenevolent,” but then he un-defines “benevolence” so his claim becomes meaningless. Thus, he concedes #3 without recognizing the concession.

All “defenses” against the LPoE are based on this sort of equivocation.

Conclusion: If a god were omnipotent, he could eliminate evil. If a god were omnibenevolent, he would want to eliminate evil. If he were omniscient, he would be smart enough to eliminate evil. If he were all three, there would be no evil.

Therefore: if evil exists, there is no tri-omni god.

Deleet’s first post

Intro

I would like to thank the people who make this debate possible and most of all my opponent, Wiploc, for debating me. I have more objections than the ones in this post but the limited amount of space restricts me from posting them until later. My position is that the LPoE is unsound and the EPoE is sound.

Problems, evil problems!

I would like to distinguish between the two different kinds of evil problems. The first one, which is the one this debate is about, is called the logical one. This is because that the problem, which is actually an argument, states that evil and a tri-onni god are impossible together; they cannot both exist at the same time. The logical problem of evil (LPoE) is committed to claiming that the set of propositions hereunder are inconsistent:

Set 1

1. God is omnipotent

2. God is omnibenevolent

3. God is omniscient.

4. Evil exists.

5. God exists.

The argument then goes that (1) through (4) are true and therefore (5) is false. In other words the LPoE is committed to this implication:

A. If (God is omnipotent and god is omnibenevolent and god is omniscient and god exists) then evil is nonexistent. [(1∧2∧3∧4)→ ¬ 5]

The evidential problem of evil is not committed to (A) but only to making the claim that (roughly) (1) through (4) implies that (5) is very probably false.

The question of this debate is then: is (A) true? Before I shall attempt to answer that however I will discuss the three attributes attributed to God.

Omniscience

This is, I think, the least controversial attribute. By that I mean that it is the least controversial attribute in terms of what it means. Wiploc thinks that omniscience means that one “knows everything”. I prima facie agree with this. Wiploc though believes that this implies that one knows what choices people will make before they make them. This may be impossible so I’ll just reword omniscience to: one knows everything that is possible to know. I hope that Wiploc will accept this.

Omnipotence

Wiploc distinguishes between true omnipotent and punk omnipotence. The first includes the ability to “defy logic” and the second does not. The second is characterized (roughly) like this: one can do everything that is logically possible.

I used to be in favor of a such characterization of punk omnipotence but I have changed my mind. There is nothing logically impossible about traveling north of the north pole yet God presumably cannot do this. This is because logical possibility is not the only condition an action have to meet in order to be realizable. There is also what I call environmental possibility; being in position to do so.[i][ii]

Otherwise I accept Wiploc’s use of punk omnipotence instead of true omnipotence.

Omnibenevolence

This one, I think, is the most controversial attribute. This is because it is not clear what a being who is omnibenevolent wills. The prefix ‘omni-‘ simply means ‘all-‘. So we have to look up ‘benevolence':

1. Desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness: to be filled with benevolence toward one’s fellow creatures.

2. An act of kindness; a charitable gift.

3. An inclination to perform kind, charitable acts.

4. A kindly act.

5. A gift given out of generosity.

6. Disposition to do good.

7. An inclination to do kind or charitable acts.

8. An act intending or showing kindness and good will.

Etc. [iii]

As we can see per the above it is not clear that ‘benevolence’ is the desire to remove evil. Perhaps something else is meant by an omnibenevolent person. Note that ‘do good’ can maybe be interpreted as ‘remove evil’ but it’s prima facie not very clear and needs a further and maybe implausible analysis.

Wiploc thinks that benevolence implies the will to remove evil, but this is not what the dictionary says. I’ll go with the dictionary until Wiploc can argue otherwise. Without ‘benevolence’ implying the will to remove evil, then (A) is false and thus the LPoE unsound.

A possible morally sufficient reason to not eliminate evil

The strongest objection to the LPoE (but not the EPoE) is to claim that there is a possible morally sufficient reason as to why God has not removed evil. If there is such a reason, then even an omnibenevolent being such as God does not want to remove evil if he could:

B. There is a possible morally sufficient reason for god not to remove evil.

If (B) is true, then (A) is false. So the LPoE depends on the falseness of (B) to work viz. if (B) is true, then (A) is false and the LPoE is unsound.

So the question now is: is (B) true?

Possibility

How do we determine whether something is possible? First off we must ask: what kind of possibility are we talking about? We’re talking about logical possibility viz. the non-contradictory nature of something. The most widespread answer to the question above is conceivability. It goes roughly like this: If I can conceive of p being true without discovering a contradiction, then p is logically possible.

However I don’t think this is a good method because it gives wrong answers; if we later discover that something is logically impossible, then it was not possible before even though we could conceive of it without contradiction. Second I don’t think there is any reason to adopt this method.

I propose that we simply assume logical possibility instead of “making up an excuse” to believe that p is possible.

Given either of the “methods” above then (B) is true. This is because that I can conceive of there being a morally sufficient reason and so can others.[iv]

And so if (B) is true, then (A) is false and the LPoE is unsound.

i Such a characterization is dicussed in Omnipotence, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. URL: plato.stanford.edu/entries/omnipotence/

ii See my earlier paper on the subject of contradictory divine attributes The incompatibility of omnipotence and omniscience. URL: deleet.dk/2008/10/23/the-incompatibility-of-omnipotence-and-omniscience/

iii I found these at dictionary.com in a search for ‘benevolence’. I have omitted some irrelevant entries. URL: dictionary.reference.com/browse/benevolence

iv See for instance the ones in this article. Also see Platinga’s book mentioned in the article. URL: www.iep.utm.edu/e/evil-log.htm