Sunday, January 09, 2005

Ed Yetman on Chess and Evil

Hello Bill,

I finally got to your blog and found your plug. Thanks! Every little bit helps. I would have got to it sooner, but I am not yet free of academia; as the fall semester was closing I was forced by economic circumstance to teach a course in Asian Religions, about which I know bupkis. Consequently I found myself too overwhelmed to check your site until now. As you have linked with the Internet Chess Club, why not put up a link for the Yetman Brothers?

BV: It shall be done.

I am posting over at about various chess issues: time controls, prize funds, descriptive/algebraic, etc. I use the term "pseudo-futurism" to describe the unthinking adherents of these things; especially those knotheaded utopians who stupidly assert that we could get more people to play chess "if only we make it easier for beginners to read the notation." Smart enough to play chess but too dumb to read descriptive!

I am working an essay on descriptive notation that would touch on certain philisophical issues such as human community, human reasoning, and aesthetics. Would you like to post it?

BV: Yes, either here or at my main site. But remember the famous saying, "Brevity is the soul of blog."

I also wanted to comment on the first posting for January 3, I believe. A writer is asking about the tsunami death toll and how theists relate this to the question of God's existence. I go over this every semester in my Phil of Religion course. I think the objection is very weak, even nonsensical. I always ask my students to show me the evil in the event. Sure, lots of people died; but where is the evil? Mankind assumes that anything that makes human beings suffer is evil; why?

I argue that seeing evil NECESSARILY in human pain is a sign of anthropocentrism, even severe egoism. The Israelis hanged Adolf Eichmann and no one asks if his suffering was evil, but we always judge the Holocaust as evil. The difference is human volition. Unless we can subscribe some direct evil volition to any deity I fail to see how tsunamis, earthquakes, and so on can be described as evil. Enough said.

BV: I think what you are claiming is that all evil is moral evil, that nothing can be called evil unless it is the result of free agency. Thus you are denying that what many call natural evils are in fact evil. Top philosophers of religion like Alvin Plantinga, however, use 'evil' to cover both natural and moral evil. (See his God, Freedom, and Evil, pp. 7-9) Now you are free to use 'evil' in your restricted way. If you do this, I'll give you your use of 'evil' and introduce the word 'bad' or some other word to cover things like congenital defects, bubonic plague, tsunamis, etc. How is the existence of widespread badness consistent with the existence of the 'tri-omni' God? Why wouldn't an omniqualified deity so have arranged things that there be much less badness?

I don't think anyone would claim that human pain is necessarily evil. Some pains are instrumentally good, e.g., the pain of medical treatment for cancer. There are plenty of other examples. But certains kinds and amounts of pain are surely bad, if you don't want to call them evil. Why are things so badly arranged if the tri-omni God exists? Wouldn't such a God have rigged up a better world?

I am a theist myself, so I don't take moral or natural evil to prove the nonexistence of God. My point is that both kinds of evil present a challenge to the theist. If you deny that natural evils present a challenge to the theist, then I disagree with you.

Say hello to Victor Reppert for me.

Ditat Deus, Ed Y.