Philosophy: March 2006 Archives

In a discussion I was in recently, someone made the common claim that it would be morally abominable for God to have the ability to save all people but only in fact save some. If God has a plan of providence, as Christianity traditionally has said, and that plan includes exactly what will happen down to the level of what sparrows will eat on any given day (as Jesus seems to me to state in the sermon on the mount), what evil kings will do in their pride in order to punish God's people (as the prophets seem to me to state), and which people will be counted among those who believe (as the book of Acts seems to me to state), then if it also includes which people won't believe Christian thinks God is morally abominable, whether that leads to an eternal hell or just annihilation. The claim is something like that, anyway.

There's a lot that could be said about this claim, and I don't have the time to treat it comprehensively, but I find the move to be interesting given another common philosophical claim that I've seen made against the most common Christian view historically on the atonement, i.e. penal substitution. The claim is often made that it would be wrong for God to use Jesus, an innocent, to take the sins of humanity, because then we're not really being atoned for. It's true that someone is dying for our sins, but it's not justice according to this objection, because no one is getting what they deserve. Jesus is wrongly killed, and we're unjustly not getting what we deserve. How could a just God allow that?

What's interesting about these two objections to what I consider to be standard Christian views is that they can't both be right. If it's wrong to allow Jesus to die for people and thus have the people not get what they deserve, then it can't be wrong to allow people to go to hell when they could be saved. If it's wrong to allow people to go to hell when they can be saved, then it can't be wrong to allow Jesus to die in the place of sinners who would otherwise deserve to suffer eternally in hell. Those who find themselves attracted to both objections face a serious inconsistency. I can't even imagine how the same motivational structure could produce both objections unless they stem just from the motivation just to undermine Christianity at whatever cost, even if it's the cost of inconsistency.

The 27th Philosophers' Carnival is at Heaven Tree.

Update: I'm now getting back to looking through the Carnival, and I found that Mathetes has an excellent summary of Parmenides' argument that there is just one, unchanging thing. I wanted to preserve a link to it so I can go back to it later if I teach Parmenides again. It's a clear presentation of the argument, and it seeks to motivate Parmenides' strange claims rather than just shoot them down as stupid. The one thing I wish it had was an evaluation of the claims, but I'd rather see someone trying to motivate them and not criticizing them than someone trying to shoot them down without indicating why someone might have found them plausible to begin with.

In a post about the consistency of maintaining equal rights for men and women while calling women to live decently , Laurence Thomas raises some further issues about a moral power of women that men don't have. He says that, because of the difference between a man raping a woman and a woman raping a man, women have a moral power that men don't have. This is a curious statement, and I can see what he might be getting at, but I'd need to see a little more to be sure. Since he didn't enable comments on that one post, I'll raise my questions here.

I agree with the claim that rape of a man by a woman and rape of a woman by a man are not equivalent. There's clearly a kind of rape that a woman cannot do to a man that a man can do to a woman, and that is to have sex when the other party is not aroused at all. There are purely biological reasons for this. There can be sexual assault of some sort, but it won't be outright rape of a man by a woman unless he is aroused enough that the act can even take place. That's a real disanalogy, and I think it has severe consequences for how we think about rape of a man by a woman as opposed to rape of a woman by a man. Men can rape women in ways that women can't rape men.

I'm not entirely sure that Laurence's next step is correct. He points out that a sexual act can be rape even if the woman being raped enjoys it or desires it at some level. This is the very heart of what sometimes happens in date rape cases. She does not consent to sex. He presses and succeeds. This can happen even if on some level she does desire the sexual interaction, as long as she doesn't rationally consent. This is especially the case when she's unable to give rational consent due to what's commonly called the date rape drug or even just a high blood alcohol level. Her desire is perfectly compatible with lack of consent, and it is indeed rape in such cases. But Laurence doesn't apply the same reasoning to men, and I'm not fully clear on why.

Several posts at Prosblogion might be of interest to those who are more philosophically inclined. Matthew points out a response by Alvin Plantinga to the Dover Intelligent Design decision. Basically he points out that this judge has used his judicial authority to settle ongoing philosophical debates by defining the answer into the terms being used. I think I agree with everything Plantinga says, but I think he's too nice. This judge just accepts the philosophical claims of the scientific orthodoxy, even if that scientific orthodoxy is philosophically uninformed on most of the important points. His ignorance of important philosophical distinctions would lead to a failing grade in any good philosophy course, and yet he's the one who decides that this clearly philosophical argument is religion. I'd go so far as to say that the judge's decision is anti-intellectual, largely because he couldn't make such a decision and say the things he said without deliberately ignoring all kinds of important distinctions that anyone honestly considering the facts should bear in mind. Anyway, Plantinga says what I want to say and probably a lot better, so stop reading me and read him.

Also at Prosblogion are two posts in the general area of God's atemporality and omniscience, human freedom, and the character of time. Kevin Timpe defends divine timelessness from the objection that it doesn't allow libertarian free will. I'm no libertarian, but I could never see how these two views are inconsistent, and the comments that follow raise a number of other interesting issues, including some philosophy of time. That thread has been the main reason I haven't posted anything here since just after midnight two days ago. One comment I was writing got long enough that I turned it into a whole post on the supposed inconsistency of divine timelessness, omniscience, and a tensed view of time. There are several ways out of the argument, including my preferred non-tensed view of time, but there are things someone who holds all three views can say to avoid contradiction, so I don't think there's really an inconsistency. Anyway, since I haven't been writing much here, I thought I'd direct you to what I've been writing over there.

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