January 31, 2006

Theodicy – introduction

Posted in non-fiction, philosophy, religion, theodicy at 7:51 am by Jerry

So, it looks like a theme is developing throughout a few posts here. I want you to know that my blog posts will not all be about evil (I said they wouldn’t all be about evil, I didn’t say they wouldn’t all be evil).

Maybe this theme has developed because of what I’ve been reading lately. I’m reading Evil in Modern Thoughtan alternative history of philosophy by Susan Neiman (copyright 2002, but I’m reading the 2004 paperback print with a new preface by the author). The book is amazing! I’ve gone through it once and now I’m going through all my underlining and comments throughout the pages.

In Neiman’s introduction, she clarifies her intentions:

“Since I do not think an intrinsic property of evil can be defined, I am, rather, concerned with tracing what evil does to us.” p.9.

I’m not much of an Immanuel Kant follower, but he’s communicated some interesting thoughts on the relationship between virtue and happiness. Neiman explains:

“In Kant’s view we must believe that all our efforts to be virtuous will be completed by a Being who controls the natural world in ways we do not. We have no evidence that such a Being exists. But only such a Being could provide the systematic links between happiness and virtue that reason demands. Reason needs such belief in order to maintain its committments… ..How else can we face a life that increasingly shows us how rarely the world reveals the connections between happiness and virtue that reason demands?” p.66.

“Rather than encouraging morality or holiness with incentives, such processes dilute and debase them. Goodness is genuine only if done for goodness’ sake. Attempts to give extrinsic reasons for virtue do not merely weaken virtue; they destroy its very essence.” p.70.

“..instead of knowledge of the future, God gave us hope. Kant turned this thought into one of his greater arguments: if we knew that God existed, freedom and virtue would disappear. It’s an act of Providence that the nature of Providence will forever remain uncertain… ..Our very skepticism is a providential gift. What binds the real and the rational together must be so fragile that it will seem miraculous–and on occasion the miracle occurs. As with any other miracle, it takes something like faith to perceive it.” p.327.

Stay tuned for “Theodicy – Part l.”

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