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The Problem of Good


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Initial post: Nov 29, 2009 9:24:26 AM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2009 7:24:35 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2009 6:57:59 AM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2009 6:08:39 PM PST
seeker,

I don't know if I'm so optimistic to say that goodness prevails. But who ever suggested that what goodness there is can or should be explained by evolution? I never suggested such a thing. It is good that we both have livelihoods and warm abodes. It is true that evolution is responsible for homo sapiens, who are smart enough to develop a monetary system and build warm abodes, but the specific good we have realized has to do with our actions. It is good that the Cold War is over, but that had to do with the actions of people, not evolution. So I'm not sure what you're suggesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2009 9:28:09 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 9:07:46 AM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 1:29:43 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 6:32:13 PM PST
seeker,

You ask why do we do good. It has sufficed as an answer for philosophers for millenia that we do good because it is good (at least for those who actually do it). This was even a sufficient answer for Aquinas. The first principle of practical reason for him was the good was to be done and evil avoided. He thought even the atheist understood this.

I have no problem with you putting moral imperatives and normative arguments within the context of theism. I would expect any theist to do this to some extent. But to raise artificial problems that supposedly are unique problems for the atheist is simply fallacious reasoning.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 7:12:55 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2009 7:36:28 PM PST
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Posted on Dec 1, 2009 8:08:16 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 8:06:49 AM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 5:33:19 PM PST
seeker,

To say that we do good because it is the good does not imply that we must do the good. Socrates/Plato had the view that one must do what one understands is good, but Aristotle disagreed. So I might understand that, say, giving to charity is good, and yet decide not to do so. But that doesn't mean that doing good is an insufficient explanation of the charity giver's motivation.

God for Aquinas enters the picture with respect to the question of why there is a good, but this is different from the question of why someone does the good. Again, his view was that the principle that one ought to do the good is universal. Even the atheist understands the principle.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 5:46:30 PM PST
Paul,

If you want to believe that in giving to charity I am really doing the will of God, and that atheism implies nihilism, that's fine with me. I don't find any basis for such a position. Nihilism isn't an option for beings of our sort with needs, interests, desires, most of which are shared much of the time. And selfless love is built into us by our evolutionary past. It is not simply humans that display this.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 6:53:38 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2009 7:55:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 2, 2009 7:57:48 PM PST
Amar says:
Richard,

Here's an article titled " We may be born with an urge to help", which you might find interesting, but not the God-obsessed and wayward thinking Tweedledum and Tweedledee... Sometimes I wonder why you even bother...

It talks about how empathy and goodness are present in young children as early as 18 months old and its evolutionary implications for a "shared intentionality" underlying our social living. It concludes by saying, "Warfare is ultimately not a denial of the human capacity for cooperation, but merely the most destructive expression of it."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01human.html?pagewanted=2&em

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 6:10:25 AM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 9:08:53 AM PST
Amar says:
Seeker,

Thanks for the lecture, but no, I don't need it. Or your ad hominems.

"May I suggest that in the absence of reasonable beliefs that align with the movement towards this good, i.e., God, then you may be missing something of critical importantance."

For me to consider this seriously, you must, a priori, prove that God exists independent of human thought; I have not seen anyone do that here.

The philosophers here are talking about a belief in God for "prudential or practical" reasons, and not for "evidentiary or theoretical" reasons. Zillions of words have been written why there should be a God, but that's no evidence for His existence.

And if I have a way to understand what I observe without a God postulate, I am going to. You may not, but I will. Unless you can PROVE otherwise. Which you are simply incapable of. It's a leap of faith without that. And I have no quarrel with your faith as long as you acknowledge so.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 9:51:09 AM PST
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Posted on Dec 3, 2009 3:37:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2009 3:40:33 PM PST
Amar says:
Why wouldn't you, if you want to impress everyone here with your claim that God exists?

I thought you wanted me to believe that God exists separately; how else can you show that without evidence? Existence always precedes evidence.
Otherwise, it's called invention. Existence without evidence is an invention.

Sadness resides in me, or in other living creatures, and has no separate existence independent of me or you...

Are you now saying that God is another one of our emotions or feelings? If you are, then we are in total agreement...!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 4:34:55 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 5:43:38 PM PST
Amar says:
Don't give me that "empirometric science and ontology" BS, Seeker... If you do, then you will be guilty of committing the same sin as the atheists you claim are committing.

I thought you were talking about God and His existence, and now you want to talk about what all the philosophers speak of. This is kind of "funny", too.

Which one you want to talk about, Seeker? If it is the latter, I have neither the interest nor the competence... I have long ago switched to the new way of verifying what I want to believe. Philosophers belong to the realm of the historical unless they can be proven right.

So, make up your mind: you want to talk about "existence" or "being"?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 5:58:42 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 6:00:54 PM PST
Seeker,

I was simply explaining the fact that God does not need to be brought into the explanation of why we do good. This is not to affirm or deny that the good depends for its existence on God. But there simply is no argument from the motivation of doing good to God. If you want in some way to superadd God to that motivation (and I don't see how) then fine, but it isn't necessary.

Now you are right that Aquinas believed that in some manner when we act for the good we act for God. But this is not to say that God enters into the motivation or the intention of the act. It is simply to say that God is objectively our final cause for Aquinas. Take a look at Aquinas's theory of action in the ST.

Take an analogy. Let's say that I have some ailment, and believe that taking medicine x will cure me. My motivation for acting is to treat my ailment, and my intention is comprised of the belief that x will cure me plus the desire to be so cured. But let's say it is not medicine x that will cure me, but medicine y. A doctor might say to me "What you really want is medicine y." What does that mean? It doesn't mean that medicine y was any part of either my motivation or intention. It simply means that objectively medicine y is what will cure me--it is my good vis-a-vis my illness.

I hope this clears things up.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2009 6:05:02 PM PST
Amar,

Thanks for the reference. I'm familiar with some of the research on empathy in young children. It certainly does suggest that nature is perfectly capable of creating beings who have empathy, and can act selflessly.
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Discussion in:  The God Delusion forum
Participants:  17
Total posts:  433
Initial post:  Nov 29, 2009
Latest post:  1 day ago

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The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins by Richard Dawkins (Paperback - May 1, 2007)
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