ZaoThanatoo Answers the Argument from Horrific Suffering 2 (Guest Post)

The Argument from Horrific Suffering for the Non-Existence of God

The Argument from Horrific Suffering for the Non-Existence of God (Mitch) / Answering the Argument from Horrific Suffering (Chris) / Bolt and Horrific Suffering (Mitch) / Answering the Argument from Horrific Suffering 2 (Chris) / Bolt and Horrific Suffering II (Mitch) / Answering the Argument from Horrific Suffering 3 (Chris) / Bolt and Horrific Suffering III (Mitch) / Answering the Argument from Horrific Suffering 4 (Chris) / ZaoThanatoo Answers (ZaoThanatoo) / Bolt and Horrific Suffering IV (Mitch)


I will provide a brief rebuttal to Mitch’s response and grant him the last word in this discussion, if he would like to have it. I’ll put them under different headings to attempt to clarify the issues somewhat, with a quote from Mitch and my response.


Mitch: “I have noticed a general trend amongst presuppositionalists to not only assume a sort of foundationalist epistemology, but to even assume others are foundationalists! How can I have properly basic beliefs or ultimate presuppositions if I think foundationalism is false? This isn’t an immediately relevant thought, but it’s interesting enough to flag.”

Moi: One can be an anti-foundationalist and still have properly basic beliefs. Mitch may want to familiarize himself with Reformed epistemology and foundherentism in this regard, at least. Both are anti-foundationalist and maintain properly basic beliefs. Maybe Mitch didn’t know this or he doesn’t think it’s pertinent since he doesn’t subscribe to either epistemology. Of course, he offered no alternative, so he’s fallen back on giving biographical information rather than philosophical argumentation. At the risk of seeming brusque, who cares that Mitch thinks foundationalism is false? Philosophers only care about why. I agree with Mitch that his thought is irrelevant in this case.


Mitch:If it’s the case that assuming that God does not exist in order to argue that he does is self-contradictory there is a real problem for argumentation in general, as assuming the negation of some proposition to prove that proposition is simply what is meant by “proof via contradiction” or reductio ad absurdum and it would be highly controversial for Zao to claim that instances of reductio are self-contradictory, yet that seems to be his suggestion.”

Moi: I apologize for my lack of clarity here. Assuming ~A in order to prove A is self-contradictory, excluding cases of proof by contradiction. I thought this would have gone without saying, but that appears to be a faulty assumption on my part. However, I don’t see its relevance to the larger discussion, unless Mitch wants to argue that only a proof by contradiction would be a valid way of responding to the Argument from HS. But he hasn’t argued for that and I won’t put words into his mouth.

Mitch: “Further, it’s not clear why one need either assume that God exists or that she (sic) does not in analyzing the argument. This seems to entail that nobody who is agnostic with regards to the existence of God could ever analyze the argument, or that agnostics are committed to the claim that God does not exist, which is false. He appears to cite the “Law of Excluded Middle” as justification for this claim, but this seems confused. It may be the case that “God exists” is either true or false but this does not entail that one has to regard it as so.”

Moi: This is a red herring. Unless Mitch would like to defend agnosticism I suggest he keep his comments relevant to the discussion at hand. Otherwise, what third truth category does Mitch propose with reference to the agnostic, since he asserts that one does not have to regard a truth claim as true or false? If he’s going to treat agnosticism as an assertion of ignorance, then this is just more biographical information in lieu of philosophical argumentation (taken from somebody else’s hypothetical biography no less, since Mitch is not an agnostic, last I checked).

Mitch has been given argumentation throughout his discussions with Choosing Hats fellas to the effect that the nature of the question of the existence of the Christian God is so comprehensive that one must epistemically presuppose His existence as true or false in every arena, regardless of one’s psychological status with reference to the question. (See Chris’ recent post on the non-neutrality principle.) He has so far not responded substantially to me in that regard (which is his right); however, until he does responses like “…it’s not clear why one need either assume that God exists or that she (sic) does not in analyzing the argument” will seem disingenuous at best, obfuscatory at worst.

Straw Man

Mitch: “Here, unfortunately, Zao misconstrues the argument. The finite persons who “ever more fully experience the reality of God” are not people living life simpliciter. They are the people who believe they are in a mutually interactive relationship with God of the sort to which theists commonly attest. This is a stipulative definition and I could have perhaps made it clearer, but this is one example of why I dislike long discussions pertaining to a brief survey article of some argument, there are things which get left out or overlooked that aren’t so left out or overlooked in the primary source. But, moving on, Zao is also mistaken about what it means to “realize one’s deepest good.” If you note premise (1) it’s explicitly defining what it means to realize one’s deepest good, and it means to ever more fully experience the reality of God. The rest of Zao’s response in its current form can be overlooked since it’s simply not relevant. Zao has, perhaps unintentionally, strawmanned the argument from Horrific Suffering.”

Moi: As I admitted, I haven’t read the primary source document for the argument and I agree that Mitch’s stipulative definition might have been clearer (though, as I said before, I think it was a good start). Recognize that I’ve simply stipulated a clearer definition of my own. If Mitch doesn’t like my stipulative definition as much as he likes his stipulative definition, again, so what? He will need to argue for his definition over against mine. Recognize also that my definition is taken from the Bible; if Mitch’s definition doesn’t take this into account, then the Argument from Horrific Suffering was never intended to target the Christian God and I see no point in taking further issue with it if that is, in fact, the case.

As a brief further comment in this respect, Mitch has asserted that the argument proves that no “perfect being”-type God exists, but this assertion rests on a whole mountain of argumentation regarding what is and is not a perfect being which has not been discussed. Mitch would like to sidestep all of this by an appeal to his intuitions and inferences about what a perfect being would be. I would simply posit the questions: Do you really think that you, as an imperfect finite being, can accurately infer the nature of a perfect being? Based on what? Your imperfect, finite thoughts and feelings? Really?

I would posit that such knowledge is impossible apart from the self-revelation of a “perfect being.”

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