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January 21, 2011



Divine absence is, along with the argument[s] from evil, the major rational obstacle to conscientious theism. Assuming that our epistemic trump value is truth (not by any means a safe assumption, but on a contextualist picture, fair enough for this context) then both of these problems are in fact problems for theism. Now, I tend to think that our minds aren't very good at evaluating metaphysical concepts. Having evolved to be very good at a number of things, it's not clear that conceptual analysis need be one of them. Therefore, I'm immediately suspicious of any argument that claims to have clearly or otherwise demonstrated the truth value of virtually any non-tautological statement containing reference to metaphysical entities. That said, while I find arguments from evil to be the most conceptually persuasive attacks on theism, I find the argument from divine absence much more psychically arresting. In essence, it is an argument to the best explanation, and so rather suspect just by virtue of its type. We know full well that the most exhaustive data-sets will always underdetermine the theories they supposedly support, so in metaphysical areas where it's not even clear what counts as data, underdetermination is just the tip, not even the tip really, of an iceberg that might turn out instead to be a vast undersea continent (or to be a lost Atlantis, conjured by clever minds in our cultural pre-history and preserved over time by our conceptual denseness). However, despite this conceptual flaw in the argument, it just resonates with my experience of the world. People who care about me show up when I need them to, and they go out of their way to demonstrate their affection, often at great personal effort and even sacrifice. How can it be that a superlative being who feels a similar way, is either unable or unwilling to do at least as much? This isn't an argument so much as a natural response to stimuli. If the Big Guy in the perfectly white lab coat stops placing sugary treats at the end of the maze, eventually I'm going to quit running it.


This is one of your best posts ever, I think

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