Goodness

Whether we can argue on inductive grounds that the First Cause is good is a particularly difficult question in light of all the evil in the world. If the First Cause is an agent, we have three options to choose from: he is a good agent, an evil agent, or an agent morally in the middle. I will argue that at least we can dismiss the worst of these options on inductive grounds.

Here is one set of considerations. We might see evil as ontologically inferior to the good. For instance, we might see evil as a privation of the good. Or we might see evil as a twisting of the good: the good can stand on its own axiologically, but evil is metaphysically something parasitic. Seen from that point of view, evil can never be seen to be the victor. Whatever power evil has is a good power twisted to bad ends. Human cruelty is only an evil because human nature has a power of transcending cruelty. Evil can only mock the good but can never win.

Suppose we do indeed see things this way. Then evil only makes sense against a background of goodness. And hence, the cause that the universe originates in, since that cause is the ultimate background, cannot but be perfectly good. If, further, perfect good is stable, then we might think that this cause still is perfectly good. This will be a metaphysical argument.

Moreover, if we see evil as metaphysically inferior to the good, then the idea that the First Cause is an evil person makes the First Cause be rather stupid, and so we have an inductive argument against the worst of the three options under consideration. For whatever gets created, there will be more good than evil. Behind the twisting of human nature in a serial killer, there is the good of human nature - if it were not good, and if it were not in some way metaphysically superior to the evil so as to provide a standard against which that evil is to be measured, then the twisting would not be an evil. So by creating, the First Cause makes more good than evil come into existence, and if the First Cause is evil, then to do that is, well, stupid. But the fine-tuning of the universe suggests that the First Cause is highly intelligent.

Furthermore, I think it is fair to say that there is much more good than evil in the human world. Consider the constant opportunities available for malice, opportunities that would result in no punishment at all. We can assume, with almost total certainty, that if we ask strangers for the time, they will not look at the time and subtract 10 minutes just to make sure we are late for whatever appointment we are rushing. Is it not wondrous that I regularly find myself around many omnivorous animals armed with teeth and guns (I am in Texas!), but I have not yet suffered serious harm from them? At least on the assumption that these omnivorous animals were created by an evil being, there would be some cause for surprise. When the rules of morality are transgressed, rarely are they transgressed wantonly. Granted, there have been genocides of massive proportions. But it is noteworthy that even there, there tends to be a background that makes the cruelty not be entirely wanton: a destructive ideology or a vengeful, and often mistaken, justice. The victims are demonized. This demonization is itself an evil, but it is an evil that underscores the fact that the victims need to be seen as demonic before most of us will be induced to be cruel to them. The hypothesis that the First Cause is evil is not a very plausible one, then.

Whether the hypothesis that the First Cause is good is any more plausible will depend on how we evaluate the arguments of various theodicies. Some of the aforementioned considerations might possibly be the start of a theodicy, but that is not what I intended them for: I intended them merely as data against the hypothesis of an evil First Cause. On the theodicy front, on the other hand, we might see in freely chosen virtue a goodness outweighing the evils of vice, and that might lead us to suppose the First Cause is good.

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