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Good For Us

Later this month Prof. John Stackhouse from Regent College will be here in Nanaimo to talk about the New Atheists (can we still call them “new?”) and whether or not it is crazy to be a person of faith.  Those who have been long-time readers of this blog will know that this is an event that has special interest for me because a) I wrote about the New Atheists for my masters thesis a few years back; and b) John Stackhouse was my supervisor for this project.  So I’ll be there with bells on.  And if you are on Vancouver Island on Saturday, October 23, I would encourage you to attend this event (you can register here).  I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

One of my other main interests throughout my formal studies (including in my aforementioned thesis) was the problem of evil.  Prof. Stackhouse has written one of the best books I have come across for those navigating this difficult (intellectually and existentially) topic.  And I noticed today that he has just written a brief personal reflection on the problem of evil called “Why Does God Allow So Much Evil in the World?” over at the excellent new blog Wondering Fair.  So, why does God allow so much evil?  Stackhouse is both honest and helpful in pursuing a way forward:

I don’t know. That’s the bottom line, so let’s just face it now. I don’t know. And, so far as my research has taken me, nobody else does, either. But here are some thoughts that help me make at least some sense of what God is up to.

I have concluded that we do in fact live in a good world, and “good” in two crucial respects: (1) it is a world that conduces to our benefit, and is meant by a good God to do so; and (2) it is pretty effective in conducing to our benefit.

I think there is another respect in which the world we live in is good: us.  Perhaps this sounds obvious or silly or selfish or evidence of an overly optimistic anthropology, but I have long thought that one of the most significant arguments for the claim that our world was made by a good and purposive God is the existence of creatures who are born primed—cognitively, ethically, intellectually, behaviorally, etc—for goodness.  Not just the maximization of happiness, not just utility, not just selective fitness, not just pleasure, not just ______.  But genuine goodness.  Or, to use the language Prof. Stackhouse uses in his post, shalom:

Shalom doesn’t mean merely “peace,” but flourishing, and in every respect, along every axis. Shalom means that each individual becomes an excellent version of itself; every relationship blossoms; every group realizes its potential; and the whole cosmos relates lovingly and creatively to God.

I think this is what all of us—even those who have no interest in God—want, no matter how confusedly or counter-productively we go about our lives.  Even when we are behaving badly, I think, all of us have some sense, however vague or muted or stifled, that we are going against the grain of the cosmos.  Are there exceptions to this?  Certainly, and for a wide and complex variety of reasons.  But on the whole, while human beings certainly exhibit their share of evil and sin and, well, badness, our hunger for shalom remains.

This hunger shows itself us whenever we make an “ought” statement about something that should or should not be in our world.  It comes through whenever we protest against pain or rail against injustice.  We know that things ought to be better than they are. That we ought to be better than we are.  We know that goodness is not just an expression of what we happen to prefer—that it is an objective fact about the cosmos, even if we have trouble justifying or articulating how or why it works.

(Of course I am aware that there are rival stories that can be [and are being] told about the origins of goodness.  I am aware that there are stories of how our inclinations toward benevolence and peace and goodness and harmony are all really nothing but survival strategies—elaborate tricks played on us by selfish genes concerned only about getting passed on to the next generation.   I am aware of group selection and many of the other ways that what we think of as goodness fits into an explanatory framework that reduces everything in life to a survival game. I am not convinced that these stories are altogether coherent much less compelling, but they cannot be ignored.)

In other words, we ought to make ourselves think.  We are an important part of the picture.  We are part of the reason we are convinced that our world began and will end in goodness, in shalom.  We are peculiar, rebellious, and conflicted creatures, certainly, but we are born with our Maker’s stamp of goodness all over us.

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. We know that goodness is not just an expression of what we happen to prefer—that it is an objective fact about the cosmos, even if we have trouble justifying or articulating how or why it works.

    I wonder if the most probable explanation for ineffability when you try to justify or articulate your personal experience of knowing that “goodness ..is an objective fact about the cosmos” is that the knowing is really an emotional experience over the idea.

    If it is, in actuality, an emotional experience and not a matter of intellectual awareness, then it would be fitting to use the word “feel” instead of “know” in the above quote.

    October 13, 2010
    • It would be more fitting to use “feel” instead of “know” in the quote you cited if an emotional experience was what I was meaning to describe. That’s why I used the words I did.

      October 13, 2010
  2. Atheists contradict themselves (all the time)
    http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/atheists-contradict-themselves/

    October 13, 2010
  3. “We know that goodness is not just an expression of what we happen to prefer—that it is an objective fact about the cosmos, even if we have trouble justifying or articulating how or why it works.”

    No, actually, we do not know this. Plenty of the religious assert it. But it is not known.

    October 13, 2010
    • I think goodness is a far deeper and more pervasive component of human experience than merely something that “religious” people assert. Of course we certainly have debate and discussion and disagreement about what goodness looks like, what it requires of us, what it results in, and what it’s ultimate justification is, but there’s still something real that we are responding and contributing to (or detracting from) rather than inventing. I am not free to decide that I prefer rape or child abuse to fall into my category of goodness, and I’m fairly convinced that if I were to do so I would meet with fairly enthusiastic opposition from across the religious/non-religious spectrum. All of us know that this sort of behaviour is not good and does not contribute to the kind of world we want to be a part of.

      To say that goodness is an objective value in the world is not to say that I (or anyone else) understand it completely or objectively or even correctly. It is simply to acknowledge that value is not merely a human invention or discovery. It is, at least in some sense, on the scene before we arrive.

      October 13, 2010
      • Tyler Brown #

        Or is it an objective fact about humanity, not the cosmos? And we project our conception of goodness on to the cosmos. We personify the cosmos and hold it to human expectations, our expectations.

        October 13, 2010
      • I don’t think one excludes the other—it could be an objective fact about humanity that points to an objective fact about the cosmos. The existence of human beings that seem hard-wired for goodness doesn’t prove anything about the cosmos, of course, but it is certainly suggestive.

        I find the idea that there is some connection between the sort of creatures we are and the nature of the world more compelling and intellectually satisfying than the alternative. I don’t see how or why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence creatures that cannot help but think in terms of moral value and purpose.

        Maybe we hit the jackpot, who knows? Maybe out of an infinite number of universes springing randomly into existence, ours happened to produce these weird beings that come with this weird feature called “moral value” and with an annoying propensity to attribute this strange feature to all manner of features of existence. It’s logically possible. I suppose I just find God a more parsimonious explanation.

        (Incidentally, I just discovered that your comment was the 4000th in the history of this blog! I’m not sure if congratulations are in order, but I at least found it mildly interesting. No prizes or anything, I’m afraid :). I suppose you’ll have to content yourself with the “pleasure” of knowing that you are a valuable contributor to the conversations around here :).)

        October 13, 2010
      • The existence of human beings that seem hard-wired for goodness doesn’t prove anything about the cosmos, of course, but it is certainly suggestive.

        How is it “suggestive”? It sounds like you’re personifying the nature of our existence while at the same time not acknowledging the tendency for the personal beings we are to be the suggestive ones.

        I don’t see how or why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence creatures that cannot help but think in terms of moral value and purpose.

        How? Yeah, I’d like to know how. Apparently, Sam Harris has a new book out about the nature of our morality. I’m curious to hear if he addresses this how question, and if so, whether it can satisfy his non-religious/religious critics.

        Why? Doesn’t this question presume intention or the motivation of a personal being? It sounds to me as if you’re asking, “How is an ‘amoral purposeless’ cosmos moral and purposeful to begin with?”

        Maybe out of an infinite number of universes springing randomly into existence, ours happened to produce these weird beings that come with this weird feature called “moral value” and with an annoying propensity to attribute this strange feature to all manner of features of existence. It’s logically possible. I suppose I just find God a more parsimonious explanation.

        Putting aside the use of the words “weird” (has supernatural connotations), “strange” (is morality, no matter how under-developed, exclusively a human trait?), and “annoying” (I don’t know why you used that term), why do you think a natural explanation for nature is less parsimonious than an explanation from an unverified, invisible, non-natural realm?

        October 14, 2010
      • Tyler Brown #

        “The existence of human beings that seem hard-wired for goodness doesn’t prove anything about the cosmos, of course, but it is certainly suggestive.”

        We also seem to be hard-wired to do some very evil and devastating things.

        “I find the idea that there is some connection between the sort of creatures we are and the nature of the world more compelling and intellectually satisfying than the alternative. . I don’t see how or why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence creatures that cannot help but think in terms of moral value and purpose.”

        On that same logic, I don’t see how a God, made up of only goodness, can produce evil. I find the idea of an active God, who allows tragedies almost shameful. That is harder for me to wrap my head around intellectually than an indifferent universe.

        An important question is can phenomenological acts of evil, or the allowance of them, be justified by the ends of objective goodness? What does that suggest about the cosmos?

        Also, is my prize in the mail?

        October 14, 2010
      • James #

        Tyler, it seems to me that you raise an ancient Stoic “on the one hand-on the other hand” paradox.

        On the one hand “We also seem to be hard-wired to do some very evil and devastating things.” Of course without something Beyond us there is no evil and no concern about injustice. That is the anti-deists problem.

        On the other hand you correctly state “On that same logic, I don’t see how a God, made up of only goodness, can produce evil.” That is the deist’s problem.

        I think that the Stoic/Christian answer is still the best. It assumes a Logos as opposed to Epicurean meaningless. It lives with the philosophical problem of evil while combating evil at the existential level.

        You state the problem well- “I find the idea of an active God, who allows tragedies almost shameful. That is harder for me to wrap my head around intellectually than an indifferent universe.”

        I have come to the opposite conclusion- an indifferent universe which does not distinguish between a piece of rock [or star dust for those who want to wax poetic] and a conscious being that loves and hates- stopped working for me. A good God who allows evil is the ultimate philosophical problem for me. It has no “justification.”

        BTW I think that Descartes’ argument leading to his famous “I think therefore I am” actually is a very elegant philosophical answer to the puzzle. That also works for me 🙂

        October 14, 2010
      • Tyler,

        I won’t add too much to James’s response other than to agree that we do seem wired for evil as well as good. For most of Christian history, some conception of universal or original sin has been used to account for this. Whatever problems this doctrine might have conceptually or theologically, it seems to have no similar problems empirically. The question of how or why a good God would allow a state of affairs characterized by so much evil is another matter entirely—one that, as Stackhouse says in the post I linked to at Wondering Fair, we just don’t know the answers to.

        You asked

        An important question is can phenomenological acts of evil, or the allowance of them, be justified by the ends of objective goodness? What does that suggest about the cosmos?

        This is a very interesting question in my view. I think that on one level, it doesn’t matter because the question is out of our hands. If there is no God, there is no end of objective goodness and we’re stuck with the experience of evil. If God does exist, God has apparently decided that the answer is yes without consulting us. Whatever conclusions we come to aren’t terribly relevant, technically speaking.

        Of course none of this is very helpful on an existential level. We would still like for our conceptions of goodness and justification to have some resonance with what is true about the cosmos—including on the question of whether evil is “justified.” There are no completely satisfactory answers here, in my view. I suppose that from a Christian perspective, the answer to your question is that the future we believe to be promised by God will be one of healing and redemption and that all that has gone before it will find its proper place within the context of the telos of creation. Perhaps that sounds too easy. But, I think that in the broadest possible terms, this is the Christian hope.

        I’ll get back to you about that prize ☺.

        October 14, 2010
  4. I think what we consider evils (apart from the evils humans perpetuate) are evidence of the indifference of nature and the universe to us. I am intrigued by what Christian philosophers like Diogenes Allen say about this indifference, how it has its spiritual benefits… it compels us not to put our final trust in earthly things but to seek our ultimate good in God alone.

    But more importantly, what kind of bells will you be wearing when you see Prof. Stackhouse? And how many bells? Just curious.

    October 13, 2010
    • I haven’t read Diogenes Allen on this topic but it certainly seems like an interesting argument. I don’t think that Stackhouse is attributing beneficence toward us to nature in and of itself. I think he is simply saying that things seem to have been “set up” with us in mind. Our flourishing is bound up with nature’s, in a sense. Is God responsible for this? Is it the anthropic principle? Well, the debate goes on…

      Re: the “more importantly” part, you spurred me to do a little research. Here’s what I found (from the Morris Dictionary of Word Phrase Origins):

      Arriving ‘with bells on’—meaning happy and delighted to attend—goes back to the days before automobile, when it was the custom to deck out with the fanciest harness the horse that drew the carriage for special occasions. That, of course, was the harness ‘with bells on.'”

      So I guess I have to find myself some horses and a carriage before I worry about the number and variety of my bells :).

      October 13, 2010
  5. Ryan,

    Did you consider at all the Augustinian understanding of evil as privation in your thesis? Just curious – I believe that’s the direction David Bentley Hart goes in his book on the indian ocean tsunami.

    Also, I keep forgetting to ask – how did you set up your ‘currently reading’ widget on the sidebar?

    October 13, 2010
    • No, I didn’t touch Augustine’s argument in the thesis, mainly because it was far beyond the scope of my project. I was mostly dealing with theodicy in the context of the protest atheism of the new atheists so I didn’t get into the various approaches to the philosophical problem itself. I was looking at the generic human tendency to protest against evil and inquiring as to the conditions under which this protest was/was not justified.

      Augustine’s approach is one that I have some appreciation for, but I just don’t think it does justice to the phenomenology of evil. I can’t imagine telling someone who is suffering that what they were experiencing is, strictly speaking, just a lack of goodness. Whatever may or may not be true of evil ontologically, we experience evil not as an absence but as a malevolent presence. And of course I’m inclined to think that phenomenology and ontology are very often linked in important ways.

      Re: the widget, how about I shoot you an email later today about that? It’s not super complicated, but it will take up too much space here. I’ll just send you the code I use. Once the kids’ swimming lessons and supper and piano practice and bedtime and all that fun stuff is done :).

      October 13, 2010
  6. Jerry, I’m going to move my response to your comment down here to avoid confusing it with conversation going on around Tyler’s and James’ comments.

    You asked:

    How is it “suggestive”? It sounds like you’re personifying the nature of our existence while at the same time not acknowledging the tendency for the personal beings we are to be the suggestive ones.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re asking here. The antecedent for “it” in the statement you quoted is “the existence of human beings that seem hard wired for goodness.” I think it is precisely the kind of (personal) beings we are that is suggestive.

    Re: Harris’s new book… I’ve read a number of reviews of Harris’s book from a variety of sources. Most are critical of him for assuming without justification a somewhat vague conception of “well-being” and equating this (or at least the pursuit of this) with morality. Most think he is going far beyond the reach of science, which can certainly inform and contribute to the discussion of value, but cannot define or prescribe it. To be fair, I haven’t read the book yet, and these people could be mistaken. But I tend to think that the the attempt to use science to ground/justify morality is an endeavor that is flawed and misguided from the outset.

    Re: how purposelessness can lead to purpose, you asked:

    Why? Doesn’t this question presume intention or the motivation of a personal being? It sounds to me as if you’re asking, “How is an ‘amoral purposeless’ cosmos moral and purposeful to begin with?”

    No, that’s not what I’m asking. I’ve been clear about what I’m asking: How does an amoral, purposeless cosmos bring into existence creatures that cannot help but think in terms of moral value and purpose? It is a question based on the observation of a particular phenomenon (human beings) within the framework of a materialistic worldview. Given x, what might be true about y.

    Putting aside the use of the words “weird” (has supernatural connotations), “strange” (is morality, no matter how under-developed, exclusively a human trait?), and “annoying” (I don’t know why you used that term), why do you think a natural explanation for nature is less parsimonious than an explanation from an unverified, invisible, non-natural realm?

    I think positing a purposive and meaning-intending personal cause behind the existence of purposive and meaning-seeking beings in an environment that is at least partially suited for their flourishing (physical, spiritual, etc) makes more sense than trying to wring an explanation out of an inherently purposeless view of the cosmos. And leaving aside the purpose question, at the very least the God-hypothesis has mathematical simplicity on its side. I find one “unverified, invisible, non-natural” being easier to accept than millions of “unverified, invisible, non-natural” universes springing in and out of existence or hypothetical, equally unobservable parallel dimensions colliding with one another as a plausible explanation for our own.

    (I’m sorry you don’t like my adjectives. I was using them as an [apparently unclear] attempt at humour—i.e., “annoying” and “weird” and “strange” from the perspective of someone using scientific methods for things that do not easily admit of scientific explanations.)

    October 14, 2010
    • Ken #

      Jerry is right when he writes, “Why? Doesn’t this question presume intention or the motivation of a personal being?”

      Jerry’s question here is a valid rhetorical question. What you see as suggestive, others see as a presumption of intention. (See Dennis Ford, The Search for Meaning, for example. Ford is an interesting example of a religious man who does not share your perspective.) This presumption is a problem for those of us who do not follow a metaphysical path to faith and reality. This is the weakness of your position from modern and postmodern perspectives.

      I think that today in ministry, in the pluralistic west at least, it is better to present the faith from several perspectives rather than one for the sake of credibility.

      October 14, 2010
      • I disagree. I don’t see how framing the question as I have represents an assumption or presumption of intention. There is no assumption involved in the observation that human beings think and live according to morals and purposes and values, however differently these might be understood and implemented.

        We have a simple observation: Human beings are purposive and value-motivated creatures. As I said above, I am simply asking the question: given x, what might (not must) be true of y? It is a fair question that can be (and is) asked and answered from people from a broad range of perspectives and worldviews. No metaphysical approach is necessary to consider this question. The question is answered in a wide variety of ways, whether explicitly or implicitly. But I think the question is still a fair one that invites contribution from a wide range of perspectives.

        October 14, 2010
    • Gil #

      I haven’t read Harris’ book either but there’s a fairly brief talk he gave last February that may give a good overview. It’s definitely an ambitious topic – to try to show how science can lead us to moral claims. I’m looking forward to the book.

      Harris seems to makes a case that we have some kind of “common sense” when it comes to morality but he doesn’t show any kind of link between that common sense and science. The closest he comes is trying to describe some kind of rational calculation regarding the conscious states of sentient beings. As to the criteria by which he proposes to make these calculations – there are a lot of unanswered questions (for example: Does animal suffering matter as much as human suffering? Are there worthy human goals that might temporarily involve suffering, self-sacrifice or deprivation?).

      Like Harris’ writing, this lecture is full of rhetorical cheapshots and caricatures of religion that are surely beneath his considerable intelligence. In the end, Harris seems to think that “civilized” people are just naturally gifted with a moral intuition that enables them to judge behaviour based on its consequences. I agree that we have this intuition but based on this video I’m not convinced that he’s shown how science can explain it.

      October 15, 2010
      • Thanks for the link, Gil. Unsurprisingly, my reaction is virtually identical to yours. Among the many things that could be said about this talk, it seems clear that the title is a fairly wildly optimistic assessment of what follows.

        October 15, 2010
      • jc #

        I am just starting ‘The Moral Landscape’ today. Having not read very far into the book I don’t think I can accurately describe his argument. From the beginning he does seem to want to do battle with of course religions which claim that morality is only possible through the existence of a supernatural being and moral relativists who claim that there is an is/ought gap that bars us from gaining moral knowledge from the ‘facts of reality.’

        Gil writes “In the end, Harris seems to think that “civilized” people are just naturally gifted with a moral intuition that enables them to judge behaviour based on its consequences.” I think that is a pretty accurate description of his past writings on the subject of morality. I am hoping this new book has less mystical way of describing how one might come to moral knowledge.

        Ryan, I should probably go back and read some of your own posts to answer some of my following questions but….

        It would seem to me that if a morality was to be a signpost to the existence of a supernatural realm then the more arbitrary morality is seen to be then that would proportionately increase the size of that sign. The more morality can be explained through reason, experience and the facts of natural reality then that would reduce the size of that sign post.

        October 16, 2010
      • One of the things I find least helpful about approaches like Sam Harris’s is that they seem to assume that if morality can be shown to have a basis or at least a connection to reason, then this is enough to rule out a religious foundation for or dimension to morality. It sets up a completely false dichotomy, in my view: either morality is based on religion or it is based on reason. I don’t think this is the case at all. Indeed, I would expect reason to play a significant role in our ethical reasoning because I believe that the God who made us to be moral creatures also made us as rational creatures.

        I think that morality as a signpost can and does point to both the religious and the rational dimensions of human life. As I see it, both are part of the “natural gifting” of the human condition you referred to in Gil’s comment above. That doesn’t mean that they never contradict one another—there are some behaviours that might be moral but irrational or rational but immoral. But I think there is significant overlap.

        (Incidentally, I came across an interesting article by Frans de Waal on this very topic today in the NYT where he seems to take a similar view to mine. I may throw up a few quotes in a post yet today.)

        October 17, 2010
      • Tyler Brown #

        I can’t follow the threads anymore and figure out what’s been covered or not. So time to duck out.

        I agree with you Gil, the peaks of Harris’s morale landscape makes far to many foundation-less claims. More importantly, he fails to effectively argue why religion does not climb high on one of these peaks. It has a bad track record, but so does all other attempts so far. A couple examples are fascism, communism, and capitalist democracy -as probably the worst. While not religious they are attempts at something else.

        October 18, 2010
  7. The antecedent for “it” in the statement you quoted is “the existence of human beings that seem hard wired for goodness.” I think it is precisely the kind of (personal) beings we are that is suggestive.

    It seems you missed my differentiating between humanity’s existence and humanity’s opinions. I thought I was clear about this too. Here’s another crack at it: We all suggest various views about our world, but how is our mere existence “suggestive”?

    Re: how purposelessness can lead to purpose, you asked:

    No, I didn’t ask that. Along with “how”, you asked “why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence…” My point is: the question ‘Why?’ presumes a personal reason. And to ask ‘Why?’ when referring to the cosmos is asking for a cosmic personal reason, and therefore, presuming the existence of a deity. So, to ask “why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence…” confuses the matter. Although, asking ‘How?’ remains to be a valid question.

    I should have been clearer when I asked, “..why do you think a natural explanation for nature is less parsimonious than an explanation from an unverified, invisible, non-natural realm?” I did quote you referring to a specific hypothetical theory for the natural explanation. But what I had in mind for any natural explanation was an explanation from a verified, visible, natural realm all of us human beings can realistically claim to have experienced.

    October 14, 2010
    • It seems you missed my differentiating between humanity’s existence and humanity’s opinions. I thought I was clear about this too. Here’s another crack at it: We all suggest various views about our world, but how is our mere existence “suggestive”?

      I don’t think we can neatly separate our interpretations (or opinions) of the world from our existence in the world. To exist as a human being is to ask questions like how? and why? and to try to make moral sense of our predicament. We can’t (or at least don’t seem to) do otherwise. We are a unique kind of creature that leads to unique kinds of questions about the world.

      No, I didn’t ask that. Along with “how”, you asked “why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence…” My point is: the question ‘Why?’ presumes a personal reason. And to ask ‘Why?’ when referring to the cosmos is asking for a cosmic personal reason, and therefore, presuming the existence of a deity. So, to ask “why an amoral purposeless cosmos could bring into existence…” confuses the matter. Although, asking ‘How?’ remains to be a valid question.

      I appreciate the clarification here, Jerry. I missed the differentiation you were making here the first time around, but see it clearly on a reread of your initial comment. But I don’t quite see the qualitative difference you are making between “how?” and “why?” I don’t see why the question “why?” necessarily presumes a personal reason, much less a deity.

      Scientists ask “why?” all the time. When it comes to questions of cosmology, the answer to “why?” could well be (and often is) that there is no moral purpose behind it all. The answer to the question, “Why do human beings behave morally?” could well be “because it is one of the ways that their genes achieve the objective of getting passed on.” How we answer the “why?” questions is obviously heavily debated, but I don’t think the question “why?” in and of itself presumes an inherent moral purpose of any kind.

      I should have been clearer when I asked, “..why do you think a natural explanation for nature is less parsimonious than an explanation from an unverified, invisible, non-natural realm?” I did quote you referring to a specific hypothetical theory for the natural explanation. But what I had in mind for any natural explanation was an explanation from a verified, visible, natural realm all of us human beings can realistically claim to have experienced.

      But when we’re talking about questions of cosmology, even “natural” explanations appeal to invisible, unverified realms—often quite elaborate ones! As I see it, most people don’t have a problem with using invisible stuff to explain visible stuff. They would just prefer that it wasn’t God.

      October 14, 2010
  8. The fact that we know, imagine or understand anything – anything whatsoever – reveals our underlying belief that the world is trustworthy, essentially good and intelligible. It might be true that it is not “known” that the world is good, but we certainly behave as if it were. If we didn’t trust the world, any aspect of human knowledge – from science to art to religion – just wouldn’t be able to sustain itself. We simply wouldn’t function without believing that the world is essentially good, that it makes sense (most of the time), and that, as you said, though it is good, it could be better.

    I didn’t read all the comments, apologies if my thoughts are redundant. Great post.

    October 19, 2010
    • Absolutely, Jessica. There is a certain taken-for-grantedness of our assumptions about the intelligibility and goodness of our world, both of which are key parts, I think, of Stackhouse’s conception of a world conducive to human flourishing/benefit. Evil is real (including/especially our own evil) and must be acknowledged as part of our world, but even this doesn’t make sense outside of a context that is oriented toward moral intelligibility and meaning.

      Thanks for your not-at-all redundant comment :).

      October 20, 2010

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