John Perry Essay, Research Paper
In John Perry’s book Dialogue on Good, Evil and the Existence of God, he used three characters in the dialogue in order to clarify the positions of the three characters (Weirob, Miller, and Cohen), the arguments they provide in support their positions and the “end state” of their discussion. This allows us to examine our understanding of the good, evil and the existence of God.
Perry shows a clear position of Weirob, Miller, and Cohen. Weirob is a philosopher who is not a Christian. She does not believe God exist. She only believe evil exist without God. She thinks if God really exists in this world, then God is a monster (evil) because God lets her suffered. She challenges with Miller’s belief and claims that there is no God exist. She wants Miller to proof there is possibility of his beliefs. Miller is a Christian who believes in God. He thinks evil and God can both exist in this world. Therefore, he has to convince Weirob to believe there is possibility that God and evil are both exist in order to win the debate and also pray for her. Cohen is a neutral one between them. He is the judge. He helps Weirob and Miller to figure out what is their own point of view all the times and also he raises some useful ideas to solve their arguments. It seems that he is so helpful in this debate.
Weirob does not believe in God, so she does not admit Miller to pray for her. First, Weirob claims, “how in the world does a prayer help?” (p.2) to raise the debate of good, evil and the existence of God. She thinks Miller simply would be communication to his omniscient God for what God already knows, thereby wasting God’s time and his time. In fact, she believes there maybe no God exists. So she claims that “ perhaps there is no God. Or perhaps there is, but he is ignorant, or weak, or mean” (p.4) She thinks God must not care her because God lets her suffered. She provides a main argument to support her position which is “the existence of suffering is inconsistent with the existence of the all-perfect God.” (p.17) She thinks there is evil but without God. Miller wants to convince Weirob to believe the possibility of God exists. His argument is that this world is the creation of an all-perfect Being, even if we admit that there is suffering in it. He claims that the existence of suffering is consistent with the existence of the all-perfect God. Their arguments are opposed to each other. So Miller has to convince Weirob that Christian God he believe in— all perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent – could possibly exist, even given as unimportant a bit of suffering as her flu.
Miller first raises some examples to proof his argument is possible but doesn’t have to explain to Weirob what plan God has in mind. The example is about a painting can have ugly parts but been more beautiful or deep because of them or a dull chapter in an interesting novel. But Weirob does not think her suffering with her flu compares with those examples at all. She claims that she is not a picture of a sniveling, dripping, suffering human but a sniveling dripping, suffering human. This convinces us to think that Weirob wants Miller to give her a more detail of example which is related to her. Then Miller tries to raise the fishing example which “it is some form of mild suffering to get out of bed before dawn on a chilly Nebraska spring morning when one might sleep in. But the days as a whole, the days that start out with those unpleasant experiences, are some of the most enjoyable days one can imagine.” (p.8) This example is designed to jolly Weirob in to believing in a “necessary evil” —-something that is unpleasant or involves suffering, and so seems to be an evil, but turns out to be necessary for a greater good. But Weirob still not accept his point because she argues about “ the day is not really perfect “ (p10) because she see no good reason a perfect being (God) would want her to have the flu and to jerk herself out of bed with an unpleasant alarm in order to have a nice day fishing with a friend. She claims that “ the one evil does not explain the other; they both reinforce the same conclusion. No perfect God would have designed the world like this.” (p11) It seems that she admits there is evil in this world but all-perfect God cannot exist, so she does not admit Miller to win the debate.
On the other hand, Miller thinks he won the debate because he had to shown Weirob that his belief is consistent. Therefore, Miller asks Cohen to be the judge. Cohen is a neutral one and also joining in their discussion. Then Weirob raises the example of barber and P and Q statement in order to let Miller know if he wants to convince her, he must provide a possible big picture which provide her with a story that makes God’s perfection and the suffering of his creatures fit together in a consistent whole. She claims, “The whole need not be true. It can be far-fetched and unbelievable. But you need to show how evil can enter into a world created by his all-perfect God, to show the basic mechanisms of evil.” (p23) Then Miller uses three parts of theodicy to solve her argument. The first thing in his theodicy is the freedom of choice. This theodicy seems to be the most important in this book. He raises the example that Weirob can have her freedom of choice by choosing mushroom soup or chicken soup in order to make her satisfy and feel good. Also, he raises one more example that a bird’s suffering was Weirob’s fault, not God’s. With this example, he claims, “through the actions of humans and other free creatures exercising their freedom, imperfection and evil enter the world.” (p.28) Weirob still not admits Miller’s explain. She argues that God’s grace can sort of cancels the limits on our free will. Miller cannot explain this argument because he thinks her argument of “grace” is out of the point of their debate. Therefore, Weirob agrees with his explanation and makes her argument continually. She raises the argument that if the God is supposes to be omniscient; doesn’t he know that she will choose when there are many choices? Then Cohen raises an example of steak which is he knows Weirob will choose the steak rather than spinach. Finally, she will choose the steak with her own freedom although she knows spinach will be better for her. This convinces us that we know our knowledge or lack of knowledge have nothing to do with other people’s choice. Cohen uses this example to answer Weirob’s argument of God’s knowledge cannot do anything in her case. But Weirob explains, “ God’s knowledge is a special case. He created me, knowing what I would do. You didn’t create me. You didn’t decide on a plan for the world that involved my eating the steak.” (p.34)
She thinks God does not escape responsibility for the consequences of what she does. But Miller opposes her view again and said, “ I have not said that God isn’t responsible for everything that happens in his creation. I’ve just said that things that seem unnecessary and bad might be necessary parts of a good or even perfect world. “ (p.35) He thinks there is no contradiction between your being free and someone knowing what you are going to do next. Miller knows his argument is not convincing. So Cohen tries to start a solvable problem and suggests an idea about the free will problem. The problem is called “the Stone Paradox” and the example of Rock of Gibraltar. He finally raises a solution which is “God is omniscient not because he knows everything, but because there is nothing that he can’t know. God is omnipotent not because e does everything there is to be done, but because there is nothing he can’t do” (p41) Also God may not know whether Weirob will choose the mushroom soup or the chicken soup, but he knows just what will happen if she does the one or the other. Then Weirob tries to raise another argument again, she says “ how a perfect God can end up creating a world that is as unfair and end up creating a world that is as unfair and unjust as ours.” (p.46) Then Miller uses the second theodicy to answer her argument. The second theodicy is the notion of an afterlife. Miller claims the people who did the bad thing may have a very unpleasant afterlife and the example such as Dante’s picture. Weirob does not totally agree with Miller’s explain. But she admits there is possibility that God is just and fair. So she makes her final argument about the natural evil. She thinks many sufferings in this world are all come from nature such as earthquake and innocent children or baby bat, but not caused by free agents. But Miller claims there is the third theodicy to solve her argument and points out his story can include a vice-devil for earthquakes, an assistant-devil for making the tops of bat caves slippery and the like. Also, Miller thinks that God is not just created free creatures such as human but can also created devil that has powers not only to tempt humans into sin, but to cause any kind of mischief he wants. Devils choose to cause suffering of their own free will.
At the end states, Miller won the debate because he can proof the possibility of God exists. Miller prevents to talk the topics such as grace and the view of philosophy that animal do not really feel pain because he thinks he cannot convince Weirob with these arguments. Therefore, he finds an excuse and says those are the points that are not related to their debate. Although he really won the debate because he has shown the existence of God and existence of suffering is consistent, he knows he cannot convincing others if the debate is not only set to show the possibility of God exist. Furthermore, Weirob accepts Miller pray for her because she agrees that Miller can have his own freedom to do anything. In fact, we can know that she does not satisfy with Miller’s account of joy and suffering, good and evil. She thinks the pleasure and pain are the point of experience form nature’s point of view. She thinks pain signals danger and there is a surplus of pain, all sorts of pain, serving no evolutionary purpose. She thinks good and evil are a double accident. She also thinks “good and evil are human concepts that we use to classify intentional action.” (p.66) Pleasure and pain are the ways of getting creatures to seek and avoid situations, depending on whether the situations are good or bad for their survival and the probability of their passing on genes is a necessary condition. This convinces us that the concept of good and evil in human and other creatures such as animal are totally difference. It seems that she does not totally admit God really exist in this world and she still agrees the Manichaeans ‘ theory that there are two ultimate principles controlling the world, good and evil and they are both basic and strong forces and our world is their battleground. So this shows us that she really does not think evil is a creation of good, or vice versa. Cohen is the neutral one from the start to the end of the debate. But he is really helpful to them because he raises some useful ideas during the debate. Finally, he does not really show up what is his thinking, but his ideas are very convincing us to think he believes there is God exists.
After reading this book, I know the author Perry tries to use these dialogues of three characters to explain that we have freedom to choose our own beliefs and also the definition of good and evil can be difference because different people will have different point of views. Especially other creatures and human maybe have different definition in good and evil, joy and suffering. Furthermore, he convince us that there is no inconsistent between good and evil, suffering and pleasure because two things seem contradiction to each other but actually they could be fit together with an actual providing of a possible big picture.