Tag Archives: value

Privatio Boni: What is the Substance of Evil?

Below is a Facebook Chat conversation that I had today with Andrew.  It’s really very interesting, and should be worthwhile to read. 


but are there other more successful arguments out there that reveal more about God’s intentions? I mean, all the arguments I know only give me good reason to believe in God, not to believe that he is all loving or merciful. How do I know he isn’t pure evil?


nevermind, for some reason I always get into a discussion about philsophy or politics when I talk to you lol

It is really strange


haha, yeah

I don’t know about omnibenevolence

that’s a very tricky one to think about

as a matter of fact, I should stop using the owrd


you’re familiar with the Moral Arguments?


the axiological argument? yes


exactly, I think they may be construed to support God being “all good” (questionable term…)

but only if we combine them with the concept of <i>privatio boni<i/>

italics FAIL

put it into wikipedia

privatio boni

It’s a short article that would take too long to explain

it’s one of the solutions to the problem of evil


cool, thx


tell me when you’re done reading it, it’s really interesting




its an interesting way of looking at things


yes it is

I would believe it

that evil is insubstantial

and is, like a shadow, dependent on the good

remember when you asked me about God conserving creation?

and whether this meant He was conserving evil?




Let’s look at it this way:

even if God had created the universe with evil in it, he would not have created evil

if I pour an amount of water into a glass, am I creating both water, and also emptiness?


of course not


If I fill the glass halfway, I have obviosly not added half water, and half emptiness to acheive this

and if I conserve it thus, I am not conserving the emptiness, only the water

so God is not conserving evil


indeed, when speaking of creation, the evil is precisely NOT created! lol

that would be its definition


what do mean by not creating evil?

do you mean evil does not exist?


well, emptiness is the absence of the water. similarly, evil is the absence of good

“privatio boni”


then we can never truly call a person evil, only their individual actions. For I don’t think a person can be absent of good


I was about to say, “yes, evil would be always extrinsic”. But is that true? Can there be no intrinsic evil?

like intrinsic value? (aka, good)


Well, if there is intrinisc good, it seems that there would have to be intrinsic evil. For how can we know what intrinsic good is if we have nothing to compare it to?


for example, money has extrinsic value. it’s value lies outside of itself, becuase it is only paper


what is pure good without pure evil


what does “pure” mean?

Fill the cup halfway with water. is the water only half pure?

surely not

is the emptiness only half pure?


so what coclusion can we make about intrinsic evil?


well, I’m still thinking about it

I think the evil is not a thing in itself, certainly. But does this prevent it from having intrinsic value?


I mean, how can we know what is intrinsically good if we have no knowledge of its opposite: that which is intriniscally evil?


the use of the word intrinsic is the key here

I would say “good in its own right”

rather than “good FOR …”


right, its goodness is not dependent upon anything but itself


well I’m sure that’s saying a bit too much, but yeah, basically


but how can we make such a conclusion? Wouldn’t knowing what is good in itself presuppose that we have knowledge of what isn’t good in itself?


yes, I think so

it would not presuppose it, mind you. it would IMPLY it


I am working on the terminology, give me a break lol


haha, yeah


anyway, I think we can conclude there is intrinic evil if there is intrinsic good


I think “things” would be analogous to the cups with water we discussed earlier

those things which are intrinsically good are cups with any amount of water, and those extrinsically good have the capability of containing water

an intrinsically evil thing would be the absence of a cup entirely

so an intrinsically evil thing is a non-thing

so I don’t think there is intrinsic evil

much less extrinsic evil

but then again, am empty cup cannot be extrinsically good

it is only extrinsically valuable, since it could go both ways. It has the capability of containing water, and also the capability of not existing, or breaking


so let’s amend our analogy. Intrinsic evil is a broken cup, and there is no extrinsic good or evil, since extrinsicness can bring about either

so we say extrinsic “value”, being neutral

or an empty cup

which can break or be filled

but a full cup can also break!

so we might say that even that which is intrinsically good, has the capability of being emptied, or broken as is


so if God is intrinsically good, can be emptied?


I wouldn’t say He is intrinsically good

I would say that He is the mark of what is good

that things are good insofar as they resemble Him

He is not a cup with water, He IS the water


but if the cup shatters, what happens to God?


He is still there, I suppose

the cup is breakable, but for the purposes of our analogy, I don’t think we should think the same of the water

for when the cup breaks, the water does not also break. It is merely spilled, and cannot really be lost


unless it lands in a black hole…






yeah, but this was a cool discussion

you know, I think I’ll post it on High-School Apologetics, if you don’t mind, lol


no problem

If you ever update it lol


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Axiological Argument

jpg_law_justice_003THE AXIOLOGICAL ARGUMENT is an argument from the existence of objective moral values. It is my favorite argument for the existence of God, probably because it was the first one I was ever exposed to. The first time I ever began to seriously consider the possibility of proving God’s existence was when Sarah loaned me a book called The Language of God .  The author, Francis Collins, hinted that the existence of an innate Moral Law within every human being was indicative of God.  Needless to say, I saw the significance.  The Law of Nature, is such an odd thing, really.  It quite simply shouldn’t exist.  Upon inspection, it is indeed as objective and transcendent as any law of science.  But how odd then, that though the Laws of Science describe how things are, the Law of Nature prescribes how things ought to be.


1.)  If there is no God, then objective Moral Facts do not exist

2.)  Objective Moral Facts exist

3.)  Therefore, God exists

We simply have to clarify what this argument means before moving on to argue it.  By “God”, I mean an Ultimately Authoritative Commander of  Moral Facts.  By “Moral Facts”, I mean “oughts” and “ought nots” which are objectively  binding.  To say something is objective is to say it is independent of ones subjective preference, or universal, or absolute etc.  The first premise of the argument is one which is commonly misunderstood.  This does not mean that one must believe in God do be a good person, nor does it mean that atheists are intrinsically evil and theists are intrinsically good.  To use the words that Sartre attributed to Dostoyevsky, the first premise reads: “If there is no God, then everything is permissible.” To use the words of Payton, the second premise then reads: “Funny thing is, not everything is permissible”.  From this, it can be argued that God exists.

Descriptive facts are facts about the way that the world is. It is a fact that cats eat mice because there are actual cats who actually eat actual mice. It is a fact that Paris is the capital of France because there exists a city called Paris that is the capital of an actual place called France. For descriptive facts, there are objects in the actual world that make them true.  Another way of saying this is that descriptive facts are grounded in reality by the nature of the objects they describe.


Moral facts are different from facts about geography or science. The fact that we ought to do something about the existence of evil is not a fact about the way that the world is, it’s a fact about the way that the world ought to be.  There is nothing out there in the physical world that makes moral facts true. This is because moral facts aren’t descriptive, they’re prescriptive; moral facts have the form of commands.  Unlike descriptive facts, which are grounded in reality by the objects they describe, prescriptive facts are grounded in the subject which prescribes them.

There are some things that necessarily exist in pairs. There can’t be something that is being carried unless there is something else that is carrying it. There can’t be something that is hated unless there are lots of people that hate it.  Commands are like this; commands can’t exist without something else existing that commanded them.  Morality consists of a set of commands, and therefore requires a commander. 
What remains to be seen however, is what this commander is like.  At this point, it is not exactly clear why the commander of morality has to be like God at all.  It could be society, or evolution perhaps. 


Morality is absolute and objective. If someone ought to do something, then no matter what they think or prefer, they still ought to do it. It might be in my best interests not to give any money to charity, and though I’ll be considerably poorer afterwards, I am morally obligated to do so, so I ought to. It might be in my best interests to pretend that I’m too busy go to the Sea Scout meeting on Monday so that I can loaf around and watch House M.D., but I’m morally obligated to go, so all things considered, I ought to go. 

pakistanis20burn20israeli20flag1If everyone began to think the sky was fuschia, would that make it so?  If tomorrow, Al Qaeda took over the world and killed everyone who believed the Holocaust ocurred, would that make it true that there was no Holocaust?  What if they killed everyone who thought the Holocaust was wrong?  Would Hitler still be guilty?  Of course!  Just as guilty as he is now!  Very many people do not believe in the Holocaust, in fact, the world is genuinely divided on the issue.  Does this make the Holocaust any less real?  Any less objective?  Nope.  People may be mistaken.  A difference of opinion does not harm objectivism.

Absolute moral obligation is the only factor by which to determine what one absolutely ought to do, though by definition what you ought to do is synonymous with what you’re morally obligated to do.  However, there is a degree of precedence within morality.  Of course, there is the Absolute Moral Obligation that I’ve been talking about, but there are other common moral systems that many would be familiar with.  The law, one example, has tremendous roots in absolute moral obligation, but is distinct from it in many places.  Political systems are, in essence, grounded in morality for their application.  Social Conventions like etiquette, chivalry, and fashion are miniature moral systems.  A very interesting thing to note about these examples is that they are relative systems.  The law is relative to its proper state, and social conventions are relative to their societies.  This is not the case with absolute moral obligation, which is objective.

If someone has one reason to do one thing, but ought to do another thing, then all things considered they ought to do the other thing.  Prescriptive moral facts are the only factors that impact whether or not one ought to do something.  Morality has unique authority.


Commands, though, are only as authoritative as the person that commands them. If I were to command everyone to pay extra tax so that we could bail out the economy, then no one would have to do so. I’m not the President. But if the President were to command everyone to pay extra tax so that we could bail out the economy, then that would be different, because he does have that authority.

As morality has more authority than any human person or institution, the moral argument suggests that morality cannot have been commanded by any human person or institution. As morality is absolutely authoritative, as morality overrules everything, morality must have been commanded by a prescriptor who has authority over everything. The existence of objective moral facts thus points to the existence of an absolutely authoritative Prescriptor of  said facts, who can properly be called God.



1.)  If there is no God, then objective Moral Facts do not exist

Prescriptive facts imply a prescriptor

2.)  Objective Moral Facts exist

The aforementioned sort of prescriptive facts exist in reality, and have certain characteristics

3.)  Therefore, God exists

The characteristics exhibited by said prescriptive facts are necessarily shared by their prescriptor, rendering it so suspiciously similar to God as to validate the propostion that something like God exists.


Leave a comment

Filed under Interior Subcategory, Theistic Arguments, Theoretical Category