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 Post subject: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:40 pm 
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First, I must say, mods, if you feel this topic will get out of hand, or somehow escalate to something much worse than its intentions, please lock/delete this thread. (I don't think it will, but I want to make sure its okay.)
(My point being. I don't want this to become a religious debate. I don't think it will, though.)

This is a note I wrote on Facebook about my thoughts on the idea of "omnibenevolence" in its most commonly used meaning as well as its actual definition.

Quote:
The idea of omnibenevolence is really getting to me right now...

Omnibenevolence as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary means "unlimited or infinite benevolence". Benevolence being a "desire to do good to others" (according to dictionary.com in its simplest form.), but also noted as "an act of kindness; a charitable gift", and "a forced contribution to the sovereign". (That third definition is quite interesting, but we won't get into that right now.) In other words, Omnibenevolence is an "unlimited amount of desire to do good to others", or put more simply "an infinite desire to do good".

But this brings about questions. (Which I will separate into 2 groups: General Questions and Religious Questions)

General Questions:
1.Can omnibenevolence exist?

-The Buddha comes to mind. Siddhartha spent his life learning and teaching what he believed to be good. "Enlightenment". Enlightenment was the "end of suffering". Something the Buddha was said to have discovered. Would the end of suffering bring about unlimited good or unlimited desire to do good? Its tempting to think yes. But I think we have to say "no. Not necessarily". Why? Because who can define what is good? The concept of good differs from person to person, so if omnibenevolence did exist, there would have to be some aspects of "good" that everyone agreed on. And then a person (or being) would have to meet those criteria. If not everyone agreed that it was good, they could not be omnibenevolent to that person. So it seems omnibenevolence is subjective (its meaning and magnitude differs from person to person. Unless everyone can agree on one set of things that are good. And I don't believe everyone can agree on what is good, or agree on what some things are good.)

2.Is there a purpose for omnibenevolence?

-Why would we want to believe in the idea of omnibenevolence? Or, why would be want to be omnibenevolent?

This is really subjective to each individual person, really. I mean, would doing the right thing always be the best thing? I can't say for sure, but I don't think it always would be. Here's an example: Your boss wants you to do something one way and you know that doing it a different way would be more efficient and would benefit the company more. What is good in this situation? Obeying your boss or disobeying your boss? I don't think either is better, but again, it all comes down to the different views on what is good for each individual person.

Religious Questions:

1.Is God Omnibenevolent? (this is going to be mostly in the direction of Christianity.)

I think Euthyphro dilemma comes into play here, but in a different way:

Is what god does/say good because he is god, or because it is good? If it is good because god does it, then is it only good for god? (for instance, God murders, but he commands humans not to murder) If so, the definition of omnibenevolence would have to be changed. What is good for god is different from what is good for humans. This would have to be the case, because humans disagree about what is good. But if what god does/says is good because he does/says only good, how can there be debate about what is and what isn't good? (How could he create an opposition to what he determined was good? How could he create something that was not good, if he can only do/say good?) If he can't only do and say good, then how can he be omnibenevolent. [EDIT: I originally wrote "Omnipotent" here, at the end. I don't know if I intended to, but I think I meant to say "Omnibenevolent".]

(I could go on and on about this, and loop back and forth, but I want to know what you guys think.)

My conclusion:

Omnibenevolence can't exist. If it did, there would have to be a universal understanding of what is and what is not good, and there isn't.


I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the subject! Please comment!

One other thought:

"benevolence" meaning the desire to do good. I'm just wondering. Even if you had an unlimited desire. Would that then mean that you would always do good? I don't think so. If this is the case, I think its possible for a lot of people in the world to be omnibenevolent. But if this is the case, omnibenevolence wouldn't be a supernatural thing at all. [(Which would mean that omnibenevolence would not be a divine characteristic of god)]

Also, an interesting video. Theramintrees has an amazing ability to express an argument. Check it out.
I also think if anyone can explain the contradictions behind omnibenevolence (and many other subjects. Its him.)


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:58 pm 
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OK Flappy, I understand what you are saying and I think I agree with you. some thoughts from me: rabbi Hillel once said "if we are not for ourselves, who will be. But if we must not be only for ourselves." the interpetation I put on this is: Charity begins at home. We have to be FIRST on our "charity" givings. However, we must also take care of those not as fortunate as ourselves.

Ergo: omnibenevolence is NOT a good thing and should not be practiced. We must provide for us before providing for others.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:12 pm 
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paddy wrote:
OK Flappy, I understand what you are saying and I think I agree with you. some thoughts from me: rabbi Hillel once said "if we are not for ourselves, who will be. But if we must not be only for ourselves." the interpetation I put on this is: Charity begins at home. We have to be FIRST on our "charity" givings. However, we must also take care of those not as fortunate as ourselves.

Ergo: omnibenevolence is NOT a good thing and should not be practiced. We must provide for us before providing for others.

Interesting. And I'm glad you agree, or at least think you agree with me. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:33 am 
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Omnibenevolence by an omnipotent being would imply that no suffering can exist. If the desire for the good of others is truly without limit, and the being with this desire is omnipotent, then even by design of our species, we would not suffer. The idea that we suffer for our own development has been passed around to explain why God allows suffering, but because we do, omnibenevolence is non existent in the manner described


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:05 am 
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killazerg wrote:
Omnibenevolence by an omnipotent being would imply that no suffering can exist. If the desire for the good of others is truly without limit, and the being with this desire is omnipotent, then even by design of our species, we would not suffer. The idea that we suffer for our own development has been passed around to explain why God allows suffering, but because we do, omnibenevolence is non existent in the manner described

:D Yeah, exactly. Lol, thanks for joining the conversation.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:43 am 
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killazerg wrote:
Quote:
The idea that we suffer for our own development has been passed around to explain why God allows suffering,

One of my ex wifes and the kids are Roman Catholic and their attitude is what you described. Any pain or bad things happen "you offer it up to God for the salvation of souls." I will not express my view of this.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:59 pm 
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Full disclaimer: I'm an atheist but studied a bit of theistic philosophy, so take the below for what it's worth.


Omnibenelovence is actually a philosophical/theological concept and cannot, and should not, be applied to mortals like us. No matter how much we tried to be "all good", it is impossible. Every action that is good for someone will necessarily be bad for someone else; which is why the concept of "all good" or "infinite goodness" can only be applied to a being that is not constrained by morality but rather one that defines morality by its existence. A being can only be omnibenelovent if every action it takes is, by its nature, good.

    A problem here is whether you can be truly good if you have no ability or opportunity to do evil, but that's another issue.

With regards to the Euthyphro dilemma, the common Christian argument is that "good" is good because God says it is, regardless of what He may actually do: because God is not bound by definitions that He imposes upon us. What is "good" for us (e.g. worshipping God) is not necessarily "good" for God.

This is why you get many arguments against atheism which start from, if God does not exist, then murder must surely be OK; which is of course a form of wish fulfilment, because the basic form that the argument takes is: I don't want murder to be OK. If God exists, then murder is wrong. Therefore God exists.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 6:52 am 
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postalelf, I have seen some totally erroneous logic in my day but this one is on top of the list. One thing is you don't make sense at all, i.e.
Quote:
I don't want murder to be OK. If God exists, then murder is wrong. Therefore God exists.
there is no connection between not wanting a crime and the existance of a creator. Also
Quote:
Every action that is good for someone will necessarily be bad for someone else
WHAT??? This is so fallacious that it is ridiculous. i.e giving to charity harms NO ONE but helps the receiver of charity.

I am not defending a belief in a creator, but you have to have some logic to your beliefs and there is none here.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 6:50 am 
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Hi Paddy,

paddy wrote:
postalelf, I have seen some totally erroneous logic in my day but this one is on top of the list. One thing is you don't make sense at all, i.e.
Quote:
I don't want murder to be OK. If God exists, then murder is wrong. Therefore God exists.
there is no connection between not wanting a crime and the existance of a creator.


That's why I said it's a form of wish-fulfilment. It's not logical at all, but that's the argument a lot of Christians put forth. It just looks especially dumb when you break it down - like I did - into its most basic form, but in most cases the Christians would usually say, "Well if God doesn't exist then doesn't that mean Hitler goes unpunished?!?!?!". Whether Hitler goes unpunished or not, and regardless of how much I may want him to be punished, it does nothing towards proving that God exists or does not exist.

Quote:
Quote:
Every action that is good for someone will necessarily be bad for someone else
WHAT??? This is so fallacious that it is ridiculous. i.e giving to charity harms NO ONE but helps the receiver of charity.


If I give towards a charity, it's with the assumption that charity is, in itself, morally desirable; which is not necessarily the case, because if (for example) my giving of that money leads to the homeless man further spiralling down into alcohol-fuelled depression. Or maybe I subscribe to utilitarianism and believe that the $20 I give to the homeless guy can be, and ought to be, better spent towards building an orphanage because it benefits more people. Or maybe I earned the money through the exploitation of child slaves in a third-world country, and my lesser action of giving money to the homeless guy does not outweigh my greater crime of exploitation.

Maybe I was too hasty in saying that it'll _necessarily_ be bad for someone else, but I believe that no action is objectively good outside of theology. I'm not saying that theology is right, of course: merely that the belief in an objective good can only be defensible from a theological position.

Quote:
I am not defending a belief in a creator, but you have to have some logic to your beliefs and there is none here.


The stuff you quoted aren't my views at all, since I don't believe in a creator (see disclaimer above): merely what I've heard from some of the religious people I encounter. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 9:13 am 
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Benevolence is subjective. If it's subjective, it can't be measured. If it can't be measured, there can be no concept of maximum benevolence, hence no omnibenevolence.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 9:24 am 
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Quote:
Or maybe I earned the money through the exploitation of child slaves in a third-world country, and my lesser action of giving money to the homeless guy does not outweigh my greater crime of exploitation.
Now that's funny. When I was married to Minnesota Fats (one of my ex wives) she was (still is) a Roman Catholic and worked(s) as the Director of Religious education for a large parish in the town. I was the Jewish chaplain to hospitals and prisons in the state. Well a family from Chicago moved into town and attended the 10AM mass every week. They put in 28 $100 bills in the collection every Sunday. Father Al called me up one day and said just what you did, these people were Mafia, plain & simple, everybody knew it so how could he take the money. We talked about this for a long time and decided that the good far outweighs the bad so it is permissable to let ill gotten money pay for charitable things.


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 Post subject: Re: Omnibenevolence. Thoughts?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 9:32 pm 
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paddy wrote:
Now that's funny. When I was married to Minnesota Fats (one of my ex wives) she was (still is) a Roman Catholic and worked(s) as the Director of Religious education for a large parish in the town. I was the Jewish chaplain to hospitals and prisons in the state. Well a family from Chicago moved into town and attended the 10AM mass every week. They put in 28 $100 bills in the collection every Sunday. Father Al called me up one day and said just what you did, these people were Mafia, plain & simple, everybody knew it so how could he take the money. We talked about this for a long time and decided that the good far outweighs the bad so it is permissable to let ill gotten money pay for charitable things.


I don't think that it's wrong for the pastor (or equivalent) to take the money put into the collection box in this instance; just the same that it wouldn't be wrong for me to use the donated liver of a mass murderer to save a life. However! It does not make what the Mafioso did morally right, because the lesser good of charity does not outweigh the greater wrong of, well, breaking kneecaps and other assorted body parts. To say that the charity as proffered by the Mafioso as morally acceptable would be almost akin to saying that it would be morally acceptable for a doctor to go around killing people and using their livers to save life.

In the first situation, you're using the resources given to you from a source that did morally unacceptable things to do the morally right thing. In the second situation, you're doing something morally unacceptable in order to do a morally right thing. I think the difference is a very crucial one.


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