Situation L = the situation of the amount of suffering and premature death experienced by humans in the world at the present time being significantly less than what it actually is at present. (In other words, if the actual amount, at present, is, say, a total of n units of suffering and premature death, then in situation L that amount would be, at present, significantly less than n units.)
I'd read, or at least skimmed through Drange's book before. On the one hand, I think Drange is more intellectually honest than most folks who write about the existence of God. Drange exibits a quality which is all to rare in the philosophy of religion, he admits that his argument is very narrowly qualified and only works in certain contexts. For example, he ntoes that on a scale of 0 to 100 percent efficacy, his argument from evil is only at about 20% against what he calls ``liberal Christianity'' and at 0% against the most basic abstract conception of God. (It's real strength is against Evangelicals where he claims it carries the day at a full 95%.) But on the other hand, he's got quite a few quirks that irritate the bejesus out of me such as dividing Christianity into two groups: Evangelical and Liberal. By the former he appears to mean the Fundamentalist crowd and by the latter he means anyone that doesn't take every last scrap of scripture as being literally true.
But, most importantly, I did not find in Drange what I was looking for, an argument that Situation L is indeed desired by the God of Christianity contrary to Pope and Leibnitz that God, by necessity, has created the best of all possible worlds and, consequently, cannot desire to make a better world.
Which led me to dork around on EBSCO a bit which led me to a couple reviews of a book that I dimly recall having been meaning to read since it first came out, Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy. (I think ni has also recommended this book to me.) Per the review, Neiman picks up the discourse exactly where my interest begins with Leibniz and the events of the Lisbon Earthquake and cycling through Voltaire, Hume and Kant up through to the present era. Turns out that if the Reviewers presentation of Neiman's presentation of Kant is correct, it looks as if my next step is going to be Kant and the observation that the whole discussion ``wrongly presupposes a systematic connection between happiness and virtue.'' This book may be next on my shopping list.
All of which kept me up far too late last night and me without even any whiskey to keep me company while reading such dry prose. Kant himself in the Prolegomena said that critically reading his own Critique to be ``a disagreeable task, because the work is dry, obscure, opposed to all ordinary notions, and moreover long-winded.'' But A few hours of slumber and taking my car in to get an oil change gave me a bit of respite. As my dapper little Yaris is hitting the 15k point, I took it out to the dealer for the full spectrum of scheduled maintenance rather than to the local garage for a quick oil, lube and filter job. And let me just say, taking the car to the dealer is a whole other experience.
This was, after all, the first time I've been to the dealer since I drove my car off the lot with single digits on the odometer. Before today, I've never been to the service center. The experience begins with a large, four lane drive-through with automatic doors. Lest customers have to brave the elements, they pull up, wait for the door on one of the four lanes to open, and pull into the shelter of the bay while the door closes behind. Then one exits the vehicle, is seated at a round table with a chipper attendant buoyantly inquires into which services they can serve up on this fine day. Once the services are scheduled and the key is handed over, the car owner is escorted stage left into a waiting room with plush chairs, tables, large screen televisions, free coffee and a crowd of other car owners cheerfully waiting. Once the services were complete, the car is returned freshly washed and humming to a fine tuning.
So while I was there I read a very nice article in The Atlantic contrasting the views of Israeli novelist David Grossman with those of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Something struck me while reading the article, the existential angst felt by Israeli Jews for very good reasons is very similar to what is felt by large swathes of the US public. I was particularly struck by a quote by Grossman along the lines of ``We've got a large army, we've got nukes. Yet, we must fear for our very existence.'' This view, which makes quite a bit of sense in Israel doesn't make so much sense in the US. And yet, this view, to a certain extent, defines the American experience. Despite being Fortress America, a nation across the sea from any real enemies and whose only enemies willing to take up arms against don't have the capacity for a significant military strike from overseas, is engaged in a `war on terror' against `those who hate us because we are free' and who pose such a threat that `the right to be kept safe by the government' becomes the primary right discussed in political speeches.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder if a large part of the outlook in foreign affairs can't be explained by the remains of Hobbes in the US outlook that `a war of all against all' does obtain between the nations while most of Europe tends to adopt a more cosmopolitan view of continental thinkers such as Kant. Regardless, it's a bit absurd.
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
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