Thursday, June 3, 2010

Philosophy and the Sandwich

The thesis is taking most of my time, but I remembered an interesting interaction I had several years ago and thought to commit it to the cloud.

I was invited to a UCSD Philosophy Club discussion regarding theodicy, or the supposed problem of an apparent contradiction between an omnipotent, benevolent God and the existence of evil. While not getting into this pointless debate too much, I'd like to make two observations.

First, every time I hear this matter come up, I am dumbfounded at the consistent lack of defining the terms before the discussion. What is "good"? What is "evil"? It is always assumed that everyone present knows what these terms mean, but how can you debate good and evil, let alone God, without defining the terms?

Second, at this particular discussion, I created a peculiar metaphor for our discussion that goes as follows. It was like we were sitting around a table with a cover on it, and the proposition being debated was the existence of a sandwich underneath the cover. The Christians at the debate, believing in the sandwich because many of them had tasted it at one time or another, argued strongly for its existence. The atheists, never before having tasted the sandwich, argued that it could not possibly exist. However, no one simply lifted up the cover, picked up the sandwich, and took a bite. That's what I would have done, and that is what I would encourage any aspiring philosophers to do. Eat the sandwich; then you'll know once and for all whether or not it exists.

Finally, to the aspiring philosophers, should any actually find this post: don't summarize philosophy, do philosophy. I could not believe how much of that pointless debate was the summarizing and quoting of previous philosophers' works, and how little was actual synthesized ideas from the participants.