Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Perhaps it is so obvious that I don't actually need to state it, but I'm worried that some readers may think that my theodicy explorations have only worked themselves all the way around to where they began. Therefore, I'd like to point out why this is not so.

It is true that the position I suggested Stanley Fish was at least hinting at (a recent reread suggests that it's actually the Devil's position in the Hitherby serial "An Unclean Legacy", which does not speak all that highly for it) is that fiction is theodicy - I also say fiction is theodicy.

Nevertheless, it seems clear to me that there is a difference. The Devil's position is that suffering is morally justifiable because it makes for drama. This is true even if people are genuinely experiencing suffering. My position is that suffering is morally justifiable if people are not genuinely experiencing it, and that this is possible if people see their suffering as fictional, as somehow less real than other things that are more valid. In other words, the Devil is happy to hurt people and thinks they should like it because of the intrinsic value of drama. He doesn't care if the intrinsic value of drama doesn't outweigh the suffering for those experiencing it. My hypothetical God (who does not seem to exist) wouldn't be happy to hurt people, and would ensure that people experience their suffering in the same way we experience suffering of others in a story or suffering of ourselves in the best kind of dream, rather than the pain and misery and unjustifiability of suffering in real life. The reason why this God (as opposed to any others) clearly doesn't exist is because we don't all experience our suffering this way, even if some people might.

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