The Argument from Error

September 6, 2007

(surely this has already been thought by someone else, if so, excuse it)

In the Meditations Descartes says “if it were repugnant to the goodness of Deity to have created me subject to constant deception, it would seem likewise to be contrary to his goodness to allow me to be occasionally deceived; and yet it is clear that this is permitted.”

This made me think of an epistemological version of the problem of evil. I will present the argument, say some things abut it, and then wait for you to tell me whether you find it ridiculous or not. The argument goes like this.

P1 If (summing up) there is a three-O God then it cannot be that humans are constantly deceived.
P2 Humans are constantly deceived (by their senses, reasoning, intuitions, etc.)
C There is no three-O God.

If I remember properly, the usual reply to the “Problem of Evil” argument is that of Free Will. It is obvious that the same argument will not work here. The Free Will argument requires the possibility (or actual instances) of Evil, but not of error (or deception). One might be omniscient and still be free to take the dark side. So there is at least something attractive about the “Problem of Error” argument.

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