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Karma & the problem of evil.

  1. Oct 21, 2004 #1
    It seems to me that the problem of evil in philosophy can only be applied to western religions and not where karma is a belief. IS this true?
     
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  3. Oct 21, 2004 #2

    selfAdjoint

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    It seems to me that you have to have free will at some level to have evil. Something that is just predetermined cannot really becalled evil no matter how awful we find it (earthquake, hurricane, tornado). In the west we not only believe ourselves to have free will, we attribute that also to our god(s).
     
  4. Oct 22, 2004 #3

    hypnagogue

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    It depends on what you mean by evil. If call something that causes suffering evil, then I guess a hurricane would be just as evil as a murderer. If you require that evil be carried out by the intentions of an agent, that would preclude the hurricane, of course.

    But note that this more refined notion of intended evil can still exist in the context of determinism. Consider the case where Jim, a malicious murderer, has no free will, in the sense that his actions are completely predetermined. We can still quite plausibly call Jim evil (or at least call his act of murder evil), in the sense that he carried out intentions that caused extreme suffering in others. (The postulated fact that his intentions were predetermined does not alter their status as intentions.)

    I think the issue of free will (if you mean free will in some sense of non-determinism) will play a larger part in how society decides to react to Jim's act of murder than to what extent it judges him to be 'evil' or not. The issue is not whether or not what Jim has done is bad (obviously it is under any context), but to what extent Jim should be blamed or punished for his actions. If he has no free will, then an argument can be made that he should not be punished for his actions any more than nature should be punished for creating a hurricane. Rather, the preferable route might be to reform him by some means, in order to ensure that he does not murder again. (We would take the same actions in nature to prevent hurricanes if we knew how to do it, assuming that such action would not cause even graver circumstances down the line.)

    On the other hand, if people have free will (in the sense of choices being to some extent non-determinant), an argument can be made that wrongdoers should take the blame for their actions; after all, if they have free will, then they could have acted differently, and thus it can be considered at least partially to be their fault that they nonetheless behaved badly. Under this scenario, we might justify the punishment of criminals for freely choosing not to recognize their moral responsibility. Indeed, that's just the sort of conceptual framework that the American justice system relies upon.
     
  5. Oct 22, 2004 #4

    hypnagogue

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    I don't know. What do you think? Can you give us more background on what makes this question compelling, and what your own stance is?

    Particularly, what is the 'problem of evil in philosophy,' how does it apply to western religions, what is karma, and how does karma circumvent this problem?
     
  6. Oct 22, 2004 #5
    "The Problem of Evil" refers to the conflict between the lack of good in the world and the notion of a benevolent God. "How could a God exist with all this violence?" or "How could God be benevolent and cause this corruption?"

    Karma is the notion that if one performs "good" acts during their lifetime, they will be rewarded in the next.

    Correct me if i am wrong.
     
  7. Oct 23, 2004 #6
    karma at it's most basic is cause and effect, choice and consequence and it is cumulative

    karma can then be awarded as positive or negative with the effects/consequences of negative karma being equivalent to evil and vice versa.

    karma can also be applied collectively to societies and collectives but ultimately it is our free will as individuals to choose how it affects us in that respect

    pre-determinism is a best guess with a high probability factor but it still doesn't account for free will or dependence on unknown initial conditions

    an example of a horse race between a thoroughbred and a nag where the outcome might be assumed to be predetrmined but it doesn't account for the will of the nag to beat the thoroughbred or on the effect of a rock in the middle of the track crippling the thorough bred...

    sorry got a bit off track there myself but to answer your question

    NO
     
  8. Oct 23, 2004 #7
    Murderous Jim is caught, tried and executed. Additionally, the Karma Police punish him by causing him to be incarnated as a spider in his next life. This spider causes unspeakable suffering to countless flies, and eventually expires, a bloated black widow. For being such a successful spider, achieving his full potential and ridding the world of many bluebottles, the Karma Police ensure that its next incarnation is human being, a beautiful woman called Doris. This woman goes on to discover the cure for the common cold. She dies the next year of the flu.
    Question: Have Murderous Jim's crimes been attoned for by Doris' deeds? Or do the Karma Police judge her severely for her crimes against viruses?

    Hope this helps.
     
  9. Oct 23, 2004 #8
    Doris, the spider, and Jim are separate entities. As reincarnations their karma account starts from zero again. There is no redemption of former incarnations as they are not conscious of the crimes of the previous and therefore not accountable.

    Do spiders and viruses have free will ???
     
  10. Oct 23, 2004 #9

    hypnagogue

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    Please support any claims you have about Karma is supposed to be or do with evidence from a reputable source. We all have some idea of what is meant by the term, but I don't trust generic concepts to faithfully capture the intended meaning of the word in its original context.
     
  11. Oct 23, 2004 #10

    Tom Mattson

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    Last edited: Oct 23, 2004
  12. Oct 24, 2004 #11
    According to the Hutchinson Encylopedia of Living Faiths (4th Edition), karma is: "the results of actions in this life or a previous one" (Zaehner 1959, p.233). i.e. account is ongoing, or at least until we achieve enlightenment. I think their sense of separateness is an example of Maya, the illusion of all things being separate.

    Hmmm, a BIG question. It begs the question of whether humans have free will. I think this issue is being discussed on another thread.
     
  13. Oct 24, 2004 #12
    The account is ongoing but you don't take the balance of your previous incarnation through to the next. A better analogy might be the bank remains open but you checkout the balance upon death and start a new account with your new identity upon reincarnation.

    A reward of positive actions brings a higher incarnation. The account then starts from zero and you accumulate karma points from then for that entity.

    It's like not being accountable for the sins of the father but being accountable for your sins in regards to the family mission.

    As incarnations towards enlightenment I don't believe we have memories of past incarnations so it renders the account null anyway. I tend towards streams of consciousness and life missions for families/societies. If you don't complete the mission it gets passed to the next generation or another family member. As a stream, you merge, become a tributary that feeds major flows and eventually you meet the ocean as deltas or estuaries; or your stream can become dry, desolate, even a cesspool that goes nowhere and festers becoming a haven for all sorts of nasties.

    I don't think spiders and viruses have free will. I think they have instinct and genetic memory. Genetic memory is also something we have and is often misconstrued as memories of previous incarnations when they are probably the memories of ancestors.

    Much in the same way as we have instincts from previous evolutionary steps still hard wired thorugh sections of our brain.

    What thinks you 42 ???
     
  14. Oct 24, 2004 #13

    Tom Mattson

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    RingoKid,

    This request is still outstanding. If you think that it can be ignored simply because you think it is unreasonable, then you can think again.

    In addition to the above request, I would like for you to explain how this has relevance to the opening post.
     
  15. Oct 24, 2004 #14
    what would you call a reputable source Tom and could you or Hypno please post an example of one and what makes it reputable ???

    Also what exactly would you like explained with relevence to the opening post ???
     
  16. Oct 24, 2004 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    You didn't ask me, but if you don't mind I will take a shot at explaining.

    There are a lot of forums around the web, and many of them allow, or are even for the purpose of encouraging, people to freely explore their theories and ideas. This site is very different from that. Many of PF members are high school kids, and a substantial portion are college students. So there is an emphasis here on both learning what mainstream thinkers have said, and on learning how to think according to the established rules of logic and proof.

    I've read your posts, and IMO you interpreted karma from your own understanding, without first establishing the foundation of the traditional concept and how/why your inferences are logical offshoots from that tradition. That seems a bit too close to those who sometimes come here almost like gurus, thinking they are going to enlighten us all with their self-realization. Maybe you are enlightened about karma and maybe you aren't, but this is not the place to offer your personal creative interpretations without logically extending from what is accepted as knowledge.

    You are being asked to adopt standards that include being speculatively conservative, scholarly, logical . . . and to make your case every step along the way using those standards (at least until staff can see if you are a crackpot or not). Not because you don't understand karma intuitively and can speak from that, but because that approach does not fit the format here. It is nothing to take personally. If this site isn't a fit for you, it is not big tragedy is it? And if occasionally you get the urge to reason the way things are done here, and if you haven't pissed off the staff, then you can always come and have your say. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2004
  17. Oct 25, 2004 #16
    thanks Les...

    that was a great response and in light of it i can see the error of my ways and for that i apologise. I do however feel that philosophy should be an evolving tradition and not locked into a pre concieved western christian standard or of stagnant mainstream schools of thought.

    I don't want to be seen as some guru or whatever. I wish to be challenged and taken to account for my beliefs and opinions.

    peace
     
  18. Oct 25, 2004 #17

    Tom Mattson

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    I already answered your second question. I would consider a source reputable if it is faithful to the concept as it was developed by its originators. In this case, I think it would not be a bad idea to consult a Buddhist source. Less than a minute of Googling turned this up:

    Law of Karma

    As I said already, this topic is on the question of whether karma negates the problem of evil.

    It should be quite obvious that to participate fruitfully in this topic, one must use the same definition of "karma" that is used in the philosophical systems from which the concept arose in the first place. It should be equally obvious that in order to participate fruitfully in this topic, one must attempt to deal with the question in the opening post.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2004
  19. Oct 25, 2004 #18
    It should be obvious already that I answered the initial question in light of the definition and then some. I have proven an understanding of the philosophical system in which it arose. The fact that no one has taken me to task over my answer suggests it is correct

    The unpleasant sensation of wishing to cause pain was not intiated by me. My motive and intent were pure. I tend not to attempt to deal, I just deal and let the cards fall where they may.

    If the game is tit for tat though then i am quite adept at that also.

    peace
     
  20. Oct 25, 2004 #19

    Tom Mattson

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    You never answered the question in light of any definition of 'karma'. The question is about karma and the problem of evil. All you did was post a list of theses.

    No, it doesn't. This is the same logical fallacy I mentioned before: argument from ignorance.

    No one wishes to cause anyone pain. The point of this is to keep the discussion on topic, and to see to it that our guidelines are maintained.

    The only one playing games is you. Instead of wasting your time doing that, why not present a good argument for your case?
     
  21. Oct 25, 2004 #20
    definition

    justification and understanding of underlying philosophical system

    Answer

    I like playing games. Games are fun. Fun is happiness. Happiness is what it's all about. Adults should play games more often they'd be a lot happier. Don't you agree ???
     
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