(This is a response to the “problem of evil,” often asked by those who wonder why a god would allow suffering.)
To have a preference — any preference — is to experience pain when that preference is frustrated. The most extreme form of pain is what we call “evil.” Therefore, to avoid evil, we would have to eliminate preference itself. To eliminate preference would mean caring perfectly equally about all outcomes. Having no preference for one action or thought over another, we would be unable to think or even move. If we moved at all, we could move only at random. We would effectively cease to exist as conscious beings.
Therefore, “evil” is an unavoidable byproduct of consciousness itself.
THE THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
Let’s say for a moment you are simply a disembodied mind, floating in a void.
Suddenly, two planets come into view.
Do you look at Planet A, or Planet B?
You might choose to look at Planet A. Maybe the citizens Planet A are having a loud party, or the seas are a bit more blue. Perhaps you have a preference for Planet A because you are lonely, and the people attract your notice, or the music makes you afraid, or the color blue attracts you.
But the moment you prefer one to the other, that is a form of consciousness.
But what if — for some reason — you had no preference whatsoever?
Planets A and B come into view and Planet A is a loud, blue planet, and Planet B is a cold, empty planet. And you don’t pick a planet: your eyes randomly go to one or the other.
Are you really looking at all? Or are “you” really just observing according to some randomized pattern? If that’s the case, Planet A might simply blow up while you were looking at Planet B.
Yet you would continue to stare at Planet B, as you have no desires, interest, fear, or anything else.
That scarcely seems like consciousness at all.
What this tells us, is that consciousness / free will can only exist in the presence of a preference.
Our decisions (free will) follow the arc of our preferences.
The very presence of a preference, of course, means desire. And desire has only two real outcomes: pleasure — if the desire is fulfilled — or a measure of pain if the desire is not.
This pain of thwarted desires, at its most extreme, is what we call evil. The “problem of evil” is basically the question, “Why do undesirable things take place?”
And the answer is, without undesirable things, there could be no preferences, and without preferences, there could be no consciousness.
In a world without pain, there is nothing to do any observing … or instigate any action. Consciousness would effectively cease to exist.
# # #