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Michael Zeleny [userpic]
vere tu es deus absconditus deus sui salvator

As is well-known, God helps those who help themselves, which renders God’s help rather superfluous. Now, let us consider an apposite God, one who is committed to helping exactly those who do not help themselves. We bear in mind that, unlike Russell’s barber, who is free to shrug off as impossible his duty to shave those, and only those, who do not shave themselves, the perfection of God requires that he actually do everything he is committed to do. Then is our God under obligation to help Himself?

(Originally published on 20 January 1993.)

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]philosophy.


As is well-known, God helps those who help themselves

How do we know this and which God are you talking about?

Eris doesn't help me much one way or the other... she usually steals my stuff and then returns it to the last place I looked for it... it can be damn annoying at times.

How do we know this and which God are you talking about?

Ask Aesop.

Rephrasing Russell is not originality, Jennifer. Nor is posting to Usenet and e-mailing to a professor in Manitoba "publishing".

Don't forget "ladylike" and "unmanly."

Then is our God under obligation to help Himself?

This question only applies after you establish that God can be helped, which is not the case. Making Russell's barber analogous to your God only works if Russell's barber doesn't grow hair in the first place.

As witness the intelligibility of helping yourself, the relation of helping is not necessarily aliorelative. If you wish to make an argument that God cannot be helped, please do so.

Also, your logic is weak sauce. Come on, Jennifer, is that really the best you can do?

Dr. Cox also only helps those who help themselves, I believe.

You have a contradiction buried in the problem before you even get to the point you wanted to discuss. Can God help himself/herself/itself/emself at all, regardless of any obligation to do so? The very idea is nonsensical, since a perfect being can't really be the object of aid. The problem just sorta reduces to, "can God create contradictions?!" which is pretty well trodden ground.

A perfect being cannot be the subject of any passion or the object of any change. The consequences of this observation have been traced out by Spinoza and glossed by Edwin Curley in a paper published in the Shahan and Biro collection. If you like your God more personal than that, the boundaries of His handicaps need must be set elsewhere, supported by some kind of argument.

I think what the other writers are suggesting in the idea that a god (God, G-d, G-D, etc.) who would need help creates a contradiction is that help necessarily implies inability to reach a goal, therefore a deficiency, and as I understand most discussions of God presuppose omnipotence, therefore no aid needed, he/she/it/they can do whatever they want.

Yet at the same time god still has goals, he still DOES things (creates universes, answers prayers, thinks himself, get the cosmic clock going and leaves, etc), and can still help himself accomplish those goals. It's not a question of there being some deficiency he corrects within himself/herself/itself/themselves; more like God has an end he then allows himself to follow and execute.

Maybe the point of one helping themselves, whether it be god or not, is independence from the use/aid of others; maybe god is omnipotent precisely because he/she/it/they never needs any help besides its own help, which is not "help" per se, merely the independent ability to do what one wants. (which might be a little pat if you're faithful, God then becomes this omnipotent guy we go to when we can't do it ourselves, somebody who can take care of anything). Yet this still might be a way around the contradiction to god helping himself/herself/itself/themselves.

"Help helping itself...?"

Thank you for posing this, it really made me re-appreciate how energizing it is to be alone and do things on your own.

No, he allows himself to be crucified.

God is superfluous.

Your comment is superfluous.

Your comment is superfluous.