Talbott and Walls Essay
According to Talbott, it is impossible that someone could choose to sin forever because there is no reasonable motive behind it.
As Talbott words it, “We all have some idea of what it means to fall into evil or to choose wrongly on a particular occasion. But what could it mean to say that some sinners are trying as hard as they can to damn themselves?”(152) For Talbott evil is a condition that people fall into or are tricked into because evil results in “greater misery” and does not believe that could choose “eternal misery” with a real motive.(152) Talbott firmly believes that because motives are directed towards happiness and that furthermore all motives are ultimately directed towards happiness. That anyone being mistaken towards misery must be suffering from that which impairs one’s ability to choose. In Talbott’s case he cites as prompts of evil: “deception” and “bondage to desire.
”(153) For as Talbott’s organizational universe does not accept that a motivation differing from a direction towards happiness is one that is actual; the only actual motivations that are possessed should all concern happiness by this strict theory. Since evil causes misery then one would only damn themselves if one were suffering from a lack of knowledge or were bound to desire. Both lack of knowledge and being bound to desire are informatively associated with misery but there exact location is a bit in the air.
Walls makes it known that he admires Talbott’s approach because it is not empirically guided. However, he does disagree. One point of weakness is that Talbott’s idea of motive is too particular. Defiance is a motivation that has overwhelmed people in many critical ages, defiance is for some a virtue and for others a way to express their personalities.
While one can argue that expressive motivations may not be rational it’s hard to say that they are not valid motivations when we all do not despise the suffering artist though we wonder why the artist continues to suffer. Furthermore, Talbott, by re-instating a view that sin or rather evil, is a matter of ignorance, is as Walls would argue, going in some sense, against Christian thought which removes that as an adequate explanation.(154) When Walls discusses Kierkegaard what most intrigues him is Kierkegaard’s intense preoccupation with the argument that “evil can be deliberately chosen.”(154) For Kierkegaard this seems to be most critical because it is most critical to the spirit of Christian as opposed to Platonic theology.
For Kierkegaard what is most central to Christian theology is not being motivated towards happiness but rather, the guidance towards an enlargement of consciousness so that one can become oneself. Both Wall’s interpretation of Kierkegaard and Talbott’s interpretation of evil focus on consciousness but Talbott does not use the word. It seems that Talbott cannot use the word because ignorance is judged by another while consciousness is developed and known from within. A person who defies God would combat God and in combat one can arguably know God better. An analogy would be a confrontation as common as debating with someone over whether one should behave morally or expediently; in this analogy there is pleasure taken in combative modes and one also learns a great deal because one is opposed. Walls disagrees as he uses the vehicle of Kierkegaard to note that because consciousness provides knowledge of the soul, one receives an achievement of infinity through working decisively until one can claim it.
Despair is a decisive word here because for Talbott despair signals that one is guilty of evil as only evil could result in despair, not a true loyalty to God, for that could only result in happiness. Yet this is very hard to support because even though Talbott can argue this on metaphysical grounds empirically there are too many people who despaired for their faith and could not have been said to have done so because they followed a evil path. Great religious figures like saints are praised for their suffering and incredible despair and this praise has often been that of genuine reverence. Furthermore, as Walls points out, despair is common to everyone and one can make the choice towards greater illumination if one is aware of it. Additionally, just as good people are consistently good as they resist temptations towards evil, evil people can also be consistent and their consistency regrets that they be endlessly resistant to the temptations of good in its various manifestations.(Walls 161) When consistency can be had, then Walls believes that he has disproven Talbott because the consistency of evil makes one “immune to the grace of God” and this would make all possibility of salvation impossible.
(Walls 162) On the issue of motivation Walls more thoroughly critiques Talbott because he gives examples of people claiming superiority and refusing to allow for good to redeem them. As Satan felt it better to reign than to serve, however he might despair, others have preserved their pride and moral rectitude by not giving in towards the good and giving themselves to the cause. As happiness is not the end, something else is, this very much could be an illustration of Kierkegaard’s consciousness, a consciousness that can often betray happiness but also make it of less consequence than so many make it out to be.
That it is possible for heaven and its promise of infinite promise to be a person’s goal, that it should even be so distasteful to an actor that they discipline themselves against it, is a realization that one can sin forever as Walls has already argued. The consistency of evil only makes it plain that if the will is strong enough, a person’s soul cannot be won for the cause of God even by God if freedom is to be preserved.