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Embodied Cognition and the Problem of Evil


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Hey guys! I'd like to raise a question and start a discussion if you don't mind. 

The past year or so I've grappled somewhat intensely with the problem of evil. The issue of embodied cognition, which I'll explain later, has proven to be surprisingly thorny. I've discovered in the past that, if I spend too much time with an issue in my head, my mind gets into ruts and there are whole avenues of approach to the problem which I just fail to see. I'm concerned that this is happening now in real time (my thinking has felt kind of static and rigid lately), so I'd like to reach out and see if I can get some input. 

Anyways, for embodied cognition, see this 4-article series by Ed Gantt and Jeffrey Thayne (both of whom are speaking at the FairMormon conference this weekend, though not on this topic). I generally agree with Gantt and Thayne's presentation. It seems inescapable that the very ways in which we think are mediated by our mortal bodies. My confidence in this has been reinforced by looking towards science. For instance, current research suggests that our psychological traits are heavily influenced by our genes, to the tune of 30%-50%.  In other words, though how we behave isn't necessarily determined by our genes, it is heavily influenced by them. This pretty much shatters my prior thoughts about the source of our morality. Previously I had thought that our moral natures were effectively artifacts of our premortal eternal intelligences, sent to Earth to be tested and fleshed out. I thought this was a major advantage to our theology as, per the B.H. Roberts view God did not create our primordial intelligences, God could not be responsible for creating our moral natures. Thus, He could not be blamed for creating children that are so regularly malicious, evil-prone, etc. However, if our behavior is heavily influenced by our earthly bodies, then God is back in the dock. Is the worthiness-test of this world really legitimate when God could have made us all better from the start?

I have thought of a few things. None of them fully satisfy me, but they might be useful stepping stones to a greater understanding. 

1. It's possible that God's freedom of action is limited in a telestial realm like this one. To be precise, a fallen telestial realm can only be conformed to God's will to a certain degree. Thus, He has to govern by setting up general laws and letting them run with occasional interventions, because there's only so much power He can exercise at any given time. Thus, when those laws entail glitches in complex systems like the brain, He can't step in to patch it up perfectly all the time, nor can He make everything balance out perfectly fairly. This would actually go a long way towards dealing with the problem of evil in general and it appeals to me very much. I generally like finitist conceptions of God because the scriptures frankly make more sense to me when you toss out the Anselmian maximal-omniGod who can do anything. I will say that I got this idea while pondering D&C 76 and observing how each kingdom approximates God's will more and more as you climb, but I'm aware that the idea of degrees of glory being an ontologically-independent facet of reality as opposed to a construction of God's is somewhat ad hoc. This theory will likely make many Latter-day Saints uncomfortable, but its potential for resolving these problems is considerable. 

(As an aside, I should also add that this idea was heavily influenced by how deities function in Brandon Sanderson's cosmere literary universe. If this actually goes somewhere then my confidence in literary inspiration will be heavily increased. Well-written high fantasy expands the mind.)

2. It might be that God takes cognitive construction into account when judging the individual and judges them based on the best they did with the brain they had. After all, genetics don't determine behavior, they just strongly influence it. There's still room for free will, and thus the psychological traits our brains give us can be thought of as similar to temptations, albeit strong ones. We will then be judged by the best we did with what we had. On the one hand, this might mean that some people we think deserve to...not...make it to heaven will, and some people who were born with naturally good tendencies may not make it because they didn't magnify their gifts of goodness enough. Kind of an inversion of the parable of the talents. I can see this paradigm of judgement being the case, though I still wonder why there has to be a difference or why some people have to have mental illnesses which heavily shade how they can interact with the world. Still, I don't expect to figure out everything. 

3. It's possible that the Lord chose where and when we would be born by lining up our spirits with the parents who would produce a body most suited to our premortal characteristics. I kind of don't like this because it requires God to have absolute foreknowledge, which as a tentative Open Theist I reject. It also seems unfair to declare that those who are born with mental disabilities were that way in the premortal life, though I don't think this is necessarily implied by the acceptance of Scenario 3. I can see a scenario (perhaps paired with something like Scenario 1) in which God tells us in the Grand Council that He'll do His best to get us bodies that go well with our spirits, but things go wrong in the telestial world and we might be unlucky, but He'll try to patch it all up afterwards. I can see us signing on to accept that risk, signing a celestial waiver if you will. It also may be that some people agreed with God to have certain trials or afflictions for whatever purpose - at least, I can't rule it out for select cases. 

I would appreciate your thoughts. I'm still young and unschooled in the ways of men and things, and there is much wisdom which eludes me. Please help me see what I can't see right now. 

 

 

Edited by OGHoosier
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:help: @mfbukowski ? :help:

;) 

I really don't have a lot to offer to this discussion.  Quite frankly, I'm both impressed by, and intimidated by, your intellect, so I'm not sure anything my pedestrian mind could offer would be of much use. :huh: :unknw:  In a very abstract, viewing-the-issues-from-30,000-feet sense, perhaps what the Savior had to say about the man born blind has some relevance to the discussion. 

Personally, I believe that it's quite possible (perhaps even probable) that, in the premortal life, we agreed to take on certain challenges in mortality both for our own growth and for that of others.  As someone who was born with a disability, I'm virtually certain that I would be a different person without it than I am with it.  (Both for better and for worse, if you can handle that sort of ambiguity ... ;))

I think of the play Flowers For Algernon, in which a gentleman with a cognitive disability undergoes an operation that turns him into a genius overnight, and how, while certain previously-closed vistas of intellectual exploration have been opened to him instantaneously, his sudden and considerable increase in mental capacity carries with it its own set of unexpected challenges.  While I wouldn't necessarily expect an increase in mental capacity, I think, for many of the same reasons, I would have to think long and hard if someone were to offer me a sudden "cure" for my disability.  I don't have a reference, but I believe Joseph Smith said that we are resurrected as we were when we left mortality and transformed gradually into whatever our "resurrected selves" (my term, obviously) are.  Perhaps the potential pitfalls of a sudden transformation have something to do with that? 

My $0.02, actual value, as always, much less. ;) 

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2 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Hey guys! I'd like to raise a question and start a discussion if you don't mind. 

The past year or so I've grappled somewhat intensely with the problem of evil. The issue of embodied cognition, which I'll explain later, has proven to be surprisingly thorny. I've discovered in the past that, if I spend too much time with an issue in my head, my mind gets into ruts and there are whole avenues of approach to the problem which I just fail to see. I'm concerned that this is happening now in real time (my thinking has felt kind of static and rigid lately), so I'd like to reach out and see if I can get some input. 

Anyways, for embodied cognition, see this 4-article series by Ed Gantt and Jeffrey Thayne (both of whom are speaking at the FairMormon conference this weekend, though not on this topic). I generally agree with Gantt and Thayne's presentation. It seems inescapable that the very ways in which we think are mediated by our mortal bodies. My confidence in this has been reinforced by looking towards science. For instance, current research suggests that our psychological traits are heavily influenced by our genes, to the tune of 30%-50%.  In other words, though how we behave isn't necessarily determined by our genes, it is heavily influenced by them. This pretty much shatters my prior thoughts about the source of our morality. Previously I had thought that our moral natures were effectively artifacts of our premortal eternal intelligences, sent to Earth to be tested and fleshed out. I thought this was a major advantage to our theology as, per the B.H. Roberts view God did not create our primordial intelligences, God could not be responsible for creating our moral natures. Thus, He could not be blamed for creating children that are so regularly malicious, evil-prone, etc. However, if our behavior is heavily influenced by our earthly bodies, then God is back in the dock. Is the worthiness-test of this world really legitimate when God could have made us all better from the start?

I have thought of a few things. None of them fully satisfy me, but they might be useful stepping stones to a greater understanding. 

1. It's possible that God's freedom of action is limited in a telestial realm like this one. To be precise, a fallen telestial realm can only be conformed to God's will to a certain degree. Thus, He has to govern by setting up general laws and letting them run with occasional interventions, because there's only so much power He can exercise at any given time. Thus, when those laws entail glitches in complex systems like the brain, He can't step in to patch it up perfectly all the time, nor can He make everything balance out perfectly fairly. This would actually go a long way towards dealing with the problem of evil in general and it appeals to me very much. I generally like finitist conceptions of God because the scriptures frankly make more sense to me when you toss out the Anselmian maximal-omniGod who can do anything. I will say that I got this idea while pondering D&C 76 and observing how each kingdom approximates God's will more and more as you climb, but I'm aware that the idea of degrees of glory being an ontologically-independent facet of reality as opposed to a construction of God's is somewhat ad hoc. This theory will likely make many Latter-day Saints uncomfortable, but its potential for resolving these problems is considerable. 

(As an aside, I should also add that this idea was heavily influenced by how deities function in Brandon Sanderson's cosmere literary universe. If this actually goes somewhere then my confidence in literary inspiration will be heavily increased. Well-written high fantasy expands the mind.)

2. It might be that God takes cognitive construction into account when judging the individual and judges them based on the best they did with the brain they had. After all, genetics don't determine behavior, they just strongly influence it. There's still room for free will, and thus the psychological traits our brains give us can be thought of as similar to temptations, albeit strong ones. We will then be judged by the best we did with what we had. On the one hand, this might mean that some people we think deserve to...not...make it to heaven will, and some people who were born with naturally good tendencies may not make it because they didn't magnify their gifts of goodness enough. Kind of an inversion of the parable of the talents. I can see this paradigm of judgement being the case, though I still wonder why there has to be a difference or why some people have to have mental illnesses which heavily shade how they can interact with the world. Still, I don't expect to figure out everything. 

3. It's possible that the Lord chose where and when we would be born by lining up our spirits with the parents who would produce a body most suited to our premortal characteristics. I kind of don't like this because it requires God to have absolute foreknowledge, which as a tentative Open Theist I reject. It also seems unfair to declare that those who are born with mental disabilities were that way in the premortal life, though I don't think this is necessarily implied by the acceptance of Scenario 3. I can see a scenario (perhaps paired with something like Scenario 1) in which God tells us in the Grand Council that He'll do His best to get us bodies that go well with our spirits, but things go wrong in the telestial world and we might be unlucky, but He'll try to patch it all up afterwards. I can see us signing on to accept that risk, signing a celestial waiver if you will. It also may be that some people agreed with God to have certain trials or afflictions for whatever purpose - at least, I can't rule it out for select cases. 

I would appreciate your thoughts. I'm still young and unschooled in the ways of men and things, and there is much wisdom which eludes me. Please help me see what I can't see right now. 

 

 

I have not yet read the article you recommended, and all 3 paradigms seem to me that they could work.

I don't see any logical flaws at this point, or direct conflict with doctrine.

My choice off the top of my head and a quick scan of your post would be door number 2.

There is a perceived problem around the issues of determinism and the contingency of the self that leads to a perceived problem called "The Death of Man", mostly set forth by Foucault and others. https://www.jstor.org/stable/656725 If linguistic descriptions do not "correspond" to "reality" and are simply contingent human constructions, the very notion of "mankind"- as well as the notion of "God" cannot correspond to reality, so there is not reason to believe they are "real"

To inaccurately but quickly explain that- it is based on the "Death of God" movement which is related to positivism.  If descriptions of God and/or humanity are contingent and language itself is contingent- there is no God and no true concept of "mankind" either.  These are merely confused constructions.

But a relatively young philosopher- and a woman yet! ;) took on the issue and did a study of the issue.  Her name is Chantal Bax.

https://philpapers.org/rec/BAXSAW

Quote

 

Abstract

Although Wittgenstein is often held co-responsible for the so-called death of man as it was pronounced in the course of the previous century, no detailed description of his alternative to the traditional or Cartesian account of human being has so far been available. By consulting several parts of Wittgenstein's later oeuvre, Subjectivity after Wittgenstein aims to fill this gap. However, it also contributes to the debate about the Cartesian subject and its demise by discussing the criticism that the rethinking of subjectivity received, for it has been argued that the anti-Cartesian turn in continental philosophy has lead to a loss of a centre for both ethics and politics. By further exploring the implications of the Wittgensteinian account of human being, this book makes it clear that a non-Cartesian view on the subject is not necessarily ethically and politically inert. Moreover, it argues that ethical and political arguments should not automatically take precedence in a debate about the nature of man.

 

But I think your paradigm number 2 fits quite well with Bax' view.

VERY long story short, she sees the high variability of inputs into the human brain creates a being whch is "unique enough" (my words) to be classified as NOT contingent and at least theoretically describable as a unique being- an "individual" who phenomenologially perceives him/herself as a free being with choice.  In short we create ourselves, which fits with your position 2 I think.

Quick and dirty- will read the article

Edited by mfbukowski
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18 minutes ago, Kenngo1969 said:

I don't have a reference, but I believe Joseph Smith said that we are resurrected as we were when we left mortality and transformed gradually into whatever our "resurrected selves" (my term, obviously) are.  Perhaps the potential pitfalls of a sudden transformation have something to do with that? 

My $0.02, actual value, as always, much less. ;) 

There it is.  What I said but mo' easier ;).   Heck that has to be worth at least two bucks!

We create ourselves and so we are unique beings with choice.  We are not robots because we create ourselves.  That's the easy way to explain it.

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19 minutes ago, Kenngo1969 said:

Quite frankly, I'm both impressed by, and intimidated by, your intellect, so I'm not sure anything my pedestrian mind could offer would be of much use.

I do the best I can with what God gave me. Nothing more or less should be said of it, and I imagine that holds true for all of us. 

21 minutes ago, Kenngo1969 said:

  While I wouldn't necessarily expect an increase in mental capacity, I think, for many of the same reasons, I would have to think long and hard if someone were to offer me a sudden "cure" for my disability.  I don't have a reference, but I believe Joseph Smith said that we are resurrected as we were when we left mortality and transformed gradually into whatever our "resurrected selves" (my term, obviously) are.  Perhaps the potential pitfalls of a sudden transformation have something to do with that? 

This is actually the precise kind of insight I was fumbling around in the dark for. I'm neurotypical (as far as I know), and so it's hard not to see neurodivergence as a burden. In some cases it seems like it must be (I'm thinking major depression, schizophrenia, and similar situations.) I worry that this sentiment of mine is somewhat ableist, but I must confess that it's also reflexive. I don't want to pry too much into your experience, but would you consider your disability a burden? On the other hand, has it brought you some things which would give you pause before giving them up? 

Also I would love to find that Joseph Smith quote because if he did teach that it would be REALLY good to know. 

 

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2 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

2. It might be that God takes cognitive construction into account when judging the individual and judges them based on the best they did with the brain they had. After all, genetics don't determine behavior, they just strongly influence it. There's still room for free will, and thus the psychological traits our brains give us can be thought of as similar to temptations, albeit strong ones. We will then be judged by the best we did with what we had. On the one hand, this might mean that some people we think deserve to...not...make it to heaven will, and some people who were born with naturally good tendencies may not make it because they didn't magnify their gifts of goodness enough. Kind of an inversion of the parable of the talents. I can see this paradigm of judgement being the case, though I still wonder why there has to be a difference or why some people have to have mental illnesses which heavily shade how they can interact with the world. Still, I don't expect to figure out everything. 

Yeah well don't sell yourself short.

It took me 50 years to figure out your point 2 until I read Chantal Bax.   I think it is a reasonable paradigm/theory/view/doctrine.  Take your pick of words ;)

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

Hey guys! I'd like to raise a question and start a discussion if you don't mind. 

The past year or so I've grappled somewhat intensely with the problem of evil. The issue of embodied cognition, which I'll explain later, has proven to be surprisingly thorny. I've discovered in the past that, if I spend too much time with an issue in my head, my mind gets into ruts and there are whole avenues of approach to the problem which I just fail to see. I'm concerned that this is happening now in real time (my thinking has felt kind of static and rigid lately), so I'd like to reach out and see if I can get some input. 

Anyways, for embodied cognition, see this 4-article series by Ed Gantt and Jeffrey Thayne (both of whom are speaking at the FairMormon conference this weekend, though not on this topic). I generally agree with Gantt and Thayne's presentation. It seems inescapable that the very ways in which we think are mediated by our mortal bodies. My confidence in this has been reinforced by looking towards science. For instance, current research suggests that our psychological traits are heavily influenced by our genes, to the tune of 30%-50%.  In other words, though how we behave isn't necessarily determined by our genes, it is heavily influenced by them. This pretty much shatters my prior thoughts about the source of our morality. Previously I had thought that our moral natures were effectively artifacts of our premortal eternal intelligences, sent to Earth to be tested and fleshed out. I thought this was a major advantage to our theology as, per the B.H. Roberts view God did not create our primordial intelligences, God could not be responsible for creating our moral natures. Thus, He could not be blamed for creating children that are so regularly malicious, evil-prone, etc. However, if our behavior is heavily influenced by our earthly bodies, then God is back in the dock. Is the worthiness-test of this world really legitimate when God could have made us all better from the start?

I have thought of a few things. None of them fully satisfy me, but they might be useful stepping stones to a greater understanding. 

1. It's possible that God's freedom of action is limited in a telestial realm like this one. To be precise, a fallen telestial realm can only be conformed to God's will to a certain degree. Thus, He has to govern by setting up general laws and letting them run with occasional interventions, because there's only so much power He can exercise at any given time. Thus, when those laws entail glitches in complex systems like the brain, He can't step in to patch it up perfectly all the time, nor can He make everything balance out perfectly fairly. This would actually go a long way towards dealing with the problem of evil in general and it appeals to me very much. I generally like finitist conceptions of God because the scriptures frankly make more sense to me when you toss out the Anselmian maximal-omniGod who can do anything. I will say that I got this idea while pondering D&C 76 and observing how each kingdom approximates God's will more and more as you climb, but I'm aware that the idea of degrees of glory being an ontologically-independent facet of reality as opposed to a construction of God's is somewhat ad hoc. This theory will likely make many Latter-day Saints uncomfortable, but its potential for resolving these problems is considerable. 

(As an aside, I should also add that this idea was heavily influenced by how deities function in Brandon Sanderson's cosmere literary universe. If this actually goes somewhere then my confidence in literary inspiration will be heavily increased. Well-written high fantasy expands the mind.)

2. It might be that God takes cognitive construction into account when judging the individual and judges them based on the best they did with the brain they had. After all, genetics don't determine behavior, they just strongly influence it. There's still room for free will, and thus the psychological traits our brains give us can be thought of as similar to temptations, albeit strong ones. We will then be judged by the best we did with what we had. On the one hand, this might mean that some people we think deserve to...not...make it to heaven will, and some people who were born with naturally good tendencies may not make it because they didn't magnify their gifts of goodness enough. Kind of an inversion of the parable of the talents. I can see this paradigm of judgement being the case, though I still wonder why there has to be a difference or why some people have to have mental illnesses which heavily shade how they can interact with the world. Still, I don't expect to figure out everything. 

3. It's possible that the Lord chose where and when we would be born by lining up our spirits with the parents who would produce a body most suited to our premortal characteristics. I kind of don't like this because it requires God to have absolute foreknowledge, which as a tentative Open Theist I reject. It also seems unfair to declare that those who are born with mental disabilities were that way in the premortal life, though I don't think this is necessarily implied by the acceptance of Scenario 3. I can see a scenario (perhaps paired with something like Scenario 1) in which God tells us in the Grand Council that He'll do His best to get us bodies that go well with our spirits, but things go wrong in the telestial world and we might be unlucky, but He'll try to patch it all up afterwards. I can see us signing on to accept that risk, signing a celestial waiver if you will. It also may be that some people agreed with God to have certain trials or afflictions for whatever purpose - at least, I can't rule it out for select cases. 

I would appreciate your thoughts. I'm still young and unschooled in the ways of men and things, and there is much wisdom which eludes me. Please help me see what I can't see right now. 

 

 

Why don’t find a way to simplify your musings and questions in order to facilitate greater participation and more focused input. If you make things simple enough for bright sixth graders to understand, you’ll be much more likely to get satisfactory answers to your questions. 

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13 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

 

VERY long story short, she sees the high variability of inputs into the human brain creates a being whch is "unique enough" (my words) to be classified as NOT contingent and at least theoretically describable as a unique being- an "individual" who phenomenologially perceives him/herself as a free being with choice.  In short we create ourselves, which fits with your position 2 I think.

That is very interesting, I will read Bax's work. 

It seems to jive well with some of the things James McLachlan has been working on. McLachlan is more of a continental philosopher than an analytic one, and he works within the LDS tradition. Last I heard he was doing work on a German philosopher (whose name escapes me) who promulgated a metaphysics based on continual self-definition - we create ourselves by continually choosing. Obvious appeal for a Latter-day Saint. I wanted to compare it to modern neuroscience (specifically neuroplasticity) but I haven't gotten around to it. 

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I am convinced that a lot of these sorts of problems could be solved if we knew what spirit consciousness is like and how it differs from an embodied one. If I could spend 15 minutes as a spirit I think I would understand more about what is my eternal nature than all the guesswork I have done my whole life. I am not sure if this would be a reassuring experience or a horrifying one. I even came up with a method that I thought might cause this state and then realized it might qualify as suicide and I was not sure if I could get back so what can you do?

I suspect #2 is the closest to the truth thought I have don’t have the same objections you do to #3 so I am partial to it more than you are. I don’t like #1 as it makes far too many scriptures fall into the realm of hyperbole. I can accept that God’s ability to intervene on Earth is subject to some laws we do not understand but it creates another snarl. If God has a limited amount of “mana” (to take a term commonly used for a depleting resource) to affect the world than the critics who mock us for having a God who ignores the prayers of the starving to help the saints find their car keys become uncomfortably close to accurate.

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4 minutes ago, teddyaware said:

Why don’t find a way to simplify your musings and questions in order to facilitate greater participation and more focused input. If you make things simple enough for bright sixth graders to understand, you’ll be much more likely to get satisfactory answers to your questions. 

Honestly, good idea. Let me take a crack at trying my OP again.

I'm thinking about where our moral decision-making comes from. We get sent to earth to be tested/have a learning experience, right? At least, one of the big reasons why we're here is to choose to do the right thing, follow the commandments of God, so on and so forth. 

Well, that's led me to ask: what's being tested? I always thought that we are intelligences, which are coeternal with God according to a popular view (and thus not created by Him). As intelligences, we have had spiritual and now physical bodies added onto us. In other words, we wear our spirit and mortal bodies like suits. They add something to the experience, sure, but our decision-making and our morals essentially belong to the most ancient, primordial, core part of us that is coeternal with God Himself. 

That belief was useful because it meant that God was innocent of creating, for lack of a better term, bad people. When people did bad things I could say that, well, that was the uncreated core of their being at work, and God wasn't responsible for it. However, if our mortal bodies have a non-negligible impact on our psychology, and I can't deny that they do, then this belief is clearly not true. Our created mortal bodies do impact our psychology and how we make decisions. Bodies which God created, or the creation of which He observed and permitted at the very least. This means that the question can now be asked: if this world is supposed to be a test of how good we are, if it's supposed to help us become better people or more worthy of Godhood...why didn't God just make us better from the start? And how does He plan to deal justly with us when His laws frame our very morals or our very sense of obedience to divine law?

I don't think that this question can be answered with a God that could make the world however He wanted, or who could do whatever He wanted with it. I think that, in order to choose to make this world as it is, there have to be constraints on God of some sort. That leads to Scenario 1 of my OP

1. Fallen telestial worlds like ours can only be influenced by God so much. The celestial kingdom is a perfect reflection of God's desires for His children, of His will. As you descend the ladder of degrees of glory, it becomes less and less perfect a reflection. If I'm not mistaken, Latter-day Saints have thought of the degrees of glory as places made by God to be homes for His children. I think that might not be correct: the degrees of glory might exist independent of God. Or at least, the principles by which they are governed exist independent of Him. And perhaps the rules of a fallen telestial degree of glory like this one make it so God can conform the world to His will only to a certain extent. Basically, though He has infinite power, He can only use so much of it on our world at any given time, so long as it remains a fallen telestial world. That would go a long way towards dealing with the problem of evil generally, but it would also help explain why mankind can be so errant even with God-created minds. 

2. God might judge us based on what we did with the brains they had. That might mean that people who do a lot of bad things but tried to do the best with the brains they had might get better treatment than those to whom good came naturally, who never really tried to be better. 

3. It's possible that the Lord chose to send us to the parents that He did because they could create bodies with brains that best fit our premortal spirits. And we all signed celestial waivers of sorts that accepted the risk of neurodivergence in life. Also it may be that some of us agreed with God to be neurodivergent for reasons that seemed good to us, though I would hesitate to declare that all neurodivergent people did that.

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2 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

For instance, current research suggests that our psychological traits are heavily influenced by our genes, to the tune of 30%-50%.  In other words, though how we behave isn't necessarily determined by our genes, it is heavily influenced by them.

You might be understating the problem by quite a bit. Add to the genetic bit, all the environmental factors we had no choice in and you are well above 50%. Thoughtful question though. 

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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27 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

I suspect #2 is the closest to the truth thought I have don’t have the same objections you do to #3 so I am partial to it more than you are.

I do think that #2 is probably closest to the truth among the three. 

As for #3, I'm considering that it might work, but my thoughts are rather hazy on that and I have to put more into it. 

For #1, I agree that the concept as I have presented it is problematic. Let me try to refine it.

A celestial world is defined by its perfect adherence to God's will. The celestial world is exactly what He wants it to be. Those who dwell there are perfected, there is no sin nor death, love abounds, the streets are paved with gold, the very sphere on which He stands is radiant. When you go to the terrestrial or telestial realms, they drop away from this vision by degrees, and they also drop away from the presence of God the Father by degrees. The kingdoms of glory seem to be differentiated from each other based on a) the presence of God and b) the degree to which they reflect God's will. Which would imply that a telestial world that is fallen and thus below a postmortal telestial kingdom (since the telestial kingdom of D&C 76 is better than this place) would by definition deviate from God's idealized vision a significant amount. This deviation could not be corrected unless God were to exercise His power to change it from a telestial to a higher degree of glory - which, if I'm not mistaken, is what He intends to do during the Millennium and thereafter. 

I don't have a firm idea of the nuts and bolts of how it might work, but if the foregoing reasons are sound, then God is limited in His capacity to tailor-make the fallen world as He likes without altering its status from telestial to terrestrial. He probably can't do away with any more broad categories of evil than He already has, though He can alleviate them in discrete instances. Unless, of course, through our actions we do it for Him, and do what Elder Holland described as "[laboring] side by side with the Lord of the vineyard, giving the God and Father of us all a helping hand with His staggering task of answering prayers, providing comfort, drying tears, and strengthening feeble knees." 

Such an idea cannot and should not exist in  vacuum of course, and more traditional explanations for why things are the way they are are still needed, but I feel that this can help to an extent. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

You might be understating the problem by quite a bit. Add to the genetic bit, all the environmental factors we had no choice in and you are well above 50%. Thoughtful question though. 

You may be right.

That said, before I fully cop to that, I need to learn more about how exactly they measure "influence" on various factors. It's easy to read "influence" as "determine", ie "our personality traits are 30%-50% determined by our genes", but I don't think that's the right reading, or rather I think the term's technical usage is more nuanced. Furthermore, I'm not convinced that an exhaustive account for any given personality trait would even be theoretically possible, so any percentages declared would necessarily be relative only to the causes they've already considered, no? Lots of grey area. Furthermore, in the article I linked to, it mentioned that a lot of traditional environmental factors are genetically mediated. This causes me to wonder how we go about isolating "environmental factors" for the purposes of such research and if we can even define individual factors well enough to determine their influence.  

For what it's worth, Scenario 3 would largely deal with the problem by merging the influence of the premortal personality (such as it was) into the realm of genetic influence, so maybe I need to reexamine my tentative commitment to Open Theism. Or find a way to bridge the two, as I think I might be able to do. Theoretically.

I shall return to my theoretical scribbling on the walls now. 

Edit: Another thing. A correlation only becomes causation when causality can be demonstrated or, failing that, a causal account can be provided. It seems to me like the thesis that "genetics directly influence behavior" is dependent for both of the latter on mind-brain identity, and there's a big promissory note there right now. 

Edited by OGHoosier
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5 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

I do the best I can with what God gave me. Nothing more or less should be said of it, and I imagine that holds true for all of us.

God seems ... generous ... with some of us! ;)  I believe, though, that we're all on the same path headed for the same place, it's just that our progress happens (maddeningly) at different rates.  I think, as long as we're willing, that things will pretty much even out in the end.

5 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

 

This is actually the precise kind of insight I was fumbling around in the dark for. I'm neurotypical (as far as I know), and so it's hard not to see neurodivergence as a burden. In some cases it seems like it must be (I'm thinking major depression, schizophrenia, and similar situations.) I worry that this sentiment of mine is somewhat ableist, but I must confess that it's also reflexive. I don't want to pry too much into your experience, but would you consider your disability a burden?

Is my disability (or perhaps better said, are my disabilities: I have Cerebral Palsy and a history of Major Depression) a burden?  Some days, I hardly think about them.  Other days, they do feel like massive burdens.  On the other hand, they've given me a perspective that I don't think I would have gotten otherwise, and I think that is invaluable.  

5 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

On the other hand, has it brought you some things which would give you pause before giving them up? 

Yes, absolutely.  While I like to think that, even without my disability, I would have paid sufficient attention to my development in other areas, such as cognitive skills, communication skills, empathy, and so on, essentially, my disability has forced me to develop those areas of my character to an extent that I may not have done otherwise.  If I could be cured tomorrow, I wouldn't want to give up the added perspective and other benefits that have accrued to me because of my somewhat-unique life experience.

5 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Also I would love to find that Joseph Smith quote because if he did teach that it would be REALLY good to know. 

 

Darned if I can remember where I first heard that, and there is only a boatload of people here who are better at researching than I am, but I'll keep my eyes open!

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10 hours ago, Kenngo1969 said:

I don't have a reference, but I believe Joseph Smith said that we are resurrected as we were when we left mortality and transformed gradually into whatever our "resurrected selves" (my term, obviously) are.  Perhaps the potential pitfalls of a sudden transformation have something to do with that? 

There’s this…

Quote

Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.
Joseph F. Smith
John R. Winder
Anthon H. Lund
First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
November 1909

 

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13 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Edit: Another thing. A correlation only becomes causation when causality can be demonstrated or, failing that, a causal account can be provided. It seems to me like the thesis that "genetics directly influence behavior" is dependent for both of the latter on mind-brain identity, and there's a big promissory note there right now. 

I have been involved with addiction recovery for a number of years, but by no means am I any kind of authority. I do not wish to derail the thread to a discussion on the Word of Wisdom.

That said, researchers have found convincing genetic links to addiction, for example, the so-called “alcoholism gene.” This has implications for how we perceive Word of Wisdom problems. Rather than approaching them from a “moral weakness” position, perhaps it would be better to address them as health issues.

Having genetic inclinations to addiction does not foretell doom, but serves as a warning against using addictive substances because those who have familial history with addiction can be at greater risk. This brings agency into play, which would still make the WoW a test of obedience, and abstinence as required by the Lord remains a solid defense. 

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/genetics-epigenetics-addiction
 

Quote

Why do some people become addicted while others don't? Family studies that include identical twins, fraternal twins, adoptees, and siblings suggest that as much as half of a person's risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs depends on his or her genetic makeup. Finding the biological basis for this risk is an important avenue of research for scientists trying to solve the problem of drug addiction. 

 

Quote

An international group of over 100 scientists used a comprehensive database to collect information on smoking and alcohol use behaviors. They measured behaviors such as age when smoking was initiated, age when smoking cessation occurred, number of cigarettes per day, and drinks per week. The scientists then cross-checked those findings with life events (like years of education); physical characteristics (like heart rate or cholesterol level); and diseases suffered (such as mental illnesses, or Type 2 diabetes). The investigators correlated those results with specific genes suspected in various types of substance use. They found that there were over 400 locations in the genome and at least 566 variants within these locations that influence smoking or alcohol use, bringing science closer to identifying clusters of genes that could play a part in addiction. The study even identified new genes and functions not expected to be important in addiction. Three of the genetic locations (identified as CUL3, PDE4B, PTGER3) mapped to all of the smoking and alcohol phenotypes measured. 

 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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13 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

2. It might be that God takes cognitive construction into account when judging the individual and judges them based on the best they did with the brain they had. After all, genetics don't determine behavior, they just strongly influence it. There's still room for free will, and thus the psychological traits our brains give us can be thought of as similar to temptations, albeit strong ones. We will then be judged by the best we did with what we had. On the one hand, this might mean that some people we think deserve to...not...make it to heaven will, and some people who were born with naturally good tendencies may not make it because they didn't magnify their gifts of goodness enough. Kind of an inversion of the parable of the talents. I can see this paradigm of judgement being the case, though I still wonder why there has to be a difference or why some people have to have mental illnesses which heavily shade how they can interact with the world. Still, I don't expect to figure out everything. 

I don't think we necessarily must have any kind of specific, divinely tailored illness in mortality. But we will inevitably have some kind of illness, and will certainly find relief from any illness somewhere along the path of the plan of happiness (in mortality or the resurrection). This is not to say that the Lord never designs certain specific challenges for people (I'm sure He does), but He absolutely did design redemption and perfection (the Atonement of Christ) for all challenges, both designed and happenstantial. 

Given that we are co-eternal and part of His united family, I think some things were designed and presented in council, and which not everyone sustained (the war in heaven), and some things (specific challenges, assignments, etc.) were the result of individual discussions and agreements (one-on-one councils). The same thing goes for how much redemption we choose, and in what categories.

 

Edited by CV75
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14 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

I'm still young and unschooled in the ways of men and things, and there is much wisdom which eludes me. Please help me see what I can't see right now. 

 

After 65 years and some suffering this is the best I can see.   There are very powerful forces at work in the world.  The best proof for this is the doctrine of the premortal life.  After the war there we defeated the dissenters.  We were all facing in the same direction we all had the same goals.  We were all united in purpose.  We get bodies on the earth and hell breaks loose.  We are stepping on and stepping over each other for what. Power, money, love, lust, hate etc...  I am amazed at how far we have drifted apart from the Spirit body days.  

Edited by Metis_LDS
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15 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Hey guys! I'd like to raise a question and start a discussion if you don't mind. 

The past year or so I've grappled somewhat intensely with the problem of evil. The issue of embodied cognition, which I'll explain later, has proven to be surprisingly thorny. I've discovered in the past that, if I spend too much time with an issue in my head, my mind gets into ruts and there are whole avenues of approach to the problem which I just fail to see. I'm concerned that this is happening now in real time (my thinking has felt kind of static and rigid lately), so I'd like to reach out and see if I can get some input. 

Anyways, for embodied cognition, see this 4-article series by Ed Gantt and Jeffrey Thayne (both of whom are speaking at the FairMormon conference this weekend, though not on this topic). I generally agree with Gantt and Thayne's presentation. It seems inescapable that the very ways in which we think are mediated by our mortal bodies. My confidence in this has been reinforced by looking towards science. For instance, current research suggests that our psychological traits are heavily influenced by our genes, to the tune of 30%-50%.  In other words, though how we behave isn't necessarily determined by our genes, it is heavily influenced by them. This pretty much shatters my prior thoughts about the source of our morality. Previously I had thought that our moral natures were effectively artifacts of our premortal eternal intelligences, sent to Earth to be tested and fleshed out. I thought this was a major advantage to our theology as, per the B.H. Roberts view God did not create our primordial intelligences, God could not be responsible for creating our moral natures. Thus, He could not be blamed for creating children that are so regularly malicious, evil-prone, etc. However, if our behavior is heavily influenced by our earthly bodies, then God is back in the dock. Is the worthiness-test of this world really legitimate when God could have made us all better from the start?

I have thought of a few things. None of them fully satisfy me, but they might be useful stepping stones to a greater understanding. 

1. It's possible that God's freedom of action is limited in a telestial realm like this one. To be precise, a fallen telestial realm can only be conformed to God's will to a certain degree. Thus, He has to govern by setting up general laws and letting them run with occasional interventions, because there's only so much power He can exercise at any given time. Thus, when those laws entail glitches in complex systems like the brain, He can't step in to patch it up perfectly all the time, nor can He make everything balance out perfectly fairly. This would actually go a long way towards dealing with the problem of evil in general and it appeals to me very much. I generally like finitist conceptions of God because the scriptures frankly make more sense to me when you toss out the Anselmian maximal-omniGod who can do anything. I will say that I got this idea while pondering D&C 76 and observing how each kingdom approximates God's will more and more as you climb, but I'm aware that the idea of degrees of glory being an ontologically-independent facet of reality as opposed to a construction of God's is somewhat ad hoc. This theory will likely make many Latter-day Saints uncomfortable, but its potential for resolving these problems is considerable. 

(As an aside, I should also add that this idea was heavily influenced by how deities function in Brandon Sanderson's cosmere literary universe. If this actually goes somewhere then my confidence in literary inspiration will be heavily increased. Well-written high fantasy expands the mind.)

2. It might be that God takes cognitive construction into account when judging the individual and judges them based on the best they did with the brain they had. After all, genetics don't determine behavior, they just strongly influence it. There's still room for free will, and thus the psychological traits our brains give us can be thought of as similar to temptations, albeit strong ones. We will then be judged by the best we did with what we had. On the one hand, this might mean that some people we think deserve to...not...make it to heaven will, and some people who were born with naturally good tendencies may not make it because they didn't magnify their gifts of goodness enough. Kind of an inversion of the parable of the talents. I can see this paradigm of judgement being the case, though I still wonder why there has to be a difference or why some people have to have mental illnesses which heavily shade how they can interact with the world. Still, I don't expect to figure out everything. 

3. It's possible that the Lord chose where and when we would be born by lining up our spirits with the parents who would produce a body most suited to our premortal characteristics. I kind of don't like this because it requires God to have absolute foreknowledge, which as a tentative Open Theist I reject. It also seems unfair to declare that those who are born with mental disabilities were that way in the premortal life, though I don't think this is necessarily implied by the acceptance of Scenario 3. I can see a scenario (perhaps paired with something like Scenario 1) in which God tells us in the Grand Council that He'll do His best to get us bodies that go well with our spirits, but things go wrong in the telestial world and we might be unlucky, but He'll try to patch it all up afterwards. I can see us signing on to accept that risk, signing a celestial waiver if you will. It also may be that some people agreed with God to have certain trials or afflictions for whatever purpose - at least, I can't rule it out for select cases. 

I would appreciate your thoughts. I'm still young and unschooled in the ways of men and things, and there is much wisdom which eludes me. Please help me see what I can't see right now. 

 

 

Your #2 option makes the most sense to me, with #1 and #3 not very likely.  I believe what we are is a result of our choices while being influenced by other factors.  The parents of a child who was born with a physical or mental disability didn't consciously choose to give their child that disability. I believe that kind of thing is a result of our fall to mortality and a degraded gene code.  if we were perfect reproductions of perfect parents with perfect genetic codes for reproduction we most likely would not have any physical or mental flaws at the moment we were reproduced, unless maybe there was a flaw in the reproduction process.  We should expect a perfect reproduction of something perfect when reproduced perfectly.  But mortal fallen people are not perfect, our genetic code is not perfect, so the more imperfect people reproduce the more likely there will be more imperfect reproductions.

I know someone for example who has some type of mental disability, I forget what it is called, which strongly influences her to think the worst of herself, occasionally, sometimes just out of the blue.  She feels shame when she should not, and she is mentally aware enough to know she should not, and yet her genetic disposition is to feel shame for whatever reason.  Self talk will not turn it off.  Knowing she should not ever, ever feel shame also does not turn it off.  And when she feels shame she does not become humble or meek or submissive.  She turns into a Hulk of fiery indignation determined to try to cause others around her to feel her wrath, as a result of her grief, as a result of her shame.  And yet at other times she is very sweet and kind and gentle, and she feels bad that she has had those episodes. Meeting in therapy with others who have the same kind of problem, which she knows is a problem, and constantly tries to work on by doing or thinking whatever she can think of to try to avoid turning into her version of a Hulk of raging madness as a result of her shame which she knows she should never feel.

We are all a combination of our mortal and immortal selves and the best we can do is to try to become like our Father (and Mother) in heaven, while the worst we could be is as much like Satan as we can also be.

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14 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Also I would love to find that Joseph Smith quote because if he did teach that it would be REALLY good to know. 

 

I remember the quote as well and being horrified by it. I thought it was BY who said it and remember encountering it in one of the Teachings of the Presidents manuals…maybe it was in the Joseph Smith manual as I couldn’t find it the couple of times I looked. 

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4 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

There’s this…

 

I remember it as someone missing a limb, so approached using an adult as an example.  

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4 hours ago, CV75 said:

I don't think we necessarily must have any kind of specific, divinely tailored illness in mortality. But we will inevitably have some kind of illness, and will certainly find relief from any illness somewhere along the path of the plan of happiness (in mortality or the resurrection). This is not to say that the Lord never designs certain specific challenges for people (I'm sure He does), but He absolutely did design redemption and perfection (the Atonement of Christ) for all challenges, both designed and happenstantial. 

Given that we are co-eternal and part of His united family, I think some things were designed and presented in council, and which not everyone sustained (the war in heaven), and some things (specific challenges, assignments, etc.) were the result of individual discussions and agreements (one-on-one councils). The same thing goes for how much redemption we choose, and in what categories.

 

Anecdotal but pertinent.
A sister we know from our ARP group lost two young adult sons to heroin addiction, and her youngest son is high on the autistic spectrum. For a long time she struggled to understand why she had to experience this. It was not what “she signed up for.”

As time passed and she continued in prayer, the answer came to her in revelation, “I sent them to you because I knew you would love them.” And she did! She is at peace now and freely shares her experiences.

Edited by Bernard Gui
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1 hour ago, Calm said:

I remember the quote as well and being horrified by it. I thought it was BY who said it and remember encountering it in one of the Teachings of the Presidents manuals…maybe it was in the Joseph Smith manual as I couldn’t find it the couple of times I looked. 

I just read the chapter on resurrection in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young manual and didn't find it there.  I've been studying the Second Coming a lot lately, and, in addition to many people being resurrected when He comes, quite a number of others will be changed "in the twinkling of an eye."  I could be wrong, but I would think that that's more akin to translation, with resurrection still to come. 

If it is true that we are resurrected as we were and changed gradually (which wouldn't quite be fair if some of us got to experience resurrection "in the twinkling of an eye" ;)), as loathsome and burdensome as some of our limitations are, as I pointed out in my previous post, a sudden bodily change may well (and I think it would) carry with it its own challenges.  Often, though, we tend to equate "gradual" with "slow," and I don't think that has to be the case: Even if a change is something less than instantaneous, still, it can be fairly rapid.  Since I doubt we'll reckon time the same way ("Wow, that took a whole week?!"  or "Wow, that whole process took only a week?!") I don't think we'll look at a gradual process (whatever that means) the same way we do now.  Also, it occurs to me that a less-than-instantaneous, gradual process (however rapid), bespeaks continued growth, and if there is one thing that our Heavenly Parents desire for us, surely, it is growth.

Edited by Kenngo1969
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2 hours ago, bOObOO said:

Your #2 option makes the most sense to me, with #1 and #3 not very likely.  I believe what we are is a result of our choices while being influenced by other factors.  The parents of a child who was born with a physical or mental disability didn't consciously choose to give their child that disability. I believe that kind of thing is a result of our fall to mortality and a degraded gene code.  if we were perfect reproductions of perfect parents with perfect genetic codes for reproduction we most likely would not have any physical or mental flaws at the moment we were reproduced, unless maybe there was a flaw in the reproduction process.  We should expect a perfect reproduction of something perfect when reproduced perfectly.  But mortal fallen people are not perfect, our genetic code is not perfect, so the more imperfect people reproduce the more likely there will be more imperfect reproductions.

I know someone for example who has some type of mental disability, I forget what it is called, which strongly influences her to think the worst of herself, occasionally, sometimes just out of the blue.  She feels shame when she should not, and she is mentally aware enough to know she should not, and yet her genetic disposition is to feel shame for whatever reason.  Self talk will not turn it off.  Knowing she should not ever, ever feel shame also does not turn it off.  And when she feels shame she does not become humble or meek or submissive.  She turns into a Hulk of fiery indignation determined to try to cause others around her to feel her wrath, as a result of her grief, as a result of her shame.  And yet at other times she is very sweet and kind and gentle, and she feels bad that she has had those episodes. Meeting in therapy with others who have the same kind of problem, which she knows is a problem, and constantly tries to work on by doing or thinking whatever she can think of to try to avoid turning into her version of a Hulk of raging madness as a result of her shame which she knows she should never feel.

We are all a combination of our mortal and immortal selves and the best we can do is to try to become like our Father (and Mother) in heaven, while the worst we could be is as much like Satan as we can also be.

When it come to mental illness, I'm inclined to agree, but mental illness is not primarily what I am trying to address. If our genetics heavily impact our behaviors and psychological traits, then they'll heavily impact our proclivities towards righteousness or wickedness, right? If that is the case, then, since our mortal bodies are clearly within God's power (and the rules by which they were created were created by Him), why does He allow so many people to be...bad? And is it fair to judge people based on our choices when He could have freely made us better people? It's not even that He'd take away free will...He could have made us want the good more than we do. That's kind of why I think you need something like Scenario 1 to exist, or Scenario 3 where our genetics are picked based on the nature of our spirits so that they'll reflect the nature of our spirits. I didn't just come up with those scenarios for the hell of it. 

Honestly at this point I think all three of them are necessary, together, in order to overcome the problems at hand. 

Now, I should say that I don't believe the evidence shows determinism. I believe we still have free will, but that free will is conditioned by the bodies that we have. Hence, Scenario #2. 

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36 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Anecdotal but pertinent.
A sister we know from our ARP group lost two young adult sons to heroin addiction, and her youngest son is high on the autistic spectrum. For a long time she struggled to understand why she had to experience this. It was not what “she signed up for.”

As time passed and she continued in prayer, the answer came to her in revelation, “I sent them to you because I knew you would love them.” And she did! She is at peace now and freely shares her experiences.

Yes, love (the Atonement of Christ) is the bottom line for everything. They were sent to her to love, because He knew she would love them, no matter their potential to achieve greater or lesser suffering in this world.

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