Atheists argue that some things are intrinsically good or evil. Pain, for example, seems to be an intrinsic evil. It is evil in and of itself; its badness is part of its intrinsic nature and is not bestowed upon it from some external source. Is there an argument for the claim that some things are intrinsically good or evil or are atheists simply begging the question against someone who maintains instead that pain is bad only because God made it so.

Those who assert that pain is intrinsically bad are disagreeing with those who assert that pain is bad only because God made it so (i.e., only because God gave pain the property of badness). But I don't see how the former are begging the question against the latter, even if the former lack an argument for their assertion.

Now consider the claim that pain is bad only because God made it so. The claim might mean either of these:

(1) Pain is unpleasant or affectively negative only because God gave pain that property.

(2) Pain has moral disvalue only because God gave pain moral disvalue.

It's hard to see how (1) could be true, given that pain is typically defined as (or in terms of) suffering, discomfort, and physical or psychological unpleasantness. (1) is like the claim that all squares are four-sided only because God made them so: God seems totally superfluous to the four-sidedness of squares, because they're four-sided by definition.

I don't think (2) is much more plausible than (1). Maybe the moral nihilists are right: maybe nothing, including pain, has moral disvalue. But if pain does have moral disvalue, it's hard to see how its moral disvalue could come from God's will or God's decree. To assert otherwise is to assert that nothing in the nature of pain accounts for its moral disvalue and that pleasure would have had the moral disvalue that pain has if God had made it so. I see no reason at all to believe that assertion.

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