A bait-and-switch I notice among Thomist theologians and philosophers: they’ll say that existence is good; and God is the most existent Being; therefore God is maximally good. He has the greatest degree of “ontological Goodness.” (Imagine the sweetest and largest baked cookie ever.)
The more existence, the more goodness. In other words, for Thomists, goodness picks up the lint of everyday moral associations, but that’s not really what goodness means in this context.
What’s the difference, after all, between “ontological Goodness” and simply saying that existing maximally is good?
Why not take the loaded term good out of God altogether and just say that the Tao (or the Kubrick Monolith, or Ginsberg’s Old Nobodaddy, or whatever you want to call it) is the “ontological Maximum”?
What would it mean to say that God is not maximally moral, but only maximally existent? What are the consequences? I see three:
- The Holocaust. It takes us off the hook for explaining the Holocaust–and by extension, the problem of evil generally. God didn’t save the Jews from Hitler because God isn’t moral.
- The end of mystical holism. It wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant to be at one with God. If God is maximally existent, but not maximally loving, personal, or moral, perhaps we wouldn’t want to exist in the way that “God” or the Tao exists. Who really wants to participate in that form of existence–making it a goal? There’s no evidence it feels good, has moral impulses, thinks–or does much of anything. It’s just maximally existent; the uncaused first cause, unmoved, just sitting there. Kind of boring.
- We could do unnatural things (not follow natural law). We wouldn’t have to conform to the created order. Our created form, after all, would be given to us by the impersonal and amoral ontological Maximum. Why would an amoral Being care if we don’t play to type? If God isn’t morally good in the conventional sense, but just maximally existent (and that’s “good”), that upends the whole point of following natural law, as in, say, using the penis solely in accord with what can be inferred that God made it for–reproduction. God’s cool with anything you do with a penis–or anything else. Experiment. Read Nietzsche.
So if God doesn’t answer, for example, the Jews’ cries at the Holocaust, why not be existentially open and experimental, not looking to conform to anything given? God (the Tao) obviously doesn’t care about what humans do. We are bereft. Auschwitz tells us that.
So a maximally existent Being doesn’t necessarily mean a maximally moral or maximally attentive Being; therefore, unless one can plausibly explain the Holocaust as metaphysically coherent with a moral God, God is not good–just maximally existent.