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пЩИЛНМД яЛЮККХЮМ. дБЕ ТХКНЯНТЯЙХЕ ЯЖЕМЙХ (engl)
Raymond M. Smullyan. Is God a Taoist?
"Is God a Taoist?" from The Tao is silent by Raymond M. Smullyan.
© 1977 by Raymond M. Smullyan. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row
MORTAL: And therefore, O God, I pray thee, if thou hast one ounce of
mercy for this thy suffering creature, absolve me of having to have free
GOD: You reject the greatest gift I have given thee?
MORTAL: How can you call that which was forced on me a gift? I have
free will, but not of my own choice. I have never freely chosen to have free
will. I have to have free will, whether I like it or not!
GOD: Why would you wish not to have free will?
MORTAL: Because free will means moral responsibility, and moral
responsibility is more than I can bear!
GOD: Why do you find moral responsibility so unbearable?
MORTAL: Why? I honestly can't analyze why; all I know is that I do.
GOD: All right, in that case suppose I absolve you from all moral
responsibility but leave you still with free will. Will this be
MORTAL (after a pause): No, I am afraid not.
GOD: Ah, just as I thought! So moral responsibility is not the only
aspect of free will to which you object. What else about free will is
MORTAL: With free will I am capable of sinning, and I don't want to
GOD: If you don't want to sin, then why do you?
MORTAL: Good God! I don't know why I sin, I just do! Evil temptations
come along, and try as I can, I cannot resist them.
GOD: If it is really true that you cannot resist them, then you are not
sinning of your own free will and hence (at least according to me) not
sinning at all.
MORTAL: No, no! I keep feeling that if only I tried harder I could
avoid sinning. I understand that the will is infinite. If one wholeheartedly
wills not to sin, then one won't.
GOD: Well now, you should know. Do you try as hard as you can to avoid
sinning or don't you?
MORTAL: I honestly don't know! At the time, I feel I am trying as hard
as I can, but in retrospect, I am worried that maybe I didn't!
GOD: So in other words, you don't really know whether or not you have
been sinning. So the possibility is open that you haven't been sinning at
MORTAL: Of course this possibility is open, but maybe I have been
sinning, and this thought is what so frightens me!
GOD: Why does the thought of your sinning frighten you?
MORTAL: I don't know why! For one thing, you do have a reputation for
meting out rather gruesome punishments in the afterlife!
GOD: Oh, that's what's bothering you! Why didn't you say so in the
first place instead of all this peripheral talk about free will and
responsibility? Why didn't you simply request me not to punish you for any
of your sins?
MORTAL: I think I am realistic enough to know that you would hardly
grant such a request!
GOD: You don't say! You have a realistic knowledge of what requests I
will grant, eh? Well, I'll tell you what I'm going to do! I will grant you a
very, very special dispensation to sin as much as you like, and I give you
my divine word of honor that I will never punish you for it in the least.
MORTAL (in great terror): No, no, don't do that!
GOD: Why not? Don't you trust my divine word?
MORTAL: Of course I do! But don't you see, I don't want to sin! I have
an utter abhorrence of sinning, quite apart from any punishments it may
GOD: In that case, I'll go you one better. I'll remove your abhorrence
of sinning. Here is a magic pill! Just swallow it, and you will lose all
abhorrence of sinning. You will joyfully and merrily sin away, you will have
no regrets, no abhorrence and I still promise you will never be punished by
me, or yourself, or by any source whatever. You will be blissful for all
eternity. So here is the pill!
MORTAL: No, no!
GOD: Are you not being irrational? I am even removing your abhorrence
of sin, which is your last obstacle.
MORTAL: I still won't take it!
GOD: Why not?
MORTAL: I believe that the pill will indeed remove my future abhorrence
for sin, but my present abhorrence is enough to prevent me from being
willing to take it.
GOD: I command you to take it! '
MORTAL: I refuse!
GOD: What, you refuse of your own free will?
GOD: So it seems that your free will comes in pretty handy, doesn't it?
MORTAL: I don't understand!
GOD: Are you not glad now that you have the free will to refuse such a
ghastly offer? How would you like it if I forced you to take this pill,
whether you wanted it or not?
MORTAL: No, no! Please don't!
GOD: Of course I won't; I'm just trying to illustrate a point. All
right, let me put it this way. Instead of forcing you to take the pill,
suppose I grant your original prayer of removing your free will--but with
the understanding that the moment you are no longer free, then you will take
MORTAL: Once my will is gone, how could I possibly choose to take the
GOD: I did not say you would choose it; I merely said you would take
it. You would act, let us say, according to purely deterministic laws which
are such that you would as a matter of fact take it.
MORTAL: I still refuse.
GOD: So you refuse my offer to remove your free will. This is rather
different from your original prayer, isn't it?
MORTAL: Now I see what you are up to. Your argument is ingenious, but
I'm not sure it is really correct. There are some points we will have to go
MORTAL: There are two things you said which seem contradictory to me.
First you said that one cannot sin unless one does so of one's own free
will. But then you said you would give me a pill which would deprive me of
my own free will, and then I could sin as much as I liked. But if I no
longer had free will, then, according to your first statement, how could I
be capable of sinning?
GOD: You are confusing two separate parts of our conversation. I never
said the pill would deprive you of your free will, but only that it would
remove your abhorrence of sinning.
MORTAL: I'm afraid I'm a bit confused.
GOD: All right, then let us make a fresh start. Suppose I agree to
remove your free will, but with the understanding that you will then commit
an enormous number of acts which you now regard as sinful. Technically
speaking, you will not then be sinning since you will not be doing these
acts of your own free will. And these acts will carry no moral
responsibility, nor moral culpability, nor any punishment whatsoever.
Nevertheless, these acts will all be of the type which you presently regard
as sinful; they will all have this quality which you presently feel as
abhorrent, but your abhorrence will disappear; so you will not then feel
abhorrence toward the acts.
MORTAL: No, but I have present abhorrence toward the acts, and this
present abhorrence is sufficient to prevent me from accepting your proposal.
GOD: Hm! So let me get this absolutely straight. I take it you no
longer wish me to remove your free will.
MORTAL (reluctantly): No, I guess not.
GOD: All right, I agree not to. But I am still not exactly clear as to
why you now no longer wish to be rid of your free will. Please tell me
MORTAL: Because, as you have told me, without free will I would sin
even more than I do now.
GOD: But I have already told you that without free will you cannot sin.
MORTAL: But if I choose now to be rid of free will, then all my
subsequent evil actions will be sins, not of the future, but of the present
moment in which I choose not to have free will.
GOD: Sounds like you are pretty badly trapped, doesn't it?
MORTAL: Of course I am trapped! You have placed me in a hideous double
bind! Now whatever I do is wrong. If I retain free will, I will continue to
sin, and if I abandon free will (with your help, of course) I will now be
sinning in so doing.
GOD: But by the same token, you place me in a double bind. I am willing
to leave you free will or remove it as you choose, but neither alternative
satisfies you. I wish to help you, but it seems I cannot.
GOD: But since it is not my fault, why are you still angry with me?
MORTAL: For having placed me in such a horrible predicament in first
GOD: But, according to you, there is nothing satisfactory I could have
MORTAL: You mean there is nothing satisfactory you can now do, that
does not mean that there is nothing you could have done.
GOD: Why? What could I have done?
MORTAL: Obviously you should never have given me free will in the first
place. Now that you have given it to me, it is too late--anything I do will
be bad. But you should never have given it to me in the first place.
GOD: Oh, that's it! Why would it have been better had I never given it
MORTAL: Because then I never would have been capable of sinning at all.
GOD: Well, I'm always glad to learn from my mistakes.
GOD: I know, that sounds sort of self-blasphemous, doesn't it? It
almost involves a logical paradox! On the one hand, as you have been taught,
it is morally wrong for any sentient being to claim that I am capable of
making mistakes. On the other hand, I have the right to do anything. But I
am also a sentient being. So the question is, Do, I or do I not have the
right to claim that I am capable of making mistakes?
MORTAL: That is a bad joke! One of your premises is simply false. I
have not been taught that it is wrong for any sentient being to doubt your
omniscience, but only for a mortal to doubt it. But since you are not
mortal, then you are obviously free from this injunction.
GOD: Good, so you realize this on a rational level. Nevertheless, you
did appear shocked when I said, "I am always glad to learn from my
MORTAL: Of course I was shocked. I was shocked not by your
self-blasphemy (as you jokingly called it), not by the fact that you had no
right to say it, but just by the fact that you did say it, since I have been
taught that as a matter of fact you don't make mistakes. So I was amazed
that you claimed that it is possible for you to make mistakes.
GOD: I have not claimed that it is possible. All I am saying is that if
I make mistakes, I will be happy to learn from them. But this says nothing
about whether the if has or ever can be realized.
MORTAL: Let's please stop quibbling about this point. Do you or do you
not admit it was a mistake to have given me free will?
GOD: Well now, this is precisely what I propose we should investigate.
Let me review your present predicament. You don't want to have free will
because with free will you can sin, and you don't want to sin. (Though I
still find this puzzling; in a way you must want to sin, or else you
wouldn't. But let this pass for now.) On the other hand, if you agreed to
give up free will, then you would now be responsible for the acts of the
future. Ergo, I should never have given you free will in the first place.
GOD: I understand exactly how you feel. Many mortals--even some
theologians--have complained that I have been unfair in that it was I, not
they, who decided that they should have free will, and then I hold them
responsible for their actions. In other words, they feel that they are
expected to live up to a contract with me which they never agreed to in the
GOD: As I said, I understand the feeling perfectly. And I can
appreciate the justice of the complaint. But the complaint arises only from
an unrealistic understanding of the true issues involved. I am about to
enlighten you as to what these are, and I think the results will surprise
you! But instead of telling you outright, I shall continue to use the
To repeat, you regret that I ever gave you free will. I claim that when
you see the true ramifications you will no longer have this regret. To prove
my point, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I am about to create a new
universe--a new space-time continuum. In this new universe will be born a
mortal just like you--for all practical purposes, we might say that you will
be reborn. Now, I can give this new mortal--this new you--free will or not.
What would you like me to do?
MORTAL (in great relief): Oh, please! Spare him from having to have
GOD: All right, I'll do as you say. But you do realize that this new
you without free will, will commit all sorts of horrible acts.
MORTAL: But they will not be sins since he will have no free will.
GOD: Whether you call them sins or not, the fact remains that they will
be horrible acts in the sense that they will cause great pain to many
MORTAL (after a pause): Good God, you have trapped me again! Always the
same game! If I now give you the go-ahead to create this new creature with
no free will who will nevertheless commit atrocious acts, then true enough
he will not be sinning, but I again will be the sinner to sanction this.
GOD: In that case, I'll go you one better! Here, I have already decided
whether to create this new you with free will or not. Now, I am writing my
decision on this piece of paper and I won't show it to you until later. But
my decision is now made and is absolutely irrevocable. There is nothing you
can possibly do to alter it; you have no responsibility in the matter. Now,
what I wish to know is this: Which way do you hope I have decided? Remember
now, the responsibility for the decision falls entirely on my shoulders, not
yours. So you can tell me perfectly honestly and without any fear, which way
do you hope I have decided?
MORTAL (after a very long pause): I hope you have decided to give him
GOD: Most interesting! I have removed your last obstacle! If I do not
give him free will, then no sin is to be imputed to anybody. So why do you
hope I will give him free will?
MORTAL: Because sin or no sin, the important point is that if you do
not give him free will, then (at least according to what you have said) he
will go around hurting people, and I don't want to see people hurt.
GOD (with an infinite sigh of relief): At last! At last you see the
MORTAL: What point is that?
GOD: That sinning is not the real issue! The important thing is that
people as well as other sentient beings don't get hurt!
MORTAL: You sound like a utilitarian!
GOD: I am a utilitarian!
GOD: Whats or no whats, I am a utilitarian. Not a unitarian, mind you,
but a utilitarian.
MORTAL: I just can't believe it!
GOD: Yes, I know, your religious training has taught you otherwise. You
have probably thought of me more like a Kantian than a utilitarian, but your
training was simply wrong.
MORTAL: You leave me speechless!
GOD: I leave you speechless, do I! Well, that is perhaps not too bad a
thing--you have a tendency to speak too much as it is. Seriously, though,
why do you think I ever did give you free will in the first place?
MORTAL: Why did you? I never have thought much about why you did; all I
have been arguing for is that you shouldn't have! But why did you? I guess
all I can think of is the standard religious explanation: Without free will,
one is not capable of meriting either salvation or damnation. So without
free will, we could not earn the right to eternal life.
GOD: Most interesting! I have eternal life; do you think I have ever
done anything to merit it?
MORTAL: Of course not! With you it is different. You are already so
good and perfect (at least allegedly) that it is not necessary for you to
merit eternal life.
GOD: Really now? That puts me in a rather enviable position, doesn't
MORTAL: I don't think I understand you.
GOD: Here I am eternally blissful without ever having to suffer or make
sacrifices or struggle against evil temptations or anything like that.
Without any of that type of "merit", I enjoy blissful eternal existence. By
contrast, you poor mortals have to sweat and suffer and have all sorts of
horrible conflicts about morality, and all for what? You don't even know
whether I really exist or not, or if there really is any afterlife, or if
there is, where you come into the picture. No matter how much you try to
placate me by being "good," you never have any real assurance that your
"best" is good enough for me, and hence you have no real security in
obtaining salvation. Just think of it! I already have the equivalent of
"salvation"--and have never had to go through this infinitely lugubrious
process of earning it. Don't you ever envy me for this?
MORTAL: But it is blasphemous to envy you!
GOD: Oh come off it! You're not now talking to your Sunday school
teacher, you are talking to me. Blasphemous or not, the important question
is not whether you have the right to be envious of me but whether you are.
MORTAL: Of course I am!
GOD: Good! Under your present world view, you sure should be most
envious of me. But I think with a more realistic world view, you no longer
will be. So you really have swallowed the idea which has been taught you
that your life on earth is like an examination period and that the purpose
of providing you with free will is to test you, to see if you merit blissful
eternal life. But what puzzles me is this: If you really believe I am as
good and benevolent as I am cracked up to be, why should I require people to
merit things like happiness and eternal life? Why should I not grant such
things to everyone regardless of whether or not he deserves them?
MORTAL: But I have been taught that your sense of morality--your sense
of justice--demands that goodness be rewarded with happiness and evil be
punished with pain.
GOD: Then you have been taught wrong.
MORTAL: But the religious literature is so full of this idea! Take for
example Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." How he
describes you as holding your enemies like loathsome scorpions over the
flaming pit of hell, preventing them from falling into the fate that they
deserve only by dint of your mercy.
GOD: Fortunately, I have not been exposed to the tirades of Mr.
Jonathan Edwards. Few sermons have ever been preached which are more
misleading. The very title "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" tells its
own tale. In the first place, I am never angry. In the second place, I do
not think at all in terms of "sin." In the third place, I have no enemies.
MORTAL: By that do you mean that there are no people whom you hate, or
that there are no people who hate you?
GOD: I meant the former although the latter also happens to be true.
MORTAL: Oh come now, I know people who have openly claimed to have
hated you. At times I have hated you!
GOD: You mean you have hated your image of me. That is not the same
thing as hating me as I really am.
MORTAL: Are you trying to say that it is not wrong to hate a false
conception of you, but that it is wrong to hate you as you really are?
GOD: No, I am not saying that at all; I am saying something far more
drastic! What I am saying has absolutely nothing to do with right or wrong.
What I am saying is that one who knows me for what I really am would simply
find it psychologically impossible to hate me.
MORTAL: Tell me, since we mortals seem to have such erroneous views
about your real nature, why don't you enlighten us? Why don't you guide us
the right way?
GOD: What makes you think I'm not?
MORTAL: I mean, why don't you appear to our very senses and simply tell
us that we are wrong?
GOD; Are you really so naive as to believe that I am the sort of being
which can appear to your senses? It would be more correct to say that I am
MORTAL (astonished): You are my senses?
GOD: Not quite, I am more than that. But it comes closer to the truth
than the idea that I am perceivable by the senses. I am not an object; like
you, I am a subject, and a subject can perceive, but cannot be perceived.
You can no more see me than you can see your own thoughts. You can see an
apple, but the event of your seeing an apple is itself not seeable. And I am
far more like the seeing of an apple than the apple itself.
MORTAL: If I can't see you, how do I know you exist?
GOD: Good question! How in fact do you know I exist?
MORTAL: Well, I am talking to you, am I not?
GOD: How do you know you are talking to me? Suppose you told
psychiatrist, "Yesterday I talked to God." What do you think he would say?
MORTAL: That might depend on the psychiatrist. Since most of them are
atheistic, I guess most would tell me I had simply been talking to myself.
GOD: And they would be right!
MORTAL: What? You mean you don't exist?
GOD: You have the strangest faculty of drawing false conclusions! Just
because you are talking to yourself, it follows that I don't exist?
MORTAL: Well, if I think I am talking to you, but I am really talking
to myself, in what sense do you exist?
GOD: Your question is based on two fallacies plus a confusion. The
question of whether or not you are now talking to me and the question of
whether or not I exist are totally separate. Even if you were not now
talking to me (which obviously you are), it still would not mean that I
MORTAL: Well, all right, of course! So instead of saying "if I am
talking to myself, then you don't exist," I should rather have said, "if I
am talking to myself, then I obviously am not talking to you."
GOD: A very different statement indeed, but still false.
MORTAL: Oh, come now, if I am only talking to myself, then how can I be
talking to you?
GOD: Your use of the word "only" is quite misleading! I can suggest
several logical possibilities under which your talking to yourself does not
imply that you are not talking to me.
MORTAL: Suggest just one!
GOD: Well, obviously one such possibility is that you and I are
MORTAL: Such a blasphemous thought--at least had I uttered it!
GOD: According to some religions, yes. According to others, it is the
plain, simple, immediately perceived truth.
MORTAL: So the only way out of my dilemma is to believe that you and I
GOD: Not at all! This is only one way out. There are several others.
For example, it may be that you are part of me, in which case you may be
talking to that part of me which is you. Or I may be part of you, in which
case you may be talking to that part of you which is me. Or again, you and I
might partially overlap, in which case you may be talking to the
intersection and hence talking both to you and to me. The only way your
talking to yourself might seem to imply that you are not talking to me is if
you and I were totally disjoint--and even then, you could conceivably be
talking to both of us.
MORTAL: So you claim you do exist.
GOD: Not at all. Again you draw false conclusions! The question of my
existence has not even come up. All I have said is that from the fact that
you are talking to yourself one cannot possibly infer my nonexistence, let
alone the weaker fact that you are not talking to me.
MORTAL: All right, I'll grant your point! But what I really want to
know is do you exist?
GOD: What a strange question!
MORTAL: Why? Men have been asking it for countless millennia.
GOD: I know that! The question itself is not strange; what I mean is
that it is a most strange question to ask of me!
GOD: Because I am the very one whose existence you doubt! I perfectly
well understand your anxiety. You are worried that your present experience
with me is a mere hallucination. But how can you possibly expect to obtain
reliable information from a being about his very existence when you suspect
the nonexistence of the very same being?
MORTAL: So you won't tell me whether or not you exist?
GOD: I am not being willful! I merely wish to point out that no answer
I could give could possibly satisfy you. All right, suppose I said, "No, I
don't exist." What would that prove? Absolutely nothing! Or if I said, "Yes,
I exist." Would that convince you? Of course not!
MORTAL: Well, if you can't tell me whether or not you exist, then who
GOD: That is something which no one can tell you. It is something which
only you can find out for yourself.
MORTAL: How do I go about finding this out for myself?
GOD: That also no one can tell you. This is another thing you will have
to find out for yourself.
MORTAL: So there is no way you can help me?
GOD: I didn't say that. I said there is no way I can tell you. But that
doesn't mean there is no way I can help you.
MORTAL: In what manner then can you help me?
GOD: I suggest you leave that to me! We have gotten sidetracked as it
is, and I would like to return to the question of what you believed my
purpose to be in giving you free will. Your first idea of my giving you free
will in order to test whether you merit salvation or not may appeal to many
moralists, but the idea is quite hideous to me. You cannot think of any
nicer reason--any more humane reason--why I gave you free will?
MORTAL: Well now, I once asked this question of an Orthodox rabbi. He
told me that the way we are constituted, it is simply not possible for us to
enjoy salvation unless we feel we have earned it. And to earn it, we of
course need free will.
GOD: That explanation is indeed much nicer than your former but still
is far from correct. According to Orthodox Judaism, I created angels, and
they have no free will. They are in actual sight of me and are so completely
attracted by goodness that they never have even the slightest temptation
toward evil. They really have no choice in the matter. Yet they are
eternally happy even though they have never earned it. So if your rabbi's
explanation were correct, why wouldn't I have simply created only angels
rather than mortals?
MORTAL: Beats me! Why didn't you?
GOD: Because the explanation is simply not correct. In the first place,
I have never created any ready-made angels. All sentient beings ultimately
approach the state which might be called "angelhood." But just as the race
of human beings is in a certain stage of biologic evolution, so angels are
simply the end result of a process of Cosmic Evolution. The only difference
between the so-called saint and the so-called sinner is that the former is
vastly older than the latter. Unfortunately it takes countless life cycles
to learn what is perhaps the most important fact of the universe--evil is
simply painful. All the arguments of the moralists--all the alleged reasons
why people shouldn't commit evil acts--simply pale into insignificance in
light of the one basic truth that evil is suffering.
No, my dear friend, I am not a moralist. I am wholly a utilitarian.
That I should have been conceived in the role of a moralist is one of the
great tragedies of the human race. My role in the scheme of things (if one
can use this misleading expression) is neither to punish nor reward, but to
aid the process by which all sentient beings achieve ultimate perfection.
MORTAL: Why did you say your expression is misleading?
GOD: What I said was misleading in two respects. First of all it is
inaccurate to speak of my role in the scheme of things. I am the scheme of
things. Secondly, it is equally misleading to speak of my aiding the process
of sentient beings attaining enlightenment. I am the process. The ancient
Taoists were quite close when they said of me (whom they called "Tao") that
I do not do things, yet through me all things get done. In more modem terms,
I am not the cause of Cosmic Process, I am Cosmic Process itself. I think
the most accurate and fruitful definition of me which man can frame--at
least in his present state of evolution--is that I am the very process of
enlightenment. Those who wish to think of the devil (although I wish they
wouldn't!) might analogously define him as the unfortunate length of time
the process takes. In this sense, the devil is necessary; the process simply
does take an enormous length of time, and there is absolutely nothing I can
do about it. But, I assure you, once the process is more correctly
understood, the painful length of time will no longer be regarded as an
essential limitation or an evil. It will be seen to be the very essence of
the process itself. I know this is not completely consoling to you who are
now in the finite sea of suffering, but the amazing thing is that once you
grasp this fundamental attitude, your very finite suffering will begin to
diminish--ultimately to the vanishing point.
... ... ...
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|- Да, дорогая, я провинился, но ты же знаешь, где нужно поставить
запятую в "Казнить нельзя помиловать"?!|
- Не знаю! Зато я знаю, куда сегодня нужно поставить запятую во
фразе "Спать нельзя давать"!!!