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For the sake of the argument I make the assumption that the Jewish god Jahwe or gods from other religions like Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva actually exist and that one of them created the world.

Why did the god create the world? In a religious context I often find the answer

The god created the world to show his/her glory.

If that’s the main reason then I cannot consider such an action a proof of divine greatness. A human person with a similar motivation would be diagnosed: Addicted to admiration due to an ego weakness.

Does the title question have an answer which is philosophically more convincing and satisfying?

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    I’m voting to close this question because it would be more appropriate for Biblical Hermeneutics.
    – Barmar
    Nov 7, 2023 at 16:21
  • @Barmar Please note the question does not focus on Jahwe but considers each god who is considered by his followers to be a creator god. I named some further examples.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:35
  • But then you based your question on a quote from the Bible. Do the other religious texts have similar statements?
    – Barmar
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:37
  • @Barmar That's exactly my question. And how do they argue if they answer the question?
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:40
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    This still seems more like a religious question than a philosophy question. And religions don't generally need to justify anything -- it just is what it is.
    – Barmar
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:43

8 Answers 8

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I've heard the above (ego motive), as well as something like "it pleased God" (hedonic motive), or "God saw that the [X] was good" (moral/ethical motive, from Genesis) so perhaps certain things have intrinsic "goodness" or God thought they were good and having good things is better than not having them.

One less conventional/new-agey but interesting view is from Neal Donald Walsch's "Conversations with God", where he basically says before creation God knew his nature in what could be called an academic way, but wanted to experience himself and so started time, which led to experiences, which are seen as their own reward/self-justifying.

Whatever we think of Walsch's motives for his books (con man, prophet, confused) it is an interesting concept to envision the ultimate being having two senses of knowledge of itself: conceptual and experiential, and that for such a being there really is nothing more to be done except to continue to experience being.

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  • Do you find any of the 3+1 motives from your recherche philosophically convincing and satisfying? - Opinion based statements are allowed for the comment section :-)
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 6, 2023 at 17:46
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    @JoWehler Being non-theistic I don't because find them convincing because it seems simpler to posit a pre-rational "force" than something sophisticated enough to have reasons. I see reasons being emergent phenomena within the universe vs existing outside of or prior to it.
    – Annika
    Nov 6, 2023 at 17:54
  • Ad your first sentence: I asked the whole question under the explicit premise that a god created the universe. Because in this blog I wanted to ask a question from philosophy with a touch psychology. Aside: Is your first “because” superfluous? – ad your second sentence: What about converting your consideration into a separate question? I did not hear such an argument in the present context before.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 6, 2023 at 18:08
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    @JoWehler - yes, and I answered from the viewpoint of theism being true. I personally don't find theism convincing, but I do like to presume things for the sake of argument and test my thinking. To my first "because" - that is a typo and I've exceeded my edit window :-P
    – Annika
    Nov 6, 2023 at 18:13
  • Even under a theistic premiss the third argument from axiology is not philosophically convincing: All stars have a finite time span. Their ending also destroys possible life on all their planets. Hence the argument from axiology is forced into argueing for the value of a permanent cycle of creation and destruction of stars and their planets. Such a follower argument can be brought forward to explain the advantage of evolution, but in a theistic context I have not heard about it.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 7, 2023 at 7:12
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There's no reason who two mutually incompatible hypothetical individuals that both happen to be gods have to have the same reason for the same activity, and there's no reason for two mutually incompatible hypothetical activities that both happen to create the world to be motivated by the same reasons.

Marduk slew Tiamat the primordial water-chaos goddess because she was his enemy in the war of the gods. Her body became the Earth.

YHWH did not slay any primordial water-chaos goddesses, although there was some debate in 1st-3rd century Judaism and Christianity about whether he was co-pre-existing with primordial water-chaos, whence he created the ordered and life-giving world; or whether he created the primordial water-chaos first, then ordered it into a life-giving structure.

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The phrase

The god created the world to show his glory.

which circulates the Internet, from Isaiah 43:7, to my understanding is taken out of context, is poorly translated and does not describe well the "reason" we are searching for.

Anyway, we could get the "why God created the world" answer in theological terms from for example what St.Maximus the Confessor wrote in about 600ad.

God ... created the World, not because He was in need for something, but in order for His beings to be able to participate in His existence according to their abilities ...

(excuse my translation for not being formal)

So I will continue with this as the "reason".

From a theological point of view I believe this is sufficient, but from a philosophical one, we could try to make a reconciliation.

If we consider God as the ultimate ontological being, as the totality of everything, The highest kind of ontological entity, The being, then, by paraphrasing we get:

"The world exists not because of a need outside of it, but according to the needs of the participating beings and to their capabilities."

So the "reason" is to be found inside us according to our capabilities.


Addition

Although the concept of an ontological being may be considered as an abstraction it can act as a concrete entity too.

For example consider the Earth as an ontological being. There exists a behavioural aspect in her. Earth is not an inanimate being; According to what happens on her, she responds; the climate is the behavioural aspect of her.

In the same sense, The being (God) can be thought of as the ontological being of the totality. In the same sense there exists a behavioural aspect in Him.

Someone may consider this behaviour as random, as of no purpose or as of no reason, but given the fact that we are part (an aspect) or This too - as participants - we can contribute to the "reason" by our actions; thus giving meaning to this.

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  • Isaiah 43:7 is about God creating a specific group of people, not the whole world, anyway.
    – g s
    Nov 6, 2023 at 21:01
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    Exactly; that is why I say outside of context. Nov 6, 2023 at 21:04
  • @IoannisPaizis In Jes 43,7 the Hebrew word kābōd means “glory, honor, magnificence” when applied to God. The word is also used in the same sense in Jes 42,8. Why do you think it is poorly translated? I have no problem with the context. – How can God create the world “but in order for His beings to be able to participate in His existence” when these beings did not at all existed? Then one has to answer first the question why God created these beings.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 6, 2023 at 22:16
  • Jo Wehler, you miss the ontological pojnt. The being Is literally the totality of the existence, it does not exist outside or before the existence, it is embedded in the creational process. Nov 6, 2023 at 22:29
  • @IoannisPaizis Which being (singular) do you mean, because your quote speaks about "His beings" (plural)?
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 6, 2023 at 22:38
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Hmmm. There are better answers than self-glorification.

One of the better monotheist answers I have seen is to create beauty thru infinite diversity.

Another better monotheist answer from open theism is to allow the universe to explore and develop itself -- in ways God cannot foresee.

A better mono/polytheist answer that also tries to solve the problem of evil is to develop allies in this universe so that God can better deal with a threat beyond this universe.

My favorite di/polytheist answer that also is an effort to answer the problem of evil is that the universe was created collaboratively, but God's collaborators turned on It as a betrayal during creation, leading to a failed creation, and a drastically weakened God. Di-theism in general solves the problem of evil particularly well.

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I would not like to touch upon the subject of God (because even scientists can create) but from phenomenological point of view , there was a craving to create ,( and there is still a craving to create). It is something similar to the hunger for food.

Because of craving , clinging came to be and because of clinging , becoming came to be and because of becoming, birth and ageing of earth , moon , sun , stars , light etc came to be.

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The presumptions in the question are incongruous.

The question first presumes a creator, but then presumes that such a being might be "addicted to admiration due to an ego weakness."

If there is a creator, it is a force or being mighty enough to have created the entire universe and all living things within it. It would have been capable of bringing everything into existence from nothing. Such a being would be in full command of all matter, all energy, and all laws of nature and physics. From the smallest sub-atomic particle, to DNA, to ocean tides, to planetary orbits, to uncountable galaxies. This would include the 96% of our universe consisting of dark matter and dark energy, as well as the quantum realm - bizarre things beyond current human understanding. (and possibly out of reach of our ability to ever fully comprehend...)

To presume that such a being might also have an "ego", or be afflicted any weakness at all, (as we define it...) especially simple human psychological disorders or addictions, is completely at odds with the first presumption of its existence.

Next, it is logical to presume that a person believing in the existence of a creator would seek to understand the nature of this being. And in doing so, that they would seek an explanation in the scriptures of traditional religions, and so come to believe that this being is knowable, and has communicated through revelations to various prophets throughout millennia, and would likely grow to believe and accept the theological reason at the heart of this question.

While skepticism is normal, discarding an entire worldview over not understanding the precise rationale behind the decision making process of a divine creator prior to the big bang doesn't fit within the reasonable thought processes of a believer.

Then there is the presumption that someone seeking glory does so because they might be "addicted to admiration due to an ego weakness". This is an unsubstantiated psychological diagnosis without any citations or real credibility. Oxford defines glory as "high renown or honor won by notable achievements." While it is likely that some people seek glory for the reason in question, to say that all do is a sweeping generality. Certainly many seek glory only as a healthy byproduct of success.

And finally, there is the presumption that motive determines greatness. Michael Phelps was a great swimmer, but the motives that drove him to Olympic competition glory are irrelevant. Whether for money, fame, or inward satisfaction, nothing can take away from the greatness of his achievements in the pool and the numerous gold medals he won.

Therefore, a believer who would seek to discredit the greatness of a divine creative entity due to questioning an uncertain motive in the context of a personal interpretation of human motives and behavior is illogical.

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    Michael -- the inference to a designer presumes one can identify design by assuming a design purpose. The problem with your claim that God's motives are indiscernible or unevaluable to us, is that any God claim can therefore not be evidenced. One cannot make any valid inference to a Creator by your anti-evaluation reasoning. Under Popperian empiricism, one can treat such a claim as a deliberate effort to make God claims irrefutable, by making them predictively useless. The term for this in science is being "not even wrong", and empiricists can reasonably dismiss such a claim out of hand.
    – Dcleve
    Nov 7, 2023 at 16:43
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    @Dcleve, 1.) I'm not inferring a designer, the OP did, and I went with it. 2.) I am not claiming that God's motives are indiscernible. I am claiming that a person who believes in God would discern motives from scripture. 3.) I am unfamiliar with Popperian empiricism, but neither am I trying to make a scientific or philosophical claim for the existence of a creator. I think you have misconstrued my "theme" here... Nov 7, 2023 at 17:34
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    Michael, any inference from either scripture text to a God's purposes, or inference of purposes from design, requires presumptions about God's intentions and reasoning, and that communication and design theory apply to God. Which "God is inscrutable to us" prevents making. "God is partially scrutable, such that we can validly infer purpose and messages from script and design, but CAN'T infer falsifications from either", is just ad hoc rationalization and confirmation bias -- and is generally the invalid way this point is argued.
    – Dcleve
    Nov 7, 2023 at 18:13
  • @Dcleve, What is "this point" that you think I am arguing? Nov 7, 2023 at 18:54
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    Michael -- Your assertion is clearly stated -- that we humans are not able to properly evaluate a divinity, hence falsifications of that divinity thru human inference are not valid. That all reason to accept the divinity are ALSO due to human inference, and therefore are subject to the same appeal to uncertainty, is neglected in your answer.
    – Dcleve
    Nov 7, 2023 at 20:39
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While it seems that some answers here already provide a good an satisfying answer specifically from a Christian perspective, this question is flawed, and in its current form is not a useful question as the answer is simply "an infinite set of possible reasons".

If that’s the main reason then I cannot consider such an action a proof of divine greatness.

I'm not certain that anybody is asking you to consider that such a proof. However, I am likewise not convinced that it could not be proof. It would need to be first agreed what standards you are setting and why, and you seem to only be either using an invalid standard or one that is subjective.

The question is too generic

You are asking a general question about why some unspecified God (though some examples of possible gods are given) might create a world. Without specifying a specific framework, you allow for any number of potential creator beings, many of which would have unrevealed reasons, reasons which are impossible to ascertain with our limited understanding, or even no reason at all. Divine beings are not subject to using similar thought processes as our own or even dealing with factors of which we can conceive, and so there is no necessity to presume, given your criteria, that there even is a reason we could articulate.

You cannot equate human and divine motives

You also are incorrect in attempting to draw comparisons to certain motivations which humans might have and motivations which divine beings might have. Humans function on an entirely different level. For one thing, we are limited beings surrounded by other similar beings, consisting of material which we did not create ourselves. Attempting to assert ones qualities as being excellent compared to similar beings would likely be short sighted, but this does not apply to a unique divine being with utterly complete knowledge and wisdom, and to things which he created entirely by himself. If a toddler walked around with a loaded gun, he would be dangerous and bad, but if a healthy adult did the same thing, it would be a very different situation, and the distinction between them is only a few years of age, not an entirely different quality of existence.

Furthermore, the concept of whether or not a person or attitude is actually wrong, immoral, or in any way undesirable is often greatly impacted by whether there is a divine being and what his attributes might be and what they might be for us. So, if there were a being which created the world for self-glorification, then that would be just as acceptable a reason as anything. It would satisfy reason and philosophy just fine. It might not make you happy or it might be subject to individual preference, but that would similarly be true with any belief, true or untrue.

Improving the question

One potential improvement, if you were attempting to seek understanding of a particular religious framework, would be to ask the question of a particular religion, or set of religions. For instance "What is the reason the Jewish/Christian God created the world?" or "What are the most commonly understood reasons why Abrahamic religions believe that their God created the world?" Those would allow for the great answers here to be definitive. Or perhaps, you could even ask if there are any common trends among popular beliefs about why popular gods created the world.

However, you seem to be less interested in specific religious positions and more interested in generic arguments related to Theism. In this case, you might consider asking about what is the philosophical value of comparing supposed reasons people believe that gods had for creating the world with values that those people and cultures have concerning valid reasoning. Or perhaps you could question why it is that some people, such as yourself, expect there to be some reason which aligns with your preferences or expectations. After all, if the being which created our minds (assuming a framework such that one did) with reason/morality/preferences, it might be reasonable to suspect that such a being might related his intentions in a way which can satisfy some of those. Either of these could yield some interesting questions and answers.

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  • You indicate some points which you consider shortcomings of the question, and you propose some improvements of it. OK, please feel free to convert the question to a form you prefer, even to restrict it to one particular religion and its particular creator god. - But then I am curious for your answer.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 8, 2023 at 11:57
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An omnipotent being has no needs or desires, no preferences, no motivation to do anything.

Therefore it is quite an illogical idea to imagine such a being creating a world.

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