I just found out this week that we’ll be reading Rowe’s Can God Be Free? in Ed Wierenga‘s seminar next semester at Rochester. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen some references to the argument, and I’m puzzled none of those references mentioned what seemed an obvious solution: satisficing.
The essence of the problem is that in some sense "God must do the best thing" is true, but there’s no best world. [Technically, there’s another horn of the dilemma: if there is a best world then God is not free not to create it. A. I don’t think there’s a best world ("couldn’t there be just one more dancing girl"); B. If there is, then I think Clarke’s moral necessity response is a good one.]
I suppose the structure of the argument must be something like this:
- If God exists, then he creates the best.
- If the best world is created, then there is a best world.
- There is not a best world.
- Therefore the best world is not created. 2,3 MT
- Therefore God does not exist. 1,4, MT
But it’s common in rationality theory to allow satisficing. There’s an old story about the gods having a bottle of wine that’s very good but only gets better with age. Question: When do they open it? Answer: It’s stupid not to ever drink it, so open it whenever. It seems to me that all that is required of God is that he satisfice. More below the fold.
If an omniscient being creates a world when there is a better world that it could have created, then it is possible that there exists a being morally better than it. (112)
From what I can tell the defense of this thesis is based on the idea that if one being has higher standards than another then that being is better. Of course that’s false, but the real issue it seems to me is that most theists are going to say that it’s not a matter of "personal standards" but that there is an objective fact of the matter with regard to some world whether it is sufficiently good to license creation (I’ve tried to word this to allow for vagueness).
Now admittedly, I haven’t read the book, so there might be much more to it (I rush to add that I have the utmost respect for Rowe as a scholar and philosopher of religion due to his work on evil). But I think it’s often good to start with what seems to oneself to be the intuitive thrust of the argument. I look forward to reading the book, but perhaps your comments will help me prepare for that by commenting on the issues above. (And again, to be explicit, I’m not claiming to present Rowe’s argument, but rather my impression of it based on a few casual sources. However, I find those impressions worth considering, and if it turns out that my impression is not that far off, then I’ll be disappointed with the book.)