A valid argument against Molinism
January 31, 2008 — 10:57

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Free Will Molinism  Comments: 6

Careful readers will have noted that I posted an argument against Molinism earlier this morning, and it committed a modal fallacy. I took down the argument as soon as I realized the fallacy. Here’s an argument that doesn’t seem to commit the same modal fallacy, but the cost of it is that it has some much more controversial premises. Let C a complete description of the circumstances at the time of Jones’ choice. The main point of Molinism is to make possible situations like this:

  1. Were Jones in C, he would freely choose to mow the lawn.
  2. Because of (1), God brings it about that Jones is in C.

Now add some statements that are, plausibly, conceptual truths, for a reductio:

  1. If p is explanatorily prior to Jones’ choosing what to do in C, and p entails that Jones will choose to mow the lawn, then Jones does not freely choose to mow the lawn. (This is a version of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities.)
  2. Explanatory priority is transitive.
  3. If, because of q, God brings it about that p, then q is explanatorily prior to p.
  4. If C is a complete description of the circumstances at the time of Jones’ choice, then that Jones is in C is explanatorily prior to Jones’ choosing what he chooses.
  5. If p and q are explanatorily prior to r, then p&q is explanatorily prior to r.

The argument now is easy. By (1) and (2), Jones is in C and freely mows the lawn. By (2) and (5), conditional (1) is explanatorily prior to Jones’ being in C. By (6), Jones’ being in C is prior to Jones’ choosing to mow the lawn. By (4), it follows that conditional (1) is explanatorily prior to Jones’ being in C. Let p be the conjunction of (1) with the claim that Jones is in C. By (7) and what we have already shown, p is explanatorily prior to Jones’ choosing to mow the lawn. But p entails that Jones chooses to mow the lawn. By (3), Jones does not freely choose to mow the lawn. But by (1) and (2) he does. Hence, a contradiction ensues.

Comments:
  • p = Were Jones in C, he would freely choose to mow the lawn. & Jones is in C. But, one might well argue, p does not play any role in explaining why Jones chooses to mow the lawn. Let r = Jones is in C & Jones freely chooses to mow the law. We should say that r explains why (1) is true, rather than using p to explain why Jones freely chooses to mow that lawn. God and Jones bring about r, r entails (1). Hence what God and Jones do explains why (1) is true.

    January 31, 2008 — 14:28
  • Mike:
    p plays a role in explaining why God put Jones in C.
    God’s putting Jones in C plays a role in explaining why Jones is in.
    Jones’ being in C plays a role in explaining why Jones freely chose to mow the lawn.
    Since explanatory priority is transitive, p is explanatorily prior to Jones’ freely choosing to mow the lawn. It does not follow that p directly plays a role in explaining the choice.
    If one adds to this the claim that what God and Jones do explains why (1) is true, one gets a circle in the order of explanation, which is yet another argument against Molinism (namely, that of Robert M. Adams). What I am trying to do is to run a version of the Adams argument but without closing the circle.

    January 31, 2008 — 21:27
  • Chris Dodsworth

    Alex,
    Thanks for an interesting argument. Since I reject your version (and maybe any version) of PAP, though, the argument doesn’t work for me. To motivate my position, consider the case of Peter, who feels awfully bad that he denied Jesus three times. He wants an opportunity to make up for it. God, knowing this, puts Peter in C, where C is an opportunity to spread the Gospel. And in C Peter does what he wants to do – and does so, it seems to me, freely. God’s placing Peter in C entails Peter’s good act, but only because Peter (ex hypothesi) freely chooses to act.
    But perhaps your intuitions in this example are different. To put all this another way, you’re right that there is a contradiction; but the contradiction gives me a reason to reject (3) rather than (1) or (2).

    February 3, 2008 — 11:20
  • Chris,
    Why do you say: “God’s placing Peter in C entails Peter’s good act”? I don’t see any entailment here.

    February 3, 2008 — 20:20
  • Alexander Pruss

    I should modify (3) to actually be a PAP that I think is true: “If p is explanatorily prior to Jones’ choosing what to do in C, and p is true, then p does not entail that Jones will libertarian-freely choose to mow the lawn.” (And everywhere we replace “freely” with “libertarian-freely”.)

    February 4, 2008 — 12:44
  • Chris Dodsworth

    Alex,
    You’re right. In the example I gave, God’s placing Peter in C certainly does not logically entail Peter’s performing a good act by itself. I think I had the following in mind:
    1. If God places Peter in C, he does act well. (“conditional of freedom”)
    2. God places Peter in C.
    3. Peter acts well.

    February 7, 2008 — 9:35