A problem with strong actualization
January 15, 2010 — 10:43

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Free Will Molinism Problem of Evil  Comments: 30

Plantinga defines strong actualization thus: “God strongly actualizes a state of affairs S if and only if he causes S to be actual and causes to be actual every contingent state of affairs S* such that S includes S*” (Profiles, p. 49).

It is crucial for Plantinga’s arguments that “includes” have an interpretation such that if S entails S* and S* is contingent, then S includes S*. Otherwise, Plantinga’s FWD includes an invalid argument. For Plantinga is going to argue that if W is a world where Eve freely doesn’t take the apple, then T(W)–the maximal strongly actualized state of affairs that includes all the states of affairs strongly actualized in W–does not include Eve’s freely refraining from taking the apple, and hence the conditional T(W)→(Eve freely refrains from taking the apple) cannot be necessarily true. But the latter only follows if entailment implies inclusion.

Moreover, it is crucial to the FWD that God cannot strongly actualize a state of affairs of someone doing something freely.

But now we have a problem. For suppose that in some world W where Eve freely doesn’t take the apple, God earlier confidentially remarks to the Archangel Gabriel that if Eve doesn’t freely refrain, God will create life on Pluto. Let S1 be the state of affairs of God making that remark to Gabriel, and let S2 be the state of affairs of there being no life on Pluto. Suppose S2, as well as S1, obtains at W. It seems that God strongly actualizes S1 and that God strongly actualizes S2.

But now we have a problem, for God strongly actualizes each of two states of affairs whose conjunction entails Eve’s freely refaining. Now it either is or is not true that if God strongly actualizes each of two states of affairs, he strongly actualizes their conjunction. If it is true, then it follows, contrary to what is needed for the FWD, that God strongly actualizes Eve’s freely refraining. If it is not true, then T(W) need not in general exist–there will, perhaps, always be a state of affairs that includes all the states of affairs strongly actualized at W, but that state of affairs will not itself be strongly actualized by God (why? becuase that state of affairs will include S1 and will include S2, but the conjunction of S1 and S2 is not strongly actualized). And Plantinga’s argument seems to require the existence of T(W).

Probably the best move in response would be to say that although God causes S1, he doesn’t cause all the entailed states of affairs, and hence he does strongly actualize S1. One of the entailed states of affairs is the disjunctive state of affairs: (Eve freely refraining and God’s telling Gabriel that Eve will freely refrain) or (someone other than God telling Gabriel that Eve will freely refrain). To cause a disjunctive state of affairs God would, it seems, have to cause one of the disjuncts. He does not cause the second disjunct, as it does not obtain, and he does not cause the first disjunct, because then he’d be causing Eve to freely refrain, which is impossible (according to Plantinga). Therefore, God does not strongly actualize S1.

This response has one problem: Plantinga cannot afford to say that by causing a disjunctive state of affairs God has to cause one of the disjuncts. For, surely, God causes Eve to freely take or freely refrain from taking, but God does not cause either disjunct.

Comments:
  • Wow. heavy duty, but great stuff!

    January 15, 2010 — 13:26
  • Mike Almeida

    This is nice, Alex. You write,
    God strongly actualizes each of two states of affairs whose conjunction entails Eve’s freely refaining
    So, the argument is supposed to go like this.
    1. If Eve doesn’t freely refrain, God will create life on Pluto.
    2. There is no life on Pluto.
    ——————–
    3. :. Eve freely refrains.
    And we are assuming that strong actualization transmits across entailment, (1) and (2) are strongly actualized, and so God strongly actualizes (3). But there is no question, I think, that Eve strongly actualizes her refraining from eating the apple. She does that. So, there is an argument at least as good that Eve + God together strongly actualize that there is no life on Pluto.
    1. If Eve doesn’t freely refrain, God will create life on Pluto.
    3. Eve freely refrains.
    —————————
    2. :. There is no life on Pluto.
    A better conclusion, I think, is to deny transmission of strong actualization across entailments. The fact that P entails Q does not itself entail that in any world where P obtains Q does. Consider,
    1′. I strongly actualize this sentence.
    2′. If I strongly actualize this sentence, then 2+2= 5.
    3′ :. I strongly actualize that 2+2 = 5.
    So, when God actualizes T, it is evident that T entails that 2+2 = 5, but the latter state of affairs does not obtain. So not everything that is entailed by what we strongly actualize is something we strongly actualize or something that so much as obtains.
    An even better conclusion is to hold that God does not strongly actualize the state of affairs of Pluto not having life on it, and neither does Eve. Presumably, he’s supposed to strongly actualize (cause) that state of affairs by refraining from bringing about (causing) life on Pluto. But it follows immediately from this position that God causes all free action by refraining from causing it to be otherwise. So refraining from causing some contingent state of affairs p to be otherwise does not in general entail that God causes p to be as it is.

    January 15, 2010 — 14:04
  • “A better conclusion, I think, is to deny transmission of strong actualization across entailments.”
    The problem is that the FWD requires transmission of strong actualization across entailments. Plantinga needs to argue that if W is the world where Eve freely refrains, then T(W) doesn’t entail that Eve freely refrains. The argument seems to be this: If T(w) does entail that Eve freely refrains, then God strongly actualizes Eve freely refraining, which is absurd.
    “An even better conclusion is to hold that God does not strongly actualize the state of affairs of Pluto not having life on it, and neither does Eve.”
    Maybe. So, modify the case. S1: God tells Gabriel that he’ll refrain from creating a ringed planet in the alpha Centauri system if Eve doesn’t freely refrain. S2: God creates a ringed planet in the alpha Centauri system. In W, both S1 and S2 obtain.

    January 15, 2010 — 15:09
  • Mike Almeida

    S1: God tells Gabriel that he’ll refrain from creating a ringed planet in the alpha Centauri system if Eve doesn’t freely refrain. S2: God creates a ringed planet in the alpha Centauri system. In W, both S1 and S2 obtain.
    1. If Eve doesn’t freely refrain, God does not create Saturn
    2. God does create Saturn (say, to give it a name).
    3. :. Eve freely refrains.
    Now (1) and (2) entails (3), therefore (assuming transmission) Eve is not free. That’s curious, since (1) and (2) are true, the argument is valid, but(3) is false. But the falsity of (3) entails (along with (2)) that (1) is false. Contradiction! God asserted (1), so (1) cannot be false. Your premises entail a contradiction, so I don’t think you are describing a possible case.
    The problem is that the FWD requires transmission of strong actualization across entailments.
    Can’t be right, at least not perfectly generally. For any state of affairs P that God strongly actualizes, P entails (Q & ~Q). But the state of affairs Q & ~Q is obviously not strongly actualized by God or anyone else, since it obtains at no worlds. So it is not in general true that entailment preserves strong actualization.

    January 15, 2010 — 17:29
  • Jeremy Pierce

    Does God cause Eve to freely take or freely refrain from taking? One might argue that there’s a third option. If God allowed Satan to coerce in a way that violated her freedom, she might take without sinning. Does what God causes preclude that? I’m not sure it does on a typical libertarian account.

    January 15, 2010 — 18:20
  • Mike:
    I should have said that the FWD requires transmission of strong actualization across entailments between contingent propositions. It is explicit in Plantinga that if God strongly actualizes S and S includes S*, then God strongly actualizes S*. It is implicit that entailment is sufficient for inclusion. (If it’s not, then his arguments become invalid at one crucial point. I can give textual detail.)
    As for the contradiction in the premises, clearly (1), (2) and (3) are compossible, at least if the “if” in (1) is read as a material conditional. If the concept of “strong actualization” makes (1), (2) and (3) not compossible, there is something badly wrong with the concept.

    January 18, 2010 — 8:44
  • Mike Almeida

    Hi Alex,
    (1), (2), and (3) are not compossible, as I think the comment above shows. G’s strong actualization is incompatible with E’s libertarian freedom. Let [Gs] be the God strongly actualizes operator. We have assumed that entailment preserves strong actualization. The argument looks like this,
    (I)
    1. [Gs](Eve doesn’t freely refrain -> God does not create Saturn)
    2. [Gs](God does create Saturn)
    3. :. [Gs](Eve freely refrains)
    But it is impossible that [Gs](Eve freely refrains), since no one can strongly actualize a state of affairs in which Eve freely refrains except Eve. If on the other hand you time index the operators, then there are no worries.
    (II)
    1. [Gs]t-1(Eve doesn’t freely refrain -> God does not create Saturn) (T)
    2. [Gs]t+1(God does create Saturn) (T)
    3. :. [Gs]t(Eve freely refrains) (F)
    Here, (1) and (2) do not entail (3). God cannot strongly actualize a state of affairs that already obtains in past, so God’s failing to create Saturn at t+1 together with his strongly actualizing the conditional in (1) at t-1, does not entail that he strongly actualizes Eve’s freely refraining at t. The propositions that are consistent are these, letting [Es] stand for Eve’s strong actualization.
    (III)
    1. [Gs]t-1(Eve doesn’t freely refrain -> God does not create Saturn). (T)
    2.[Gs]t+1(God does create Saturn) (T)
    3. [Es]t(Eve freely refrains) (T)
    It is explicit in Plantinga that if God strongly actualizes S and S includes S*, then God strongly actualizes S*. It is implicit that entailment is sufficient for inclusion.
    Well, right, as I mentioned above the transmission principle would have to be restricted, but the restriction to contingent propositions is not enough. There are contingent propositions describing free actions that cannot be strongly actualized by anyone other than the agent of the action, as illustrated in argument (I) above.

    January 18, 2010 — 11:27
  • I grant that there may be a problem for Plantinga with the compossibility of:
    GS1. [Gs](Eve doesn’t freely refrain → God does not create Saturn)
    GS2. [Gs](God does create Saturn)
    GS3. Eve freely refrains
    But surely the following are compossible:
    1. Eve doesn’t freely refrain → God doesn’t create Saturn
    2. God does create Saturn
    3. Eve freely refrains.
    After all, the following are compossible:
    1*. Alex doesn’t freely refrain from eating an apple (for breakfast today) → God doesn’t create Saturn
    2*. God does create Saturn (in the solar system)
    3*. Alex freely refrains.
    They are compossible because they are true. 🙂
    The challenge for Plantinga is to explain why GS1-GS3 doesn’t follow from 1-3.

    January 19, 2010 — 8:48
  • Mike Almeida

    (1)-(3) are ambiguous, on some readings they are compossible. I gave one of them, and it was (III),
    (III)
    1. [Gs]t-1(Eve doesn’t freely refrain -> God does not create Saturn). (T)
    2.[Gs]t+1(God does create Saturn) (T)
    3. [Es]t(Eve freely refrains) (T)
    On (1*)-(3*):
    1*. Alex doesn’t freely refrain from eating an apple → God doesn’t create Saturn
    2*. God does create Saturn.
    3*. Alex freely refrains.
    They are compossible because they are true.
    If God strongly actualized (1*) and (2*)–say, by asserting (1*) sincerely and creating Saturn–then you did not freely refrain this morning. But if God did not assert (1*), then you strongly actualized (1*) by strongly actualizing it’s antecedent.So, we can see that (1*)-(3*) are compossible in this way.
    1*. [As](Alex doesn’t freely refrain from eating an apple → God doesn’t create Saturn).
    2*. [Gs](God does create Saturn).
    3*. [As](Alex freely refrains).
    What are not compossible are the following:
    1*. [Gs](Alex doesn’t freely refrain from eating an apple → God doesn’t create Saturn).
    2*. [Gs](God does create Saturn).
    3*. [Gs](Alex freely refrains).

    January 19, 2010 — 16:24
  • Mike Almeida

    But if God did not assert (1*), then you strongly actualized (1*) by strongly actualizing it’s antecedent
    i.e., by strongly actualizing the negation of its antecedent.

    January 19, 2010 — 17:11
  • Interestingly, in his last substantive email to me, Al denied that strong actualization is closed under entailment. I then asked him how this affects the argument in Profiles which seems to need closure under entailment (at least as restricted to contingent states of affairs), and I think he’ll try to respond in a couple of days.
    Al also made the helpful suggestion that if the conditional in “Eve doesn’t freely refrain &rrar; God does not create Saturn” is material, then God doesn’t strongly actualize this in W–Eve strongly actualizes it by freely refraining.

    January 20, 2010 — 10:45
  • Mike Almeida

    Right, I agree with this, which I guess is the rational thing to do. Let me know what he says.

    January 20, 2010 — 13:13
  • Al seems to have gone back to the idea that strongly actualizes is closed under entailment (at least as restricted to contingent states of affairs).
    We’re now puzzled about this simplified puzzle. Suppose God says: “Eve will freely do A.” Let S be the state of affairs of God saying “Eve will freely do A.”
    Then, if God strongly actualizes S, God strongly actualizes everything contingent entailed by S, and that includes Eve freely doing A. So that’s absurd. But God doesn’t weakly actualize S, either, it seems. For to weakly actualize S, he’d have to strongly actualize some S* such that S* → S, and it’s really hard to see what that S* could be. It seems that what God directly causes is S, and there isn’t something else that he causes that counterfactually implies S.
    So, it seems that God neither weakly nor strongly actualizes S. But surely S is something that God somehow actualizes! So, how does he do it? It’s neither strong nor weak actualization. Strange.
    (But if there is an actualization that’s neither strong nor weak, then there is a gap in the FWD. The FWD attempts to show that possibly God can’t weakly actualize a world with significantly free agents and no evil. It also follows that possibly he can’t strongly do so. But now we have a third kind of actualization. Maybe God can actualize a world with significantly free agents and no evil in this third way, whatever it is?)

    January 27, 2010 — 15:39
  • Mike Almeida

    We’re now puzzled about this simplified puzzle. Suppose God says: “Eve will freely do A.” Let S be the state of affairs of God saying “Eve will freely do A.”
    Then, if God strongly actualizes S, God strongly actualizes everything contingent entailed by S, and that includes Eve freely doing A. So that’s absurd

    It’s not a serious problem. If God utters at t-1, ‘Eve freely does A at t’, then it is perfectly possible that Eve freely does A at t. God’s utterance is a soft fact (Plantinga takes it this way, and for what it’s worth so do I). So Eve could, in spite of the utterance, do ~A at t. If she were to do so, …..well, you know the rest of the story.

    January 27, 2010 — 16:52
  • I agree there is no problem with the compatibility between God’s utterance and Eve’s freedom. There is, however, a problem in that here we have God actualizing something–an utterance–without either weakly or strongly actualizing it. Or are you saying that God is strongly (or weakly) actualizing this utterance?

    January 27, 2010 — 20:51
  • Mike Almeida

    Surely, God is strongly actualizing his utterance. I don’t think there is any way around that. What we have to conclude I think is that possibly, God’s strongly actualizing p and [](p -> S does A), God does not strongly actualize S does A. That is to deny that transmission holds generally.
    But Plantinga does not need (what might be called) a strong transmission principle. He does not need it to be true in all cases that strong actualization is closed under entailment. What he needs, really, is a restricted entailment principle which governs inferences from atomic propositions (states of affairs) to more structured propositions. (e.g. ([s]p & [s]q) -> [s](p & q), but not the converse). God strongly actualizes a set of atomic states of affairs. From those nothing untoward follows for His strong actualization of the larger states of affairs they compose. The problems come the other way around, from strongly actualizing larger to strongly actualizing smaller. So transmission needs to be restricted in one direction.
    It would be interesting to work out the logic of strong actualization which already looks like it would have a minimal model.

    January 28, 2010 — 9:18
  • Plantinga’s argument in Profiles needs the claim that if T(W) entails p, where p is atomic and contingent, then God strongly actualizes p. Since T(W) is not atomic, a restriction to atomic antecedents will not do the job.

    January 28, 2010 — 15:27
  • Mike Almeida

    Plantinga’s argument in Profiles needs the claim that if T(W) entails p, where p is atomic and contingent, then God strongly actualizes p. Since T(W) is not atomic, a restriction to atomic antecedents will not do the job.
    Yes, it will. Note that T(W) is just shorthand for [s]p, [s]p1, . . ., [s]pn, for all p in W. So we get the inference without a problem, [s]p -> [s]p. No worries.

    January 28, 2010 — 17:45
  • Mike Almeida

    Rather I should make that a conjunction,
    1. T(W) = [s]p0 & [s]p1 & . . .& [s]pn
    and
    2. [][([s]p0 & [s]p1 & . . .& [s]pn)-> p0]

    January 29, 2010 — 7:07
  • What justifies, however, the assumption that p0 is one of the conjuncts in T(W)?
    The argument requires an inference from:
    1. p0 is a contingent proposition and God does not strongly actualize p0
    to:
    2. T(W) does not entail p0
    Or, conversely, from:
    2′. T(W) does entail p0 and p0 is a contingent proposition
    to:
    1′. God strongly actualizes p0
    In neither form do we get to assume that p0 is one of the conjuncts in T(W).
    Morever, if p is the proposition that Eve freely did A, then Said(God,y,p) (“God said p to y”) seems to be atomic, so the restricted entailment principle should hold for it.

    January 29, 2010 — 8:55
  • Mike Almeida

    Morever, if p is the proposition that Eve freely did A, then Said(God,y,p) (“God said p to y”) seems to be atomic, so the restricted entailment principle should hold for it.
    Neither ‘Said(God,y,p)’ nor ‘(“God said p to y”)’ are atomic propositions, though of course every proposition has the form of an atomic proposition.
    Or, conversely, from:
    2′. T(W) does entail p0 and p0 is a contingent proposition
    to: 1′. God strongly actualizes p0
    In neither form do we get to assume that p0 is one of the conjuncts in T(W).

    I’m proposing that to say God strongly actualizes T(W) is just to say that God causes EACH atomic state of affairs in W. I honestly don’t know how that could be false. It would then follow p0 is a conjunct. Things are a bit more complicated, of course, since [s]p0 will also be a conjunct along with p0. God causes both states of affairs to obtain when he strongly actualizes p0. But I think this complication is manageable.

    January 29, 2010 — 14:32
  • “to say God strongly actualizes T(W) is just to say that God causes EACH atomic state of affairs in W”. Do you mean “in T(W)”? I shall assume so.
    But I still don’t see how it follows from the fact that T(W) entails p0 and p0 is a contingent proposition that God strongly actualizes p0.

    January 30, 2010 — 8:06
  • Mike Almeida

    Alex, you say this above,
    Plantinga’s argument in Profiles needs the claim that if T(W) entails p, where p is atomic and contingent, then God strongly actualizes p. Since T(W) is not atomic, a restriction to atomic antecedents will not do the job.
    Your worry (re-quoted here) was apparently that T(W) is not atomic and so the proposed restiction on tramission won’t help. I showed you how T(W) could entail p given the restriction I proposed. The restriction states that ([s]p & [s]q) -> [s](p & q), but not vice versa. The restriction is observed in this case under the assumption that God strongly actualizes T of W only if for all atomic and contingent propostions p in T, [s]p. So I think this problem is solved. I’m not sure what other problem I’m supposed to be solving.

    January 30, 2010 — 11:16
  • I think we’ve lost sight of some of the dialectic. So, let’s start again. Let W be the actual world, for simplicity.
    We have the following two principles:
    1. [s]p & [s]q → [s](p & q)
    2. ([s]p & p entails q & p is atomic & q is contingent) &rarr [s]q
    Let e be the proposition that Eve freely does A. We then have:
    3. T(W) is the conjunction of all strongly actualized states of affairs
    4. ~[s]e
    Plantinga now needs to argue that T(W) does not entail e. But I don’t see how to use (1)-(4) to argue that T(W) does not entail e.

    January 30, 2010 — 13:36
  • Mike Almeida

    Plantinga now needs to argue that T(W) does not entail e.
    I’m not sure wht Plantinga needs to show this, since we’ve agreed (haven’t we?) that it is possible that [s]e. But suppose we now disagree about that. In that case, the basis of our disagreement is that for any free action A and agent S, necessarily, if is it strongly actualized that S does A, then S strongly actualizes that S does A. In that case, T includes the restriction that no state of affairs describing the free actions of created agents is in T, otherwise a contradiction follows.

    January 30, 2010 — 14:28
  • Plantinga needs to argue that T(W) doesn’t entail e, because he needs to argue that T(W)→e is contingent. If T(W) entails e, then T(W)→e is a necessary truth, and the FWD fails.

    January 30, 2010 — 22:48
  • Mike Almeida

    Plantinga needs to argue that T(W) doesn’t entail e, because he needs to argue that T(W)→e is contingent. If T(W) entails e, then T(W)→e is a necessary truth, and the FWD fails.
    The idea is then that necessarily, God can actualize any possible world? Is that it? This sounds like Otte’s PPR argument. It does show that FWD fails. It is easy to show that Otte’s argument fails.

    January 31, 2010 — 9:14
  • Yup, Otte has scooped me. 🙂
    So how does his argument fail?

    January 31, 2010 — 9:32
  • Mike Almeida

    It’s part of a large project. I hope I can send you a copy for comments on the Otte/Pruss objection to FWD!!

    January 31, 2010 — 17:13
  • Sounds good.
    By the way, I recalled today when I was in grad school, I thought of worries about multiple persons and multiple choices in a world similar to Otte’s, but not as well worked out. My solution at the time was, I think, to run the FWD under a simplifying, but false, assumption: assume each world contains only one free agent committing only one action. Add, too, that there is no prophecy. Plantinga’s FWD works fine with that simplifying assumption. And then we use the intuition that this simplifying assumption doesn’t affect anything of essence–everything else is just a merely technical complication.
    I’m now working on a possible counterexample to transworld depravity (even on the above assumption!). I expect few people will buy it.

    January 31, 2010 — 17:54