Transworld Depravity (TWD) is the thesis that possibly every feasible world with significantly free agents contains moral evil. I will offer an argument, assuming Molinism, that TWD is necessarily false. I don’t think the argument is all that strong, but I hope it will push Molinists to think about a certain interesting (to me) issue.
In order to get Adams to accept some counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCFs, denoted with →), Plantinga offered this example. Actually Curley takes a bribe of a certain amount. Surely, then, it is true that were Curley to have been offered a larger bribe, he would have taken that, too. Adams agrees.
One might not unreasonably take Plantinga’s example to support the following thesis:
(*) Necessarily: If x actually freely chooses A in circumstances C, then had x instead been in circumstances C* instead of C such that D(C*,C,x,A), then x would still have freely chosen A.
Here, D(C*,C,A) says that circumstances C* are a variation on C (this minimally implies that they occur in the same spatiotemporal location, but more may need to be added), and they dominate circumstances C for x in respect of A in the following sense: (a) the agent is non-perverse and hence without the least inclination to act unreasonably for the sake of acting unreasonably, (b) any consideration operative for x in C in favor of A is also operative for x in C* in favor of A in at least as strong a form, and (c) any consideration operative for x in C* against A is operative in C against A in at least as strong a form.
One might then generalize (*) to:
(**) If C and C* are sufficiently determinate circumstances for a free choice, then (C → x freely does A) & D(C*,C,x,A) entails C* → x freely does A.
Suppose (**) is true. Imagine circumstances C where there is only one free agent, Eve, who makes only one free choice: whether to eat a yummy apple or to dance a merry jig (no other options are available, and it is not possible to do both), and this choice is significantly free because God forbade Eve to eat the apple. Eve has no inclination to disobey God or act unreasonably as such. Eve, however, has a desire to eat the apple on account of its yumminess or to dance the jig on account of its merriness. Call these circumstances C. Now, let C* be circumstances just like these, except that God instead forbade Eve to dance the jig.
Now, suppose TWD holds. Then, C→(Eve freely eats apple) and C*→(Eve freely dances jig). But this contradicts (**), since C* dominates C in respect of apple-eating for Eve. Why does domination hold? Well, any operative consideration in favor of apple-eating in C (namely the yumminess of the apple) is present in C*, and any operative consideration against apple-eating (namely the merriness of the jig) in C* is present in C. The only difference is that the fact that God forbids the apple-eating in C but it is the jig-dancing that is forbidden in C*; but given that Eve has no inclination to act unreasonably or disobediently as such, this does nothing to contradict C’s being dominated by C* in respect of apple-eating (that God forbids apple-eating in C either counts for nothing or counts against apple-eating in C, etc.)
The argument for (**) from (*) is, roughly, as follows. Suppose C→A and ~(C*→A). Then, were C to be actualized by God, it would still be the case that: C→A and ~(C*→A), since God is unable to affect the truth values of CCFs. But by (*) it is impossible to have C and C→A and ~(C*→A), since it is not possible to have C and A and ~(C*→A).
So, the defender of the possibility of TWD needs to deny (*). But I think (*) is pretty plausible. In fact, it seems just to be a consequence of what “is operative for/against A in at least as strong a form” means.
Suppose, for simplicity, that C and C* differ only in respect of the fact that C* contains one or more additional considerations in favor of A. (In fact, that is the only case my counterexample to the possibility of TWD needs: in C* there is an additional consideration in favor of apple-eating, namely that jig-dancing is forbidden by God.) It is surely very plausible to say that, necessarily, given the above, if x had an additional reason in favor of A, she would (still) have chosen A, at least assuming the non-perversity condition that she has no inclination to act unreasonably for the sake of acting unreasonably. (Some people think the non-perversity condition is always satisfied. But that’s controversial.)
So, the Molinist defender of the possibility of TWD needs to deny (*). But the intuition in Plantinga’s Curley example is pretty strong, as are, I think, the above arguments. (I am thinking that the Molinist’s best move here is to say that her counterfactuals are different in kind from the counterfactuals used to test what considerations are operative.)
What this points out is that the possibility of TWD is, basically, a sort of logical independence thesis for CCFs: Even if C and C* are related by domination, there are no entailments between C→(x does A) and C*→(x does A).
Here is another interesting result. Even if (*) is false, the intuition about Curley is pretty plausible. I think this means that if C→(x does A) and D(C*,C,x,A), then it is very probable that C*→(x does A). But, if so, then my argument establishes that it is very probably that TWD is false, assuming Molinism.