Chance and Depravity
March 21, 2010 — 10:51

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 2

I’ve been talking with AP recently about whether God’s causing strong dispositions to always do what is right is consistent with the agent (in whom God causes such dispositions) being significantly free. He’s not inclined to deny significant freedom in these cases, if I’m understanding him right. But then I mentioned this probabilistic argument against transworld depravity.
Suppose I tell you that my die is fair. But I quickly add that, in every world in which it is tossed, it it fails to come up 5. You’d rightly urge that my die does not have a 1/6 chance of coming up 5, and so is not fair, despite what I say. You’d certainly be right.
Suppose I tell you that, given the strong dispositions D to always go right that God caused Smith to have, he has a 1/10,000 chance of always going right. But I quickly add that, in every world in which God creates Smith with D, Smith fails to always go right. You’d rightly deny that he really has a 1/10,000 chance of always going right. Obviously, his chances of always going right are 0.
The fact is that if God can cause Smith to have those dispositions, and having them is consistent with Smith being significantly free, then the probabilities alone (1/10,000) guarantee that in some world in which God creates him with D he always goes right. Again, if there is no world in which Smith is created with D and always goes right, then the chances of him always going right given D are 0. So, here are the possible conclusions:
1. TWD is still true since, possibly, a set of strong dispositions to always go right does not make the chances of always going right any greater than it would be given a set of strong dispositions never to go right. And possibly the chances are zero on either set of dispositions.
2. TWD is still true since, possibly, God cannot cause a significantly free agent to have a set of strong dispositions always to go right. Creating him with D makes him unfree with respect to right actions.
3. TWD is false since, God can cause an agent to have a set of strong dispositions always to go right and in any world where he does so, the chances of always going right are greater than 0. But if the chances of Smith always going right given D are greater than 0, then there is some feasible world in which God creates Smith with D and Smith always goes right.
(1) seems clearly false. Certainly, strong dispositions to always go right affect the chances of always going right. (2) was what I asked AP about, and he seems to deny it. So, it looks like (3) is the right option. But then we have an argument from chance against TWD.

Comments:
  • “But if the chances of Smith always going right given D are greater than 0, then there is some feasible world in which God creates Smith with D and Smith always goes right.”
    I don’t see why the Molinist has to grant this conditional. The Molinist has to grant that if the probability is greater than zero, there is some possible world where Smith always goes right, but why does the Molinist have to grant that there is a feasible such world?
    Are you supposing that the conditionals of free go into the background conditions for the probabilities?

    March 21, 2010 — 21:12
  • Mike Almeida

    The Molinist has to grant that if the probability is greater than zero, there is some possible world where Smith always goes right, but why does the Molinist have to grant that there is a feasible such world?
    Alex,
    Chance is time dependent. My chances of reaching the middle of the labyrinth at 11:00am differs from the chances of the same event at 12noon, as Lewis notes. But chance is also world-dependent. My chances of flipping this very coin and it coming up heads depends on various contingent facts about the world, not only about the coin. In worlds that include the contingent fact that no matter which T God actualizes, the coin comes up tails, the chances are zero that the coin always comes up heads. In worlds where, no matter what T God actualizes I do something wrong, the chances of my always going right are zero. If that’s so, then the addition of strong dispositions to always go right will not affect the chances of always going right. But that’s not possible.

    March 22, 2010 — 8:37