Rationality and Universalism
May 27, 2010 — 7:45

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 14

This argument is inspired by AP’s post below. I will argue from the fact that some rational persons enjoy eternal bliss to universalism. My conclusion is that *necessarily*, universalism is true.
POINT. For each eternally damned person P, there is a point to P being damned in W iff. R is the reason that P is damned in W and for all worlds W’ in which P exists, reasons R hold and there are no reasons R’ such that (R & R’) are weaker reasons for P to be damned, P is damned.
The justification for POINT is evident. Let R be all of God’s reasons for and against P’s damnation. R either is or is not sufficient reason for P’s damnation. If R is sufficient reason for P’s damnation, then R is sufficient reason for P’s damnation in any world in which it holds.


MERCY. For each person P, if R is the reason that P is damned in W, then there is some world W’ such that reasons R hold, there are no reasons R’ such that (R & R’) are weaker reasons for P to be damned, and God mercifully saves P (despite R).
God’s mercy is of course freely given and displays the well-known asymmetry of justice. God’s moral perfection is consistent with *not* punishing those who deserve punishment, but it is not consistent with punishing those who do not deserve punishment.
BLISS. For any rational person P, it is not possible that P enjoys eternal bliss unless P knows that no one is suffering eternal damnation pointlessly.
Worlds in which punishment is distributed pointlessly are incoherent worlds. The pointless damnation of persons makes the enjoyment of eternal bliss impossible for genuinely rational agents (not so bad for less than rational agents, however).
From POINT and MERCY it follows that every damned person is pointlessly damned. Arbitrarily select a damned person P. Let R be the reasons for P’s damnation. Given MERCY we know that there is some world W’ in which R holds, there are no reasons R’ such that (R & R’) are weaker reasons for P to be damned, and God mercifully saves P. But then P is pointlessly damned in W. Since we chose P arbirarily, it follows that everyone who is damned is pointlessly damned.
If everyone who is damned is pointlessly damned, then no rational person enjoys eternal bliss.
CONCLUSION: If some rational person enjoys eternal bliss, then universalism is true.
But we know that, necessarily, some rational person enjoys eternal bliss, since God enjoys eternal bliss. It follows that neccesarily universalism is true. *Which was to be demonstrated*.

Comments:
  • I like the technical development. However, if POINT is stipulative, I deny BLISS. If POINT is substantive, I deny POINT. I don’t think God needs a sufficient reason in the sense of a necessitating reason in order for there to be a point to damning someone. All he needs is that there be a proportionate reason, which would be sufficient to explain and justify the damnation. It is possible that God has incommensurable reasons, R1 in favor of damnation and R2 in favor of mercy, and he reasonably damns P in some worlds out of R1 despite R2 and reasonably shows mercy to P in other worlds out of R2 despite R1. As long as R1 is proportionate to the badness involved in damnation and to R2, it will be permissible for God to act on R1.
    Here’s a different kind of possibility, inspired by (but not identical with) remarks of Anselm on damnation and Dan Johnson’s remarks on Calvinism. Let’s suppose that God’s maximal greatness requires him to exhibit all his attributes. Then he has a sufficient reason, in your sense, to damn someone. But there is no particular person P whom God has sufficeint reason to damn. In other words, the maximally great being gets to choose whom to damn and whom to show mercy to, but he has to damn at least one and he has to show mercy to at least one. If, then, he damns a minimum number compatible with the proper exhibition of justice (maybe that number is one), it should not adversely affect a person’s bliss to think that God could have instead chosen a different set of people, but of the same cardinality, to damn. I don’t endorse this option.

    May 27, 2010 — 9:32
  • Mike Almeida

    It is possible that God has incommensurable reasons, R1 in favor of damnation and R2 in favor of mercy, and he reasonably damns P in some worlds out of R1 despite R2 and reasonably shows mercy to P in other worlds out of R2 despite R1.
    This would make the damnation (non-stipulatively) pointless. It would be pointless in the sense that the decision to damn P would be paradigmatically arbitrary. God has total reasons R and damns P in W; God has total reasons R and saves P in W’. No other reasons figure in the deliberation, no other reasons affect the way the reasons are assessed. We have exhausted the role of reason in his deliberation in each case. He simply chooses damnation in W and salvation in W’. It’s pure volition. No rational person could enjoy eternal bliss knowing that. But God necessarily exists and is necessarily rational. So arbitrary damnation cannot happen.

    May 27, 2010 — 10:13
  • This response seems to assume that libertarian choices are always “arbitrary”. I think this is not correct when one has a views of free will like that of Randolph Clarke, Robert Kane and myself (and Aquinas, too, I think) on which the reasons out of which a choice has been made explain the choice even if one could have acted for other reasons–in which case those reasons would have explained the choice. On these views, one doesn’t talk of “total reasons”. The reasons that do the explaining of the choice are the reasons that favor the choice. Thus, we say something like: “x did A for R despite S.” We do not say: “x did A because of R&S.” For if S is opposed to A, then it does not help to explain why x did A. (For instance, x would still have done A had S not been present.)
    Now, you might ask: Why did x do A for R rather than doing ~A for S? The answer on these views is: because of the force of R, and despite the force of S. Then you might ask: Why was x moved by the force R rather than by the force of S? The answer is: because of the force of R, and despite the force of S. You can ask the same question, but no regress is generated, because it is the same question. You could ask why R and S had force for x, but that’s a different question, and unproblematic in the divine case where necessarily every good reason has force.

    May 28, 2010 — 9:32
  • David

    This argument seems to me to rest on an implausibly strong interpretation of BLISS. BLISS is intuitively plausible if it means that that rational person P could not enjoy eternal bliss without knowing that no one in the actual world has been pointlessly damned. But the argument requires that P could not enjoy eternal bliss unless it is not metaphysically possible that someone be pointlessly damned. Why should P’s eternal bliss depend on what happens in non-actual possible worlds? So long as mercy isn’t given in the actual world and POINT is true, no one in the actual world is damned pointlessly.

    May 28, 2010 — 10:03
  • Mike Almeida

    I say above,
    God has total reasons R and damns P in W; God has total reasons R and saves P in W’. No other reasons figure in the deliberation, no other reasons affect the way the reasons are assessed. We have exhausted the role of reason in his deliberation in each case.
    So clearly nothing serves to explain why God chooses to damn in one world and not damn in another. But you say that we can dispel the arbitrariness this way,
    Why did x do A for R rather than doing ~A for S? The answer on these views is: because of the force of R, and despite the force of S.
    But in the case I describe R = S. You have to make a decision on whether to condemn P. You have some on balance reasons R = S regarding what to do. In one world W you are moved to condemn and in another W’ you are moved not to do so. There aren’t any additional reasons in W’ that serve to explain why you did not condemn P there. Your ‘explanation’ makes it (or seems to) a brute fact that God responds one way rather than another. God just happens to act despite R in one world and in conformity with R in another. But that’s to describe the problem. But then one man’s brutality is another man’s arbitrariness.

    May 28, 2010 — 10:15
  • Mike Almeida

    But the argument requires that P could not enjoy eternal bliss unless it is not metaphysically possible that someone be pointlessly damned.
    Right. That’s because there is a rational person that necessarily exists, viz. God, and who necessarily enjoys eternal bliss. So there is no one in any world who is pointlessly damned. If there were, God would not be necessarily enjoying eternal bliss. But he is, so there aren’t. That’s how the argument is supposed to go.

    May 28, 2010 — 10:29
  • It’s very likely I’m missing something, but the argument doesn’t seem so much to show that necessarily universalism is true as that this is the case if we make the assumption that God’s set of reasons for and against P’s damnation can remain exactly the same across worlds and do not require different actions depending on which possible world corresponds to the actual world. It’s this that causes the problems with arbitrariness: because the reasons are the same, then, assuming that God can save any given P, then either God saves P on those reasons or God’s saving P is not governed by reasons. But two worlds W1 and W2 are not exactly the same and if God is aware of the features of W1 and W2, there is nothing that guarantees he would have no reasonable preference given his aims. If, however, the type of world actualized is part of God’s reasons R for and against damning P, then in W1 God might damn P because if God actualizes W1 it could only be for reasons to actualize W1 and those justify damning P in order to actualize W1; but in W2 God might save P because if God actualizes W2 it could only be for reasons to actualize W2 rather than W1. Therefore POINT and MERCY both hold only if sets of reasons for and against damning someone do not include reasons for preferring this or that particular possible world in which someone is or is not damned, based on features particular to that possible world (namely, overall features of the possible world taken as a whole).

    May 28, 2010 — 13:07
  • Mike:
    First of all, in what I said, R can’t be S, because the reasons for A are not reasons for non-A. The reasons I’m considering are the reasons for A. So think of what I say as partitioning the total reasons into those for and those against A.
    Secondly, on the view I’m defending, there are no brute facts. You say about the view: “God just happens to act despite R in one world and in conformity with R in another.” But we can give explanations of both, so they’re not brute. Why does he acts despite R in w1? Because S has force. Why does he act in conformity with R in w2? Because R has force. Of course, in both w1 and w2, both S and R have force. But in w2, it is only the force of R that explains the action, while in w1, it is only the force of S that explains the action.

    May 28, 2010 — 13:48
  • Mike Almeida

    Therefore POINT and MERCY both hold only if sets of reasons for and against damning someone do not include reasons for preferring this or that particular possible world in which someone is or is not damned, based on features particular to that possible world (namely, overall features of the possible world taken as a whole).
    Hi Brandon,
    I’m also probably not following. Let the reasons for and against punishing P be R. There is a world W in whcih R holds and God damns P. There is a world W’ in which R holds and God does not damn P. You suggest that W and W’ must be otherwise different, since they are two worlds, and these differences might serve to explain God’s varying decisions and actions. I think I have two replies.
    1. W and W’ might be exactly the same until time t, and then branch into two different worlds. One where God condemns P at t and one where he doesn’t. So, there needn’t be any basis at t in the worlds actualized for damning rather than not.
    2. Suppose there was a difference, and W was overall better than W’. The fact that W is better than W’ acts like a tie-breaking reason to actualize W and damn P. This just pushes the problem back one. There is a world W” that is just like W in overall value where God saves P. We know that there is such a world since MERCY ensures it. God can show MERCY to P at the expense of overall value. The entire problem arises because the exercise of mercy might have, but does not require, a tie-breaking reason.

    May 28, 2010 — 13:55
  • Mike Almeida

    Why does he acts despite R in w1? Because S has force. Why does he act in conformity with R in w2? Because R has force. Of course, in both w1 and w2, both S and R have force. But in w2, it is only the force of R that explains the action, while in w1, it is only the force of S that explains the action.
    Alex, please explain how this helps. Let me diagram the problem, where * indicates the reasons that have prevailing force. w = {R*, S}, w’= {R, S*}. All of the reasons are in with R and S in each world, and no reasons explaing the shift in *. It’s just a brute fact that R prevails in w and S prevails in w’. There is no explanation for that, and no explanation possible. It just happens, and that’s the problem.

    May 28, 2010 — 14:03
  • 1. Suppose Molinism is true. Then you might need to change “possible” to “feasible” in POINT for POINT to be plausible in a non-stipulative way. And then also in MERCY. But then MERCY is less plausible than it was.
    2. The mere existence of a possible world where God shows mercy rather than damning P is not enough to show that God’s decision was arbitrary if the decision as to which world was actual depended in the relevant respect on P’s decision.
    More precisely, here is a counterexample to MERCY. Suppose in w1, God covenants that he is about to make a final offer to P, and suppose that God cannot act contrary to what he covenants. The offer is this: P can either accept his mercy and be saved, or reject his mercy and be damned. It is not unreasonable that God could value P’s freedom in such a way as to make such a covenant. Now, P rejects God’s mercy. So God damns her. What is the total reason set R? I don’t know, but minimally it includes such ingredients as: (a) P deserves damnation, (b) God covenanted to abide by P’s decision at t1, and (c) P decided at t1 not to receive mercy. Then there is no world where R holds but where God shows mercy to P, since there is no world where God goes back on what he covenants. And so MERCY will be false at w1.
    The intuition behind MERCY was one side of the asymmetry in retributive justice: it is permissible to show mercy to the guilty instead of punishing. But the above example shows that the reasons for damning could include not just the reasons of retributive justice, but also other reasons, like reasons to keep to covenants.

    May 28, 2010 — 14:10
  • Mike Almeida

    The intuition behind MERCY was one side of the asymmetry in retributive justice: it is permissible to show mercy to the guilty instead of punishing. But the above example shows that the reasons for damning could include not just the reasons of retributive justice, but also other reasons, like reasons to keep to covenants.
    What I would have to believe is that God makes an agreement to let P refuse mercy which is such that God is unable to mercifully forgive P’s final, obstinate, sinful choice. But that begs the question. The covenant can’t be one under which God is bound to act without mercy. I think I’m on pretty firm ground in denying that that’s possible.
    I think I’d concede that, under the crcumstances, God would observe the final choice of P and so would not be merciful. I’d deny that he could not be merciful

    May 28, 2010 — 14:34
  • Hi, Mike,
    I’m not sure your reply (1) gets us anywhere; there’s no reason why God’s reasons can only be derived from the part prior to the branching. When you’re dealing with God it’s not obvious that ‘basis at t’ covers all the bases, so to speak. But I’ll have to think your reply (2) through quite a bit more.

    May 28, 2010 — 23:20
  • Mike:
    It doesn’t seem to be contrary to divine goodness to make such a covenant, if there is a great value in freedom. But unless God were bound by such a covenant, the value of people’s choosing whether to be saved or damned is in danger. I suppose that here we have different intuitions.

    May 29, 2010 — 7:55