An Advantage of Open Theism?
May 28, 2010 — 0:28

Author: Dan Speak  Category: Open Theism  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 31

I am tempted by the claim that open theism is in a better position to respond to the problem of evil than is Molinism. Consider some particular evil e1 that has occurred at a particular time t2. A group of innocent German Jews is gunned down before a mass grave they have been forced to dig themselves, let’s say. On the open view, God knew at some time before t2 that e1 would occur. But God did not know that e1 would occur from time immemorial. It won’t be as if God has built e1 into the basic structure of the world, as it appears God does on Molinism. Intuitively, it seems to be easier to defend God’s failure to prevent e1 given that God becomes aware of its forthcoming occurrence at t1 rather than prior to the creation of the world. That, at least, is how it has seemed to me.
Against this intuitive appeal comes the “Molinist Retort”. The basic idea behind it is that whatever resources are available to the open theist to justify God’s permission of e1 at t1 are equally available to the molinist to justify God’s permission of it from before the creation of the world. Presumably the open theist will have to appeal to some kind of balancing of goods contingent upon free will over against the amount and gruesomeness of evils parasitic upon the goods. The molinist can claim to make appeal to these self-same considerations. I think this retort fails.


The Molinist Retort:
MR: There is no good reason to think that the justifications for permitting some evil (like e1) that are available to the Open God are not also available to the Molinist God. (I take David Hunt and Michaels Rea and Murray to have advanced MR).
My claim is that the Molinist retort fails to appreciate a difference between actual and merely possible values. The decision of the Molinist God to create a world containing e1 is based on a weighing of merely possible values. For, prior to God’s initial creative act, the only world-bound values are merely possible. By contrast, the Open God who discovers at t1 that e1 is impending at t2 must calculate with actual values of an existing world. Whereas the Molinist God, upon discovering the inevitability of e1 for a certain creative possibility, could have chosen simply not to actualize this world, the Open God could not. Of course, the open God could annihilate the world at t1. But in doing so, the Open God would thereby be destroying actual goods. This would be worse than merely failing to actualize them.
Thus, it is not true that the Molinist and the Openist will be able to make appeal to the same considerations in their efforts to justify God’s permission of e1. To see this, notice that the Openist will offer different justifications for God’s decision to create the world, on the one hand, and the decision to permit e1, on the other. The decision to create will have to be justified by appeal to considerations of possible goods. But permitting e1 will be at least partly justified in terms of the actual value of existing individuals plus further contingent possible goods. For the Molinist, however, the justification for permitting e1 will simply be an interpolation from considerations that justify the actualization or creation of the entire world.
The Molinist Retort is, then, strictly false. The justifications for permitting some evil that are available to the Open God are not also available to the Molinist God. Still, it is an open question whether or not this difference makes a difference. We must go on to ask if the fact that the Openist must appeal to actual values inhering in the world after creation generates an advantage in responding to the problem of evil. Does this axiological difference in the available resources make it more plausible that the Openist rather than the Molinist will be able to close the explanatory gap highlighted by the existence of evil?
The answer, I think, is yes. But I assume that many denizens of this blog will disagree.

Comments:
  • Mike Almeida

    Whereas the Molinist God, upon discovering the inevitability of e1 for a certain creative possibility, could have chosen simply not to actualize this world, the Open God could not. Of course, the open God could annihilate the world at t1. But in doing so, the Open God would thereby be destroying actual goods
    Hi Dan,
    I wonder why you believe that the only option available to the open God is permit the evil or annihilate the world? Likely you don’t think that, though this is sort of how it reads. Just prior to the occurence of the evil, the open God has uncountably many futures open to him, and so uncountably many possible worlds that he could actualize. There is a trivial argument showing this, since God might utter any natural number prior to the occurrence of the evil, and for each possible utterance we have a different world. But that aside, certainly God has just as many interesting ways of preventing the killing of the German Jews. How does his failure to do so reflect contraints imposed on his choices by what has already happened? Certainly the reason he does not is the open God’s estimation that the best available world is one in which he does not (or, to the best of his knowledge, the best possible world is secured in this way).

    May 28, 2010 — 7:59
  • Dan Speak

    Good, Mike. Thanks.
    You are right that I don’t mean to be suggesting that the Open God’s options are limited to permitting the evil or annihilating the world. I mean to be showing a way that molinism has more explaining to do than does open theism. Put metaphorically, the molinist God has vastly more opportunities to prevent e1 than does the open God since the molinist God will have had the resources of all possible worlds to bring to bear on the matter. At the limit, the molinist God could have decided, in light of knowledge about the occurrence of e1, not to bring the world into existence. But this is not true of the open God. The open God discovers that e1 is impending only some time after bringing the world into existence. My point about annihilation is intended to bring out an asymmetry in explanation between molinism and openism. Reasons sufficient to justify God’s not actualizing a world need not be sufficient to justify God’s annihilating a world. Stronger considerations must be offered to justify annihilation. Thus, at the very least, the openist will be appealing to a different set of justifications than will the molinist (contra the retort).
    Is this helping?

    May 28, 2010 — 12:15
  • Mike Almeida

    At the limit, the molinist God could have decided, in light of knowledge about the occurrence of e1, not to bring the world into existence. But this is not true of the open God.
    I can’t see it. What the open God can’t do, presumably, is bring about a world with a different past at time t (just prior to e1). But the molinist God can’t do that either at t. The molinist God might have actualized a world with a past that is entirely different from our actual past. But the open God might have done that, too!
    Here’s the problem, as I see it. Both the molinist and the open theist has to explain the same set of evils. The molinist has the advantage of invoking the fact that God does not choose the ccf’s that obtain, and so that the existence of moral evil (bad as it is) is consistent with our world being the best feasible world. The open theist would have an advantage over the molinist only if he could show that, had He been given the same information prior to the actualization of a world, he would not have actualized quite this world. But then the open theist would have to know apriori that this is not the best feasbible world. How would he know that? I don’t think he can.

    May 28, 2010 — 14:17
  • Dan Speak

    “What the open God can’t do, presumably, is bring about a world with a different past at time t (just prior to e1). But the molinist God can’t do that either at t.”
    Right. The molinist God can’t do this at t. But the molinist God was able to bring about a world with a different past all the way back… in the light of knowledge about the occurrence of e1 in the actual world. Thus, the molinist God might be called upon to justify not taking this option in the light of knowledge about e1.
    “The molinist God might have actualized a world with a past that is entirely different from our actual past. But the open God might have done that, too!”
    Right. The open God could have actualized a world with a different past from the actual past (all the way back)… but not in the light of knowledge about the occurrence of e1 in the actual world. Thus, the open God cannot be called upon to justify not taking this option in the light of knowledge about e1.
    Strictly speaking, this is enough to show that MR is false, right? That is, according to MR the molinist will e able to appeal to precisely the same justificational resources as the openist. The appeals, however, can be different. Now, its still an open question whether this difference is important. I take your second paragraph above to be addressing that question (powerfully).

    May 29, 2010 — 10:09
  • Dan Speak

    “The open theist would have an advantage over the molinist only if he could show that, had He been given the same information prior to the actualization of a world, he would not have actualized quite this world. But then the open theist would have to know apriori that this is not the best feasbible world. How would he know that? I don’t think he can.”
    Good. I think this is at the heart of it. There are lots of things for me to think about here. But let me try this first. Will the open theist get an advanatage only if God would IN FACT have actualized a different world given the knowledge in question? Might open theism get an advantage as long as FOR ALL WE KNOW God would have actualized a different world (or no world at all)? Thus, the open theist wouldn’t need to know a priori that this isn’t the best feasible world but only that it is epistemically possible that it isn’t.

    May 29, 2010 — 10:23
  • Mike Almeida

    Strictly speaking, this is enough to show that MR is false, right? That is, according to MR the molinist will e able to appeal to precisely the same justificational resources as the openist. The appeals, however, can be different.
    That’s hard to know, Dan. It might trivialize the claim to hold that OG and MG do not have ‘precisely the same’ resources. But I’m not sure about that, even, since it would have ot be true that a justification for e1 available to MG is not available to OG. I don’t think that can be true, if we are talking about the justification of permitting e1. Justifications of actions don’t depend on what you know or don’t know, so relative knowledge shouldn’t make a difference. To keep it simple, if maximization of overall value is what matters, then permitting e1 either does that or it doesn’t. That doesn’t change depending on what I know.
    Seems to me like the relative knowledge differences become important in case of assigning blame or responsibility. It looks like you’re saying that it’s easier to get the OG off the hook for permitting e1, since he had such short notice. But that’s not a justification question, right?

    May 29, 2010 — 10:54
  • Mike Almeida

    Might open theism get an advantage as long as FOR ALL WE KNOW God would have actualized a different world (or no world at all)? Thus, the open theist wouldn’t need to know a priori that this isn’t the best feasible world but only that it is epistemically possible that it isn’t.
    As I use ‘apriori’, epistemic possibility just is apriori possibility. I know others use ‘epistemic possiblity’ more restrictively (e.g., (apriori) possible given contingent facts F), maybe you’re using it that way. I think it is epistemically possible (in either sense) that a perfect being would not have actualized this world, since it is not obvious that this is the best feasible world. Does that help the OG view? I don’t think so, since it is epistemically possible that he would have actualized his world. That is, it’s epistemically possible that this is the best feasible world. On that score, it looks like a draw.

    May 29, 2010 — 15:09
  • Dan Speak

    This is really helping me, Mike.
    Why doesn’t it look like a draw to me? I think it is because those (including myself) who are vexed by the problem of evil find it difficult to square e1 and a host of similar actual evils with best feasibility. Is it possible they can be squared? Maybe. But it looks like an advantage of open theism that it needn’t insist that a satisfactory response to the problem of evil can be given only if this is the best feasible world.
    Put another way, open theism can accommodate the intuitive thought (driving many of those perplexed by the problem of evil) that this isn’t the best feasible world. Thus, a satisfying response can be be given, from the standpoint of open theism, without defending best feasibility. This is not true for the molinist.

    May 29, 2010 — 18:53
  • Dan:
    The following seems to be a way of running an argument for your conclusion: Intuitively, the more providential resources God has, the harder the problem of evil looks. Molinists do not deny that the God of Molinism has more providential resources than the God of Open Theism (or of Simple Foreknowledge). On the contrary, they take that to be a strength of Molinism. So, since the God of Molinism has more providential resources than the Open Theist God, the problem of evil will look harder for Molinists.
    Of course, it might turn out that whatever theodicy works best for Open Theism also happens to work for Molinism. (For instance, the excellent theodicy Augustine in gives in Book 3 of De Libero Arbitrio works equally well for both.) That’s why I only said it looks harder.

    May 29, 2010 — 22:25
  • Mike Almeida

    Thus, a satisfying response can be be given, from the standpoint of open theism, without defending best feasibility. This is not true for the molinist.
    Dan,
    The Molinist has an account of free action and chancey events that cuts in two directions for the Molinist. On the one hand, God has some control over these events, since ccf’s cover them. On the other hand, the ccf’s that cover them are not up to God. So, this is a limitation that the Molinist God has to accommodate in deciding what things to create and under what circumstances. Your idea is that the Open God is not saddled with the unlikely claim that ours is the best feasible world. I guess the way you might argue for this is finding some free and rational being that is such that the world would have been overall better had that being not existed. Hitler or Stalin, I suppose. But does the Open theist do better with Hitler or Stalin? I don’t see it. How much evil would either have to bring about before God would stop risking more? The Open God waits until they’ve essentially finished producing as much evil as was possible for them. What was he waiting for?
    Anyway, you see the line of argument. The Molinist has to show that it was better on balance that God creates such beings. The Open theist has to show that it was worth the risk of not terminating them much sooner. Neither is plausible, but the latter seems worse to me. I can’t imagine what he’d be waiting for, if this is not necessary to some greater good.

    May 30, 2010 — 8:08
  • Gordon Knight

    Couldn’t the point be put this way.
    The Molinist God has before him all feasible worlds prior to creation and chooses to create one. The relevant data the MG has to deal with is presented by the set the feasible worlds
    The OG, on the other hand has a different set of relevant data to consider: the actual history of the world.
    Here is an analogy: It may be that a parent would decide it would have been better not to have children, if her children turn out very badly. But it hardly follows from that that, were such a parent presented with their crimimal child, they would feel it right to kill them.
    Once human beings are off and running, God has to weigh what has happened along with likely future outcomes of God’s decisions (the OG can only consider *likely* outcomes–another important difference!). The MG has no such constraint.

    May 31, 2010 — 10:01
  • Mike Almeida

    Once human beings are off and running, God has to weigh what has happened along with likely future outcomes of God’s decisions (the OG can only consider *likely* outcomes–another important difference!). The MG has no such constraint.
    Of course there are differences. The question is whether there is a difference that makes a difference to the question of whether the OG exists or the MG exists. We have one set of facts to explain. The MG appeals (btw, as I take the MG position, not as Flint or Plantinga do) to our world being the best feasible, or to being good enough, given the possibility that there is no best feasible. This seems to explain pretty well what we observe, since it is compatible with all sorts of observations. The OG has to explain what we observe by appeal to God’s best guess about what sorts of beings to create given divine goals. What should we expect for the OG? It seem compelling to me that the OG would create uncountably many dupicate universes. If he does so, then he can prevent every moral evil in every universe, (since they are all briefly foreseeable) and there would still be infinitely many universes in which the OG never interferes and everyone always goes right. Those are just the facts, probabilistically. So, we should observe no evil at all. The positive value the OG loses in limiting freedom in some universes he regains in spades in infinitely many others where he never has to interfere.

    May 31, 2010 — 11:05
  • Dan Speak

    Alex,
    You suggest this: “Intuitively, the more providential resources God has, the harder the problem of evil looks. Molinists do not deny that the God of Molinism has more providential resources than the God of Open Theism (or of Simple Foreknowledge). On the contrary, they take that to be a strength of Molinism. So, since the God of Molinism has more providential resources than the Open Theist God, the problem of evil will look harder for Molinists.”
    Yes, I think this is getting at the main general idea that is animating my thinking here. This is what I take to be the intuitive thought about the advantage of open theism in this context. But some folks (Hunt, for example, and also Mike Rea and Mike Murray) have tried to undermine this intuition by way of appeal to what I’ve called the molinist retort. So part of my goal is to respond to this retort while preserving the general attraction you’ve nicely enunciated.
    Now, you add that, “Of course, it might turn out that whatever theodicy works best for Open Theism also happens to work for Molinism.” And that is surely right. From this you conclude that things only LOOK harder on the molinist story. This may be right. But it is forcing me to think about what we I mean by “getting an advantage” with respect to the problem of evil.
    So, suppose that the Augustinian theodicy of de libero arbitrio is, in fact, correct. Now, suppose that this is the only theodicy compatible with Molinism. Furthermore, allow that there are three more successful theodicies available to the openist (including the Augustinian one you like). What do you think about the claim that openism would still gain some advantage over molinism with respect to the problem of evil because there are a wider set of ways to reconcile God’s goodness with the amount and kinds of evil we find in the world?

    May 31, 2010 — 11:44
  • Dan Speak

    Gordon,
    I do think yours is a perspicuous and forceful way of putting the point (though I’ll try to say something to Mike’s challenging reply below). In fact, in the paper I’ve been working on I make almost exactly your point with respect to not having vs. killing one’s children… (and I have a teenage son, so the reflections aren’t purely theoretical!).

    May 31, 2010 — 11:51
  • Dan Speak

    A general point: the argument I would ultimately want to make proceeds in two steps. First, establish that the molinist and openist will appeal to different considerations in attempting to respond to evil. Second, attempt to make plausible the claim that the considerations to which the openist can appeal are more satisfying than those to which the molinist can appeal. My initial post was a stab at step one with a mere provocation about step two. It looks, so far, like I am being granted the conclusion of step one. That’s good. Now we can be more explicit about the second step.
    Here’s a moral principle (closely related to the point Gordon has made) that I would like to employ:
    (WOR): It is morally worse to destroy or eliminate a valuable thing than it is to fail to bring about something of equal value. (this might need a ceteris parabus clause somewhere, but you get the idea).
    WOR would explain why, for example, there seems nothing wrong with my present failure to bring a new computer into existence while there would be something prima facie wrong with my simply destroying this one. It would also explain why it would be terrible for me to kill my son but may not have been terrible for me to have failed to bring him into existence in the first place.
    I think this principle can be the lynchpin of a strong argument for the claim that the difference makes a difference. How does the principle itself strike you?

    May 31, 2010 — 12:49
  • Mike Almeida

    (WOR): It is morally worse to destroy or eliminate a valuable thing than it is to fail to bring about something of equal value. (this might need a ceteris parabus clause somewhere, but you get the idea.
    Dan, I think (WOR) is a plausible principle. Some complications. If the Molinist God fails to create (say) Hitler because Hitler would have brought about more evil than good, would you describe that as failing to bring about a “valuable thing”? That would be failing to bring about something that is, on balance, disvaluable, right? I’m not sure we should call failing to create Hitler wrong at all.
    On the other hand, when the open God chooses to end Hitler’s life at some time t, the open God does not do anything different from any other sort of God. It is true for each of us that God chooses when and where our lives will end. Why describe that as “destroying or eliminating a valuable thing”? It seems to me highly controversial to describe that action as morally wrong. If it were morally wrong, then God could not decide on how, when and where we die. But surely that’s mistaken.
    So, even if the principle is true, it does not seem to apply in the OG, MG case.

    May 31, 2010 — 14:22
  • Gordon Knight

    ” It is true for each of us that God chooses when and where our lives will end.”
    Not on open theism, or at least not typically, as I understand the view.

    May 31, 2010 — 19:01
  • Mike Almeida

    ” It is true for each of us that God chooses when and where our lives will end.” Not on open theism, or at least not typically, as I understand the view.
    Really? When we approach death, God can’t see to it that we remain alive? It would be stunning to me that we can literally die too fast for God to prevent it, too fast for God to resuscitate us or too fast for God to revive us before we are irretriveably gone. Can’t be right. Certainly, no matter what happens to us, God can ensure that we survive it. Sever my torso from my limbs, and God can see to it that I survive it. But, then, he decides when we die.

    May 31, 2010 — 20:29
  • Dan,
    I’m sympathetic to your line of argument. Perhaps this will help.
    1) With respect to creation, on Molinism, God actualizes a particular feasible world in light of the actual goods (and evils) in that world. Merely possible goods (and evils) can play no role for the Molinist in justifying God’s choice of one feasible world over another.
    On OT, in contrast, God doesn’t actualize a particular possible world (assuming worlds include a complete, determinate history), but rather a world-type, one in which many details are left to be filled in by creatures. Hence, God’s reasons for actualizing that world type must be made in light of both the actual goods (and evils) essential to that world-type and by the non-actual goods (and evils) possible within that world-type.
    2) With respect to intervention to prevent evils (e.g., stopping Hitler), the Molinist can only appeal to the same considerations are available in the creation situation. Since God actualizes a specific possible world (in this case, one including Hitler and the Holocaust), only the actual goods (and evils) in that world are available to explain God’s non-intervention.
    On OT, by contrast, there is no such thing as “the” actual world (at least, there isn’t one if “worlds” are supposed to include a complete, determinate history). While the world-type that God initiated in creation is considerably more specified now than it was in the beginning, it is still open to a wide range of possibilities. And so, when God contemplates whether (and if so, how) to intervene and, say, stop Hitler, it is with a view to both now-actual goods (and evils) and non-actual, but possible goods (and evils) that God makes his decision.
    Now, none of the above strictly implies that open theists are better off with respect to the problem of evil than Molinists, but it does refute the “Molinist Retort” that the same sorts of God-justifying reasons are available on Molinism as are on open theism.

    June 2, 2010 — 10:56
  • Michael Robinson

    Mike,
    I would have thought that allowing a person to die at a certain time, in a certain place, in a certain way is pretty obviously not the same thing as, nor does it entail, choosing (or deciding) when, where, and how that person will die. Why do think it is (does)?

    June 2, 2010 — 12:52
  • Dan Speak

    What follows is my first pass at an argument that the difference makes a difference (sorry for the length, but you folks are making me work!)
    Let’s say that world is “achievable” if it is one that would be feasible for a Molinist God. Thus, every feasible world is achievable but it may not be that every achievable world is feasible, since there may be no true counterfactuals of freedom. So achievability is independent of the status of ccfs.
    On Molinism, there is a successful free will defense only if it is possible that the actual world is among the best feasible (and, therefore, achievable) worlds. On Molinism, there is a successful free will theodicy only if it is plausible that the actual world is among the best feasible (and, therefore, achievable) worlds.
    Suppose that it can be shown to be both possible and plausible that the actual world is among the best achievable worlds. Then, on Molinism, there can be a successful free will defense and a successful free will theodicy. It will, however, also be true that, on Openism, there can be a successful free will defense and a successful free will theodicy. If the Open God was able to bring about a world that would have been good enough to justify its actualization by a being with full knowledge of the ccf’s (because of its best feasibility), then surely the Open God is in the clear in bringing about such a world.
    Suppose, however, that it cannot be shown to be plausible that the actual world is among the best achievable worlds. Then, on Molinism there cannot be a successful free will theodicy (I leave “defense” aside because I am convinced that it is at least possible that the actual world is among the best achievable worlds). However, on Open Theism there could still be a successful free will theodicy.
    Let’s say that a total future state of affairs is “available at t” if its obtaining is compossible with the facts (about, for example, the laws of nature and the powers of free beings) and the activity of an Open God at t. Let’s add that a total future state of affairs is passably available at t if it is available at t and, were it to obtain, it would partially compose a world containing enough value to justify God in maintaining it in existence. On Open Theism, there is a successful free will theodicy only if it is plausible at t that a total future state of affairs is passably available at t.
    Consider now:
    a. e1 is a feature of a best achievable world
    b. At t1, e1 is a feature of a passably available future.
    So, for a successful theodicy, the Molinist must insist that a is true, while the Openist need only contend that b is true
    Now, why not think that b can be true only if a is true (As the Molinist Retort appears to insist)? How could b be true while a is false?
    Suppose that the total world segment up to t1 partially composes a best achievable world. That is, suppose that this initial world segment is compatible with the actual world being among the best feasible for a Molinist God. This is compatible with the complete actual world not being among the best achievable since what happens after t1 might render it such that a Molinist God, knowing what happens thereafter, would choose not to actualize it. In fact, it could be that the occurrence of e1 would have been the scale-tipper for the Molinist God. Let’s assume that this is so. In this case, a is false. Could b still be true? Yes. We can see this by way of (WORSE).
    Since the initial world segment up to t1 partially composes a best achievable world, it is consistent with the Open God’s having created it and sustained it up to t1. Suppose that the Open God has done so. Since OG discovers only at t1 that e1 is impending at t2, this God does not have the option (of which the MG would have availed himself) of simply not actualizing this world. Now a set of actual values is in existence: actual persons, actual free wills, actual laws of nature, the actual value of nomological consistency, etc. To avoid the occurrence of e1 now, God will have to destroy or eliminate something with actual value. Since it is morally worse to destroy or eliminate a valuable thing than it is to fail to bring about something of equal value (WOR), it would require greater justification for the God of open theism to avoid e1 than it would for the God of Molinism. Thus, e1 might be bad enough to justify the MG in not actualizing a world containing it while not being bad enough to justify the OG in doing what would be required after t1 to prevent it. That is, b could be true while a is not.
    Big Conclusion: The Openist may be able to construct a successful theodicy when the Molinist cannot.

    June 2, 2010 — 16:17
  • Mike Almeida

    I would have thought that allowing a person to die at a certain time, in a certain place, in a certain way is pretty obviously not the same thing as, nor does it entail, choosing (or deciding) when, where, and how that person will die. Why do [you] think it is (does)?
    I take it that God decides when and where I’m going to die iff. the following conditional is true.
    C. I die at in circumstances C at t iff. God allows me to die at t in C.
    So, for any spatial location I now occupy, God can presumably alter my location to any other and allow me to die there. And for any time that (perhaps) doesn’t involve time travel, he can allow me to die at that time. Perhaps he cannot cause me to be freely killed by Jones. It depends on the views one takes on freedom and omnipotence. But most of this is beside the point, which, as I recall, was essentially that the MG and the OG both determine when I die.

    June 2, 2010 — 16:59
  • Mike Almeida

    With respect to creation, on Molinism, God actualizes a particular feasible world in light of the actual goods (and evils) in that world. Merely possible goods (and evils) can play no role for the Molinist in justifying God’s choice of one feasible world over another.
    I’m not sure I see it. Let T be a set of ccf’s that determine a world-type (in Flint’s sense). There are uncountably many worlds in which T holds, and God can (weakly) actualize any one of them. Why wouldn’t those worlds differ with respect to their values (assuming that worlds actually do vary with respect to values)? For instance, given the set of all true ccf’s, God chooses all of the indeterministic events that will occur (including free actions and all other chancy events at the micro and macro level), and how frequently those chancy events will occur. He does this by selecting the objects that will exist, the circumstances in which they will exist, and most of the properties they will have. He instantiates Smith’s individual essence at world W where T holds and places Smith in C. Smith’s essence includes various contingent properties (psychological properties, physical properties, etc.) that presumably figure in the value of W. Surely the value of W supervenes in some way on the natural properties in W, but even if we reject this platitude we would want to say that the value of W is going to depend on the kinds of beings that God creates (rational and otherwise).
    God might have actualized a different world, W’. A world where T holds, but where there are no rational beings or where rational beings exemplify a completely different profile of properties, and where the values are presumably different.
    God might have actualized a world W” in which T holds and in which he does not create any beings at all. In such a world, there is a maximally consistent states of affairs that includes many contingent states of affairs (Smith not existing, for instance, nor trees nor leptons) and necessary states of affairs, though God doesn’t do anything by way of creation. It looks again that W” differs in value from both W and W’. So, I’m not sure what I’m missing.

    June 2, 2010 — 17:23
  • Dan Speak

    Mike says,
    “The Molinist has to show that it was better on balance that God creates such beings. The Open theist has to show that it was worth the risk of not terminating them much sooner. Neither is plausible, but the latter seems worse to me. I can’t imagine what he’d be waiting for, if this is not necessary to some greater good.”
    I can’t see why the latter would be worse given (WORSE). Once Hitler (say) has gone bad (an outcome that the OG, unlike the MG, need not have been able to foresee), the foreseeable bad future states can be prevented only by destroying or eliminating valuable things. According to WORSE, this would be morally worse than simply not actualizing them (a possibility open to the MG). So the OG is going to have a stronger reason to tolerate Hitler and his evil deeds than will the MG.

    June 2, 2010 — 17:24
  • Mike Almeida

    Once Hitler (say) has gone bad (an outcome that the OG, unlike the MG, need not have been able to foresee), the foreseeable bad future states can be prevented only by destroying or eliminating valuable things.
    But where is the destroying? God simply chooses at some point to stop sustaining Hitler in existence. But God does that for every one of us. I wouldn’t say that God aims to terminate me some day (maybe you know sometime I don’t :)), though I know he will cease sustaining me in existence.

    June 2, 2010 — 17:31
  • Luke Gelinas

    Merely possible goods (and evils) can play no role for the Molinist in justifying God’s choice of one feasible world over another.
    Hi Dan,
    It seems like this needs nuancing. Whether there are better worlds to actualize seems to be a relevant consideration for someone about to create a world. But then no matter which world is actualized, non-actual goods and evils are relevant.
    FWIW, I’ve argued that, plausibly, OT enjoys an advantage over Molinism when it comes to the value of divine response to certain kinds of evil (rather than anything to do with their prevention), here:
    http://www.baylor.edu/philofreligion/index.php?id=50296
    I think the way you’re using WOR is interesting!

    June 2, 2010 — 20:05
  • Dan Speak

    Hi Luke,
    I think that’s a quote from Alan, actually. I was puzzled by it a bit myself for the same sort of reason you note. Maybe we can get Alan to clarify what he means.
    As I’m thinking about it, prior to the creation of any world, all the world bound values are merely possible values.
    I’m looking forward to reading your paper, too. Thanks.

    June 2, 2010 — 23:14
  • Dan Speak

    “But where is the destroying? God simply chooses at some point to stop sustaining Hitler in existence. But God does that for every one of us. I wouldn’t say that God aims to terminate me some day (maybe you know sometime I don’t :)), though I know he will cease sustaining me in existence.”
    Unfortunately, Mike, I do have some inside information about your impending demise… but God has asked me to keep things quiet. Nah… just kidding… I’m sure you’ll be fine.
    In any case, even if you think that Hitler (at t1) is without any positive value (something I must admit that I’m not myself inclined to think), surely God’s eliminating him at t1 would be different from most deaths in this respect: Hitler’s end would require the violation of some laws of nature. I think nomological consistency is a valuable thing. So eliminating Hitler would involve destroying or eliminating a valuable thing.

    June 3, 2010 — 0:30
  • Mike Almeida

    Hitler’s end would require the violation of some laws of nature. I think nomological consistency is a valuable thing. So eliminating Hitler would involve destroying or eliminating a valuable thing.
    You’d have to show me how that involves a violation of a law of nature. The only plausible analysis of law-violations I know of renders them as “violations” in any case, since genuine (non-statistical) laws do not allow exceptions. So no law is “eliminated”. But that’s another tipic.
    There are other ways in which God may decide how and when I die. None of them involves God killing or murdering or eliminating me, as far as I can tell. God might have a choice of worlds (futures, if you like) to actualize at time t in some of which I die quickly of natural causes. God could decide to actualize such a future. It’s just odd to say–isn’t it?–that in doing so he thereby kills me or eliminates me or murders me or destroys me or whatnot.
    So, compare the following.
    MG decides from the beginning that he will actualize a world W in which I die of natural causes at t2.
    OG decides from time t1 that he will actualize a world W in which I die of natural causes at t2.
    Are they both kling me at t2? (I assume S destroys me iff. S kills me).

    June 3, 2010 — 8:41
  • In response to questions from Mike, Luke, and Dan, I want to try to to clarify what I meant above when I wrote:
    “Merely possible goods (and evils) can play no role for the Molinist in justifying God’s choice of one feasible world over another.”
    On Molinism God has a choice among feasible worlds and which world he chooses is informed by his knowledge of the goods and evils in that world as compared with those in other worlds. I don’t deny that. By “merely possible goods (and evils)” I didn’t mean goods and evils in other feasible worlds, but rather goods and evils that merely might (and not would) come about as a result of God’s creative decree. Thus, for the Molinist, if God actualizes a world containing a certain evil, it is either because of greater goods that he knows will result from it or because of worse evils he knows will be prevented thereby. In no case, for the Molinist, does God actualize a world containing a certain evil because of goods that merely might result from it or because of evils that merely might be prevented thereby.

    June 3, 2010 — 10:58
  • Mike Almeida

    In no case, for the Molinist, does God actualize a world containing a certain evil because of goods that merely might result from it or because of evils that merely might be prevented thereby.
    That’s interesting Alan. I’m not entirely sure the Molinist God wouldn’t consider what might happen. Suppose there are two worlds that God might actualize. If he strongly actualizes C, then Jones would do A and W would result, and if he strongly actualizes C’, then JOnes would do B and W’ would result. So we have (1) and (2).
    1. C []-> Jones does A & W
    2. C’ []-> Jones does B & W’
    Suppose W and W’ are about equal in value. God recognizes that (1) and (2) are consistent with (3) and (4), which are also true (‘M’ for possibility).
    3. M[C []-> Jones does ~A]
    4. M[C’ []-> Jones does ~B]
    And it might be true that worlds in which he does C and Jones does ~A are worse than worlds in which he does C’ and Jones does ~B. Why take the risk that Jones will freely actualize such a world? Worlds in which God brings about C and Jones does ~A might not be among the closest, but they might be pretty close nonetheless. It need not be difficult or strenuous for Jones to bring about ~A, given C; it needn’t be any more diffcult for him to do ~A than it is for him to do A. And it is true that if God does bring about C Jones can freely do ~A. That might give God a reason to bring about C’ and actualize W’, which is about equal in value to W.
    So, to give an example. It might be true that if Jones is offered drug D, then he would not take it. He would not take it, despite being a recovering addict. Of course, he could take it and he would be tempted to do so. On the other hand, if Jones is offered a book to read, he would read it. Both worlds–drug-offer worlds and book-offer worlds–might be roughly the same in value. Why tempt Jones when there is clearly no greater payoff in value? Actualize the book offer world.

    June 3, 2010 — 12:57