Felix Culpa and Double Effect
November 11, 2010 — 16:59

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , ,   Comments: 34

On Plantinga’s *Felix Culpa* theodicy God’s primary intention is to actualize a highly eligible world. A highly eligible world is one in which there exist the towering goods of incarnation and atonement. According to this view, God intentionally instantiates individual essences and intentionally places them in circumstances where they will suffer severely, as a means to actualizing a highly eligible world. The theodical conclusion is that the total amount of suffering, evil and sin in the world is justified by the great good of the incarnation and atonement.
But, as Plantinga admits, there is something peculiar about the idea of God intentionally instantiating just those essences that will go very wrong, and just those essences that will have to endure suffering, in order that God might save them. It is peculiar even under the false assumption that the instantiated essences consent to suffering terribly for the sake of the incarnation and atonement.

Isn’t this a scenario for a cosmic Munchhausen syndrome by proxy? Isn’t it too much like a father throws his child into the river so that he can then heroically rescue them, or a doctor who spreads a horrifying disease so that he can then display enormous virtue in fighting it in enormous disregard of his own safety and fatigue? Could we really think God would behave in this way? How could it be in character for God to riffle through the whole range of possible creatures he could create and the circumstances in which he could create them, to find some who would freely sin, and then create them so that he could display his great love by saving them? How could he be so manipulative?

But the main problem displayed here is not the manipulation of God’s creatures. The main problem is that, on Plantinga’s view, God is intentionally (and unnecessarily) actualizing a bad world for the purpose of redeeming it. Certainly God is not permitted to intend that something intrinsically bad occur as a means of producing something good, even something extremely good.
Suppose God instantiates Smith in circumstances where he intends that Smith throw Jones into the path of a runaway trolley. It is wrong for God to do so even to keep the trolley from hitting five people on the track ahead. It is wrong for God to do so even as a means to actualizing the towering goods of incarnation and atonement. God would be intending to harm someone, or intending to have someone harmed, as a means to realizing a highly eligible world.
The main problem with Plantinga’s *Felix Culpa* theodicy is not God’s manipulation of his creatures. The main problem, as illustrated above, is God’s obvious violation of the *principle of double effect*. In the *Felix Culpa* theodicy God *directly intends* to actualize evil states of affairs– he directly intends to actualize states of affairs in which many suffer terribly. These are *intended as a means* to actualizing a world with the towering goods of incarnation and atonement. The *Felix Culpa* theodicy fails not because it includes God’s violation of Kantian prohibitions against using others as a mere means. The *Felix Culpa* theodicy fails because it includes God’s violation of the doctrine of double effect.

Comments:
  • I’ve been very worried about this point, and not enough philosophers of religion have worried about it. Too much of the problem of evil literature reads as if God could be just a utilitarian.
    Nonetheless, there might be a story about the felix culpa told that carefully uses double effect and maybe the refraining/doing distinction. But it probably won’t be Plantinga’s Molinist story.
    First, consider this trolley problem. The trolley is coming to a fork, and if you do nothing, it’ll turn left and kill five innocents. There is no one on the right-hand track. If that’s all there is to the story, it’s obvious that you should redirect the trolley. But now I tell you something more. If the trolley hits the people on the left-hand track, great goods will result from this, both for the people hit and for others. Maybe they are such that they will (add a “probably” if you’re not a Molinist) go to heaven if and only if they die now, and world peace will somehow result from their deaths.
    What should you do? On the face of it, double effect says it’s wrong to let them be hit so that the great goods could result, and so you should redirect. But note, first, that one could limit double effect to doings and not apply it to allowings. If one can do this, then one could allow the trolley to go to the left in order that great goods would result.
    There is more to it, though. Consider what double effect says about redirecting the trolley. This, too, is an action to which double effect applies. For this action has serious bad consequences. While it saves lives, it results in the loss of the goods that would be realized if the trolley went left and killed the people. Double effect says that for the redirecting to be permissible, the proportionality condition must be met. But proportionality is not met: the bad consequences–damnation for the five people being hit and a lack of world peace–are disproportionate. So double effect prohibits redirecting the trolley in this case.
    This almost seems like a reductio for double effect: if you redirect, you violate proportionality, and if you don’t redirect, you intend an evil for the sake of a good, so you both ought and ought not redirect. (I suppose if you think that real dilemmas are possible in such cases, you might think it’s not a reductio. That might be another route–God faces a real dilemma. I don’t like that. It seems not to fit with the conjunction of God’s sovereignty and righteousness.) One way to get out of the reductio is to say that double effect doesn’t apply to allowings, only to doings. The Christian tradition has always been big on God merely allowing evils, and this may be why.
    But there is another way out of the reductio, and this is to recall Kamm’s triple-effect cases. Kamm’s most famous case is the party cleanup. You want to have a party, but the guests will make a mess. But you think to yourself: they are nice people, they will help clean up the mess. In throwing the party, do you intend that they clean up the mess? No. Their cleaning up the mess is merely a defeater for a defeater. That there will be a mess is a defeater to the reasons for having the party, and that they will help clean up is a defeater to that defeater.
    Maybe a similar story can be told in my trolley and the felix culpa cases. I have a minor reason not to redirect the trolley. It is an expenditure of action or something. There is a defeater for this reason: five people will die if I don’t redirect. But that defeater has another defeater: if I do redirect, world peace will not be achieved and the five people will be damned. I don’t intend world peace or the salvation of the five people–that only enters into the defeater-defeater.
    I don’t know if this story works for the trolley case. The problem there is that the minor reason is disproportionately minor, and it may be vicious to act on such a minor reason in such a case.
    But I do think the story may work in the felix culpa case, when it is not understood in a Molinist way. God deliberates: Should he allow Adam and Eve that choice? He has reason to allow them to make that choice–freedom is valuable. But there is a defeater: there is a serious risk they’ll sin, and that’s terrible. But there is a defeater for the defeater: if they sin, that’ll be a felix culpa–great goods will result from it. So he has a defeater for his defeater for allowing them to make the choice, and he is justified in allowing them to make the choice.
    If double effect doesn’t apply to allowings, it’s even more straightforward.

    November 12, 2010 — 8:52
  • Mike Almeida

    But I do think the story may work in the felix culpa case, when it is not understood in a Molinist way. God deliberates: Should he allow Adam and Eve that choice? He has reason to allow them to make that choice–freedom is valuable. But there is a defeater: there is a serious risk they’ll sin, and that’s terrible. But there is a defeater for the defeater: if they sin, that’ll be a felix culpa–great goods will result from it. So he has a defeater for his defeater for allowing them to make the choice, and he is justified in allowing them to make the choice.
    I don’t think this is going to help. Ok, God creates Adam and Eve, and they go terribly wrong. But God knows the consequences of their sin; he knows it’s inherited and that we are all going to go terribly wrong. It cannot be true that God does not intend for us to go wrong, since he knows it’s inevitable that we will. And yet he does not cease creating human beings that he knows will actualize terribly evil states of affairs. Why is he doing that? It’s certainly not that the value of freedom is worth the evil produced. It’s not even close. The only story you can tell is that he is allowing it in order to actualize a world in which incarnation and atonement occur. But then we have the DDE problem again.

    November 12, 2010 — 10:49
  • Heath White

    I agree with both of you that this is a serious issue. Some thoughts on Mike’s latest:
    It cannot be true that God does not intend for us to go wrong, since he knows it’s inevitable that we will.
    This is a non sequitur. I don’t intend many things which I know are inevitable consequences of my actions. I don’t intend to wear the tread off my tires when I commute, for example.
    yet he does not cease creating human beings that he knows will actualize terribly evil states of affairs. Why is he doing that?
    This makes it sound like he created one set of human beings, watched them screw up, and then perversely went and created more. But if you think of God as eternal, the decision has to be all at once: God creates every moment of time simultaneously, not in sequence.
    Here’s a different way to think about it; tell me what you think. What God intends is a world with a tremendous atonement. Any world with a tremendous atonement in it is a world with a lot of evil; that’s just part of the package. But God need not create the evil events in order to create the atoning events; he can just foresee that he will create the evil events in creating the atoning events.
    I think it’s one mistake to think of evil events as some kind of efficient cause or means to atonement, and a second mistake to think that God’s intentions have to follow the created order of efficient causes.

    November 12, 2010 — 12:44
  • Mike Almeida

    Thanks Heath,
    This is a non sequitur. I don’t intend many things which I know are inevitable consequences of my actions. I don’t intend to wear the tread off my tires when I commute, for example.
    This is a vexed issue. Proponents of double effect do maintain that there are certain states of affairs that issue so directly and obviously from my actions that I cannot help but intend them. Take for instance the well-know spelunker problem. When I use the dynamite to remove the spelunker from the mouth of the cave, his death is such a direct consequence of my action that I cannot plausibly say that I do not intend his death. If I were to stab Smith in the heart with my knife, I cannot plausible claim that I do not intend to kill him, only to redden my knife.
    This makes it sound like he created one set of human beings, watched them screw up, and then perversely went and created more. But if you think of God as eternal, the decision has to be all at once: God creates every moment of time simultaneously, not in sequence.
    I guess I’d deny that God, eternal or not, cannot as of 3pm today, cease creating human beings.
    But God need not create the evil events in order to create the atoning events; he can just foresee that he will create the evil events in creating the atoning events.
    I’m not sure. Plantinga is a Molinist, so he has God actually instantiating just those individuals that will suffer from evil and that will generate evil states of affairs. God might have created other beings, but deliberately creates these. To say that he is intending to bring about, say, redeemable states of affairs but not intending to bring about evil states of affairs entails that evil states of affairs are not necessary to the actualization of an atonement world. But they are necessary to it. Compare: the death of a fetus is an unfortunate, forseeable and contingent side-effect of removing a womb (they woman might not have been pregnant). And so in some cases a surgeon can intend to remove the womb, but not intend the death of the fetus.

    November 12, 2010 — 13:08
  • Mark Murphy

    While there may be problems with some state of affairs being so close to what is intended that they themselves must count as intended, I don’t think that “is an inevitable consequence of” captures that sort of closeness. And I think that we have especial reason to deny intention in this case, when the inevitability is not closure under some set of laws but just God’s foreknowledge of what we would freely do if put in such-and-such conditions.
    But that doesn’t help Plantinga if the object of God’s intention is the doing of evil, as part of God’s plan. There it is clearly part of the intention. One way to try to deal with this is that some folks reject intending harm as a means to some distinct good (instrumental harming) whereas they do not reject it when it is a constitutive part of some good. The classic example is the harm done in punishment: that harming, while intentional, is constitutive of the good of the order of justice being realized. If the harm of doing evil is a constitutive part of the good of being redeemed from evildoing, maybe Plantinga’s view can get rescued. Don’t know.
    I am very interested in the question of whether intending harm is ruled out by excellence in agency as such or whether this is a special implication of the excellence of human agency. Part of the next book project on divine ethics.

    November 12, 2010 — 14:59
  • Mike Almeida

    And I think that we have especial reason to deny intention in this case, when the inevitability is not closure under some set of laws but just God’s foreknowledge of what we would freely do if put in such-and-such conditions.
    Thanks Mark,
    Right, the inevitability I mentioned is not causal inevitability. It’s closer to psychological or spiritual inevitability. I think I’m urging that God knew that most of the significantly free essences that he did instantiate would have the contingent property of being badly corrupted by sin. It is not possible that any being of that sort would lead a full, morally perfect life. Add all of the obvious qualifications, such as the person might live briefly or never face a moral choice or never be suffciently rational for responsibility, etc. Those aside, God created lots of beings that he knew would live full lives, would be seriously corrupted, would face countless moral choices, etc. I’m saying of these beings that God could not have failed to intend that they act immorally, since it is psychologically or spiritually inevitable that they do so.

    November 12, 2010 — 16:04
  • Luke Gelinas

    Hi Mike,
    Why can’t Plantinga say something like the following, reasonable-sounding things:
    Under most circumstances it’s not morally permissible to intentionally harm others in order to realize more good. But in some situations it is morally permissible, namely, when there’s a whole lot of good at stake. It’s not morally OK for Jim intentionally to kill the one innocent to prevent the killing of 20 innocents. But this doesn’t imply that Jim isn’t morally permitted intentionally to kill one to save the population of Beijing, or to ensure happy and healthy lives for everyone currently alive in sub-Saharan Africa.
    Since there is so much good at stake on Plantinga’s story–the goods of incaranation and atonement are after all *towering* goods–God might be morally permitted to intentionally harm others in the situation, for the sake of these immense goods. In other words, why assume an absolutist prohibition on intentional harming?

    November 12, 2010 — 23:10
  • Mike Almeida

    The classic example is the harm done in punishment: that harming, while intentional, is constitutive of the good of the order of justice being realized. If the harm of doing evil is a constitutive part of the good of being redeemed from evildoing, maybe Plantinga’s view can get rescued. Don’t know.
    I don’t how the harm might be constitutive of some good, if by that you mean that part of what makes the compensatory act (the punishment) good is that it is harmful. The harm imposed is justifiable, and I think I can directly intend a justified harm, so long as I do not intend it (exclusively) as a means to a greater good. I cannot intend to harm someone, even if the person deserves it, exclusively as a means to (say) the maximization of happiness.

    November 13, 2010 — 8:01
  • Mike Almeida

    Since there is so much good at stake on Plantinga’s story–the goods of incaranation and atonement are after all *towering* goods–God might be morally permitted to intentionally harm others in the situation, for the sake of these immense goods.
    Hi Luke,
    I’m not persuaded by swamping arguments of this sort. They seem to assume that, fundamentally, principles of justice are justified by the (say, extreme) value of not violating them. But I think I’d deny that. But if you cannot cash out principles of justice in value terms, then it’s hard to track the logic according to which princples of justice get trumped by value considerations at some level.

    November 13, 2010 — 8:20
  • gambledeal

    Mike,
    Do you see the objection you’re raising as mandating that a good God would only actualize beings who were utterly flawless and would remain so for all time?
    When I say flawless I mean in all relevant senses. Morally (they would never do evil), physically (no physical ailments), experientially (they neither experience nor remember anything that is less than good, positive, or benevolent)?
    It seems to me that’s what falls out of your objection, even if such a person not only potentially can achieve such a flawless state despite starting from a flawed one, but if it were guaranteed.

    November 14, 2010 — 23:37
  • Mike:
    It’s true that to make Double Effect workable, one needs something roughly like this principle:
    (*) If you intend A, and B is close enough to A, then you as good as intend B.
    Double Effect theorists disagree about what “close enough” and “as good as intend” mean. This is the hardest problem in Double Effect. Known inevitability is not a promising answer to the question of what “close enough” comes to.
    If I manufacture a polio vaccine for a large enough population, and I know it kills a certain percentage of patients, we have known practical inevitability. If I bomb the enemy HQ which is in the middle of a bustling city, I know that it’s practically inevitable that some of the innocents I see milling in the streets will die. If I remove a cancerous uterus of a pregnant woman, I know that it’s practically inevitable that the fetus will die. But these are paradigm cases of Double Effect.
    Now, does making the inevitability spiritual or psychological make for a greater closeness? I don’t think so. Take two scenarios.
    Case 1: I bomb the enemy HQ and know that it’s pyrotechnically inevitable given the makeup of the bomb and the buildings and human bodies that the blast will kill some of the civilians on the street.
    Case 2: I bomb the enemy HQ and know that it’s psychologically and spiritually inevitable given the psychological makeup of the civilians in the street that some will commit suicide in dismay at the death of their Great Leader.
    Surely Case 2 does not exhibit greater closeness between the intended effect and the deaths of the civilians. In fact, most people have the intuition that it is harder for intentions to pass through the actions of other persons than it is for them to pass through the causality of non-persons.
    Now, what I say works best for the case of the first sinners. You’re right, I think, to point out that the creation of already fallen persons presents a special problem. But the “felix culpa” of the Christian tradition is specifically the sin of Adam, who was not created fallen. The creation of fallen humans needs special analysis.
    Consider this suggestion. The moral aspects of the Fall consist in two aspects. (1) Withdrawal of God’s grace enabling supernatural charity and (2) natural causal consequences of the sin of our first parents, including especially baneful social moral influences. In this case, we can ask about God’s intentions in respect of (1) and (2) separately. In respect of (2), we seem to have something like the classic case of Double Effect–God foresees the natural causal consequences but doesn’t intend them. (Maybe we could ask: But why doesn’t he miraculously prevent the consequences? We can then try to give a different Double Effect story about the refraining from miracles. This gets involved, obviously.) In respect of (1), it does seem hard to deny that God intends, or as good as intends, that we not exhibit supernatural charity. But this absence of supernatural charity is not a sin, strictly speaking. Since it is very hard to avoid sin without supernatural charity, it is very likely that any person from whom it is withdrawn will commit sin, but this seems to simply be a case of practical inevitability.
    Mark:
    On the constitutive means question, if one brings about A as a constitutive means to B, one intends A. (If it should turn out that B still occurs without A, maybe because one didn’t realize there was some other way for B to be constituted, then one’s plan wasn’t fully successful.) Certainly, in normal cases if one intends to win the election fair and square, one intends to win a plurality of the vote.
    But the reason it’s wrong to intend a basic evil as a causal means is that in so doing one is intending a basic evil–one is setting one’s will on evil (on your view, one is making an evil be one’s good, success being always a good on your view). For the same reason, then, if one intends a basic evil as a constitutive end, it’s wrong as one is intending the basic evil.
    I very cautiously think that what happens in punishment is that in a larger context we do not have a basic evil at all. It is good for one to get what one deserves. Obviously, “in a larger context” is a weasel term. There are obvious difficulties here–it seems definitory of punishment that one be treated harshly. I don’t have a story that overcomes the difficulties, but I am not convinced that one doesn’t exist.

    November 15, 2010 — 9:12
  • DL

    Mike: In the “Felix Culpa” theodicy God directly intends to actualize evil states of affairs— he directly intends to actualize states of affairs in which many suffer terribly. These are intended as a means to actualizing a world with the towering goods of incarnation and atonement.

    Obviously saying, “How could God be so manipulative?” is wrong because by definition sins are committed freely. But I also don’t think it’s right to say that our sinning is a means to God’s redemption. It is a necessary prerequisite, just as sickness is a prerequisite for being cured by a doctor. But the doctor does not cure his patient by means of the disease. We can imagine God surveying possible worlds: one has only sinless creatures; another has creatures who sin (by definition their own fault, and obviously God is not obliged to humble himself in order to save creatures who freely chose to sin); and yet another world in which creatures freely sin but God chooses to save them. Now, the first world is better than the second; and yet the last world is better than the first. God can decide to create this last world, but there’s nothing immoral about it any more than the other two.
    I agree with Alex about intent: it can’t “pass through” someone else’s free choice. I expect that our inuitions about God fall short in this case because unlike God, we are utterly unable to create free beings or foreknow free acts with certainty.

    Alex: Too much of the problem of evil literature reads as if God could be just a utilitarian.

    Hm, is God not allowed to be a utilitarian if He wants to be? But I suspect the issue is perhaps that God in His providence has arranged for the universe to work out usefully on the whole, and so the utility “tracks” the real, or more fundamental underlying reasons. Thus any (good) utilitarian argument could be translated into another kind of argument, but arguing by means of utility could still get the correct answer.

    November 15, 2010 — 10:06
  • Intentions do sometimes pass through others’ free choices. The hitman’s employer is a murderer, just as the hitman is.

    November 15, 2010 — 12:24
  • DL

    Oh yes, in that sense; but if, say, the hitman had been hypnotized and not acting freely, he would not be guilty and the employer still would, or vice versa.

    November 15, 2010 — 14:13
  • Mike Almeida

    Do you see the objection you’re raising as mandating that a good God would only actualize beings who were utterly flawless and would remain so for all time
    No, I don’t think so. There are alternatives. For instance, God might actualize significantly free individuals that he foresees will go wrong, but that he does not intend to go wrong.

    November 15, 2010 — 16:22
  • Mike Almeida

    In respect of (2), we seem to have something like the classic case of Double Effect–God foresees the natural causal consequences but doesn’t intend them.
    But this misses something crucial to Felix Culpa. It is a very good thing that Adam falls, not a foreseen and regretable thing, since that is a necessary condition for atonement. So, it is not as though God foresees the fall, is somehow disappointed when it happens, and then prepares redemption. God might have created Adam* instead of Adam, where Adam* would never have gone wrong. Or, he could have placed Adam in circumstances in which he would not have gone wrong. Instead he intentionally creates Adam and intentionally places him in circumstances where he knows he will go wrong. It is not a point of regret that Adam goes wrong. If God fouond that regretable, he would have actualized Adam*. So it is hard to see how DDE is not violated.

    November 15, 2010 — 16:35
  • Mike Almeida

    But I also don’t think it’s right to say that our sinning is a means to God’s redemption. It is a necessary prerequisite, just as sickness is a prerequisite for being cured by a doctor. But the doctor does not cure his patient by means of the disease.
    I didn’t say that. I said that God intends to actualize evil states of affairs as a means to actualizing the towering goods of atonement and incarnation. A physician can do something analogous. If the physician wants to provide the great good of curing thousands, he can, as a means to actualizing that great good, intentionally spread a deadly disease which he thereafter cures.

    November 15, 2010 — 16:41
  • Mike:
    “It is not a point of regret that Adam goes wrong. If God fouond that regretable, he would have actualized Adam*.”
    That was the sort of reason why I said that my modified version of the Felix Culpa story might not be available to the Molinist, though you have put the point better than I would have.
    On further reflection, the Molinist could say this: People are not fungible. Each person presents an incommensurable value. So in creating Adam* instead of Adam, God loses the value of Adam’s life. We have Scriptural warrant for the idea that God chooses particular individuals and nations, with little regard for their intrinsic qualities, to bestow an especial love on them.

    November 16, 2010 — 8:40
  • Heath White

    It is a very good thing that Adam falls, not a foreseen and regretable thing, since that is a necessary condition for atonement…. [God] intentionally creates Adam and intentionally places him in circumstances where he knows he will go wrong.
    Mike,
    I see what you mean, but the logic isn’t tight enough to entail your point. (Which doesn’t mean it’s false.)
    First, on FC, it is a good thing that Adam falls. But something can be good in one respect and bad in another, and you can regret it in one respect and embrace it in another. (You get fired and find a better job; you can be both angry at your boss and glad he fired you.) Presumably God is saddened at Adam’s sin and gladdened at the prospect of the atonement to follow. I guess your point is that God has an ATC pro-attitude toward Adam’s fall but I’m not sure what the significance of that would be.
    Second, God intentionally creates Adam and intentionally places him in fall-eliciting circumstances. It doesn’t follow that God intended Adam to fall. Compare: suppose when Adam woke up, the chiggers in the grass made his back itch. (Assuming there are itchy chiggers in paradise.) I don’t think it follows that God intended Adam’s back to itch.

    November 16, 2010 — 13:15
  • Mike Almeida

    Heath and Alex,
    I’m sort of losing the structure of the case you’re presenting. There are two possibilities.
    1. God’s aim in creating significantly free beings is to actualize valuable states of affairs in which there are rational beings acting freely. That’s the aim. The foreseen, but unintended, side-effect is that many of these beings go wrong. God does not intend for such beings to go wrong, and he does not intend to actualize a highly eligible (i.e. an atonement and incarnation world). But he foresees that he will do so.
    2. God aims at creating a highly eligible world; he does not aim at actualizing states of affairs whose value is due to rational beings acting freely. God is aware of the following entailment: necessarily, God actualizes a highly eligible world ONLY IF God creates significantly free beings that go wrong. Despite aiming to actualize a highly eligible world and despite being aware of the entailment, God does not intend to create significantly free beings that go wrong.
    I think (1) is perfectly fine and have an argument that it is so. I can’t see how (2) is even coherent. How can God intend to actualize a state of affairs S such that, necessarily, S only if E, and not intend to actualize E? That’s not something a perfectly rational being can do, since it is rationally self-defeating. It is intending to actualize a state of affairs in which God saves free beings that have gone wrong and not intending that anyone goes wrong. Indeed, God would have to intend that they do not go wrong. But that isn’t coherent.

    November 16, 2010 — 17:09
  • Luke Gelinas

    I’m wondering how worried proponents of DDE should be about (2). Suppose it’s the original trolley case, except you have a crystal ball which delivers infallible knowledge of the next five minutes. You see that if you throw the switch, the one on the sidetrack will in fact die. Does this change things?
    Even if you don’t have the crystal ball you are, or should be, extremely confident that the one will die if you throw the switch in the original case (w/out the crystal ball). If you don’t have to intend harm without the crystal ball, I’m not sure why we should think you need to intend harm with it.
    But then, if proponents of DDE think you need not intend the death of the one even though you infallibly foresee it, why should they worry about (2)? Granted, infallibly foreseeing that you will in fact harm the one to save the five isn’t the same as seeing that you save the five *only if* you harm the one. But why should the modal facts matter here? If it’s OK for you to turn even though you know that you will in fact kill the one, why not think it’s OK to turn even if it’s not strictly possible for you to avoid harming the one? (If it turns out that our world is the only possible world, why should that matter to whether it’s OK to throw the switch?)
    Another way to worry about this is to ask whether the crystal ball element renders the loop variant of the trolley case morally on a par with the original case

    November 16, 2010 — 21:02
  • Mike Almeida

    I’m wondering how worried proponents of DDE should be about (2). Suppose it’s the original trolley case, except you have a crystal ball which delivers infallible knowledge of the next five minutes. You see that if you throw the switch, the one on the sidetrack will in fact die.
    I’m not sure I see how that knowledge is infallible. But that aside, in the case you describe there is conceptual space in which you can intend S and not intend E since S does not entail E. In God’s case, he is in a position of trying to intend S = Atoned-Evil and not intend Evil. There is no conceptual space to intend one and not the other. That’s the difference.

    November 17, 2010 — 7:28
  • Heath:
    Adam’s sin is intrinsically evil, but on the Felix Culpa story it is broadly instrumental to a good. But Double Effect should not allow intending things that are intrinsically evil but instrumentally good.
    Now, Mark suggested (without endorsing) that perhaps it’s sometimes OK to intend an evil when it is non-causally instrumental to a greater good. If the suggestion is right, then something like your move will work. But only then. And I am, alas, sceptical that Mark’s move is right.

    November 17, 2010 — 10:03
  • Heath White

    Mike,
    My (provisional, exploratory) position is the allegedly incoherent (2). Consider the following: God intends to form Adam from the dust of the earth. He has to form Adam in a particular shape, lying on a particular landscape—these can’t be generic intentions to form Adam “somehow.” As a result, God knows that if he forms Adam in that particular way on that particular landscape, Adam’s body will squash 6037 blades of grass. Now I claim: God can (i) intend to form Adam in a particular way, (ii) be aware of the entailment “If I form Adam thusly, his body will squash 6037 blades of grass”, and yet (iii) foresee and not intend to squash 6037 blades of grass. What God cannot do is intend not to squash 6037 blades of grass; that would be incoherent. But he can: neither intend it to happen nor intend it not to happen. So that is a model for how I suggest one see the divine psychology in the Felix Culpa case.

    November 17, 2010 — 12:37
  • Heath White

    Alex,
    Your problem, I take it, is that on FC Adam’s sin is a constitutive means to the good of atonement, and God cannot intend the end without also intending the means. I suppose I am wondering how we know it is a constitutive means. Not every necessary condition is a means, as my example to Mike shows (or tries to). Not every case of bringing about a state of affairs A which constitutes an intended state of affairs B is a case of intending a constitutive means. I used this example before in another context, but suppose I intend to help you practice your tennis backhand. I will be ensuring that you flex your latissimus dorsi, because flexing those muscles is part of what constitutes a tennis backhand. Plausibly, however, I can intend you to practice your tennis backhand without intending you to flex those muscles. Again, I cannot coherently intend that you not flex those muscles, but I can neither intend it to happen nor intend it not to happen.
    Maybe what is going on is this. If God were in time, he would have to say to himself, “I’ve got to make sure Adam sins now, in order to guarantee the need for an atonement later.” There is a logical relationship between Adam’s sin and Christ’s atonement (the latter entails the former) which is constant and which we all agree on. There is also, from within the creation, a temporal relationship: the former is earlier than the latter. So if God is going to achieve the atonement, and he has to act in temporal sequence, then he must make sure of the sin as well. However, if he is eternal and thus not under pressure of time, I don’t think the same strictures apply. The fact that one event is temporally earlier than another is, from his eternal perspective, irrelevant.
    So, to sum up the hypothesis: for us time-bound creatures, if A entails B, and B has to happen before A, and we intend A at a time before B occurs, we must rationally intend B to occur. For God, however, it is not so; he can merely foresee B. Example: Sam’s just punishment entails Sam committing a crime, and the crime must be committed prior to the punishment. If we intend to justly punish Sam, before he has done anything wrong, we must intend him to commit a crime. God, however, can foresee the crime and intend the punishment. Do you find that plausible?

    November 17, 2010 — 12:38
  • My own view of double effect implies that flexing your latissimus dorsi while not intended is nonetheless achieved, and that it is wrong to achieve evil, and not just to intend it. We need something like this point to get around apparent counterexamples to double effect like this one: “George introduced poison gas to kill the noisy mammal in the next room in the dorm, as the mammal’s noise was making it hard for George to study. The mammal, of course, was a human. George did not, however, intend to kill a human, but only a mammal, though he knew the mammal is human. George doesn’t care that the mammal killed is human–if it was a noisy horse, dog or mouse, he would act the same way. (If it was a noisy mosquito, he’d have to use a different poison gas, perhaps.)” I want to say that he intended to kill a mammal, but the mammal’s death is identical with a human’s death, and so he accomplished the human’s death as well.
    Now, maybe you don’t like my particular resolution to the noisy mammal problem. But some resolution is needed (if one is to maintain something like double effect). Call the relevant relationship George is to the death of the human “as good as intending”. On my view, that relationship is accomplishing, but nevermind the details. I now think the following is very plausible. If I intend a whole Y under a description that includes X’s being a part of Y, and I successfully bring about my intention, then I as good as intended X. For instance, if Pat is a mouse and Fred is a man, then anybody who intentionally brings it about that both Pat and Fred die is as good as intending that Fred should die.
    Likewise, even if God does not intend that Adam should sin, but God only intends a larger state of affairs of which Adam’s sinning is a part included under the description of the larger state of affairs, then God as good as intends that Adam should sin.
    Take this case. A prophet tells me that if I press a button, Jim will begin to suffer horrible torment but Sam will heroically take Jim’s place. The state of affairs as a whole strikes me as on balance valuable, because moral goods outweigh non-moral evils, and so I press the button. Now, maybe I am not intending that Jim should first suffer horrible torment and that Sam should suffer it later, but I as good as intend it. (On my view, I accomplish the sufferings.) It makes little moral difference whether I arrange the whole situation by a single button press, or whether I have to bring about Sam’s sufferings and Jim’s sufferings individually.
    I think the relevant distinction between this and the grass case is that in the grass case, the depression of the grass, while brought about by me, is not essential to the plan. Suppose, however, that the number 6037 had some significance in God’s plan–maybe in binary it encoded some revelation. Then I say that God intended, or as good as intended, that these many blades of grass be bent.

    November 17, 2010 — 14:36
  • Heath White

    So, just to clarify: if God intends, before the foundation of the world, to lay the sins of the world on the shoulders of Christ, then since this intention entails that the world have some sins, God as good as intends the world to have some sins. Moreover, this would be morally prohibited. Yes?

    November 17, 2010 — 14:55
  • Mike Almeida

    Now I claim: God can (i) intend to form Adam in a particular way, (ii) be aware of the entailment “If I form Adam thusly, his body will squash 6037 blades of grass”
    That’s not an entailment. That’s a causal relation.

    November 17, 2010 — 16:07
  • Mike Almeida

    My own view of double effect implies that flexing your latissimus dorsi while not intended is nonetheless achieved, and that it is wrong to achieve evil, and not just to intend it.
    As I revise this objection to Plantinga, I feel like I’m being dragged into a fascinating but painfully deep morass of analyzing DDE. I’m beginning to believe that we’ll need analyze ‘S intends A as a means to B’ by starting with an analysis of ‘A is a means to B’. So consider whether killing a human being is a means to stopping the noise in Alex’s case. In the case you describe, it is the only means. Consider whether killing a human being is a means to killing a mammal. It is again the only means in your case.
    But consider whether killing 1 person is a means to saving 5 in trolly. It obviously isn’t. Consider whether killing millions is a means to exploding the nuclear bomb over their heads in Johnston’s well-known counterexample. Obviously it is. Consider whether killing others is a means to dropping a bomb in the reducing morale case. It pretty clearly is not.
    But now consider whether terrible suffering and evil is a means to atonement in FC. Again, it is pretty clear that it is unachieveable without that, so it is clearly the only means available.
    Once we have a decent analysis of ‘A is a means to B’, I think worries about intending will be much easier to resolve.

    November 17, 2010 — 16:29
  • Heath White

    I thought of another angle on this question which I’d like to bounce of the rest of the discussants here. Suppose we stop creeping up to the line of “intention” and just say, flat out, God intended that Adam sin. Now, if this is allegedly “doing evil,” what evil is it? God is not murdering, or stealing, or raping, or torturing, or taking usury, or any of a number of other things on the usual “intrinsic evils” list. Is it some form of injustice to Adam? Not unless creating someone who sins freely is an injustice, in which case the problem of evil is bigger than we might have thought. Is it some sort of seduction or scandalizing of Adam? I’m open to suggestions but I’d want to see a concrete proposal.
    Here is a possible source of fallacy. Consequentialists use “good/evil” primarily as predicative adjectives modifying states of affairs; Thomists use “good/evil” primarily as attributive adjectives modifying actions. The Thomist should say that the state of affais of Adam sinning is evil, because Adam’s sin is an evil action. The DDE injunction against “doing evil” is not, most directly, against bringing about evil states of affairs, but against performing evil actions. The former does not entail the latter unless bringing about an evil state of affairs is itself performing an evil action. What I am asking is, if this is an evil action, i.e. a sin, what sin is it?
    I think our intuitions are quite likely to be a little scrambled here. We are used to thinking of intending others to sin by means of offering them enticements or coercion. It’s a little different if we think of God moving the will directly but non-coercively, or even just creating the evil will immediately.

    November 18, 2010 — 7:25
  • Mike:
    I think it’s weird to say that A is the only means to B and B is the only means to A.
    Heath:
    Intentionally causing someone to sin is an aggravated form of the sin of scandal. Scripture says it is better to have a millstone hung about one’s neck than to commit that. Intentionally causing someone to commit a mortal sin is worse than murder, theft, rape, torture or usury. Why? Because it is more unloving. (If you say that a good might flow for the person to whom the sin is done, the same is true of murder, theft, rape, torture or usury.)
    Actually, I do think the DDE injunction against doing evil is an injunction against bringing about evil states of affairs. Murder is (roughly) the intentional bringing about of the death of an innocent, theft is (roughly) the intentional bringing about of the dispossession of someone in one’s own favor, and rape is (roughly) the intentional bringing about of someone’s being in non-consensual sexual relations (that’s why it’s rape to force two people at gunpoint to have sex with one another), torture is (roughly) the intentional bringing about of certain kinds of sufferings for certain kinds of purposes. Usury is a little different (but is it wrong to lend at excessive interest if it’s necessary to save the life of the borrower? maybe then it’s by definition not excessive?)

    November 18, 2010 — 9:13
  • Delete the “in your favor” from the definition of theft.

    November 18, 2010 — 9:15
  • Mike Almeida

    Suppose we stop creeping up to the line of “intention” and just say, flat out, God intended that Adam sin. Now, if this is allegedly “doing evil,” what evil is it? God is not murdering, or stealing, or raping, or torturing, or taking usury, or any of a number of other things on the usual “intrinsic evils” list
    I would describe it as God directly intending to actualize an evil state of affairs. Maybe you would describe it differently. But here is the source of the wrongdoing. If I know you are a recovering drug addict, and I deliberately put you in a place where I know you will relapse (the drugs are too readily available or the temptation is too great), then I do something wrong. If I know you are a sinner, and instead of guarding you against temptation, I place you in circumstance where I know you will sin, I do something wrong. Again, if I know you will kill Smith if I place you and Smith in circumstances C, and I place you in those circumstances deliberately so that you do kill Smith, I do something seriously wrong. Obviously, cases can be multiplied.

    November 18, 2010 — 9:20
  • Mike Almeida

    I think it’s weird to say that A is the only means to B and B is the only means to A.
    I hope I didn’t say both of those. When I say that A is the only means to B, I just mean that A is necessary to the actualization of B.

    November 18, 2010 — 9:38