Contingent Gods and Hell Worlds
December 22, 2010 — 17:00

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , ,   Comments: 19

The view that a contingently existing thing cannot explain everything is mistaken. For all that I, or anyone else, knows the proper logic of metaphysical possibility is S4. The characteristic thesis of S4 is Lp –> LLp. S4 does not include the thesis that MLp –> Lp. Consider whether there is a metaphysical model in which a contingent God explains everything. Suppose every possible world is accessible from every other possible world, except for the worlds W0 and W1. W0 and W1, let’s suppose, are accessible from every other world, but they only have access to themselves and each other. Call these *Hell Worlds*. The hell worlds W0 and W1 are *metaphysically nihilistic worlds*: these are worlds that include no concrete objects and so no God (abstract objects only).
It is true in the hell worlds W0 and W1 that concrete objects necessarily do not exist and so, it is true there that *necessarily God does not exist*. Since God exists in every world except W0 and W1, God is contingent. Nonetheless God explains everything there is to explain including himself. We have all of the following true.
1. *God is necessarily co-contingent*: God must exist in any world in which there are any contingent objects at all.
2. Why do contingent objects exist? In every world in which there are contingent objects, God creates every contingent object.
3. Why doesn’t God exist in every world? Any world in which God does not exist is a hell world. It is true in hell worlds that God necessarily does not exist.
4. It is possible that, necessarily, God does not exist, since hell worlds are possible worlds.
5. We can construct a model in which there are some concrete objects in hell worlds: these are concrete beings for whom God is inaccessible. For such beings, it is necessary that God does not exist.
6. The S4 models including hell worlds preserve the distinction between necessarily existing objects and contingent objects while having an explanation for every contingent object.

Comments:
  • How do we know that the actual world is not a hell world? If one hell world can exist, why cannot all worlds be hell worlds?

    December 22, 2010 — 19:13
  • Mike Almeida

    If one hell world can exist, why cannot all worlds be hell worlds?
    The model is intended to make sense of a contingent God without accepting brute facts. If all worlds are hell worlds we have (or at least seem to have) lots of brute facts.

    December 22, 2010 — 19:38
  • overseas

    isn’t (2) true only if necessarily God creates Himself?

    December 23, 2010 — 2:06
  • Mike Almeida

    overseas,
    I’m conflating self-caused with self-created. In typical cosmological arguments we have God being self-caused in the sense of (1).
    1. It is de re necessary that God exists.
    (1) is offered as a suitable explanation for God’s existence. My suggestion is that (1) might be false, but (2) true,
    2. It is de re necessary that God is co-contingent.
    God must exist in any world in which there is (another) contingent object. If (1) is a suitable explanation for God’s existence, then I don’t see why (2) wouldn’t be as well. Why does God exist in the worlds in which he does? It is a necessary truth that he exists in those worlds.

    December 23, 2010 — 7:20
  • Ted Poston

    Hi Mike,
    Interesting model. Is there an explanation for the odd feature of this model that God exists in every non-hell world? One model of modal space is such that God exists in only worlds with an odd number of concrete objects. That’s a model but what reason is there for thinking it’s a true model? Maybe I’m missing something but it looks like your suggestion above that “it is de re necessary that God is co-contingent” is just a description of the model you give.

    December 23, 2010 — 9:23
  • Mike Almeida

    Maybe I’m missing something but it looks like your suggestion above that “it is de re necessary that God is co-contingent” is just a description of the model you give.
    Yes, it is such description. But then the suggestion that “it is de re necessary that God exists” is also such a description. These have to match the model, for obvious reasons: if they didn’t, they’d be false. But perhaps you want independent motivation. Here it is: it is necessarily true that if it is possible that God exists, then God does exist. In worlds where God does not exist it is true that, impossibly, God exists there. Any better?

    December 23, 2010 — 10:15
  • Ted Poston

    What I’d like to see is that an argument that hell worlds are possible while also maintaining that we have a full complete explanation of all contingent things. That would convince me that the view you say is false is indeed false. Maybe it’ll be a gift under my tree.

    December 23, 2010 — 15:26
  • Mike Almeida

    What I’d like to see is that an argument that hell worlds are possible while also maintaining that we have a full complete explanation of all contingent things.
    First, I’m not sure how to show that a world is possible. I’ve never seen an argument that a particular world is possible that does not appeal to modal intuition. But that’s what I do. What I say in the post is that, for all I or anyone else knows, S4 is the logic of metaphycial necessity. The model I present is consistent with S4 being the right logic. Hell worlds seem possible, and I have exactly no reason to believe they’re not possible.
    Second, there is exactly one problematic contingent being, and that is God. How does God’s existence get explained? I argue by analogy. In cosmological arguments (typically) God’s existence get’s explained by appeal to some modal property that God has essentially. What property does God have essentially that does the explanatory work? It’s (1), I believe.
    1. God essentially necessarily exists.
    Of course, contingent God’s can have essential properties, too. Here’s one.
    2. God is essentially necessarily co-contingent.
    If (2) expresses an essential property of God, then (2) explains why God exists in every world where there are (other) contingent objects. God exists in every world that is not a hell world.
    But can I explain why God does not exist in hell worlds? Yes, I can, since God has other essential properties.
    3. God is such that, necessarily, if it is possible that he exists, then he exists and (of course) God is such that, if it is impossible that he exists, he does not exist.
    Because of (3), God does not exist in hell worlds. Ok, so why would I think that God instantiates the essential properties in (2) and (3)? My reason is that, in standard cosmological arguments, the sort of God that is invoked has (among others) the essential properties in (2) and (3). I leave it as an exercise to show this.
    So, the sort of essential properties I use in this argument are not unusual or idiosyncratic or unmotivated. They are among the set of essential properties God standardly is said to possess. I just put them to work in a different way.
    The point of the post is to find a way that a contingent God might offer a full explanation of contingent beings. That proposal should sound surprising, given the typical acquiesence in the claim only a necessary being could do the work. A contingent God does not explain everything in the same way as a necessarily existing God, but does so (or, so it seems to me) in a nicely analogous way.

    December 23, 2010 — 17:19
  • Ted Poston

    “2. God is essentially necessarily co-contingent.
    If (2) expresses an essential property of God, then (2) explains why God exists in every world where there are (other) contingent objects. God exists in every world that is not a hell world.”
    Mike, I don’t see why (2) does the explanatory work you say it does. Maybe you hold to a D-N type model of explanation (changed to work for modal space). You’ve provided a neat model on which God creates every contingent being is entailed by the model, but that isn’t doing it for me. Your (1) above would do it for me, but it’s inconsistent with your model.
    Here’s a related worry: as far as appeal to intuition goes if hell worlds are possible then why not worlds with the accessibility relations you give but with 1 concrete object (and so on). In this model you lose the property that God is necessarily co-contigent. What reason if there for thinking that modal space lacks these worlds? Is it something about the nature of God? If it is, then I don’t see how that reason wouldn’t carry over to the worlds with such abstracta.
    For what it’s worth: I don’t think the intuition that hell worlds are possible has any probative force. I can’t imagine that a hell world is possible. The best I do is entertain a sentence that says ‘there’s a world with only abstracta’.

    December 24, 2010 — 8:52
  • Mike Almeida

    Your (1) above would do it for me, but it’s inconsistent with your model.
    This is what I cannot follow. (2) explains in the same way that (1) does. Both explain the existence of God by appeal to his essential properties. So I guess I’d need to know why the appeal to essential property explanation in (1) is ok, but the essential property explanation in (2) is not. I’m just not sure what ‘it doesn’t work me’ comes to. But even if (2) did not work, (3) would. Why does God exist in the worlds he does? (3) explains why.
    3. It is an essential property of God that, necessarily, if it is possible that God exists, then he does exist.
    For what it’s worth: I don’t think the intuition that hell worlds are possible has any probative force. I can’t imagine that a hell world is possible.
    For what it is also worth, lots of smart people think there are metaphysically nihilistic worlds and have offered proofs to that effect (a few examples: G. Pereyra-Rodriguez, for instance, David Armstrong and Thomas Baldwin. Also, again for what it’s worth, van Inwagen admits to not being able to show there isn’t one). The claim that a modal intuition has no probative force seems to me (at least) an exaggeration. Unless of course you’ve found some decent argument for modal skepticism.

    December 24, 2010 — 9:25
  • Ted Poston

    There is this disparity between (1) and (2). Suppose I ask someone to give me a reason for thinking (1) is true. Then they’ll offer various arguments aiming to show that the nature of a perfect being is that it must exist. Is there an argument for thinking that it’s in the nature of a perfect being that it’s (merely) necessarily co-contingent? Maybe I’m missing something, but the situation seems to me like this. You’ve described an extensional model of modal space with various worlds and accessibility relations that God has various essential properties. What I’m asking for is a non-model related reason for thinking that modal space is this way. If there are successful arguments for hell worlds that are consistent with a perfect being that would get some of the way. What I’d then want to see is an argument that also closes modal space to hell worlds that contain some contingent objects.
    Small point: the skepticism I expressed is consistent with there being good *arguments* for the possibility of hell worlds and it’s also consistent with PvI’s modal skepticism.
    I just received an email from amazon for Geraldine Coggin’s book “Could there have been Nothing?: Against Metaphysical Nihilism.” What a coincidence!

    December 24, 2010 — 10:07
  • Mike Almeida

    There is this disparity between (1) and (2). Suppose I ask someone to give me a reason for thinking (1) is true. Then they’ll offer various arguments aiming to show that the nature of a perfect being is that it must exist. Is there an argument for thinking that it’s in the nature of a perfect being that it’s (merely) necessarily co-contingent?
    Yes, you have the very same reasons. A perfect being is also necessarily co-contingent. You could not be a perfect being a fail to be necessarily co-contingent. But you might find more intuitive the fact that you could not be a perfect being and exist in every world where it is possible for you to exist. Again, why does God exist in the set of worlds he does exist? Answer: God exists in every possible world in which it is possible for him to exist. God has that property essentially. That is as good an explanation for his existence as the thesis that God exists in every possible world.
    On the skeptical point: I said there are no ‘arguments’ for worlds being possible that do not appeal to modal intuition. You express reservations about modal intuition in this case; I say you’re stuck with those reservations in all interesting cases.
    On Coggins: her papers on nihilism are not good. not even close to the level of discussion elsewhere (Lowe, Paseau, Pereyra, etc.). hope the book is better.

    December 24, 2010 — 11:29
  • Ted Poston

    When I consider the modal ontological argument and think that necessary existence is a good-making property then I consider your model and no being has that property, I’m puzzled. I don’t have the same reasons, no?
    Maybe, though, it’ll be helpful to go back to my original intuition. The configuration of modal space is often a guide to explanation. It could have been that the ball landed 10 feet to the right. Why did it land here? Well, b/c it had this trajectory and it’s a law that anything with that trajectory (and thus and such initial conditions) will land here. Now, in your model a perfect being doesn’t exist in every world but it does exist in every world with concrete objects. I find that requires some explanation. Why is it that hell worlds are possible but hell worlds with concrete objects aren’t? Maybe you don’t feel the burden.
    Re modal skepticism: fair enough. I just don’t know what it would be to imagine nothing.

    December 24, 2010 — 11:49
  • Mike Almeida

    Now, in your model a perfect being doesn’t exist in every world but it does exist in every world with concrete objects. I find that requires some explanation.
    Ted, I did explain this. Didn’t I? (1), (2), (3) and (4) are all true.
    1. Necessarily, God exists in every world in which it is possible for him to exist.
    Of course, a perfect being would exist in every world where it is possible. But suppose it is metaphysically impossible for God to exist in certain worlds. Then we would not expect even a perfect being to exist in such worlds.
    2. Necessarily, God fails to exist in every world where it is impossible for God to exist.
    But now in the model, there are both sorts of worlds.
    3. It is metaphysically possible for God to exist in non-hell worlds, and God exists in every non-hell world.
    4. It is not metaphysically possible for God to exist in hell worlds and God exists in no hell worlds.
    Nothing in (1) – (4) is inconsistent with there existing a perfect being. We do not expect a perfect being to do what is metaphysically impossible. We do not find it a shortcoming or imperfection that God should fail to do what is metaphysically impossible. God’s existence in hell worlds is metaphysically impossible. So God’s failure to exist in such worlds is not a shortcoming. It constitutes no limitation on perfection.
    Why is it that hell worlds are possible but hell worlds with concrete objects aren’t?
    In the model I’m discussing your sort of hell world (a quasi-hell world, I suppose) is not possible, since it would have a brutely possible contingent object. We want every contingent object explained. I’d have to think about it, but maybe a non-hell world could branch into a hell world. I’m not sure. It would have to non-brutally branch, that’s the problem.

    December 24, 2010 — 12:42
  • Ted Poston

    Mike, I think we’ve hit upon the issue that’s bothering me: why aren’t there brutely possible contingent objects, especially since there are hell worlds?

    December 25, 2010 — 9:37
  • Alex L

    If all worlds are hell worlds we have (or at least seem to have) lots of brute facts.
    I like your parentheses. Is there a name for the view that we only seem to have a lot of brute facts?
    In other words, the universe only appears real from the inside. From the outside it might look like e.g. the consequent of a particular equation. Like the “are we living in a simulation?” skeptical challenge, only without the simulation.

    December 25, 2010 — 11:09
  • Mike Almeida

    Mike, I think we’ve hit upon the issue that’s bothering me: why aren’t there brutely possible contingent objects, especially since there are hell worlds?
    There are no contingent objects in hell worlds, so there are no brutely contingent objects. Backing up a bit, recall that the cosmological argument gets it’s traction from the aversion to brutality. Were we less averse, we would have no worries with unexplained contingent objects. My aim in the post is to avoid brutality while keeping God contingent.
    Just as an aside, I think most theists (an exception might be Plantinga) wouldn’t accept brute possibilities. And this is mainly due to providential reasons. Suppose, for instance, that God exists in W and W’ is a brutal possibility relative to W. If so, then it is true in W that, (i) W’ is possible (ii) W’ is not actualizable, and (iii) were W’ actual, it would be a brute, inexplicable fact that W’ is actual. But surely theists will urge that what is possible just is what is actualizable. If W’ were actual, then it would be true that God weakly or strongly actualized W’. That is, the actuality of W’ would have an explanation in God’s actions, plans, goals, or providence. The actuality of W’ would not be something that just happens.

    December 25, 2010 — 11:41
  • Mike Almeida

    If W’ were actual, then it would be true that God weakly or strongly actualized W’.
    It would be true rather that either God or we (either together or individually) weakly or strongly actualized W’.

    December 25, 2010 — 11:44
  • Mike Almeida

    One other quick note: Swinburne too allows for a brutal contingent possibility and that is the existence of God. It is true in non-God worlds for Swinburne, that it is possible that God exists, but were God to exist it would be a brute fact that he does (and always has). Plantinga used to believe the same thing, but now of course doesn’t. He says that he believes that there are brutal possibilities (if I’m understanding him). It’s an open question whether such possibilities are the only way to preserve the S5 structure for metaphysical possiblity.

    December 25, 2010 — 13:55