Omnipotence and the ‘Delimiter of Possibilities’ View
May 20, 2013 — 21:54

Author: Kenny Pearce  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , , , ,   Comments: 24

Aquinas notes that some analyses of omnipotence have a serious problem: they reduce the apparently substantive claim “God is omnipotent” to the trivial claim that God “can do all that He is able to do.” Now, perhaps it is true that to be omnipotent is to be able to do everything God is able to do (or at least that omnipotence entails this), but this is hardly an illuminating analysis.
In several places in his Anselmian Explorations, Thomas Morris defends the view that the Anselmian God is the ‘delimiter of possibilities.’ This view has been endorsed by other Anselmians, and I am inclined to it myself. What Morris means by it is that many apparently conceivable worlds are in fact impossible precisely because it is impossible that God should permit them. God exists necessarily, and no world can be actual except by God’s permission. Hence if God’s character (or whatever) prevents him from permitting a state of affairs, then that state of affairs is not genuinely possible.
When this view is combined with a result theory of omnipotence, Aquinas’s worry recurs.


The simplest result theory is the Leibniz-Ross theory (the ‘Ross’ is James F. Ross, who advocated this view in his Philosophical Theology (1969) and “Creation” (1980)). According to this theory, God’s omnipotence consists in the fact that he gets to choose, among all the possible worlds, which one is to be actual. According to the combination of the delimiter of possibilities view with the Leibniz-Ross theory of omnipotence, God is omnipotent insofar as he can actualize any possible world, and a world is possible just in case God can actualize it.
Now, the Leibniz-Ross theory is widely rejected for an entirely different reason: Plantinga famously pointed out (in The Nature of Necessity and elsewhere) that it has the consequence that, necessarily, no creature has libertarian freedom. Adopting a more complicated result theory of omnipotence, one that allows for creaturely libertarian freedom, will make it more complicated to state the exact form of the circularity, but the problem will, I think, arise as long as one holds that God’s omnipotence consists in his ability to actualize some specified subset of the possible worlds, for this requires the class of possible of possible worlds to be determined in advance of the determination of what God can actualize. Furthermore, it does not seem to matter whether one uses strong actualization or (with Flint and Freddoso) weak actualization in the analysis.
The Pearce-Pruss theory of omnipotence neatly avoids this worry. In our view, God’s omnipotence consists in the fact that, necessarily, God brings about whatever he wills, and God’s willing is perfectly free. We argue that God’s perfect freedom of will is consistent with its being impossible that he should will certain propositions. This provides an account of omnipotence which does not require that the class of possible worlds already be determined before the scope of God’s power is determined.
(Cross-posted at blog.kennypearce.net)

Comments:
  • Mike Almeida

    We argue that God’s perfect freedom of will is consistent with its being impossible that he should will certain propositions. This provides an account of omnipotence which does not require that the class of possible worlds already be determined before the scope of God’s power is determined.
    There are propositions that God cannot will, if I’m reading this right. God’s power has modal limits–there are things that are impossible even for God to do–but modality is not understood in terms of possible worlds? Is that the thought? So, is it understood in terms of powers?

    May 21, 2013 — 7:37
  • Jeremy Pierce

    I’m having trouble fitting this with what I know of Leibniz. Leibniz is quite clear that the worlds God does not actualize are nevertheless possible worlds. So it can’t be that he also defines possibility in terms of what God can, consistent with his character, actualize. Then there would be only two possible worlds — the actual world and the world in which God doesn’t create anything (because I think Leibniz does leave that option consistent with God’s character, but none of the other creatable worlds are consistent with God’s character). Leibniz seems to me to be quite clear that there are these possible worlds, and then it’s possible for God to actualize any of them, as long as there’s no contradiction between the complete concepts of all the substances in them or within any complete concept of a substance. But God’s character prevents him from actualizing any but the actual world, in a way that doesn’t stop him from calling them possible. So what limits God is something other than whatever it is he’s calling possibility. There might be a number of ways to capture that more precisely than he does, but one way that doesn’t seem to me to be compatible with what he says is to define modality in terms of what worlds God can actualize consistent with his character.

    May 21, 2013 — 7:59
  • Kenny Pearce

    Mike – I haven’t worked out the details, but yes, this approach would require that modality not be analyzed in terms of possible worlds. Of course, many people have thought this was the way to go: that we should build the possible worlds out of some more basic modal ingredients (counterfactuals, consistency of propositions, etc.). Of course, possible worlds are so philosophically useful, that we had better hope we can build them out of whatever resources our theory of modality gives us.
    Jeremy – I didn’t mean to attribute the delimiter of possibilities view to Leibniz. What I meant to say is that a problem arises if one combines Leibniz’s view of omnipotence with this other view about possibility. Leibniz, I think, does not accept the view about possibility, so the problem does not arise for him. As I understand Leibniz, the possible worlds are the options God chooses among. God’s character guarantees that he will choose the best option but, since Leibniz is a compatibilist, that doesn’t prevent the others from being genuine options. Leibniz famously has several theories of modality, and it is disputed whether they are all consistent (I tend to think they are). It is not clear whether he ever thought that possible worlds should be analyzed as God’s options, nor, admittedly, is it entirely clear that he was proposing his view that God could actualize any possible world as an analysis of omnipotence. But he certainly holds that, in virtue of God’s omnipotence, God can choose any possible world to be actual, and that one of the things that makes the non-actual worlds genuinely possible is that they are genuine options for God (though only in a compatibilist sense). All that is to say, I think I agree with you.

    May 21, 2013 — 11:17
  • Jeremy Pierce

    I’m not sure Leibniz is a compatibilist about efficient-cause determinism, actually. This semester I worked through a lot of his stuff on the subject for the first time in a long time, and I’ve become convinced that he didn’t believe in any efficient causation within minds. Complete concepts guarantee what we will do purely by final causation, which puts him in Augustine’s camp as far as efficient-cause determinism goes. Stoic compatibilism is false about efficient causes and human freedom, but there can nevertheless be a complete guarantee of our actions ahead of time (in final causes) that would be predictable to God from the complete concepts, compatible with freedom, and not by being efficient-caused in any way. Maybe that’s all the compatibilism you mean, but it’s not what we standardly call compatibilism today. I’n not sure any of Locke, Leibniz, or Hume held that view, and all three are usually taught as holding it.

    May 21, 2013 — 11:38
  • Heath White

    Kenny,
    I agree that the Pearce-Pruss theory has an elegant simplicity to it, which appeals to me more than a number of other contenders. But Leibniz is elegant too. I wonder if you can enlighten me about one aspect of the P-P theory.
    When I read the paper (a while ago) it seemed to me that you explained that God did not will contradictions, not because he couldn’t (he could!) but because it would be irrational to do so, and God is super-rational. This seems to me to have a couple of related problems.
    First, and more basically, it seems to get the explanation backwards. Intuitively, the reason it is irrational to will contradictions is that they are impossible; they are not impossible because they are irrational.
    Second, it leaves me wondering why rationality is supposed to be a virtue or a divine attribute. If I were omnipotent, on your view, I could have my cake and eat it too. And if I could, I would, because I think my life would be better: I could consume an infinite amount of delicious cake from only finite cake-resources. Suppose you tell me I should not do this because it is irrational. I am going to ask you, in that case, what is so great about rationality. All it does is prevent me from eating tons of cake. And do not reply that it will make me fat or sick to my stomach or anything like that, because if I were omnipotent I could eat tons of cake and NOT get sick to my stomach, etc.
    Obviously God is not too interested in eating cake (but why not?) but if contradictions were willable then he could have libertarian free creatures who could not sin, libertarian free creatures whom he could control, all the benefits of the Atonement without any of the unhappy antecedents, the virtues of soul-making without the confusing epistemic distance they require, and so on. In short, he could have whatever goods you like without any evil, and so the problem of evil becomes extremely hard. And what is preventing these potential great goods is an otherwise unexplained devotion to divine rationality.
    At any rate, those were the sticking points for me, and if I am missing something or if there is some deeper explanation I’d be interested to hear it.

    May 21, 2013 — 12:13
  • Kenny Pearce

    Interesting. Here are three reasons for thinking Leibniz is an efficient causal determinist in the late (post-1704) period. First, his talk about the ‘individual law of the series’ (which replaces the earlier ‘complete individual concept,’ though I’m not sure this is a substantive change) sure sounds like an efficient causal law. Second, the ‘weights in a balance’ metaphor in the Clarke correspondence sure sounds like efficient causation. (On the other hand, the ‘striving possibles’ story sure sounds like final causation.) Third, by pre-established harmony, everything should have an efficient cause as well as a final cause.
    In any event, it is, I take it, uncontroversial that Leibniz endorses the compatibility of freedom with Laplacian determinism, i.e. the view that, given complete information about the state of the world (including its laws) at one time one can in principle derive its state at any other time. This is one of the compatibility claims debated in the free will literature. (For instance, Van Inwagen uses this kind of definition of determinism.) This is primarily what I had in mind, but here as elsewhere Leibniz is quite subtle, and it pays, both interpretively and philosophically, to sort out these details.

    May 21, 2013 — 12:24
  • Kenny Pearce

    Heath – We don’t say that God could will contradictions. (In fact, we very carefully don’t say anything about what God ‘can’ ‘is able to’ or ‘has the power to’ do. I will be presenting a paper on the relationship of omnipotence to the ordinary concept of power or ability at this conference in August, and will try to address some of these issues.)
    Regarding God’s willing contradictions, we make the following three claims: (1) it is impossible that God should will a contradiction; (2) God is perfectly free in his willing; (3) if God should will a contradiction, then God would intentionally bring it about that that contradiction was true. We defend the (perhaps non-obvious) claim that these three propositions are consistent. However, in order for them to be consistent, it must be the case that God necessarily values rationality (including logical consistency), and he must value it intrinsically and not merely instrumentally. It seems that the heart of your objection is the claim that rationality is only instrumentally valuable, hence if one could will irrationally and nevertheless get everything one wills, then one would be better off being irrational. That just seems false to me.
    Your point about evil does put some pressure on this view, though. It seems that I’ve got to say that it is better for God to permit evil than to bring about contradictions. I think I’m prepared to say that, but I’ll admit that I do feel some intuitive pull in the other direction.

    May 21, 2013 — 12:37
  • Heath White

    Kenny,
    Thanks for the reply. You are right that I do not find myself thinking that rationality (viz. the refusal to will contradictions, when one can make them true) has any instrinsic value. In fact I am a little puzzled why God would place *any* value on rationality as you describe it. What’s so great about a world devoid of contradictions?
    Non-contradictory beliefs have value, in the actual world, because contradictory beliefs can’t all be true, and true belief is some kind of a good. That can’t be the source of the value you seek. Non-contradictory volitions have value, in the actual world, because you can’t accomplish contradictory volitions, and frustrated wills have some kind of disvalue. But that can’t be it either. Contradictory states of affairs, in the actual world, are simply impossible and there’s no question of their being valuable or disvaluable. There is some kind of value to a world which behaves consistently, because it is intelligible to us creatures, but a Pearce-Pruss omnipotent God could make an inconsistent world intelligible to us creatures.
    So yes, I am rather puzzled about the value, intrinsic or instrumental, of a contradiction-free world.

    May 21, 2013 — 13:05
  • Jeremy Pierce

    I think the clearest place where I saw this is “The Ultimate Origin of Things”. That is an earlier work than what you’re referring to, but it seemed to me to fit well with the “Monadology” and “Principles of Nature and Grace” summaries. As of his earlier works, however, he’s quite explicit that reasons incline without necessitating. He says that very plainly in the Arnauld correspondence, for example.
    He also doesn’t seem to be bother much by Locke’s view on the issue in the New Essays, either, and Locke’s view is not compatibilist about freedom and determinism. Locke clearly rejects such a view. Locke says freedom and determinism are not compatible, but voluntariness and determinism are, and it’s voluntariness that we should care about, not metaphysical freedom. Leibniz seems to take Locke’s approach to be very insightful, maybe moreso than with any other issue he tackles in the New Essays. But it’s sort of an argument from silence to take his lack of criticism to be approval of the intricacies of Locke’s view.
    It does seem to me that his treatment of freedom shows more concern for the foreknowledge problem than for any issue with determinism, which would be odd if he were really an efficient-cause determinist, since the determinist problem looms more large for a determinist, and the foreknowledge problem looms larger for an indeterminist who holds to complete divine sovereignty.
    In any case, I think you’re right that he’s probably hard to pin down because he’s probably got a more nuanced view than we expect. I’m sure it’s more nuanced than Locke. But the Augustinian view that I’ve been taking him to hold is so nuanced.

    May 21, 2013 — 13:14
  • Kenny Pearce

    Heath – Because I am not a consequentialist, I don’t necessarily need to say that a world with evil and no contradictions is better than a world with contradictions and no evil. What I am committed to is only the claim that it is better for God to exhibit a non-contradictory pattern of willing, even if that means permitting evil. On further reflection, since I am a Kantian about ethics, I am already independently committed to that claim. Alex might give you a different answer, though.
    By the way, I think Alex takes claim (1) of my previous comment to imply that God cannot will in a contradictory fashion, and this is obviously an intuitive thing to say: if it’s impossible that God should will in a contradictory fashion, then what sense can be made of the claim that he has the power to will in a contradictory fashion?
    In my paper for the infinity conference, I point out that there are actually two different views consistent with our theory. On the first view, God is free with respect to willing contradictions despite its being impossible that he should will contradictions. On the second view, God is perfectly free despite being unfree with respect to willing contradictions. I so far do not have a position between these two views.

    May 21, 2013 — 13:30
  • Justin Mooney

    Heath and Kenny,
    Regarding the issue of evil: I don’t think it is correct to say that if God can actualize contradictions, then the problem of evil becomes even more difficult. In fact, I think it becomes easier. Certainly, if God could actualize contradictions then he could get any good he wanted without having to put up with any evil to get it. But if he can actualize contradictions, then he can also actualize the contradictory state of affairs that evil exists, even though God exists and has no morally sufficient reason for it.

    May 21, 2013 — 15:15
  • Kenny Pearce

    Justin, I suppose that’s a fair point, but just as it’s a background assumption here that evil in fact exists, so it’s a background assumption that no true contradictions exist. Indeed, Heath and I agree that necessarily there are no true contradictions. I say that if God willed a contradiction then there would be a true contradiction, but this is a counterpossible.

    May 21, 2013 — 15:22
  • Mike Almeida

    Contradictory states of affairs, in the actual world, are simply impossible and there’s no question of their being valuable or disvaluable.
    Heath,
    Contradictory states of affairs are not impossible. They are in fact necessary, since they exist in every world. The state of affairs corresponding to the proposition A & ~A for instance, exists in every world including of course our own. What is doesn’t do in any world is obtain. But what would be bad about it obtaining? It would be bad because such worlds would include every possible pointless evil. That, I think, is one reason it would be bad were it to obtain (it’s a counterpossible of course).
    Kenny,
    I should post something on Morris’s ‘delimiter of worlds’ position, since as far as I can tell, it’s incoherent. God is not a delimiter of worlds any more than worlds are delimiters of God. God cannot delimit a possible world since, especially for moral reasons, worlds exist necessarily if at all. Even impossible worlds exist necessarily, if at all. So, there is no room for God’s activity of delimiting anything. Suppose we agree that the set of all worlds in metaphysical space is M. Suppose M includes worlds that are morally unacceptable to God. It is false that, if God existed, such morally unacceptable worlds would not be in M. What would be true is that there are worlds that are unacceptable to God that he cannot do anytihng about. Not even God can make a possible world non-existent. Not even God can make an impossible world non-existent. He can cause them not to obtain, but that does nothing to solve the problem. I’m currently working on this approach to the problem of evil, so I should probably post something longer on it. Anyway, there’s the nickel version.

    May 21, 2013 — 16:29
  • Kenny Pearce

    Mike, I don’t think that is what Morris has in mind. Suppose we take a view like yours which, if I recall correctly, distinguishes the metaphysically possible worlds as a proper subset of the logically possible worlds. On this kind of view what the ‘delimiter of possibility’ idea would say is that it is due to certain facts about the divine nature (NOT due to God’s free choices or God’s activity) that the demarcation between the metaphysically possible and metaphysically impossible worlds falls where it does.
    Morris, if I understand him, has a view very much like this. If I recall correctly, the way he puts it in his own terminology is that some conceivable states of affairs are not genuinely possible, due to facts about the divine nature. None of this has to do with questions about which worlds exist, it all has to do with which worlds are genuinely possible, and which world is actual. The same goes, as far as I can see, for the whole discussion Heath and I just had. I don’t see where either of us made the mistake of thinking that there would be variation from one world to another about which states of affairs exist.
    I’m not sure what ‘the problem’ you refer to is (surely it’s not the circularity I raised in the post), or what this has to do with the problem of evil.

    May 21, 2013 — 18:23
  • Mike Almeida

    On this kind of view what the ‘delimiter of possibility’ idea would say is that it is due to certain facts about the divine nature (NOT due to God’s free choices or God’s activity) that the demarcation between the metaphysically possible and metaphysically impossible worlds falls where it does.
    So, let me say why this claim about delimiting is false. If God (or his nature or whatever) is delimiting possible worlds, then God’s nature or.., etc., is determining the shape of metaphysical space. But nothing about God is doing that. As I said, you might as well say that metaphysical space is determining the shape of God. Whatever shape metaphysical space has, it has it necessarily, so it is not being delimited in anyway by God or anything else. It is terribly misleading to suggest that conceivable worlds lack genuine possibility because God exists or due to the fact that he has a certain nature. If it were true that certain worlds are not genuinely possible because God has a certain nature, then it would be true that the existence of certain possible worlds would depend on the nature of God. So, ask whether there exists a possible world W that I am conceiving of. The answer Morris gives is that there exists a genuinely possible world W only if God’s nature is a certain way. Otherwise, there is some impossible world W’ that looks possible, but isn’t.
    Is that any better?
    The worlds Morris has in mind are very bad worlds, which he thinks God’s nature precludes. But this is again false, and this is where the problem of evil comes in. If there were such worlds, it would not show that God does not exist, contrary to what Morris seems to think. It would show that there are worlds in which terrible things happen, worlds which God would prefer not to exist. But since such worlds do exist, there is nothing God can do about it. In order for God to prevent such evils from happening, he would have to bring it about that such worlds do not exist. That he cannot do, since it is impossible.
    Concerning Heath’s claim,
    Contradictory states of affairs, in the actual world, are simply impossible and there’s no question of their being valuable or disvaluable.
    I simply noted that all states of affairs, whatever they describe, are necessarily existing, even if necessarily non-obtaining. Maybe that is something he did not intend to deny. I did add that there is a reason they are bad, and that’s because, in any impossible world in which they obtain, so does every possible gratuitously evil state of affairs. That seems like it would be bad.

    May 22, 2013 — 8:01
  • Kenny Pearce

    If there are impossible worlds, then there is no need to say that God’s nature (or anything about God) is determining which worlds exist. God’s nature would instead determine which, among the worlds, were possible.
    I’m not saying this is the best way of developing the view, but it is one way, and I don’t see anything incoherent about it.

    May 22, 2013 — 10:18
  • Mike Almeida

    I think I’ve got you sort of off topic. Sorry, I’ll be brief. Morris holds something like this: horrible worlds such as W are inconsistent with the nature of God. Such a world does not exist, if God does: it is neither an impossible world nor a possible world. Now there might be another world W’ that looks like W but is diverse from W, and is impossible. It is easy to see that W’ is diverse from W since the states of affairs in W and in W’ are different (for instance, W’ includes the state of affairs of W”s being impossible, while W includes the state of affairs of W’s being possible and W’s not being impossible). Since the worlds include diverse states of affairs, the worlds are not identical. It’s just that we can confuse one for the other. So, Morris seems to think that, if God were to exist, it would not be true that W exists (maybe W’ would). But, again my point here, if God were to exist, then W would still exist.

    May 22, 2013 — 11:30
  • Kenny Pearce

    Huh. That’s a different view from the one I had in mind. Where does Morris discuss it? (I don’t remember seeing anything like that in Anselmian Explorations.)

    May 22, 2013 — 16:12
  • Mike Almeida

    Right. I wasn’t doing history of Morris philosophy, I was trying to make sense of what he says on this topic, as were you I take it. He does not say much, as it happens, and what he does say is incoherent.

    May 22, 2013 — 17:46
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Since nobody believes that it’s turtles all the way down, we all start with the assumption that there is a metaphysical ground to reality. According to theism that ground comports with the classical understanding of God. Thus the theistic claim is that the metaphysical ground of reality is personal, free, purposeful, all-good, etc, and which we call “God”. (The naturalist disagrees and claims that the metaphysical ground of reality is non-personal and of a mechanical nature.)
    On theism it is wrong to hold that there is some kind of background givens (be they logical, ethical or aesthetic) that delimit God, or such that God must comport with. For if there were then God would not be the metaphysical ground. Rather God grounds them. Logic holds for God is rational. Ethics holds for God is good. (Similarly on naturalism logic holds because it is a property of mechanical systems. On the other hand what grounds ethics is a well-known problem for naturalists.)
    Leibniz’s view that God chooses, among all possible worlds, the best one and makes it actual – is I think wrong on its face. Our world is the best possible world because that’s the world God actualizes. Not, God actualizes our world because it is the best possible world.
    Similarly to say that the shape of metaphysical space (i.e. the space of what could be actual) is necessary and is not delimited by God – is false. God’s creates that metaphysical space as God wills. Surely not only what is actual but also what might be actual – is subject to how God orders reality.
    There are two related questions here.
    To ask why God wills something is a wrong question, because, again, there are no more fundamental givens which might explain God’s will. Rather God’s will expresses God’s nature. Is God’s nature itself amenable to God’s will? At this juncture we come to the issue of divine simplicity and recognize that God’s nature and will are identical, and that it makes no sense to speak of God’s nature apart from God’s will, or of God’s will apart from God’s nature.
    The right question to ask is why we should believe that God wills something. Thus, we may ask why we should believe that God values rationality. Or, given that the actual world is devoid of contradictions, to ask why God should will it this way. The answer is given by St Anselm’s definition of God as the greatest conceivable being. That definition is epistemic and not ontological. It is based on the fact that God has created us in such a way that, whatever the level of one’s cognitive faculties happen to be, the closest one can come to understand God is by considering the greatest being one can conceive. Thus anybody with the cognitive capacity to see that a rational being is greater than an irrational one should believe that God is rational and therefore actualizes a world without contradictions.
    Finally, to solve the problem of evil is to see that the greatest being one can conceive would create a world similar to ours, including its evils. Since it is sometimes easier to see what is wrong rather to see what is right, there a negative path towards solving the problem of evil, which is to conceive alternative worlds and see that they are not such the greatest being one can conceive would create.

    May 23, 2013 — 0:06
  • Mike Almeida

    Our world is the best possible world because that’s the world God actualizes. Not, God actualizes our world because it is the best possible world.
    This seems open to some obvious counterexamples. If God actualized a world in which everyone suffered terribly and then died, I don’t think it would be good, It would make quick work of any problem of evil, though, since God could just remind us that he actualized the world with the Holocaust and we’d all have nothing to complain about. The larger point is not widely endorsed among theists, fwiw. It’s hard to believe that propositions, properties, worlds, states of affairs, and abstract objects generally do not exist necessarily and independently of God.

    May 23, 2013 — 10:14
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Mike,
    “If God actualized a world in which everyone suffered terribly and then died, I don’t think it would be good”
    True. Only God does not actualize a world in which everyone suffers terribly and then dies.
    Moreover, the theist can easily argue that a world in which everyone suffers terribly and then dies is not among the metaphysically possible ones. God’s nature defines the shape of metaphysical space, and such a world does not belong to it.
    Please observe that the claim “our world is the best possible world because that’s the world God actualizes” represents a straightforward argument from basic theistic premises:
    1. Something is good to the degree that it comports with God’s nature. (theistic premise from the ontology of value)
    2. Whatever is directly created by an all-powerful person maximally comports with that person’s nature. (analytic premise).
    3. God is an all-powerful person. (basic theistic premise)
    4. Therefore, whatever is directly created by God maximally comports with God’s nature. (from 2 and 3)
    5. Therefore, whatever is directly created by God is maximally good. (from 1 and 4)
    6. God directly creates the actual world. (basic theistic premise)
    7. Therefore, the actual world is maximally good. (from 5 and 6)
    Logic then requires the theist to hold that what makes our world maximally good (or the “best possible” one) is precisely that it is actualized (or “directly created”) by God. To think otherwise would be inconsistent.
    Incidentally, I am not sure that #1 is only a theistic premise. It seems to me that any ontology of value must ground them on what’s metaphysically ultimate. And since values are by their nature variable, they can’t themselves be identified with what’s metaphysically ultimate.
    “It’s hard to believe that propositions, properties, worlds, states of affairs, and abstract objects generally do not exist necessarily and independently of God.”
    Actually I think it’s clear that propositions, properties, possible worlds, states of affairs, abstract objects, epistemic principles (and in general anything meaningful propositions may refer to) do depend on the properties of reality’s metaphysical ground. Thus, since on theism God is the metaphysical ground, all of these depend on God (perhaps indirectly – I am thinking of the deliverances creaturely freedom as well as of random physical events).
    Of course not everyone accepts theism’s basic premises. I think a measure of clarity would enter the philosophical discourse if we’d agree on the relative job descriptions of philosophers. Theistic philosophers should build the best philosophy they can based on theistic premises (and deal with its special problems such as the problem from evil). Naturalistic philosophers should build the best philosophy they can based on naturalistic premises (and deal with its many special problems). Agnostic philosophers should study the best theistic and naturalistic philosophies and judge which is more reasonable. Actually, I find it interesting that the philosopher is not required to assume only one of these roles, but can productively change hats among them. One may try to be the best theistic, the best naturalistic, and the best agnostic philosopher one can – while of course keeping the roles apart.
    Finally, since one’s assumptions about the metaphysical ground affect everything including one’s epistemology, there can’t really be any philosophy which is independent from metaphysics. Take for example philosophy of science. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the philosopher’s approach will be affected by her metaphysical assumptions. For example in comparison to the theist the naturalist will feel more attracted to scientific realism, will feel less bothered by the implausibilities entailed by some interpretations of quantum mechanics, will feel more bothered by the deep mathematical nature of physics, and so on.

    May 24, 2013 — 7:22
  • Mike Almeida

    Dianelos,
    On the one hand you say, this,
    Our world is the best possible world because that’s the world God actualizes. Not, God actualizes our world because it is the best possible world.
    That our world is one of the best possible because it has the property of God actualizing it. From this it follows that whatever God actualizes is thereby good. But then, as always occurs in these discussions, you want to take it back. You want to say that it is not God’s actualizing that is sufficient for something being good, contrary to what you say above. You now want to say that God’s nature (presumably his goodness) contrains his choices (perhaps constrains what’s possible, though I think this is incoherent for reasons I offer above) to just the good choices. That’s here:
    Only God does not actualize a world in which everyone suffers terribly and then dies..Moreover, the theist can easily argue that a world in which everyone suffers terribly and then dies is not among the metaphysically possible ones. God’s nature defines the shape of metaphysical space, and such a world does not belong to it.
    So, now we’re back the position that there are good worlds and bad worlds independently of God choosing it, and God’s goodness contrains his choices of worlds to actualize to just the good ones. This position takes back the view that God is the metaphysical ground of everything. The dialectic here is old, since it goes back to Plato’s Euthyphro.

    May 24, 2013 — 18:27
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Mike,
    “That our world is one of the best possible because it has the property of God actualizing it. From this it follows that whatever God actualizes is thereby good.”
    Yes. “Whatever” meaning whatever God really actualizes, or might have chosen to actualize – not whatever we may imagine God actualizing. And I tried to show that the above is not an ad-hoc claim but follows from more basic premises.
    “You now want to say that God’s nature (presumably his goodness) constrains his choices […] to just the good choices.”
    No, I don’t want to say that. I want to say that what God actualizes is maximally good precisely because it is what God chooses, and therefore perfectly comports with God’s nature, which nature is the ground and measure of all value. There are no “good choices” beyond, for God’s nature to use as a standard and constrain God’s choices with.
    Finally I’d like to observe that even in the context of the human condition it doesn’t always make sense to say that one’s nature “constrains” one’s choices. Consider for example a normal adult having a spaghetti dinner with her friends. Given her nature it is impossible (has zero probability) that she will make the choice to suddenly pour the spaghetti over her head. But it makes no sense to say that her nature constrains her from making that choice, or to say she is not free to make that choice. She is perfectly free to make that choice, but her nature defines the shape of metaphysical space in such a way that her making that choice is metaphysically impossible.

    May 25, 2013 — 18:43
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