Hiddenness and the Necessary Condition Fallacy
October 6, 2014 — 22:10

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Existence of God  Tags:   Comments: 17

There is an old Soviet joke. A visitor arrives in the Soviet Union and by the airport he sees two workers with shovels. The first digs a hole. Then the second covers up the hole. He asks the workers what they are doing. They say: “The worker who puts the trees in the holes didn’t show up.”

The joke illustrates this fallacy of practical reasoning:

  1. I have good (very good, excellent, etc.) reason to make p hold.
  2. A necessary condition for p is q.
  3. Thus, I have good (very good, excellent, etc.) reason to make q hold.

There is good reason to plant a tree. Digging a hole and filling in a hole are necessary conditions for planting a tree. But that only gives one reason to dig the hole when one expects a tree to be put in, and it only gives one reason to fill in the hole when the tree has been inserted.

One’s reason to make p hold transfers to a similar weight reason to make the necessary condition q hold only when it is sufficiently likely that the other conditions needed for p will come to be in place.

We can call inferences like (3) instances of the Necessary Condition Fallacy.

Now consider this familiar line of thought.

  1. If God exists, then for each sufficiently epistemically rational person x, God has an overriding reason to bring it about that x enters into a love relationship with him.
  2. A necessary condition for a sufficiently epistemically rational x‘s entering into a love relationship with God is that x will believe that God exists.
  3. A necesasry condition for a sufficiently epistemically rational x‘s coming to believe that God exists is x‘s having evidence of God’s existence.
  4. So, a necessary condition for a sufficiently epistemically rational x‘s entering into a love relationship with God is that x have evidence of God’s existence. (5 and 6)
  5. So, if God exists, for any sufficiently epistemically rational human x, God has an overriding reason to bring it about that x has evidence of God’s existence. (4 and 7)
  6. But what God has an overriding reason to do always happens.
  7. So, if God exists, every sufficiently epistemically rational person has evidence of God’s existence.
  8. But not every sufficiently epistemically rational person has evidence of God’s existence.
  9. So God doesn’t exist.

But the derivation of (8) is a clear instance of the Necessary Condition Fallacy.

So the question now is whether there is a way of deriving (8) without making use of this fallacy. If it were the case that

  1. every sufficiently epistemically rational creature would be very likely to enter into a love relationship with God upon receiving evidence that God exists,

then (8) would have some plausibility. (I say “some”, because I am not sure the overridingness transfers from (4) to (8) given merely a high probability of success in producing a love relationship.) But (13) is not particularly plausible, especialy given that it seems likely that there are people who rationally believe in God but don’t love him. (One thinks here of the line from the Letter of James about demons who know that God exists and tremble—but surely don’t love.)

Objection: Even if God sees that a person is unlikely to enter a relationship with him, why wouldn’t he at least try, by providing the person with evidence of his existence? What does God have to lose here? (This objection is basically due to Heath White.)

Two responses:

(i) It’s generally intrinsically worse when someone who knows about God’s existence doesn’t love God than if someone ignorant of God’s existence doesn’t love God. Moreover, it can be instrumentally worse: when someone who knows about God’s existence doesn’t love God, that bad example can make it harder for others to have a good relationship with God (hypocrisy is harmful). So there is something to be lost by giving someone knowledge that God exists when the person is unlikely to love God.

(ii) It’s likely that there are some cases where the probability of ultimately loving God is higher if instead of revealing himself at t1, God waits until t2 for the person to mature morally and/or psychologically before revealing his existence. For instance, living longer without believing in God might lead the person ultimately to become more firmly convinced that there is no happiness apart from God. And ultimately loving God can be much more important–infinitely more important, if people live forever–than the benefits of the extra love of God between t1 and t2 should God reveal himself earlier. Given eternal life, God has reason to optimize the time at which belief in God starts so as to optimize the chance of ultimately coming to love God.

Granted, one might wonder how widespread cases like (i) and (ii) are. I suspect they’re not very rare. But in any case the argument from hiddenness is supposed to hold that if God existed, then no epistemically virtuous agent could ever lack evidence for God’s existence. And to cut down that claim, all that’s needed is for (i) or (ii) to be logically possible.

Final remark: It could also be that some people if they come to believe and have a relationship of love with God at t1 are more likely to lose that relationship than they would be if they matured more prior to believing and entering into the relationship. One thinks here of Jesus’ parable of the house built on sand.

Comments:
  • Your criticism suggest the following fix:

    Replace 8 with: 8* So, if God exists, for any sufficiently epistemically rational human x (who meets all other necessary conditions for entering into a loving relationship with God), God has an overriding reason to bring it about that x has evidence of God’s existence.

    Replace 10 with 10* So, if God exists, every sufficiently epistemically rational person (who meets all other necessary conditions for entering into a loving relationship with God) has evidence of God’s existence.

    Replace 11 with 11*But not every sufficiently epistemically rational person (who meets all other necessary conditions for entering into a loving relationship with God) has evidence of God’s existence.

    The argument, so constructed, does not commit the necessary condition fallacy that you describe.

    I think that we could probably get away with something weaker than the parenthetical I’ve added, perhaps something like: (who is likely to meet all other necessary conditions for entering into a loving relationship with God).

    Are there sufficiently rational people who very likely meet the other necessary conditions for having a loving relationship with God but who lack sufficient evidence of God’s existence? It is possible that I am wrong about what those other necessary conditions might be, but I will self-report as being such a person. And I know many similar others.

    October 9, 2014 — 8:02
  • Suppose the other necessary condition that’s needed is a free choice to love God. But that free choice must come after one comes to believe in God–a conditional choice to love God should one find out that he exists is not the same thing. (After all, we do make conditional choices, and then change our minds.)

    Then it may not make sense to say that the other necessary condition is met. If Molinism or compatibilism are true, it might, but Molinism and compatibilism are false.

    I do think there is one kind of case that escapes this. It may be that unbeknownst to you, you already love God. In that case the free decision may have already been made. But then belief (or at least explicit belief) isn’t necessary for love of God, and so the argument breaks down.

    I suggest instead replacing 8* with:

    8**. So, if God exists, for any sufficiently epistemically rational human x who is likely to love God upon coming to belief, God has an overriding reason to bring it about that x has evidence of God’s existence.

    But estimating these probabilities is tricky, even in one’s own case. Our self-knowledge is far from perfect. So it would be hard to be confident that there are people who satisfy the antecedent of 8** but who don’t believe.

    Also, there are other worries about 8**. Suppose that the probability is high that x would come to love given x believing now, but the probability that x would come to love given x coming to believe in ten years is even higher. Then God would have good reason to wait with producing the evidence.

    Or suppose that although the probability is high that x would come to love given x believing now, but the probability of x persevering in love is lower given x believing now than the probability of x persevering in love given x believing in ten years.

    October 9, 2014 — 10:14
    • “But estimating these probabilities is tricky, even in one’s own case. Our self-knowledge is far from perfect. So it would be hard to be confident that there are people who satisfy the antecedent of 8** but who don’t believe.”

      I’m not sure about that. I agree that self-knowledge is limited (I tend to agree with Schopenhauer that we learn about our own character just as other people do,by observing our actions). Nonetheless, I find it difficult to imagine that I might freely choose not to love an omnibenevolent being. I, like many people, I believe, tend to love those who love me, especially when I know that they care about my best interests.

      Suppose, then, that a significant percentage of humans have reciprocal affection tendency = X has reciprocal affection tendency just in case ∀Y (If Y loves X. and X believes that Y cares about X’s interests, X is inclined to love Y). Suppose further that the tendency is made stronger the stronger X’s reasons to believe that Y has X’s best interests at heart. It is highly likely that anyone with this tendency will freely choose to love God.

      October 10, 2014 — 7:14
  • Jason:

    That’s an excellent point.

    I think that thinking it through forces a deepening of both my and Schellenberg’s positions. Would God be after just any love? Or is he after something more? Both Judaism and Christianity hold that he wants us to love him “with all our mind [levav: mind understood broadly including both intellect and emotion], all our soul, and all our might.” It is the typical experience of Christians that gaining a love of God that is adequate to what we owe God – God is surely more deserving of our love than our closest relatives, friends or ourselves – is a lifelong endeavor where one gradually overcomes character flaws that stand in the way of this love. It is also an endeavor that some give up on.

    So a story not as shallow as the one I gave before would have to talk of something like the expected level of the eventually resulting love. The Dalai Lama says that although one cannot attain perfection apart from Tibetan Buddhism, some people have a pattern of character flaws that religions other Tibetan Buddhism are better suited to ameliorating. Thus, for these people, it is worthwhile to have one or more lifetimes in religions other than Tibetan Buddhism prior to a final lifetime in Tibetan Buddhism. While I reject reincarnation, I can see how the same thing could be true within a lifetime, and how the subtle and difficult work of character building may in some cases – maybe many cases – call for a preparation outside of Christianity and even outside of faith in God. One also thinks here of how a good therapist carefully chooses the timing on which mistaken beliefs to eliminate in the client.

    It would not seem at all surprising if in some people there was an advantage in God’s first building up emotional maturity and love of neighbor before building up love of himself. An advantage of this approach is that there would be less to unlearn in the person’s love of God once the person comes to grow in the love of God. A disadvantage is that the person won’t benefit from the cross-fertilization between (explicit) love of God and love of neighbor. It would not be surprising, however, if sometimes the one approach were more effective and sometimes the other.

    For some of us, what love of neighbor we have is in significant part a result of a highly imperfect love of God. For others, it might go the other way around, with a more perfect love of God being the culmination of a life of love of and service to neighbor (and then in the love of God one might see that life of love of neighbor as already a love of God, though that’s a different paper that I’m co-working on).

    Most therapists insist that they customize their approach to their client. (Amusingly, I am told, the same research that finds that most therapists say this also finds that most therapists don’t actually do it. But God practices what he preaches.)

    October 10, 2014 — 8:43
  • Alexander:

    Your suggestion that the hiddenness argument discussed in your post reflects a “familiar line of thought” and your reference to me in one of your comments give the impression that the argument as stated is mine (or at least one to which I am committed by my own reasoning). But that is not the case. I would ordinarily not interject in this way: there are many possible hiddenness arguments and many possible reasons for discussing them. But I wouldn’t want people to think that this is my argument. In the first premise alone there are three deviations from my own reasoning. (Anyone who wants to see what I have actually said may consult my writings on hiddenness — the most recent example of which appears at my website in a paper called “Divine hiddenness and human philosophy.”)

    Let me take this opportunity to make a more general point. We philosophers often read badly and state arguments more with an eye to our own concerns than with the intent to reproduce faithfully what someone else has said. No doubt my own concerns have something to do with the fact that I see this rather often where theistic philosophers purport to state atheistic arguments! But I think it is worth pointing out that it occurs in these precincts too (no doubt among atheists as well) — sometimes, as in the present case, with the added feature of misstatements that make the argument easier to criticize. In other contexts — just for example, take free will discussion and the well known consequence argument — philosophers bend over backwards to state clearly and precisely and correctly every move in the reasoning at issue, but so often in the philosophy of religion this does not occur. It would be fun to speculate about causes, but I am much more interested in whether we cannot cause this unfortunate practice to cease.

    October 10, 2014 — 11:49
  • Indeed, the exact line of thought I gave isn’t one you’re committed to. I apologize for giving the impression it is. It’s still, I think, a familiar line of thought. But I overestimated how close it is to yours.

    Your arguments do not commit the fallacy. I still think, however, that working through the fallacy helps us understand the issues, including your argument.

    It’s crucial to your argument that God would provide every necessary condition for love (or at least for the positive and meaningful relationship you talk about) other than the agent’s trying. If the fallacy weren’t a fallacy, we would have good reason to think this.

    Thinking through the fallacy focuses one’s attention on cases where the agent has good reason to think the remaining necessary conditions wouldn’t be supplied. In your cases the remaining necessary condition is the creature’s response.

    Such cases will, I think, also be problematic for your argument. For while openness to a love relationship with a person is a good thing, it is not nearly the good that the actual love relationship would be. But that, in turn, means that it is easier to justify why God might not be open to the relationship. For instance, he might not be open if he knew that a love relationship would not likely eventuate and that it was worse for the person to refuse a love relationship with God than to be incapable of one. Likewise, he might not be open if he knew that a love relationship would not likely eventuate and the witness of someone believing but not loving would make other believers less likely to love God.

    Likewise, God might not be open if he knew that a love relationship initiated now would likely be less lasting than a love relationship initiated after a longer maturation process would be. But that’s a somewhat different matter.

    October 10, 2014 — 12:40
    • Apology accepted! And thanks for your clarifications and further points.

      These attempts to “justify why God might not be open to the relationship” — except for the second, which is interesting, though still a version of the strategy to which I am about to respond — have been made and discussed several times in the literature (indeed, they appear in the earliest exchange on my argument: the 1996 discussion between Dan Howard-Snyder and me in CJP). The general strategy here, which involves reflection on what God might know ahead of time about the likely consequences of openness to relationship of the sort in question, misses (at least) a couple of things.

      The first is the fact that such openness would necessarily provide part of the context for practical reasoning on the part of a perfectly loving God, rather than itself providing something for God to reason about. (There is much on this in the literature, as well as in my most recent piece on hiddenness, mentioned previously.) So anyone who wants to make this sort of move is committed to saying that God might for a time not be loving toward someone. That is is rather costly.

      The second is the fact that God’s love would come with resources for dealing with relationship problems of which human lovers can only dream. (Again, I won’t go into the details as they are thoroughly discussed in the literature.) Ironically, theists often underestimate the greatness of the God they extol. Hence even if my first point were to be incorrect, the strategy in question would fail.

      October 10, 2014 — 13:49
  • Thanks, John. This is very helpful (especially the Howard-Snyder piece which has just about everything I thought of, and more). Hiddenness has not hitherto been a deep interest of mine, and much of what I thought I knew was just due to informal chats with others. It’s good to be reminded of the limitations of information gleaned from such chats, and I am grateful for your patience.

    That said, it still seems to me that there are times when the *loving* thing to do is not to be open to a relationship at a given time. This is quite clear in extreme cases. Fred has a child who doesn’t know about him, and Fred knows that if he reveals his existence now to the child, the child is very likely to murder him. The loving thing for Fred to do may well be to hide his existence from the child so as to protect his child from becoming a murderer. For exactly the same kind of reason, it can be very much a loving thing to separate oneself from an abusive spouse so as not to provide him or her with temptations towards serious wrongdoing.

    Granted, God’s love comes with great resources. But if these resources respect the beloved’s autonomy, it seems very plausible that they are resources that take time to deploy. In the meantime, the loving thing may be to deploy the time-consuming resources rather than either employ resources that respect the beloved’s autonomy less well or be open to a relationship for which the beloved is unready.

    Let me end with a question. It’s kind of cheeky, and not deeply important in itself, but I am hoping your answer will help me understand your position better. Suppose that Sam is in the kind of position you think God would ensure all persons are: he can love God just by trying. But suppose–as is surely compatible with this–that Sam doesn’t actually love God. Could God allow Sam to fall dreamlessly asleep for the night? For, if Sam fell dreamlessly asleep, he couldn’t love God just by trying, since he couldn’t try to love God while dreamlessly asleep. (I assume that a necessary condition for being able to love God just by trying is to be able to try.)

    October 10, 2014 — 15:13
    • That is cheeky! Fortunately it’s also amusing in a way that counters cheekiness.

      The argument does not, as you say, make the claim that God would ensure “all persons” were in the relevant position. It says that any finite person created by God who possessed the relevant capacities and did not resist would be in that position. What are the relevant capacities? In the paper to which I’ve referred you, I say “these would involve such things as a capacity at the time in question to feel the presence of God, recognizing it as such; a capacity to exhibit attitudes of trust, gratitude, and obedience to God, and so on.” There are various ways to lack “at the time in question” such capacities. What you’ve pointed out is that one of them may involve being in a state of dreamless sleep!

      Your “extreme cases” suggest you may be assuming more content for the relevant notion of openness than it actually possesses: it’s easy to blur the idea of not doing anything oneself to prevent someone from being in a position to relate to one, which that notion does include, with thoughts about making advances or being present to the other or within easy reach, physically or emotionally, and so on, which it does not include. Furthermore, if God were open to relationship in the way I have described, then belief in God’s existence would not come suddenly and intrusively in the middle of a life, as some of what you say suggests it might. It would always be there.

      It’s important to see that relationship-related resources “take time to deploy” even when there is openness from the beginning. This is clear in parent-child relationships, which can continue to grow until parent or child passes away. It would certainly be true for relationships between God and finite persons. So why should we think that a perfectly loving God might postpone openness, in the minimal sense which conveys all that the hiddenness argument requires, especially when God could work comfortably within any situation suitably autonomous finite persons might choose to create in response?

      October 10, 2014 — 17:44
  • John:

    My unknown-parent case seems to fit “Not Open” on page 17 of your “Divine Hiddenness and Human Philosophy” paper (which I am grateful for the pointer to, as I really like a lot of it): “a person A [the child], without having brought about this condition through resistance of personal relationship with a person B [Fred], is at some time in a state of nonbelief in relation to the proposition that B exists, where B at that time knows this and could ensure that A’s nonbelief is at that time changed to belief.” So by “Not Open”, it follows that “it is not the case that B is open at the time in question to having a personal relationship with A then.”

    Since there is nothing in Fred’s attitude as I’ve described it that is less than perfectly loving, it follows either (a) that the criterion of not being open is wrong, or (b) not being open is compatible with being perfectly loving.

    The response to the sleep seems just right as far as the example goes. But it seems to me that your Not Open is no more plausible than:
    “Necessarily, if a person A, without having brought about this condition through resistance of
    personal relationship with a person B, is at some time in a state of unconsciousness, where B at that time knows this and could ensure that A’s unconsciousness is at that time changed to consciousness, then it is not the case that B is open at the time in question to having a personal relationship with A then. “

    October 10, 2014 — 18:26
    • Interesting points, though there is still some confusion. On the last point: as indicated at p. 13 of the paper, openness and non-openness are being understood as properties that can be displayed only towards individuals who have the relevant capacities. If I should be worried about your version of Not Open, then I should also be worried about this: “Necessarily, if a person A, without having brought about this condition through resistance of personal relationship with a person B, is at some time severely mentally handicapped in a relationship-inhibiting way, where B at that time knows this and could ensure that A’s mental handicap is at that time changed to robust mental health, then it is not the case that B is open at the time in question to having a personal relationship with A then.“ Because of the tacit constraint I mentioned, I don’t need to be worried about this; for the same reason I need not be worried about your version of the principle.

      But, you may protest, an omnipotent God could surely remove that handicap — and remove any other capacity-inhibiting features for finite persons. And wouldn’t a loving God do so? Perhaps. But, as already indicated in my 1993 book on the subject (p. 26, n. 19), this is not the argument I have chosen to develop. This changes the subject.

      As to your first point: if the child is disposed in such a way as to make it likely that he will murder Fred, can he have the affective capacities required for a positively meaningful relationship with Fred — and so for the applicability of Not Open?

      October 10, 2014 — 19:40
  • John,

    Thanks for your patience.

    I think page 12 suggests that one can be open or not open to a relationship with any person, not just those who have presently actualizable capacities for the relationship. This is intuitively right. After all, plainly we can be open or not open to a relationship with someone who is presently asleep. You can introduce a notion of “open” that doesn’t allow the distinction in the case of someone who is presently asleep, but this seems stipulative.

    And is there a big difference between a case where someone’s head is turned away from us and they would have a relationship with us if only we called their name so that they would turn their head and see us, and someone who is asleep and would have a relationship with us if only we called their name so that they would wake up and open their eyes and see us? Of course, there is the difference that it annoys people more to wake up than to turn their heads, but that seems entirely contingent.

    The following argument seems quite plausible:
    1. If a perfectly loving God could not allow a person who would be capable of loving him simply by trying to love him given belief in God to lack belief except through the person’s prior avoidance of the relationship, then a perfectly loving God could not allow a person who would be capable of loving him simply by trying to love him given consciousness to lack consciousness except through the person’s prior avoidance of the relationship.
    2. The consequent of 1 leads to absurdity.
    3. So, the antecedent of 1 is false.

    Of course, 1 is just my intuitions here, and your may differ. Or maybe you disagree with 3.

    More seriously, regarding Fred, you ask: “if the child is disposed in such a way as to make it likely that he will murder Fred, can he have the affective capacities required for a positively meaningful relationship with Fred”?

    Given libertarianism, it seems quite possible to have cases where one has a very strong inclination to do the wrong thing and a weak inclination to the right thing, and it is nonetheless within one’s power to do the right thing, but one is unlikely to do so. Maybe the child’s psyche is in such a configuration that there are depths of hatred, but a very unlikely but still possible act of trying to love would shatter these depths of hatred, so that the child is capable of loving simply by trying.

    That said, I am not sure much rests on the extremeness here. I used the extremeness to be a little closer to how I see the God case (where refusing to love God is a very serious moral failing), but I think there are other cases that may be easier to imagine.

    Suppose that Sally did not know that her father Fred had existed. (Maybe she was lied to that she was the result of cloning.) She has a disposition to immediately decide to love Fred as soon as she learns that Fred exists (maybe she believes that Fred is her father if Fred exists, or something like that), and the decision would immediately lead to love. So we don’t even have the probability issue. Fred has finally tracked down Sally, after many years of searching. However, Fred knows that Sally is about to do some very fiddly task that will take an hour and cannot be put off, where success is rationally very important for her, and if she found out about Fred’s existence, she would lose concentration and fail at that task. Maybe she’s about to be interviewed for her dream job, maybe she’s about to perform a quick life-saving surgery, maybe she’s about to compete in the Olympics, or maybe she will soon be landing an airplane by herself for the first time. It is not less than perfectly loving of Fred to delay revealing his existence to Sally by an hour, even though all the conditions of Not Open are satisfied. Thus, either being not open doesn’t imply being less than perfectly loving, or Not Open is false.

    October 10, 2014 — 20:27
    • No worries. If the waters are still muddy, maybe we can make them clearer by stirring them a bit longer.

      There is a sense in which to speak of someone’s openness to relationship with another at a time when the latter is incapable of relationship is confused (or at least suggests that the former is confused). That is the sense I intend.

      To accept your 1, one must accept that not being in a position to love given unconsciousness is relevantly similar to not being in a position to love given nonbelief. But I doubt that it is. Without belief in God’s existence one could not be in a relationship with God of the sort in question at all whereas one could be in a relationship with God while unconscious if one started out in such relationship earlier, when the opportunity to do so first arose (much as I am in a relationship with my wife even when both of us are sleeping — a condition I hope to inhabit soon; it’s later in Nova Scotia than in Texas! — by virtue of the persistence of the relevant dispositions, which had their beginning earlier and needn’t at each of a certain set of times be manifested in order to exist at each of those times).

      Your Sally case, it might be said, is one in which Fred — unlike God, notice — cannot be both fully benevolent and actively aiming at relationship at the same time. Both, however, are required for love (as opposed to simply benevolence), and so at the time in question – things may be different in an hour! – Fred is not perfectly loving toward Sally because not in a state in relation to her properly called love at all. Love has been postponed.

      Of course one could also deal with such cases by backing away from the claim that non-openness always signals a lack of love, and do so without harming the hiddenness argument, if one could successfully argue that the factors requiring that we back away when talking about humans are necessarily absent in the Divine case. I have taken this route in previous writing.

      There is more to be said about all these things….

      October 10, 2014 — 23:26
  • John:

    “Fred is not perfectly loving toward Sally because not in a state in relation to her properly called love at all.”

    This seems clearly wrong. It may very well be out of love for her that he postpones. Love is partly constituted by appreciation, benevolence and pursuit of union. But what kind of benevolence and what kind of pursuit of union is called for depends on the circumstances, and the perfection of love consists neither in maximal benevolence nor in maximal pursuit of union, but in a wise choice as to that balance of benevolence and the pursuit of union that is appropriate under the circumstances and in the relationship at hand. The pursuit-of-union-in-an-hour is just as much a pursuit of union as a pursuit-of-union-at-the-next-instant (maybe the fact that I am an eternalist makes this more plausible to me?), and when union-in-an-hour fits much better with benevolence than union-at-the-next-instant, then perfect love will not call for the latter.

    Regarding 1, I was thinking of a cases where the unconscious agent wasn’t already in the relationship. Sorry! I should have made this explicit.

    1. If a perfectly loving God could not allow a person who would be capable of loving him simply by trying to love him given belief in God to lack belief except through the person’s prior avoidance of the relationship, then a perfectly loving God could not allow a person who *does not love him* but would be capable of loving him simply by trying to love him given consciousness to lack consciousness except through the person’s prior avoidance of the relationship.

    October 11, 2014 — 0:22
  • One more thought before I go to bed.

    In Fred’s case, it’s not just the benevolent aspect of love that can lead him not to interrupt Sally’s task. It can also be the unitive aspect of love. For by not interrupting her, he promotes her ends, and thus his will is united with hers, whether she knows it or not. Moreover, he is likely to know that while she will love him, she is also likely to be annoyed with him if he interrupts something so important to her. So by not interrupting her, he promotes her ends, which constitutes a union between him and her, and he promotes the good of their future relationship. Moreover, the appreciative aspect of love can contribute to the non-interruption–perhaps he enjoys seeing her excellence in what she does. So all three central aspects of love–benevolence, pursuit of union and appreciation–can come together in motivating Fred not to interrupt Sally. All this seems to be a work of love, and I see no necessary imperfection of love anywhere here.

    (I do think the somewhat more plausible move on your part is the one you allude to, of saying that such cases can’t come up if God is the lover.)

    October 11, 2014 — 0:43
    • These are nice points (I except your revised 1), and I will think more about them.

      I realized that what I initially said about Sally might seem counter-intuitive. (That’s why I used the expression “it might be said”). But I like to experiment with positions that at first seem counter-intuitive, in response to the view about our temporal and possibly developmental immaturity when it comes to these matters enunciated at the beginning of my paper. (In the present case, for example, it is easy for those who oppose the argument to confuse ‘openness at a time to relationship at some time, perhaps far in the future’ with ‘openness at a time to relationship at that time.’) Relatedly: I deploy Not Open to support premise (4) in my present version of the argument, and this job it performs quite well even if we do not think of the non-openness involved here as signalling a lack of love in just any case. The argument does not require that we think this; premise (2) is independently sustained.

      I’m afraid your 1, even as revised, brings complications without illuminations. I assume your person who does not love God mentioned in the consequent has not yet had the opportunity to do so, has not yet been in a position to do so (if she has been in such a position and while in it chose not to love God, then she is unable to be in a relationship with God while unconscious due to her own choice, and we have a relevant difference from the situation described by the antecedent). Now notice the reason why we should accept 1’s antecedent: because we should think of a perfectly loving God having a disposition that involves ensuring that everyone capable is in a position to relate to God from the first moment of such capacity, and only fails to be in such a position subsequently because of resistance. (Notice, parenthetically, that this helps to explain why all human examples of the Sally and Fred sort turn out to be ultimately irrelevant to the hiddenness argument. More relevant are examples of an excellent and unhampered mother’s attitude toward her young child.) So the question is raised: does this disposition also support what is described in 1’s consequent? The answer is no. 1’s consequent implies that God could not allow someone to be, say, sleeping just before the relevant capacities are attained, and there is nothing about the disposition in question that supports this. Indeed, 1’s consequent suggests that there should never be a first moment for the relevant capacities — the persons God creates should always be conscious and so (in this respect) not be finite persons at all! And none of this is supported by the disposition in question.

      I hope these additional thoughts will provide some illumination. In any case, having just returned from a trip that delayed the beginning of a project having nothing to do with hiddenness, and now being conscious myself, I need to turn my attention to other things!

      October 11, 2014 — 8:50
  • I’ve been thinking some more about a line in one of John’s comments: “God’s love would come with resources for dealing with relationship problems of which human lovers can only dream”.

    That’s certainly true, but I think we should be concerned about just how much God can do to get us to love him. It’s a tricky and interesting question. God knows more about us than the NSA. He has persuasive powers that far outstrip those of the world’s best publicity firm. But at the same time, John and I agree that what God is trying to do is to get us to love him, not just buy a product from him or obey him. This puts severe limitations on what he can appropriately do. In romantic relationships, if we make use of too much information and persuasive ability, we become creeps who fail to respect the autonomy needed for the free reciprocation of our love.

    The conditions on the best kind of free reciprocation of love seem to be more stringent than the kinds of conditions that get discussed in the free will literature. There are forms of manipulation that do not take away moral responsibility, but are nonetheless take away the possibility of the best kind of reciprocation of love. If I read all of a woman’s emails and make use of persuasive skills honed through years in the best sales academies, and I thereby persuade her to marry me, she may very well be free and morally responsible in choosing to marry me. But she doesn’t have the kind of freedom that is needed for the best kind of free reciprocation of love.

    If I have superhuman knowledge and persuasive skills and I want to woo someone, I need to be careful not to rely on too much of this knowledge and these skills. The more effective a strategy for wooing, the more one is worried about the other party’s freedom.

    At the same time, some of these freedom-based considerations are defeasible. For instance, a woman may know that the man she loves has a character such that he will almost inevitably reciprocate her love if she saves his life. That would be a bad reason to refrain from saving his life. Likewise, time for a happy life together may be running out, and one may need to make a marriage proposal without the two parties being at the peak of freedom.

    But these are difficult judgments, and it seems to me that in the divine case these are a reasonable area for invoking a limited dose of sceptical theism. We don’t really know how much relationship-fixing by God is too much, for instance.

    November 12, 2014 — 10:56
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