A Multiverse Solution?
January 9, 2015 — 11:15

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Existence of God Problem of Evil  Tags: , ,   Comments: 51

The multiverse solution to the problem(s) of evil (and the problem of suboptimality) is a systematic response to these problems, and one that is fairly popular. Still, lot’s of people have argued against the view (see, for instance, Monton, 2010, Almeida, 2008, 2010) and some use multiverses for other purposes (see O’Connor, 2008). For a nice overview of multiverse approaches (and bibliographic citations) see Klaas Kraay here.

The thought, according to multiverse theorists, is that God necessarily actualizes a possible world W that includes lots of cosmoi, or lots of universes, U0, U1, . . ., Un. All of the universes are actual, so the multiverse is not a pluriverse (for instance, it is not a Lewisian pluriverse). The universes “chosen” (don’t take this too literally) for actualization are the universes (of those worlds) that include an on balance positive value. It is of course a much longer story, and I would argue that it is probably not a coherent story (and, further, not the story that multiverse theorists think they are telling), but this is the basic multiverse thought.

What we know about W is that it contains lots of universes Un. Many of the Un include instances of evil E that are gratuitous relative to Un. For instance, our “world” @ would in fact be just one of the universes U@ in W that includes evil E that serves no greater purpose in U@. But the E in U@ would be necessary to the greatest possible overall good, viz., the good in W. There is no world w’ such that w’ is at least as good as W and w’ does not include E; so E is necessary to the best possible world W or, ☐(W ⊃ E) & ~(∃w)((w ≧ W) & ~☐(w ⊃ E))

So, the modal problem of evil seems solved: there is no evil in any world (recall, there is just one world, W) that is gratuitous. All of the evil in every world (all of the evil in every universe Un in W) is necessary to the greater possible good.

But here’s a question worth thinking about. How could God allow evil E in Un of W that is not necessary to any greater good in Un? The quick and simple answer is that E is necessary to the greater good in W, as spelled out above. But is that true? Had God prevented E in Un, Un would have been better, that’s for sure. But had God prevented E in Un, W would have been better, too, not worse, than it is. So, it certainly looks like E is not necessary to any greater good in W, either. But then W includes gratuitous evil and God could not actualize it. I think this is a deeper problem than it appears to be.

 

 

Comments:
  • Kevin Corbett

    “Still, lot’s of people have argued against the view (see, for instance, Monton, 2010, Almeida, 2008, 2010)”

    Call it a hunch, but I get the feeling you may not actually buy this solution.

    January 9, 2015 — 13:01
  • Michael Almeida

    I do have objections, but I don’t think the view is radically wrong. And maybe the objections are misguided; I know, in retrospect, that some of them are just wrong. The objection in this post is new (new to me, anyway), so that too could be wrong.

    January 9, 2015 — 13:09
  • Turner’s answer is likely to be that if God prevented the evil E in U_n, then U_n would have turned into a better universe U_m; but U_m is already a part of W, and there cannot be two universes of the same type in W.

    It is central to Turner’s story that there cannot be two exactly similar universes. He says that the only way there can be indiscernible objects is if they are distinguished by spatiotemporal relations. But there are no spatiotemporal relations between universes. So there cannot be indiscernible universes.

    (An alternate story could be that diversity is worthwhile, and having two different universes is better than having two of the same.)

    January 9, 2015 — 14:25
  • Michael Almeida

    Hi Alex,

    Yes, I’m sure I’ve heard him say something like this in response to another problem. I don’t recall him saying that, necessarily, distinct universes are not spatiotemporally related (they might share a border, for instance, or they might be earlier or later universes in some sequence of epochs). Nothing in his view, that I recall, precludes these. But I may have missed that.

    On the indiscernibility view, let U0 and U1 be the only universes in W. It cannot be the case that U0 and U1 are indiscernible except for, say, some evil E that occurs in U0, and that is prevented in U1. If U0 and U1 are otherwise indiscernible, then they overlap with respect to some individuals (leaving aside haecceities). All of these universes are actual. So, someone or something (other than a universal) is actually spatiotemporally fully located in U1 and actually fully located in U0. But that’s not possible. So, just as you cannot have indiscernible universes in the multiverse, you also cannot have almost-indiscernible universes.
    But suppose he endorsed something like individual haecceities. In that case, U0 and U1 might be qualitatively indiscernible but contain entirely different individuals. I don’t see any problem with that. And for the same reasons he could have almost-indiscernible universes.
    So, it looks like, for the multiverse M containing U0 and U1, the elimination of E in U0 would yield a better multiverse. What I expected to hear was that it is impossible to eliminate E, since E is (in U0 is) in M and M necessarily obtains! But I think what’s in question is whether M really does necessarily obtain.

    January 9, 2015 — 14:46
  • John Alexander

    Why does one think that Un w/o E is a better universe? In UN w/o E would the language of morality even be possible? It seems that Un w/o E is not a possible world if God is a moral being because such a being would have the language of morality which requires evil.

    January 9, 2015 — 16:14
    • John Alexander

      Good day Michael
      If God is all knowing moral being/agent then He has complete knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, etc., [regardless of the universe(s) He creates.] If God’s knowledge is essential to Him being God then it seems to follow based on the language of morality that He knows that evil is a necessary (albeit not sufficient) cause of certain goods existing (forget about other evils for the time being). This suggests that given the relationship between evil and goodness that if He possesses this complete knowledge and wants to create the BPW, or any world for that matter, then this, or any, actualized world must contain some evil. The word ‘best’ is part of the language of morality which implies that there could be, or have been, worlds that are less good. It also seems to suggest that at any given time t that the amount of E in the BPW is what is necessary to maintain that actualized world’s status of being the best. An analogy to baseball might help: a perfect hitter bats 1.000 while the best hitter might only bat 0.400. It seems (to me) to follow that it is not possible for Him to create (actualize) a world w/o evil unless He also wants a world w/o goods. A .400 hitter is better than a .300 hitter, but worse than a .500 hitter, even if there has never been a .500 hitter. Even a world of perfect hitters requires the idea that a less than perfect hitter is possible, even if never actualized or they would not know that they are ‘perfect.’ Of course it is conceivable that if a world of perfect hitters existed then the game of baseball, as we understand it, would not exist – maybe all games would not exist, but that is another issue. So, it seems to follow that a world containing moral language (games) would need to be a less than perfect world and, given the fact that moral language exists and God knows and utilizes this language, one that cannot be actualized even though it is contingent. God cannot create Heaven although He can create the necessary, albeit not sufficient, conditions for Heaven that if actualized through our efforts allows us to become ‘perfect’ or ‘saved’ beings. This would require that we have some knowledge of what Heaven would be like, but that is another issue indeed.

      January 10, 2015 — 10:18
  • Michael Almeida

    We know that there is a Un without E since evil states of affairs are contingent; I think that answers your question. I’m just not sure, off hand, how the language of morality matters here.

    January 9, 2015 — 16:28
    • Remark

      Hi Dr Almeida,

      But the modal problem of evil claims that there is some evil, insome possible world–in the vastness of metaphysical space–that is gratuitous. To show that that’s mistaken we need to show that there are no instances of evil in any possible world that are gratuitous. (Almeida, M., FPoE, Jan 3, 2015, 10.28)

      Kraay, for example, argues that (necessarily) God creates all and only those universes that are worthy (in terms of their axiological status) of creation and being sustained. The constitute the world, or multiverse. Along the way, various claims may be made about the inter-connectedness (or lack of) these universes, trans-world-identity of individuals (or lack of), and so on. The overall aim is to explain how it is possible that God could create (or has created) the Best Possible World (BPW), so conceived.

      I can’t really see how any of this addresses (in a satisfactory way) the modal problem we started out with, an expression of which is cited above. The ‘old’ problem was this (as far as I can tell): even if the actual world was undeniably the BPW, the modal problem persists because ‘in some possible world – in the vastness of metaphysical space’ there is some evil that is gratuitous. This evil need not be a component of the actual world, its mere possibility is enough to raise the modal problem. Of course, if it was a component of the actual world, then the problem seems even greater.

      The ‘new’ problem is this: even if the multiverse is undeniably the BPW (effectively the G-series of possible worlds actualised), the modal problem persists because in some possible but non-actual universes (effectively the B-series, whose axiological status falls below a certain limit) gratuitous evil exists. Kraay must admit that there are such universes in the vastness of metaphysical space or he would not have stipulated that God creates ‘only’ universes of a certain sort. In short, even if the multiverse amounts to the BPW, we still (as before) have the modal problem.

      January 10, 2015 — 2:32
      • Michael Almeida

        The ‘new’ problem is this: even if the multiverse is undeniably the BPW (effectively the G-series of possible worlds actualised), the modal problem persists because in some possible but non-actual universes (effectively the B-series, whose axiological status falls below a certain limit) gratuitous evil exists.

        But there are no possible, non-actual, universes on the multiverse solution. Everything–every possibility–is actual.

        Kraay must admit that there are such universes in the vastness of metaphysical space or he would not have stipulated that God creates ‘only’ universes of a certain sort

        You’re definitely on to a problem here. It is a problem in what is implied (at least, conversationally) by the the multiverse theoriests description of what God does. It is completely false that God somehow “chooses” the worlds to actualize. Rather, the multiverse exists necessarily and is necessarily actual. That is consistent with God actualizing it (that too is necessary), but it is not consistent with God having any choice in the matter.

        January 10, 2015 — 9:07
        • Remark

          Hi Dr Almeida,

          Okay then. If “everything – every possibility – is actual”, so that no world other than the multiverse is possible; and if (for argument’s sake) every evil in that actuality is ‘absorbed’ in such a way that no particular evil is gratuitous, then the modal problem is solved. Well, it is solved if we can still properly speak in modal terms – i.e., in terms of possibilities that are non-actual or unrealised. Anyway, let’s just say that it’s solved.
          Unfortunately, this sort of argument isn’t available to Kraay, is it? Not if his principal aim is to preserve God’s perfect goodness by explaining that, and how, God has created the BPW. If the actual world (i.e., multiverse) is the only possible world, such that no other, unequal, world is possible, then it cannot be described as the ‘best’. Where there are no comparatives, there can be no superlative.
          Anyway, it’s interesting that we are now moving away from Leibniz and towards Spinoza (for whom I have great respect).

          January 10, 2015 — 10:54
  • Kevin Corbett

    A paper by Stephen Maitzen “Agnosticism, Skeptical Theism, and Mortal Obligation” (http://philpapers.org/archive/MAIAST) might have some implications for this solution. Maitzen says concerning the suffering of children:

    “I find it incredible that a being who merits the label “perfect” could permit, or even risk, a child’s horrible suffering precisely so that we can try to prevent it from occurring or from continuing. Indeed, no being who deserves to be called even “decent” could do that. Any human agent who acted that way would have to be depraved or deranged. Such treatment of a child can only be regarded as morally intolerable exploitation, even if it’s exploitation on the part of the child’s creator. Any being that exploits innocent children thereby fails to merit the description “perfect” or the title of God. It follows, then, that God never risks, let alone permits, a child’s horrible suffering in order to give us a chance to intervene. More generally, because exploiting children by its very nature implies a defect in the power, knowledge, or goodness of the exploiter, no perfect being can possibly exploit children for any reason. Therefore, no perfect God can possibly permit a child to endure suffering (presumably undeserved and unwanted) except as a consequence of something that’s necessary for, or optimal for securing, the child’s own greater good. To apply the point to Ashley’s suffering in particular, no perfect God can possibly permit Ashley’s suffering unless as a consequence of something necessary for, or optimal for securing, Ashley’s greater good. Otherwise, God would be exploiting Ashley for some ulterior purpose. But if God exists then God did permit it, or at any rate Agnosticism can’t tell us to be in doubt about whether God did, for that would commit Agnostics to a degree of skepticism Howard-Snyder seems concerned to avoid. So it must have been for her own good, all things considered.”

    I think this might apply to the universes in W as well – even if they are producing an overall good toward W, that good has nothing to do with them, so they could be seen as being “used”. Then again, I don’t know if Maitzen’s idea of exploitation really holds water – he seems often to base his arguments in an ordinary language philosophy that I find questionable.

    January 10, 2015 — 8:08
    • Michael Almeida

      I’m sympathetic to Maitzen’s concerns about one (fairly standard) view of theodicy. I’m not sure ‘exploitation’ is the right description for what is objectionable here. Maitzen (and many others, incidentally) seem concerned rather with God using one agent’s suffering as a means to some greater good. This is a Kantian objection. I’m not sure the violation of using x as a means in general involves exploiting x. x might use himself as a means, for instance, in ways that are objectionable. Agents might be used as a means in ways that are not objectionable (your waiter is being used as a means).
      But you’re right that the multiverse solution seems vulnerable to this sort of objection. They would probably respond that each evil E in each universe U is itself necessary, and not merely necessary as a means. I’m not sure whether that avoids the problem you raise.

      January 10, 2015 — 9:16
  • Michael Almeida

    Remark,

    Necessitarianism is part of the problem for Kraay’s solution (as it is for Spinoza, and indeed Leibniz, in spite of himself). I don’t see the ‘superlative’ objection, which I’ve seen given to this position before (and that you allude to). The best that can be made of this objection is that the multiverse is not only the best world–in the sense of any unexceeded world–but it is also the worst world–in the sense that there’s none worse. But even that is not a big problem. Multiverse solutions satisfy the strongest principle on moral perfection which requires actualizing a world w for which, there is no w’ that is (even) at least as good as w. It is not merely a best world, it is the best world.

    January 10, 2015 — 11:03
    • Remark

      Hi Dr Almeida,

      Are you suggesting that Kraay is committed to the view that the world (or ‘multiverse’) is as perfect as it could be since it follows of necessity from an absolutely perfect nature? If so, then that’s precisely what Spinoza says in a sentence. But he (Spinoza) says it without resorting to the remarkable stratagem of invoking infinitely many universes of varying degrees of axiological value, requiring some stipulative cut-off point separating the goodies from the baddies. Whatever happened to the Razor?

      January 10, 2015 — 13:58
  • Michael Almeida

    If God’s knowledge is essential to Him being God then it seems to follow based on the language of morality that He knows that evil is a necessary (albeit not sufficient) cause of certain goods existing (forget about other evils for the time being)

    God knows that evils are necessary to certain goods only if it is in fact true that evils are necessary to certain goods. But this does not follow from God’s complete knowledge alone. I don’t know, but you seem to be pressing the idea that good and evil are epistemically correlative: can’t know one without knowing the other (whatever this finally means). Is something like this what you’re saying?

    January 10, 2015 — 11:14
    • John Alexander

      Hi Michael
      That is what I am saying.

      January 10, 2015 — 18:27
  • Michael Almeida

    Are you suggesting that Kraay is committed to the view that the world (or ‘multiverse’) is as perfect as it could be since it follows of necessity from an absolutely perfect nature?

    I’m suggesting (more than suggesting, actually) that Kraay is committed to the view that the actual world (which, in his view, is a multiverse) is necessary. Therefore trivially it is as perfect as it could be (since there are simply no other possibilities).

    This is why I said in the OP that “. . .not a coherent story (and, further, not the story that multiverse theorists think they are telling), but this is the basic multiverse thought.” The story they think they’re telling involves God making the choices among worlds/universes to actualize.

    January 10, 2015 — 14:19
    • Remark

      Hi Dr Almeida,

      All right. But is there anything incoherent in the idea that the universes comprising the BPW are contingent – i.e., freely chosen by God on the basis of His being motivated by reasons of the best? There is indeed, you may say, because God’s reasons determine Him to a particular course of action, rendering any other course impossible. Thus, it is contradictory to suppose that God could have acted otherwise than He did in creating the BPW. In short, the BPW is necessary, not contingent.

      Leibniz drew a distinction between ‘logical’ and ‘moral’ necessity. The opposite of what is logically necessary is contradictory (or impossible) but the opposite of what is morally necessary is not. It is morally necessary, Leibniz said, that God created the BPW but it is not contradictory to suppose that He could have created a lesser world. In this sense, God acted freely and, as a result, the world is contingent while remaining necessary in the sense explained.

      If Leibniz’ distinction is supportable, is it not open to, e.g. Kraay, to call on it? That way, God’s freedom is maintained.

      Spinoza, of course, would have none of it. Yet he claimed that God acts freely. Indeed, God alone is capable of acting freely, for only He acts by the necessity of His own nature. Clearly, necessity and freedom as used here need to be reconciled somehow (if possible).

      I’m just wondering whether supporters of the theistic multiverse have a view which is more Spinozistic than Leibnizian (and ‘necessarily’, not ‘contingently’ so!). Depending on an answer to this the problem of evil will take different forms, of course.

      January 11, 2015 — 4:02
  • Michael Almeida

    All right. But is there anything incoherent in the idea that the universes comprising the BPW are contingent – i.e., freely chosen by God on the basis of His being motivated by reasons of the best?

    Yes, I think it is incoherent. Leibniz did not obviously escape necessitarianism, though he thought he did.

    January 11, 2015 — 9:10
  • Michael Almeida

    John,

    It is a familiar response to the problem of evil that, in some sense, necessarily, there is good only if there is evil or, necessarily, we would know or appreciate good only if there is evil, etc. I don’t find any of these credible, right off. And I haven’t seen a good argument for them. I think I’d understand full well what, for instance, pleasurable experience, even if I’d never had a painful one.

    January 11, 2015 — 9:27
    • Kevin Corbett

      Do you think if might be credible to suppose that, even if we could necessarily appreciate good if there was not evil (and I honestly don’t know who would posit such a thing – for example, angels are supposed to only experience good), there are some shades or maybe (emphasis on the maybe) degrees of good that we experience through the experience of evil. For example, I recall a homily about a boy who lost a toy boat and then found it and, as a result, delighted in it more than he had (the boat is humanity, the boy is Christ – though I think it made more sense). Or, for the mystic in John of the Cross’s vein, there is the experience of the Dark Night of the Soul, the “cup of bitterness” before the mystic vision. This isn’t to say these evils were necessary for the experience of good, but at least in some cases, I think this sort of intuition is valid.

      January 11, 2015 — 10:06
      • Michael Almeida

        Kevin,
        I don’t find it incredible that the experience of evil makes us appreciate the good more. I just don’t know what that fact has to do with the problem of evil. Is the argument supposed to be that a world in which there is evil E and appreciated good G is better than a world in which there is no E, but less-appreciated good G? There are probably instances of good and evil like that, but not all are like that.

        January 11, 2015 — 10:43
        • Jame Eden

          “I don’t find it incredible that the experience of evil makes us appreciate the good more.”

          Having followed this interesting thread from the beginning, I would like to learn more. To begin with, I take it that the fifth word in the quoted sentence, above, should read ‘credible’? In any event, I have arguments which support the appreciation hypothesis, which, in my view, are perfectly credible. Indeed, they are so credible that the existence of evil can be largely explained in terms of that hypothesis. I shall watch the progress of this thread with growing fascination.

          January 11, 2015 — 11:06
    • John Alexander

      Michael
      I am aware that I am traveling down well worn paths re the solution that I am discussing. As to the credibility of this approach, that is something that we might disagree on. I grant that you may well know that you are having a pleasurable experiencing when you are having one in the sense of having a particular feeling about it that you like it and want it to continue, but I take it 1) that there are pleasurable experiences that are not morally good and 2) I would question how you determine the moral value of what you are experiencing if you are not referencing in some way, the distinction between good x’s and bad x’s.

      January 11, 2015 — 17:37
  • Michael Almeida

    No, I meant to say that I don’t find it incredible, as a matter of contingent fact, that we tend to appreciate good more, given the experience of some adversity/evil. That just seems like a platitude. But I don’t see how it helps with the problem of evil. No one is seriously going to suggest, are they, that God is justified in allowing the Holocaust because the event has made us all appreciate not being tortured, humiliated and put to death. Even if it did have that causal consequence (which it clearly has not in many cases), it would not justify allowing that evil.

    January 11, 2015 — 11:15
    • Kevin Corbett

      I don’t think I meant the idea of simple appreciation of good – I didn’t mean “God is justified in allowing the Holocaust because the event has made us all appreciate not being tortured, humiliated and put to death.”

      I don’t know how to express this, but in the first place, this solution to the problem of evil with multiple universes within worlds and other sort of science-fiction sounding things, I don’t think that could really satisfy anyone but a philosopher even if you could prove it was logically air-tight. Jesus was tortured, humiliated and put to death, and if Jesus was the Son of God, it certainly wasn’t just so we could appreciate that we weren’t being crucified, and it certainly did have something to do with what we call the problem of evil, even if I’m not capable of articulating exactly what.

      At the very least, I don’t think this sentiment is just a platitude.

      January 11, 2015 — 11:54
  • Michael Almeida

    this solution to the problem of evil with multiple universes within worlds and other sort of science-fiction sounding things, I don’t think that could really satisfy anyone but a philosopher even if you could prove it was logically air-tight
    It’s not merely philosophy, for what it’s worth, it’s recent cosmology that informs us that we might well be in a multiverse.
    At the very least, I don’t think this sentiment is just a platitude
    I never said it was. I said it is a platitude to claim that we appreciate the good more when we’ve experienced some adversity. And indeed that is a platitude.

    January 11, 2015 — 12:14
    • Kevin Corbett

      I tried to explain that I wasn’t talking about appreciation. But I see that I am unable to explain what I want to, so I’ll just let it go. I’m sorry if I took the thread off-track.

      January 11, 2015 — 12:32
  • Another solution, though obviously not monotheistic, is to posit a hierarchy of ever better gods.

    January 11, 2015 — 17:19
    • Remark

      This, in effect, is part of an argument Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) uses against the Argument from Design (as an explanation of the existence of complex organisms in nature). His premise is that the designer is more complex than the thing designed. God is complex and so he must have a designer that is even more complex. That designer, too, must have a designer that is more complex still, and so on, leading to an infinite regress of designers that is thereby incapable of explaining complex organisms in nature.

      I’m not sure, though, how the hierarchy of gods is a solution to the modal problem of evil, if it can be a solution to anything (except as a putative refutation of the Design Argument). Perhaps you could explain?

      January 12, 2015 — 4:03
      • Michael Almeida

        I expect you’re replying to Eric, but the complexity claim of Dawkins is about as plain a non sequitur as I’ve ever seen. Many theists regard God as simple. How does that preclude creating something complex? To take an obvious counterexample: big blue can do calculations faster and at a much higher complexity than any human being ever will. Its capacities exceed the capacities of its creators.

        January 12, 2015 — 7:55
        • Remark

          Hi Dr Almeida,

          I don’t know whether this thread is as live as it was, but Dawkins’ complexity premise has given me some cause for thought in the past, in trying to grasp its significance and the way in which it should best be understood. I know this is a distraction from the OP, but here goes anyway (and very briefly):

          I don’t think Dawkins is referring to ‘ontological’ simplicity when he talks about designers and the designed. God is ontologically simple in that He is indivisible, ‘one’ and so on. Designed things, like engines, are not ontologically simple because they are divisible, have parts, and so on. I don’t imagine Dawkins is suggesting that ontologically simple things cannot create ontologically complex things: that, for example, God could not create an engine. Rather, I think he must have in mind ‘metaphysical’ simplicity, such that X is more (metaphysically) simple than Y if X has ‘a shorter complete description’ than Y.

          Accordingly, any suggested counter example looks suspicious. For instance, the complete description of big blue might well be shorter than the sum of complete descriptions of all the knowledge-bearers whose contributions, over time, have enabled big blue to exist and function as it does.

          Similarly, a single living cell turns out to be far more (metaphysically) complex than once thought (it’s not a mere clump of jelly). If a single cell is complex in this sense, how much more (metaphysically) complex must God be, whose attributes are infinite in number and degree?

          This could all be spelled out much more clearly and convincingly than there is space for here. The upshot is I don’t think Dawkins’ case can be disposed of as easily as might at first appear.

          I guess this is a topic more relevant to a post on the design argument or some such. Again, apologies for the departure from the OP.

          January 13, 2015 — 3:10
          • Kevin Corbett

            Like Dr. Almeida said, the answer to all these objections most propose is that God is simple, not complex, and the distinction you draw between ontological simplicity and metaphysical simplicity isn’t recognized. You said, for example, “If a single cell is complex in this sense, how much more (metaphysically) complex must God be, whose attributes are infinite in number and degree?” but divine simplicity would say God’s attribute are not infinite in number, but one attribute that the intellect interprets in many ways due to its limitation. Its actual quite a complicated topic, but I think Dr. Almeida is right when he calls this a non-sequitur: Dawkins only made it because he didn’t think theologians would be smart enough to think of such an objection, which they had, because he thinks believers are just sort of dumb.

            January 13, 2015 — 5:29
    • Michael Almeida

      Hi Eric,

      Explain how it solves the problem. I guess you mean that these Gods are all actual, and the worlds they inhabit are all actual?

      January 12, 2015 — 7:34
  • Michael Almeida

    John,

    I’m claiming something that seems pretty uncontroversial. I might have a experience of, say, comfort, and recognize that it is without ever having had an uncomfortable experience. Similarly, for knowing that an experience is bad.

    January 12, 2015 — 7:46
    • John Alexander

      I would reply thusly: we experience the world the way we do because we are the type of being that we are. Language develops as a response to experience and the desire to understand and communicate what we are experiencing. Part of our language seems to be, to use your phrase, correlative. We experience things in contrast to other things, i.e., comfortable/uncomfortable, less comfortable/more comfortable. We know the difference between ‘laying on a bed of nails’ and ‘laying on a down comforter’; one being comfortable, the other not. The fact that we use the words we do indicates familiarity with what the words refer too. So when one says “x is comfortable,” one is also saying ‘x is not uncomfortable.” The phrases are interchangeable w/o loss of meaning.

      Now, what does this have to do with the problem of evil and possible worlds? It can be argued that it is not possible for God, as a moral being using moral language, to create a Un w/o E. The reason for this is that He knows morality ergo He knows Good and Evil and the fact that the existence of evil is necessary for the possibility of certain goods existing that could not exist, and would not exist, unless the evil also existed. God can create a Un with E and the possibility that eventually E will be conquered, etc. and we will be ‘saved’ and know that we have earned our salvation, but He cannot create us a ‘saved’ beings because we would not know we were saved. There is no ‘problem of evil’ for God because God, if He exists, has a reason for allowing evil to exist – He must, given His nature as a moral being and his desire to have beings like us to confront evil and possibly overcome it. The PE becomes one for us – why do we allow evil to exist that we can eliminate and by doing so ‘save’ ourselves. We do not need God to do this, but maybe, for some, it helps.

      January 12, 2015 — 9:34
      • John Alexander

        Michael
        For the record, I do not believe in a theistic God. However, I do think that Hick’s theodicy is very interesting and plausible. I also enjoy Hasker’s defense. Anyway, you have presented a very interesting series of postings – are you working on a paper?

        January 12, 2015 — 9:40
        • Michael Almeida

          It’s a longer project, but it’ll definitely include some papers.

          January 12, 2015 — 9:48
          • John Alexander

            Good luck Michael. I look forward to reading them.

            January 12, 2015 — 15:32
  • Michael Almeida

    So when one says “x is comfortable,” one is also saying ‘x is not uncomfortable.” The phrases are interchangeable w/o loss of meaning.

    This seems to assume that my failing to be uncomfortable entails that I am comfortable. But I might be neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. But aside from that, I don’t deny that being comfortable entails not not being comfortable. But this doesn’t show that I’ve ever had an uncomfortable experience.

    January 12, 2015 — 9:44
    • John Alexander

      I do not think that it does. I am inclining towards accepting your position that one may be comfortable w/o having ever been uncomfortable. I suppose this means that one (GOD) can be good w/o ever being evil. That said, I think that one is still aware of the possible distinctions and knows what these terms mean; I can know what cancer is w/o having cancer. But, this seems consistent with the idea the God cannot create a UN w/o E. Anyway, I suspect that it is time to more on.

      January 12, 2015 — 15:44
      • Remark

        Reply to Kevin Corbett, Jan 13, 5.29

        Hi Kevin,

        You write: “but divine simplicity would say God’s attribute are not infinite in number, but one attribute that the intellect interprets in many ways due to its limitation.” I’m not sure I understand this. You might mean that God has one attribute, but which, in attempting to comprehend it, our limited minds compartmentalize into omnipotence, perfect goodness, omniscience, etc. Or you might mean that, as a spirit, God has only the attribute of thought, of which omnipotence, perfect goodness, omniscience etc. are merely properties. Or you might mean that whatever attribute God has is finite, not infinite. Or you might mean something else.

        I don’t understand, either, what you mean by the distinction I drew ‘not being recognized’ unless you mean that theologians who think about God’s simplicity haven’t dreamed of drawing such a distinction. I believe that the distinction is a plausible one to draw, even if it has occurred to no one yet to draw it. And I believe that, given that distinction, and that it is what Dawkins has in mind when stating his complexity premise, Dr Almeida’s non-sequitur claim needs a bit more support, or explanation.

        It doesn’t matter, of course, whether the distinction to which I refer is Dawkins’ or someone else’s. It’s still a relevant, and plausible distinction to draw. Well, in my view it is; and if it is, then the complexity premise is a greater threat to the design argument that you appear to give it credit for.

        (Again, apologies to Dr Almeida for off-topic scribblings. Obviously, I’ve provoked a reply and guess it deserves a response. Hope you don’t object, Dr. Almeida.) R

        January 13, 2015 — 6:10
        • Kevin Corbett

          I’ve probably explained divine simplicity not as well as I could. I think Edward Fesser has some things on it on his blog, and there might be some stuff on Maverick Philosopher. I’ll just be brief here and say, generally, divine simplicity is the usual rejoinder to this argument, and if you want to see it presented adequately, you can certainly find it around. But like you, I don’t want to get this any further off-topic, so I’ll leave it at that.

          January 13, 2015 — 8:54
          • Remark

            Hi Kevin,

            Thanks for that. Yes, we’ll leave matters there so as not to offend. Were some kindly contributor to start a thread on the design argument, the discussion could flourish there.

            January 13, 2015 — 9:25
          • Michael Almeida

            Divine simplicity is hard to think clearly about. Vallicella’s SEP entry is not useless, but it doesn’t make the view any easier to understand (at least, it doesn’t make it easier for me). Please feel free to continue that discussion on the thread, if you’d like.

            January 13, 2015 — 10:47
          • Kevin Corbett

            I personally don’t think I understand divine simplicity enough to carry on a discussion about it. As Dr. Almeida suggests, the article on Maverick Philosopher might be a good starting point, or the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-simp/. There’s a philosopher called Brian Davies who has written on it quite extensively as well, though I have only read him on unrelated topics.

            January 13, 2015 — 11:58
          • Remark

            Reply to Dr Almeida’s comment: Jan 13, 11.58

            Hi Dr Almeida,

            Hi Dr Almeida,

            Thank you. I think it was Dr Steinhart whose comment somehow sparked a discussion that turned into one about divine simplicity. Because his comment was so brief, I don’t think it was clear what sort of argument he was leading to.
            However, it may be possible to relate our discussions to the OP, or the question of gratuitous evil in general. But let’s return briefly to Dawkins:
            In The God Delusion, Dawkins tries to show (among other things) that complexity in nature cannot be given an explanation in terms of Intelligent Design. He argues, via his complexity premise, that a single Intelligent Designer is impossible because an infinite regress of them is implied by that premise, such that whichever Intelligent Designer is adduced to afford the explanation, reference would have to be made to the next Intelligent Designer who designed that particular one, and thereafter, to the next, and the next and so on, for ever. No Intelligent Designer, therefore, can explain complexity in nature without reference to some other Intelligent Designer. This led to the above discussion about divine simplicity.
            Well, let’s go back to the gratuitous evil problem and forget the thorny issue about simplicity. If, as it seems, there are possible worlds which contain gratuitous evil, then God cannot exist in those worlds. But if not, God cannot be a necessary being. For, if He were, He would exist in all possible worlds. Hence, God (if there is one) must be a contingent being.
            But if God is a contingent being, there must be a being on which He is contingent: presumably, another God. If that God does not exist in all possible worlds either (and He cannot because of gratuitous evil), then He, too, must be contingent upon a third God, and so on, leading to an infinite regress of Gods.
            The theist must either accept this, or else be able to argue that a single God (whether conceived as an Intelligent Designer, a First Cause, or whatever) can afford an explanation of complexity in nature without reference to any other God. So, this is another challenge that gratuitous evil presents us with.

            January 13, 2015 — 12:05
  • Michael Almeida

    If, as it seems, there are possible worlds which contain gratuitous evil, then God cannot exist in those worlds. But if not, God cannot be a necessary being

    I’m less sure about that. What if God is a transworld individual: a being that has parts in every world, but does not wholly exist in any world. There is some sense in which he is impossible (he does not exist in full in any world), but also a strong sense in which, at each world, we say truthfully that he exists. Compare: if a time-slice of you exists at each moment, but not all of you at each moment, then there is a sense in which the people at t will truthfully say you exist at t. So, even if God does not exist in every world, we might truthfully say, as members of any particular world, that God exists.

    January 13, 2015 — 12:25
    • Remark

      Hi Dr Almeida,
      Okay. I understand how it might be that I don’t exist in my entirety at any moment and that I am spread out in time as in space (as opposed to the whole of me existing through, and at every moment of, time). I’m less comfortable with the idea of ‘me’ (not a counterpart) existing in other, possible, worlds, and even less comfortable with the idea of parts of me existing in other, possible worlds (okay, I get that my leg could exist in W1, my arm in W2, my hand in W3…).

      As for parts of God existing in possible worlds, I just don’t understand at all, especially if, as Kevin seems to suggest, we can’t escape giving a nod towards divine simplicity. But if this is possible notwithstanding, then the modal problem fails to show that God (or a part of Him) does not exist in worlds where gratuitous evil does. That’s how it seems to me, anyhow.

      But then, instead of parts of God existing in possible worlds, there might be a hierarchy of them, such that each member wholly exists in each possible world (Dr Steinhart’s proposal again (if it is)).

      January 14, 2015 — 2:17
      • Michael Almeida

        If you’re not bothered by temporal continuants, then you shouldn’t be much bothered with modal continuants. All I’m suggesting is that, maybe, God is a modal continuant. Would the same problems of gratuitous evil arise? I’m not sure, to be honest. On the other hand, Steinhart’s view of infinitely many gods, solves the problem (maybe), but at an absurdly high cost.

        January 14, 2015 — 7:47
  • Kevin Corbett

    The thing is, I don’t know if the issue can be disentangled from divine simplicity.

    January 13, 2015 — 15:50
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