Brief Defense of Mackie
January 14, 2015 — 7:40

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: ,   Comments: 58

I’ve defended the Free Will Defense (FWD) against some bad objections, and there are lots of them: the argument is among the most frequently misunderstood, even among people who worry about this sort of thing. But I think there is a decisive objection to the argument, and that Mackie was on to it already in ‘Evil and Omnipotence’.

. . . there was open to [God] the obviously better possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being omnipotent and wholly good (my emphasis).

Plantinga’s FWD aims to show that, possibly, God cannot eliminate all evil: possibly, every creatable being is transworld depraved, so, possibly, no matter which world God actualizes (except of course for a world including no sentient, rational, free beings) there will be some evil (someone will do something wrong).

But Mackie’s contention, and it’s a reasonable one, is not actually addressed by FWD. Mackie makes the inconsistency claim above: God is not compossible with evil. His claim is in (C).

C. Necessarily, an omnipotent and wholly good being actualizes a world that includes free beings and no evil.

If (C) is true, as Mackie contends, then it follows from the nature of God that he actualizes worlds that include no evil. The fact that we can imagine a world in which everyone is transworld depraved does not show that (C) is false, since most of the worlds God would have to actualize, under the assumption that everyone is transworld depraved, are not compossible with God. If there are such worlds, it shows at most that there are no omnipotent and wholly good beings. Let the morally and naturally perfect worlds (the worlds including no moral or natural evil) be w0 – w1000. If (C) is a necessary truth, then there are no possible worlds other than w0 – w1000, since (C) is false in every other world. So, even if there are genuinely possible worlds that fit Plantinga’s description for the Free Will Defense, it does nothing to show that (C) is false. If there is even a single morally and naturally perfect world w’–and of course Plantinga believes there are such worlds–that’s all Mackie needs. If (C) is true in w’, it is true in every world. Therefore God can create a world with free beings and no evil.

We can probably put the point more simply. Mackie’s claim, essentially, is that [libertarianism + significant freedom] (LSF) are not compossible with a perfect being. That’s what (C) tells us: namely, that God exists only if, necessarily, libertarianism is false. LSF entails that there are worlds that God cannot actualize. LSF entails (—-it’s important that you need nothing more, you need no assumptions about depravity, no assumptions about counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, no other controversial modal assumptions, full stop) that there’s a possible world in which God coexists with evil. Proof: Let w be a world with a libertarian free agent S facing a morally significant choice, A or ~A, where PA and F~A (A is permissible, ~A is forbidden). It follows that there is a world w’ in which S goes wrong (does ~A) and God exists. Mackie’s claim in (C) therefore denies that LSF is possibly true. FWD, recall, just assumes without argument that LSF is true.

Comments:
  • Kevin Corbett

    C. Necessarily, an omnipotent and wholly good being actualizes a world that includes free beings and no evil.

    Doesn’t this assume compatibilism is possible, just as the contrary assumes libertarianism is possible? If, as you say “That’s what (C) tells us: namely, that God exists only if, necessarily, libertarianism is false,” then compatibilism must be true order for their to be “free beings” as stated in C.

    Essentially – if “There was open to [God] the obvious possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right” would they really be freely going right in any significant way?

    This bit from van Inwagen may be relevant., though I’m sure you’re already familiar with this response:

    We have before us, then, an argument for the conclusion that the story called the free-will defense is an impossible story. But how plausible is the account of free will on which the argument rests? Not very, I think. It certainly yields some odd conclusions. Consider the lower social orders in Brave New World, the “deltas” and “epsilons.” These unfortunate people have their deepest desires chosen for them by others, by the “alphas” who make up the highest social stratum. What the deltas and epsilons primarily desire is to do what the alphas tell them. This is their primary desire because it has been implanted in them by prenatal and postnatal conditioning. (If Huxley were writing today, he might have added genetic engineering to the alphas’ list of resources for determining the desires of their slaves.) It would be hard to think of beings who better fitted the description “lacks free will” than the deltas and epsilons of Brave New World. And yet, if the compatibilists’ account of free will is right, the deltas and epsilons are exemplars of beings with free will. Each of them is always doing exactly what he wants, after all, and who among us is in that fortunate position? What he wants is to do as he is told by those appointed over him, of course, but the compatibilists’ account of free will says nothing about the content of a free agent’s desires: it requires only that there be no barrier to acting on them. The compatibilists’ account of free will is, therefore, if not evidently false, at least highly implausible—for it has the highly implausible consequence that the deltas and epsilons are free agents. And an opponent of the free-will defense cannot show that that story fails to represent a “real possibility” by deducing its falsity from a highly implausible theory.

    January 14, 2015 — 9:38
  • Michael Almeida

    It is not an assumption in Mackie that compatibilism is true. It is a consequence of his view on the nature of God.

    And yet, if the compatibilists’ account of free will is right, the deltas and epsilons are exemplars of beings with free will

    Compatibilists are not committed to the position that these beings are free. They hold that freedom is compatible with determinism, but they need not hold that freedom is compatible with manipulation.

    January 14, 2015 — 9:44
    • Kevin Corbett

      “Compatibilists are not committed to the position that these beings are free. They hold that freedom is compatible with determinism, but they need not hold that freedom is compatible with manipulation.”

      But if God only actualizes those worlds in which the equivalents of deltas and epsilons exist (in that they will never possibly go against his will and “go wrong”), it’s hard to see how that doesn’t amount to the same thing. God is simply a more efficient eugenicist in Mackie’s example, since worlds containing agents who would go wrong are simply nipped in the bud before they come into existence.

      January 14, 2015 — 10:00
      • Remark

        Hi Dr Almeida and Kevin,

        I think Mackie believes that ‘agents always go right’ and ‘agents have (libertarian) free will’ are logically compatible – according to what he says, anyway – even if it appears that he rejects libertarian freedom.

        In one place he asks: “If God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good?”

        A FWDefender might object that this looks causally deterministic, for Mackie writes “why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good” and not “why could he not have made free men who always choose the good”. That is, the words “such that” suggest causal determination, or a lack of freedom.

        So, does the phrase “such that” do the work in introducing causal determinism? No. Consider this analogy. Parents are causally responsible for producing children with certain characteristics. For instance, one set of parents might produce a child with blue eyes and curly hair. Then again, they might produce a child with just those characteristics “such that” on the day of its birth, the sky is blue: that is, “such that” any fact about the child for which the parents are causally responsible is logically compatible with any other true proposition. But the parents are not causally responsible for making the sky blue then. Accordingly, for Mackie, God could make men free “such that” they always go right, but not “such that” their going right is causally determined.

        January 14, 2015 — 10:06
  • Michael Almeida

    Not at all. God actualizes only those worlds (at those worlds) because those are the only worlds there are. He doesn’t choose what worlds there are; worlds exist as a matter of necessity, if at all. All God does in those world is instantiate the individual essences of those beings and their contingent properties. He also does not choose these; these already exist at the worlds in question.

    January 14, 2015 — 10:06
    • Kevin Corbett

      ” He doesn’t choose what worlds there are; worlds exist as a matter of necessity, if at all. ”

      If that’s the case, I think that what you are calling “God” is something I am utterly unfamiliar with, and the entire discussion is rendered fairly meaningless, as what is conventionally called “God” is assumed to not exist at the outset.

      January 14, 2015 — 10:22
      • Michael Almeida

        Perhaps it is a view you don’t share, but it is the standard view that possible worlds exist necessarily, not as a matter of divine decree (whether they are in the mind of God or Platonic entities or whatnot) and that God, if he exists necessarily, actualizes each world at each world. This is compatible with there being a single world that obtains. In any case, God does not create the possible worlds.

        January 14, 2015 — 10:27
        • Kevin Corbett

          If something exists necessarily, doesn’t that imply that it exists actually rather than potentially?

          January 14, 2015 — 11:02
          • Michael Almeida

            If you’re asking me whether everything that exists necessarily also exists actually, then the answer is yes. If possible worlds all exist necessarily (as they do) then they all exist actually (as they do). So all worlds are actual? Yes. But they do not all obtain, only one of them does.

            January 14, 2015 — 11:06
          • Kevin Corbett

            “If possible worlds all exist necessarily (as they do) then they all exist actually (as they do). So all worlds are actual? Yes. But they do not all obtain, only one of them does.”

            If all worlds that exist potentially already actually exist how can God “actualize” them? Does “actualize” just mean “make obtain”? Maybe I’m just not understanding the terminology.

            Also, and I think more relevantly – if you accept with Mackie is reasonable to suppose that “Necessarily, an omnipotent and wholly good being actualizes a world that includes free beings and no evil.”, doesn’t that poke a hole in the solution to the Modal Argument you were fairly sympathetic towards the other day?

            January 14, 2015 — 12:13
  • Michael Almeida

    I think Mackie believes that ‘agents always go right’ and ‘agents have (libertarian) free will’ are logically compatible

    They’re not. Mackie is a compatibilist, and since compatibilism is necessarily true, if true at all, he is committed to rejecting libertarianism (and argues against it in the Miracle of Theism). So, they are not compatible since there is no world in which libertarianism is true, and so no world in which it is true along with everyone always going right.

    January 14, 2015 — 10:11
    • Remark

      Okay, Mackie is a compatibilist. My point (not made clearly enough if at all) is that Mackie is addressing the FWDefender who is a libertarian, trying to satisfy the ‘dialectical requirement’ that the two parties at least begin at a position the FWDefender might accept. It seemed to me, anyway, that were Mackie to kick out libertarianism from the beginning, then he and the FWDefender would simply walk right past each other.

      January 14, 2015 — 10:23
  • Michael Almeida

    It seemed to me, anyway, that were Mackie to kick out libertarianism from the beginning, then he and the FWDefender would simply walk right past each other.

    He’s not, as I’ve tried to indicate. The fact is that (and I think this is under-appreciated) Libertarianism + Significant Freedom together entail that God coexists with evil. Mackie denies that God coexists with evil. He cannot credibly urge that no one faces moral choices, so he has to reject libertarianism. But his rejection of libertarianism is not an assumption in his argument. It follows from a view about the nature of God that is not implausible. On the other hand, libertarianism is simply an assumption in Plantinga’s FWD.

    January 14, 2015 — 10:31
    • Remark

      I understand what you are saying. Mackie might argue for compatibilism in the MoT (I’ve read only some parts) but I’m not at all sure where this strand of his thinking surfaces in ‘Evil and Omnipotence’. There, as I read it, he is advancing the idea (against the libertarian FWDefender) that it is consistent that God makes men free and that they always go right. This, of course, is what the FWDefender denies. Sorry, I was relying only on Mackie’s paper, which you alluded to in your OP.

      January 14, 2015 — 10:49
      • Michael Almeida

        Right. The quote is from E&O, wherein he makes the inconsistency claim. He is not arguing against the FWD in E&O, since there was no FWD at the time, and no argument from libertarian freedom. E&O was published in ’55, Plantinga’s response was published in ’74.

        January 14, 2015 — 11:01
  • Michael Almeida

    if you accept with Mackie is reasonable to suppose that “Necessarily, an omnipotent and wholly good being actualizes a world that includes free beings and no evil.”, doesn’t that poke a hole in the solution to the Modal Argument you were fairly sympathetic towards the other day?

    You’d have to explain how. I actually don’t think I offered any such view that I happen to think is true. I might have offered one that others think is true.

    January 14, 2015 — 13:28
    • Kevin Corbett

      “You’d have to explain how.”

      If C is true, God does not exist, independent of the FWD its being counterpoised with here. If C is “reasonable” against the FWD but doesn’t prove at the same time that God does not exist (because evil does exist) and render the Modal Problem and solution irrelevant, I’d be interested to hear how.

      “I actually don’t think I offered any such view that I happen to think is true. I might have offered one that others think is true.”

      You said, “I do have objections, but I don’t think the view is radically wrong. And maybe the objections are misguided.” I took that for, if not an endorsement, at least an openness to such an argument that an acceptance of C would preclude. Or perhaps I should have read “not radically wrong” to mean “still probably wrong, but perhaps not as wrong as I initially thought.”

      January 14, 2015 — 16:11
  • Michael Almeida

    You said, “I do have objections, but I don’t think the view is radically wrong. And maybe the objections are misguided.” I took that for, if not an endorsement

    Like I said, I did not offer an argument. I do think it is reasonable to suppose that “Necessarily, an omnipotent and wholly good being actualizes a world that includes free beings and no evil.. That does nothing to show that my solution to the modal argument is mistaken. I did not offer that argument, since it involves a complicated position that I really don’t have the time to explain.

    January 14, 2015 — 16:28
  • Kevin Corbett

    I apologize, I must have read into your statement something that wasn’t there. I am probably not qualified to continue this sort of discussion, so I’ll leave it to those with more understanding.

    January 14, 2015 — 16:47
  • Interesting post. But this objection doesn’t look like a decisive proof to me. When given that compatibilism is necessarily false, LSE is more plausible than C (at least that’s where my intuitions go after a few minutes of reflection). For Mackie’s objection to be decisive, I think it needs to be supplemented with a defense of the possibility of compatibilism.

    January 14, 2015 — 18:56
  • Michael Almeida

    Hi Chris,

    (C) claims that it follows from the divine nature that God actualizes worlds including free beings and no evil. That does not state or assume that compatibilism is true. It does entail that LSE is false. Since Plantinga simply assumes that LSE is true, he’s the one who needs to offer an argument for it. There is nothing answering to an argument for LSE in the FWD, and that is why FWD fails in response to Mackie. I certainly don;t deny that the argument will go on, with the adherents of libertarianism and compatibilism reciting the virtues of these views. But that’s another story.

    January 14, 2015 — 19:27
    • There are two questions here, i think. One is whether Plantinga provides a decisive objection to Mackie. Another is whether Mackie provides a decisive objection to Plantinga’s FWD. I took it that, in the main post, you were answering the latter question in the affirmative, i.e., you were saying that Mackie provides a decisive objection to Plantinga’s FWD. I don’t think Mackie’s objection is decisive, at least for those who reject the possibility of compatibilist freedom. Your reply to me, i think, changes the subject. Mackie might fail to provide a decisive objection to Plantinga’s FWD, even if Plantinga’s FWD fails to provide a decisive objection to Mackie.

      January 14, 2015 — 19:56
  • Michael Almeida

    I think I’m not following you Chris, on either point. My response to you was simply that Mackie does not assume compatibilism, and he doesn’t. You suggested that he needed to show that compatibilism is possible. So, my response is directly to the point. He needn’t say anything about compatibilism. If compatibilism is false, it does not follow that (C) is false, nor does it follow that his objection to FWD mistaken. If libertarianism is true, it does not follow that (C) is false. It follows that God does not exist.

    January 14, 2015 — 20:02
    • Ok, let’s try this. Assume libertarianism. It doesn’t *follow* that C is false. Yet, it seems plausible to me that some of the best worlds will involve libertarianly free agents committing evil acts. If so, I find it doubtful that C is true. So, given libertarianism, C is arguably false. If Mackie’s objection is to be decisive, his case for C needs to be decisive. His case for C is not decisive if C is arguably false. In short, the point is this: anyone who has antecedent reason to endorse libertarianism has reason to reject that Mackie’s objection is decisive to FWD.

      January 14, 2015 — 20:30
      • Remark

        Arguably, Mackie can be interpreted as meaning this (in defence of C): prior to creating any free person, God knows all personal essences – or, as Leibniz put it, the complete concepts of every possible individual. Some personal essences, or complete concepts, involve freely going wrong, and some only freely going right. For example, God would know that the personal essence, or complete concept, of Hitler involves sometimes freely going wrong, while those of (say) Albert Schweitzer involve always freely going right. If God is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good, then, necessarily, He would actualise (or instantiate) only those essences that always freely go right, and fail to actualize or instantiate all the others. (Admittedly, Schweitzer probably did wrong, but perhaps there’s a possible ‘super-Schweitzer’ who wouldn’t.) So it’s not the case that some of the best worlds (necessarily) contain free agents who commit evil acts, for, plausibly, they don’t.

        January 15, 2015 — 3:17
  • Michael Almeida

    Yet, it seems plausible to me that some of the best worlds will involve libertarianly free agents committing evil acts.

    Mackie’s (C) does not depend on libertarianism being true or false. That you believe there are good worlds with libertarian free agents also does nothing to show that (C) is false: it’s irrelevant to (C). Let there be such worlds, so what? It tells us nothing about the nature of God, which is what (C) is about.

    There is, in fact, a better series of arguments that libertarianism is flatly incompatible with theism. I’m going to post on that some time.

    January 15, 2015 — 7:36
  • C is about the nature of God. But why should I believe that particular thesis about God’s nature? I don’t find it particularly plausible. To defend the truth of C by argument, you would presumably combine some theory about what God’s perfection requires (or what omnipotence and “whole goodness” requires) and some theory about the possible states of the created world. The debate over compatibilism/libertarianism is relevant to which possible states that the world can be in. Yes, the *truth* of C is independent of compatibilism/libertarianism debate. It might nonetheless be true that the best arguments for C appeal to or presuppose compatibilism.

    I worry that we are talking past one another a bit. I may be reading more than you intended into your comment that Mackie is on to “a decisive objection to” the FWD.

    January 15, 2015 — 10:09
  • Michael Almeida

    I don’t think we’re talking past one another, since I’m reasonably sure I’ve addressed your worries so far. Your last worry concerned the fact that you can imagine some very or extremely good worlds containing evil. I replied that this is independent of (C). Prior to that you urged that Mackie needed to show that compatibilism is possible. I replied similarly that this is independent of (C).

    I’ve pointed out that the FWD does nothing to show that Mackie is mistaken in advancing (C). Indeed, the FWD shows not that (C) is mistaken, but, in light of (C), that God does not exist.

    So far, there’s nothing that would give Mackie reason to abandon (C). Is there reason for him not to do so? I think there is good reason. Mackie’s principle (C) is a strong perfection principle corresponding to a high form of perfect being theism. It understands omnipotence as including, as most theists would like to, the power to actualize any possible world. It understands perfect goodness as including incompatibility with all evil. This is effectively the position that, for a genuinely perfect being, every instance of evil is gratuitous. This is a high ideal. And Mackie is right to begin with such a view.

    January 15, 2015 — 10:23
    • Hi Michael, I appreciate your careful responses to my queries, but your latest response suggests even further to me that we are talking past one another. I’ve never tried to argue that Mackie should give up (C). I’ve never tried to argue that (C) is false (though I do think it is false). Your responses, as I understand them, construe my comments as arguing for such claims. So, I say–more confidently now–that we’re talking past one another.

      What have I been arguing for? I’ve argued that (C) is not the kind of claim that can be used as a decisive objection to Plantinga. It’s too controversial. Insofar as the reasonableness of endorsing (C) depends on accepting a “strong perfection principle” and a “high form of perfect being theism”, the reasonableness of endorsing (C) is in doubt. Is it a reasonable starting point for inquiry? Yeah, I guess so. But it’s too controversial for it to (partly) constitute a *decisive* objection to Plantinga’s FWD. Consider maximizing act utilitarianism. It’s a natural starting point, but its truth is too controversial to be used in a decisive objection to, say, the claim that lying is always wrong (unless, perhaps, one is in a room full of maximizing act utilitarians).

      January 15, 2015 — 11:25
  • Michael Almeida

    I’ve argued that (C) is not the kind of claim that can be used as a decisive objection to Plantinga. It’s too controversial

    What the OP shows is that Plantinga’s FWD does not come close to showing that Mackie was wrong; lots of people mistakenly think it somehow ended discussion of the logical problem of evil. But FWD misses the mark entirely. Mackie’s defense of the logical problem of evil is based on the inconsistency claim in (C). Plantinga thought the problem serious enough–controversial enough–that he proposed an ingenious argument to defeat it. But the FWD does no such thing, and the logical problem of evil stands. That someone thinks that (C) isn’t true makes no difference to me, and certainly makes no difference to Mackie, since it just misses the point. The point concerns the debate between Plantinga and Mackie. Mackie offered his version of the logical problem of evil, Plantinga found it worrisome enough to respond. The point is that Plantinga’s response–contrary to popular belief– is beside the point. Mackie’s decisive response to Plantinga is that the FWD has no important implications for his position in (C) or for the logical problem of evil. And there is no way to fix FWD to make it relevant. I consider that a decisive objection to FWD–i.e. that it misses the mark entirely.

    January 15, 2015 — 12:50
    • Kevin Corbett

      “Mackie’s decisive response to Plantinga is that the FWD has no important implications for his position in (C) or for the logical problem of evil. And there is no way to fix FWD to make it relevant. I consider that a decisive objection to FWD–i.e. that it misses the mark entirely.”

      Mackie’s response to Plantinga’s argument was:

      “Since this defense is formally possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil, we can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another. But whether this offers a real solution of the problem is another question. (Mackie 1982, p. 154)”

      By which he seems to have accepted that the logical problem of evil was mistaken, hence the evidential problem. So at least, Mackie himself didn’t think Plantinga had missed the mark, though I’m sure you will say this is irrelevant.

      January 15, 2015 — 13:22
      • Michael Almeida

        Right. The occasional theist will pull up this passage. But it ought to be obvious by now that I’m not doing history of philosophy, nor am I claiming that Mackie said or thought anything I’ve said or thought here. The post shows that Mackie had the resources to fully respond to Plantinga, and that was my aim. I’m not sure who directed you to this passage, but you should tell them to read the entire context of that passage wherein it is not at all obvious that Mackie conceded anything to the FWD.
        Mackie’s final opinion on Plantinga’s FWD in the same book, Miracle of Theism, is the following:

        In short, all forms of the free will defense fail, and since this defense alone had any chance of success there is no plausible theodicy on offer. We cannot, indeed, take the problem of evil as a conclusive disproof of traditional theism, because, as we have seen, there is some flexibility in its doctrines, and in particular in the additional premisses needed to make to make the problem explicit. There may be some way of adjusting these which avoids an internal contradiction without giving up anything essential to theism. But none has yet been clearly presented, and there is a strong presumption that theism cannot be made coherent without a serious change in at least one of its central doctrines. (MOT, 176)

        January 15, 2015 — 13:29
  • Brett Lunn

    If I remember correctly, Plantinga does not simply assume LFW, but briefly explains what he sees as a problem with compatibilism. Granted, it is rather brief and his point may not be successful, but I don’t think it is quite right to say Plantinga merely assumes LFW. However, I do not have my copy of The Nature of Necessity on me so I cannot check this and I am open to correction.

    Dr Almeida, you say the following (sorry I do not know how to quote properly):

    “Mackie’s principle (C) is a strong perfection principle corresponding to a high form of perfect being theism. It understands omnipotence as including, as most theists would like to, the power to actualize any possible world. It understands perfect goodness as including incompatibility with all evil. This is effectively the position that, for a genuinely perfect being, every instance of evil is gratuitous. This is a high ideal. And Mackie is right to begin with such a view.”

    Now it seems to me that if Plantinga gives reason to doubt one of the implicit premises behind (C), then he has thereby offered his defense. Moreover, it seems like Plantinga attempts to do this with regards to the idea that God has the power to actualize any possible world and the idea that perfect goodness is incompatible with any evil.

    So the situation seems to me that Mackie would say that God as construed with certain definitions of omnipotence, etc. is incompatible with evil and Plantinga’s response is that it isn’t at all obvious that his understanding of those attributes is correct and so Mackie has no reason to believe that they are and so the claim that an omniGod and evil are incompatible is without proper ground.

    It should be noted here that I am not claiming this is how Plantinga understood the dialectic, I’m simply following a similar tact to you in saying that it seems that Plantinga had the resources to respond to Mackie on this reading.

    However, I certainly might be missing something. What are your thoughts?

    January 15, 2015 — 22:36
  • Michael Almeida

    Now it seems to me that if Plantinga gives reason to doubt one of the implicit premises behind (C), then he has thereby offered his defense. Moreover, it seems like Plantinga attempts to do this with regards to the idea that God has the power to actualize any possible world and the idea that perfect goodness is incompatible with any evil.

    It is not true that FWD offers any evidence against C. If you find FWD convincing, then you have reason to doubt that God exists, not reason to doubt that C is true. If you think there are worlds including evil that God cannot avoid actualizing (this is false, incidentally, even if FWD is right), then you do not have reason to believe that C is false. Rather, again, you have reason to doubt that God exists.

    There are at least three places where AP offers a version of the FWD, maybe four. At none of these does he offer anything that even approximates and argument for LSF. But LSF alone entails that there are worlds in which God coexists with evil: the conclusion of the argument that comes many pages later, after prolonged discussion of ccfs, etc. That’s about as close as one can get to begging the question.

    January 16, 2015 — 6:34
  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Dr. Almeida!
    I was wondering what properties or beliefs God must have which restrict His freedom to such an extent that he must necessarily create any world at all in the first place? If it is not necessary that God instantiate any world why is it necessary that any specific world exist?

    January 16, 2015 — 8:58
  • Michael Almeida

    Hi Mark,

    I think the answer that is typically given, and I agree with this, is that it is necessary that some world or other is actual. So, no matter what God does by way of creating contingent beings (perhaps he will create none of them) there will obtain some possible world. In this latter case, it will be a world that is largely empty of contingent beings, but it will be a world with lots of contingent state of affairs in it. There will be the contingent state of affairs of there being no rational beings, for instance, and there being no flora or fauna generally. There might have been these things, but God did not create any of them.

    January 16, 2015 — 9:11
  • Mark Rogers

    I do not see how we go from the state of affairs you just described to:

    C. Necessarily, an omnipotent and wholly good being actualizes a world that includes free beings and no evil.

    January 16, 2015 — 10:57
    • Michael Almeida

      Hi Mark,

      I think you asked initially why God must actualize some world or other. I answered that he does so as a matter of metaphysical necessity: no matter what he does or doesn’t do, some world is actual. If you’re asking me why he must actualize a world without moral evil, I’d answer that it is entailed by his nature: i.e. you cannot be an omnipotent and morally perfect being and allow gratuitous evil and all evil is gratuitous for an omnipotent being.

      January 17, 2015 — 8:20
  • Just a note. Concerning topic of this very interesting debate, I remember when once Kevin C. wrote me under another blog entry here that a libertarian agent who would always choose the good option and never the evil one would not have a sense of personal agency. Well, if I may make a tiny theological excursion, then according to catholic doctrine virgin Mary had always choosed good option, she was without sin. Does it mean that she didn´t have a sense of personal agency? I really don´t think so.
    Of course, this may be uninteresting for non-catholics.
    End of note.

    January 16, 2015 — 14:20
    • Kevin Corbett

      I don’t know if I ever said such a thing. I don’t accept a purely libertarian view anyway, as I think I mentioned in that thread. Mary was without original sin, but that does not mean it was impossible for her to go wrong.

      January 16, 2015 — 16:08
      • Kevin: but that does not mean it was impossible for her to go wrong.

        Well, but if you take it – as it´s usually in this blog – that God has actualized the world w in which Mary always goes right, then for me it implies that it WAS (metaphysically) impossible for her to go wrong.
        By the way, Vlastimil Vohánka refered me to debate on Alexander Pruss´ blog where similar topic was discussed: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.cz/2007/12/weakening-transworld-depravity.html?showComment=1197532740000#c1623170488817116901

        January 17, 2015 — 1:01
        • Kevin Corbett

          “Well, but if you take it – as it´s usually in this blog – that God has actualized the world w in which Mary always goes right, then for me it implies that it WAS (metaphysically) impossible for her to go wrong.”

          I would take that only to be true if determinism were true. But like in the last discussion, I am to the point where the entire content of this thread is simply causing me too much stress for me to continue engaging with it.

          January 17, 2015 — 11:48
  • Michael Almeida

    Well, if I may make a tiny theological excursion, then according to catholic doctrine virgin Mary had always choosed good option, she was without sin. Does it mean that she didn´t have a sense of personal agency?

    I’m inclined to agree. I’m not sure what the objection from ‘not having a sense of agency’ is supposed to be, anyway.

    January 16, 2015 — 14:54
    • I’m inclined to agree.
      With what? That she didn´t have the sense of agency? Or with the opposite? Sorry, it´s not clear, so I am asking only to be sure 🙂

      January 17, 2015 — 1:03
  • Michael Almeida

    Well, but if you take it – as it´s usually in this blog – that God has actualized the world w in which Mary always goes right, then for me it implies that it WAS (metaphysically) impossible for her to go wrong.”

    I would take that only to be true if determinism were true

    Neither is true. That Mary never actually goes wrong does not entail that it was not metaphysically possible for her to do so, certainly. And even if Mary was causally determined to go right, it does not follow that there is no metaphysically possible world in which she goes wrong. The latter would be true if causal determinism entailed necessitarianism, but it doesn’t.

    January 17, 2015 — 12:08
    • Kevin Corbett

      “The latter would be true if causal determinism entailed necessitarianism, but it doesn’t.”

      I think that’s what I meant, I just misstated it.

      January 17, 2015 — 12:40
    • Michael:
      That Mary never actually goes wrong does not entail that it was not metaphysically possible for her to do so, certainly.
      In my opinion: It was metaphysically possible, but in another possible world. Not in the one in which she always went right. If we want to sensibly say that God actualizes worlds – and that actualizable world has to be complete in order to be actualizable – I do not see the way this could be done if we want to hold that it was metaphysically possible for Mary (or anybody else) to go wrong in the world in which she in fact went always right.

      January 17, 2015 — 12:50
  • Michael Almeida

    In my opinion: It was metaphysically possible, but in another possible world. Not in the one in which she always went right

    I think this is confused. Let w be the world in which S always goes right. It is true IN W (assuming S is libertarian free) that POSSIBLY, S goes wrong. That does not mean that S will actually go wrong. It does not mean that it is not a necessary truth that S never actually goes wrong. It means that there is some possible world in which S does go wrong. In this case, that possible world is non-actual. So all of these are true together in W (assuming W is the actual world).

    1. S will never go wrong.
    2. It is necessary that S never actually goes wrong.
    3. S possibly goes wrong.

    January 17, 2015 — 16:33
    • Could be, but I admit that whether 3 would be “S possibly goes wrong” or “not (S possibly goes wrong)”, I do not see any crucial difference between the two in whole context.

      January 18, 2015 — 2:51
      • Michael Almeida

        I’m assuming you mean (2), not (3). (2) seems equivalent to S necessarily goes right, but it isn’t. (2) is consistent with (3). That’s about all the help I can be on this point.

        January 18, 2015 — 8:37
  • Josh

    Fascinating post and comments. Echoing Chris’ comments to an extent, I wonder why an advocate of FWD can’t reply with two steps:

    Step 1. Retreat to defending the mere epistemic possibility of the metaphysical possibility of LSF.
    Step 2. Argue that the epistemic possibility of the metaphysical possibility of universal transworld depravity provides an undercutting defeater for (C).

    Maybe Mackie initially endorsed (C) because he thought (i) an omnipotent could actualize any possibility, and that (ii) an evil free world with lib. free creatures is possible. Step 2 challenges (i) — since it involves motivating the “omnipotence-relevant” distinction between feasible worlds and possible worlds.

    But I can’t get inside Mackie’s head. So more modestly, I merely wonder why Steps 1 and 2 cannot be successfully carried out. That is, I wonder why the FWD doesn’t contain the resources to implicitly undercut (C).

    January 27, 2015 — 10:48
  • Michael Almeida

    Step 1. Retreat to defending the mere epistemic possibility of the metaphysical possibility of LSF

    I think there are two lines here. If LSF is possibly true, then (Mackie should urge) it does not follow that (C) is false. (LSF) + (C) = God does not exist. What you need to assume, to show that (C) is false, is that possibly, LSF + God. But that’s exactly what Mackie is denying, as of course you know. But I think the better line to take is that the assumptions of FWD are straightforwardly question begging. FWD does not include an argument for LSF. It rather uses LSF to construct an ingenious example in which God cannot actualize a morally perfect world. But for all the ingenuity, the FWD is clever epiphenomena unnecessary to Plantinga’s aim. What does all the work is the assumption LSF. It follows from LSF that God exists along with evil: that is, if God exists + LSF, then God is compossible with evil. The rest is interesting epiphenomena. Mackie ought to reject the introduction of LSF or, accepting LSF, he ought to observe that LSF + C = ~God.

    January 27, 2015 — 12:07
    • Josh

      Just to clarify, I only mean Step 1 to be part of a two-step defense of an undercutting defeater of (C). In that sense, then, the FWD defeats one reason one might have to accept (C). Decisively. 🙂

      Of course, there may be other reasons to accept (C). But what are they?

      January 28, 2015 — 16:38
      • Michael Almeida

        Josh, thanks. I’m prepared to grant, for the sake of discussion, that LSF is credible. My point is that LSF is consistent with (C), so it does not undercut (C). LSF + (C) = ~God. The reason for (C)–the reason that Plantinga took seriously Mackie’s position–is that it is the default perfect-being-theist position. It expresses the view that God’s omnipotence is unlimited with respect to eliminating evil. So all possible evil is gratuitous. That’s a position that I take to be default: it is the position I’d hold unless it was shown that an omnipotent being could not eliminate (without cost) all possible evil. FWD does not show that there is possible evil that is not gratuitous. It rather shows that, IF libertarianism is true and IF agents face morally significant choices, then it is possible that there is evil that cannot be eliminated without cost. That fact, together with (C), entails that there is no God.

        January 28, 2015 — 17:28
        • Josh

          Thanks, Mike. I think your points are consistent with mine, in the end. There is just one point you made I wish to make sure I’m clear on. You said, “My point is that LSF is consistent with (C), so it does not undercut (C).” To be sure, a defeater D for a proposition P could be consistent with P. (For example, let P = “my wife is in the bathroom,” and let D = “someone accidentally left the bathroom light on with the door closed”. D could serve as an undercutting defeater for my belief in P, since it could be incompatible with my *reason* to belief P, even though D is consistent with P.) So I take it that there are other factors about this *particular* case that lead you to infer that “LSF fails to be a defeater for (C)” on the grounds that “LSF is consistent with (C)”. And from what you wrote, I gather that those other factors amount to the premise (C) is the default perfect-being-position. For if it is, then no *undercutting* defeaters could defeat it, in principle. And since LSF is consistent with (C), it can’t in principle serve as a rebutting defeater. So if (C) is the default position, then it does seem to follow (decisively) that FWD fails. So the premise that (C) is the default position seems to be the key to your argument. Correct me if I’ve missed you.

          January 29, 2015 — 13:23
          • Michael Almeida

            I had troubling seeing the point about the possibility of LSF being an undercutting defeater for (C) until I realized that your view is that the impossibility of LSE (or, maybe, the impossibility of evil) might be Mackie’s reason/evidence for believing (C). But that’s not Mackie’s reason for (C); indeed, Mackie believes that, possibly, there are agents freely bringing about moral evil: right here, for instance, in the actual world. Mackie concludes from that that God does not exist.

            Here’s why it is so difficult to show that Mackie is mistaken. His claim is a modal claim, about what could be the case if God exists. So, his claim is about the shape of metaphysical space, and that claim about metaphysical space is not addressed in the FWD. Plantinga’s argument urges that, maybe, metaphysical space has a shape that includes the possibility of evil that God could allow. Mackie is right to reply (though he didn’t): Well, right, maybe metaphysical space has a shape like that, but it is wrong to call that being who allows evil ‘God’. That’s not God, since God has the sort of goodness and omnipotence that precludes the possibility that some possible evil is not preventable without cost. Mackie touches on this in his discussion (‘Evil and Omnipotence’) of how theists change the subject when aiming to address the problem of evil.

            January 30, 2015 — 8:13
  • Josh

    Thanks, again. Just to be clear, my view is not that the impossibility of LSE (or of evil) might be Mackie’s reason/evidence for (C). My guess, rather, was that his reason may be in part built upon (i) “an omnipotent being could actualize any possibility” (a few posts up). Then FWD plays a role in showing that some possible worlds may be infeasible for God to actualize, given how the contingent counterfactuals of creaturely freedom turned out. But if (C) is the default position, then none of this applies.

    I’m reminded of a paper by Jeff Speaks on this topic (a summary of it here: http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/2011/11/19/counterpossible/)

    January 30, 2015 — 14:24
  • Michael Almeida

    Thanks Josh, I see. I think I’d say similar things on whether we have a defeater here. But this raises important issues in modalizing that I’ve thought about, but I haven’t thought through. Maybe I’ll post something on it.

    January 30, 2015 — 15:45
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