God’s Indifference
January 22, 2015 — 10:53

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 18

I mean to show that, no matter what view you have of the nature of God, and no matter what shape metaphysical space takes, the value or disvalue of a possible world makes no difference at all to whether God decides to actualize it. In God’s decision to actualize a world he is completely indifferent to the amount of suffering or enjoyment in that world. I’ll call that the Thesis of Indifference, (I).

I. In God’s decision to actualize a possible world he is indifferent to the amount of suffering or enjoyment in that possible world.

The common picture of God choosing a possible world to actualize on the basis of the distribution of the good-making and bad-making qualities of worlds is mistaken and misleading. It leads down all sorts of rabbit holes concerning which qualities matter to God, which qualities generate world-rankings, which don’t, whether values are incommensurable, etc.

There are three dominant views concerning metaphysical space. Either (i) there is one world and it is the best world or (ii) there are many best worlds (all equally good) or (iii) there is no best (or worst) world. There are two possibilities concerning a perfect being: either (a) God does not exist or (b) God exists. If (a) is true, then no matter which of (i) – (iii) is true, it does not matter to God how much value or disvalue the actual world has. So, assume (b), that God exists.

1. Either ((b) & (i)) or ((b) & (ii)) or ((b) & (iii)). Exhaust the possibilities

2. Assume (b) & (i).

3. If (b) & (i), then God necessarily actualizes the best world. It’s value plays no role in his decision to do so. It happens as a matter of necessity. 2

4. Assume (b) & (ii).

5. If (b) & (ii), then God exists in every member of the set S of best worlds. 4

6. If the value or disvalue of any possible world wn in S made a difference to whether God might actualize it, then either wn would not be possible or at least one alternative world to wn would not be possible. [Some world would be too bad for God to actualize it or some world would be too good for God not to actualize it.]

7. But all worlds in S are possible. 4, by hypothesis of (ii)

8. The value of each wn in S makes no difference to God’s decision to actualize it. [Whatever the value or disvalue of worlds, no world is too bad for God to actualize or too good for God not to actualize]. 6,7

9. Assume (b) & (iii)

1o. If (b) & (iii), then God exists in every member of the set S’ of improving worlds. 9

11. If the value of any possible world wn in S’ made a difference to whether God might actualize it, then either wn would not be possible or at least one alternative world to wn would not be possible. [Some world would be too bad for God to actualize it or some world would be too good for God not to actualize it.]

12. But all worlds in S’ are possible. 9, by hypothesis of (iii)

13. The value of each wn in S’ makes no difference to God’s decision to actualize it. 9, 12 [Whatever the value or disvalue of worlds, no world is too bad for God to actualize or too good for God not to actualize].

14. ∴ If God exists, then no matter what your view of metaphysical space, the value or disvalue of a world does not matter to God’s decision to actualize it. 3,8,13

15. ∴ In God’s decision to actualize a possible world he is indifferent to the amount of suffering or enjoyment in that possible world.

End of proof.

Comments:
  • Kevin Corbett

    Are suffering and enjoyment being equated here with evil and good, in terms of the value of the world? As I think was discussed in the thread on libertarianism, there seem to be some good’s that are independent of any external observer outside of God.

    Also, although I don’t necessarily agree with this, I can imagine someone suggesting this proves that God is not good (or at least not benevolent, though I dislike that word) in any sense we can relate to human experience. As I think Peter Forrest said of some of your points in “Freedom, God and Worlds” – “these conclusions evacuate divine goodness of any content other than saying that God is essentially not-wicked”. Again, this isn’t something I necessarily agree or disagree with, but it does sound reasonable at least.

    January 22, 2015 — 14:19
  • Michael Almeida

    Suffering is an evil, yes. In FGW I proved that the old claim that God necessarily actualizes the best world (or even a good enough world) are both false. If you have a problem with the proof, then let me know what it is. If Peter wants to draw conclusions about the nature of God from the fact that bad worlds are necessary, that’s his business, not mine.

    January 22, 2015 — 14:24
  • Billy McDoniel

    I find (i) pretty confusing. I take it that the idea behind all three possibilities is that God’s nature is such that he’s only going to actualize a certain kind of world, and so a lot of worlds that otherwise seem to us to be possible (they’re conceivable, say) are /really/ impossible because God was never going to create them.

    But then it feels circular to explain God’s actualizing the world we’ve got in terms of it being the only possible world as if God’s preferences don’t matter. The explanation for that world being the only possible world has to do with God’s preferences (or nature or what-have-you) – it satisfies the preferences God’s actually got better than any other world that God could have created if, counter-possibly, God had different preferences. God is indifferent to the value of possible worlds because in order for a world to be possible it must have at least as much value as all other possible worlds (view (iii) may be a little weirder).

    I guess that seems true enough, but it strikes me as sort of papering over the sense in which God’s partiality for valuable worlds determines which worlds are possible. To the extent that God makes decisions, it seems strange to think about God as being constrained to only consider possible worlds when the reason other conceivable worlds are impossible is just that God would not decide to create them.

    January 22, 2015 — 19:20
  • Michael Almeida

    The explanation for that world being the only possible world has to do with God’s preferences (or nature or what-have-you)

    This can’t be true, since worlds exist necessarily, if at all. God does not ‘choose’ which possible worlds exist. But whether God does not exist does depend on which possible worlds there are.

    January 22, 2015 — 23:54
    • Remark

      An interesting proof, and, as I understand it, God’s indifference to the value or disvalue of a world surely has consequences for the Problem of Evil, which has been much discussed recently. The value/disvalue of, say, our world is not a matter about which we are indifferent, and this causes us to wonder why God allows suffering. One response based on your proof is that God’s allowing us to suffer is of no consequence to Him since He is not morally concerned about us (being morally concerned about His creatures is not one of His properties); but we can rest assured that the world we have could not be different from what it actually is since it flows of necessity from the divine nature. Is there more to say about the PoE than that, given your proof?

      January 23, 2015 — 4:31
      • Remark

        Of course, it may not follow from the Thesis of Indifference that God is not morally concerned for His creatures. Much depends on what God’s indifference means, or what explains it. If God is indifferent in the sense that He doesn’t give a hoot about our suffering, then it does follow. But if He is indifferent in the sense that, given that worlds exist of necessity and that their value/disvalue are, therefore, necessarily such as they are, then God might subsequently (following actualization) become morally concerned for His creatures. That is, He might still be concerned with their having to cope with the evil which necessarily exists.

        January 23, 2015 — 5:00
      • Michael Almeida

        One response based on your proof is that God’s allowing us to suffer is of no consequence to Him since He is not morally concerned about us (being morally concerned about His creatures is not one of His properties); but we can rest assured that the world we have could not be different from what it actually is since it flows of necessity from the divine nature.

        What the proof shows is that, no matter what God’s nature is like, if God exists then there is no possible world such that the disvalue of that world precludes God from actualizing it or the value of that world precludes God from failing to actualize it. So, the decision to actualize a possible world is not determined by the suffering or enjoyment in that world. Of course, the proof does not show that God exists or that God is compossible with all actual or possible evil. Maybe he isn’t; the proof is silent on that issue. What it does show is that God does not choose a world to actualize on the basis of its value.

        January 23, 2015 — 7:39
    • Billy McDoniel

      [i]This can’t be true, since worlds exist necessarily, if at all. God does not ‘choose’ which possible worlds exist. But whether God does not exist does depend on which possible worlds there are.[/i]

      I don’t see the contradiction. If a necessary being necessarily decides to make X happen, then X happens necessarily and there’s a sense in which the being chose to make X happen necessarily. It’s not a libertarian choice, granted.

      But regardless, I didn’t mean to be saying that God was explicitly choosing which worlds are possible, just that the explanation for which worlds are possible has to do with God’s nature. I’m probably missing something, but what /else/ is motivating (i) and (ii)? Why would someone think that it is impossible for there to be worlds which are less valuable than the world we’ve got, given that we can rank worlds by value?

      January 23, 2015 — 12:03
      • Michael Almeida

        Ok, the original claim was this, concerning your worry about (i).
        But then it feels circular to explain God’s actualizing the world we’ve got in terms of it being the only possible world as if God’s preferences don’t matter. The explanation for that world being the only possible world has to do with God’s preferences (or nature or what-have-you) – it satisfies the preferences God’s actually got better than any other world that God could have created if, counter-possibly, God had different preferences.
        I said that God’s preference play no role at all in determining which world is actual, and they don’t. It follows from (i) that there exists one world and that there obtains one world: there is no room for choice or explanation. Or, rather, necessary objects explain themselves, and necessary truths explain themselves.
        Your response is something like this,
        If a necessary being necessarily decides to make X happen, then X happens necessarily and there’s a sense in which the being chose to make X happen necessarily.
        There is no intelligible sense–to me in any case–in which I am both necessitated to do X and I decide to do X. But that is not quite my claim in any case. I said this,

        “If (b) & (i), then God necessarily actualizes the best world. It’s value plays no role in his decision to do so. It happens as a matter of necessity”

        That is, God did not make a decision to actualize w on the basis of the value of w. The point is this: No matter what value w has, if it is the only existing world and God exists, then God actualizes w. The value of w does not matter to its actualization.

        You add,
        But regardless, I didn’t mean to be saying that God was explicitly choosing which worlds are possible, just that the explanation for which worlds are possible has to do with God’s nature

        I think this is deeply misleading. The shape of metaphysical space is not determined or explained by God’s nature. God’s nature has no special priority in the explanation of the shape of metaphysical space any more than it has a special priority in the explanation of any other necessary truth or necessary object; God’s nature does not explain why 2+2 =4 or why (p & q) ⟶ q. On the other hand, metaphysical space does not explain God’s nature, and neither do mathematical theorems. God’s nature is either compossible with the shape of metaphysical space or it isn’t. I take necessary truths to explain themselves.

        For what it’s worth (if this is what you’re suggesting), I take the project of establishing Leftow’s or McCann’s form of extreme or ultimate sovereignty–where God explains in some way even the necessary truths and objects–bound to result in incoherence. It has in fact resulted in incoherent views.

        I’m probably missing something, but what /else/ is motivating (i) and (ii)? Why would someone think that it is impossible for there to be worlds which are less valuable than the world we’ve got, given that we can rank worlds by value?

        Who said there could not be worlds that differ in value from ours? (i) and (ii) just offer two of the three dominant views one might have about the shape of metaphysical space. Maybe there is one world, maybe there are many equally good worlds. Some people think such things. My claim is that these positions do not affect my conclusion.

        January 23, 2015 — 12:34
  • Michael Almeida

    Much depends on what God’s indifference means, or what explains it.

    What is meant by ‘indifference’ is that God is not moved to actualize w rather than w’ on the basis of the value or disvalue in those worlds. So, the enjoyment/suffering enjoyed/endured in worlds is not the basis for God’s choice to actualize a world. So, it is not like this: God reviews all the possible worlds and decides to actualize w because there is less suffering in w and more enjoyment in w. It is not like that at all, and it would be good to stop thinking this way about world-actualization. The proof shows that this is the wrong picture of how God decides to actualize a world.

    January 23, 2015 — 7:46
    • Remark

      Okay. I think (even after studying your proof) some readers might be a little confused. I think I am (my fault, not yours I reckon). I understand that, according to the proof, worlds’ values are irrelevant in respect of their actualisation. I also understand what it might be for a world to exist necessarily. This is what Spinoza argues. I’m unclear, though, on the use of ‘necessary’ along with ‘decision’ and ‘moved to’. If necessarily God (if there is a God) actualises a world, then how can decisions (or being moved) enter into it? You may mean that God’s decision (or being moved) to actualise a world is based on criteria other than value. You say ‘the decision to actualize a possible world is not determined by the suffering or enjoyment in that world.’ This seems to beg the question: then what is the decision based on?

      January 23, 2015 — 8:28
  • Milos

    I believe that idea of this proof is not to show on which basis God choose world to actualize but to show that basis is not value of the particular world.

    Remark, I think that you are confused with notion necessary existence of the world. I think that Prof Almeida here want to say that possible worlds exist necessary (if they exist at all) , which is not same as endorsing of necessitism.

    January 23, 2015 — 8:46
  • Michael Almeida

    I also understand what it might be for a world to exist necessarily. This is what Spinoza argues. I’m unclear, though, on the use of ‘necessary’ along with ‘decision’ and ‘moved to’. If necessarily God (if there is a God) actualises a world, then how can decisions (or being moved) enter into it?

    Worlds exist necessarily, they do not obtain necessarily. When we talk about the actualization of a world, we are talking about which worlds obtain, not which worlds exist. I think it is a good question how God decides to actualize a world. I can tell you that it is not it’s moral value. I can similarly tell you (there is an analogous proof) that it is not its aesthetic value. None of these preclude God from actualizing w rather than w’, none of these require that God actualizes some world w.

    January 23, 2015 — 8:50
    • Remark

      Thank you for the clarification. My thoughts are still on the Problem of Evil. Would you please clarify one point further? You conclude:

      15. ∴ In God’s decision to actualize a possible world he is indifferent to the amount of suffering or enjoyment in that possible world.

      Can this be put more strongly (do you think):

      15’. ∴ In God’s decision to actualize a possible world *he is necessarily* indifferent to the amount of suffering or enjoyment in that possible world?

      Or that God cannot help but be indifferent to the amount of suffering, etc? A lot of ground has been covered on the Problem of Evil (especially gratuitous evil) in your recent posts, and much progress has been made (I’d say). If the theist appeals to the ‘Principle of Indifference’ in answer to the problem, and 15’ can be proved or adduced, isn’t the theist in a very strong position? Stronger than he was allowed to be prior to the Principle appearing in this form, that is?

      January 23, 2015 — 9:18
  • Michael Almeida

    I think 15′ does follow as well. I’m not sure this will help the theist much with the problem of evil. While it is true that God is indifferent to which world is actual, if God exists, it is probably false that the set of worlds that might be actualized would be the same whether or not God existed. This is actually hard to phrase correctly. It’s something like this: whatever possible worlds there are, they necessarily exist. But atheological arguments sometimes claim that the set of worlds that necessarily exist would be different (there would be a different space of possibilities) if God existed. For instance, the space of possibilities would not include worlds with gratuitous evil, such worlds would be impossible.

    Now, what is important to me is that we not describe this claim as involving God’s choice of worlds. That is not what’s going on. What is going on is that there is a space of possibility, and we can imagine that space being different (though it is necessarily one way, or necessarily another). Some of the ways we can imagine that space, God is compossible with it. In other ways we can imagine that space, God is not compossible with it. And, no matter how we imagine that space, if God exists, then God is indifferent to the world that is actual.

    This can matter, for instance, in discussions of the multiverse. Some philosophers argue that “God would choose the actualize the multiverse, and no other world”. But that is nonsense. God cannot choose to actualize the multiverse and no other world. If in fact there is a multiverse and no other world, then of course God actualizes it alone. But he cannot decide to actualize it alone. He also cannot decide which universes are in the multiverse. Whatever they are, it does not reflect his choice. And so on.

    January 23, 2015 — 9:40
    • Remark

      Thank you. I think your explanation together with the argument set out in the OP makes your view quite clear (to me, anyway. No doubt others found it clear much sooner.).

      January 23, 2015 — 10:11
  • Michael Almeida

    It’s not easy to see all of the implications, so the direct and relevant questions are very welcome.

    January 23, 2015 — 10:17
  • Mark Rogers

    This proof of Prof Almeida may not speak to how God actualizes a world but may explain why God actualizes a world. So consider this:
    By the proof if God does not exist some world will obtain. So a world will obtain even if God does not actualize it. Some world or other will obtain if God actualizes it or if God does not actualize a world some other world will obtain. At this point we can not ask why the world that did obtain, obtained, and not another. It exists necessarily. We can ask though why does God actualize any world at all. The answer is that God actualizes a world so that the world that would have obtained had God not actualized a world will fail to obtain. God does not here chose among worlds, but rather determines that a specific world will not obtain. Or no, I have it wrong?

    January 25, 2015 — 14:46
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