# Recently in Molinism Category

## Explaining Molinist conditionals

I remember David Manley (who I think was a first year grad student at the time) querying Al Plantinga over a meal whether counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCFs) could be explained. I think Al didn't have an answer but thought it was a really good question.

I may finally have an answer to David's question. I think that the Molinist should answer in the affirmative if and only if non-derivatively free actions have explanations.

Suppose w0 is the actual world. Consider the conditional C→A, where C says that Curley has such-and-such character and is offered a \$5000 bribe at t0, and A says that he freely accepts the bribe at t0. Suppose w1 is a sufficiently close-by world where C and A are true. Now let's put ourselves in w1. So, Curley freely accepts the \$5000 bribe. Does this have an explanation? If not, then a fortiori I think we should not have said in w0 that C→A had an explanation. After all, if it has an explanation in w0, it surely doesn't lose one in w1, just because C holds there. But it would be just too weird that in w1, C→A has an explanation but A does not, especially if, as will at least typically be the case, C has an explanation.

Conversely, suppose that in w1, A has an explanation. What kind of an explanation is that? The most plausible candidate for an explanation of a free action is in terms of non-necessitating reasons and character. Maybe, in w1, what explains A is that Curley is very greedy. But that Curley is very greedy is a part of C. So it seems very reasonable to say at w0 that what explains C→A is that were C to hold, Curley would be very greedy (a necessary truth, since C includes a description of Curley's character). Now you might say: Yeah, but that he would be greedy in C doesn't entail or maybe even make likely that he would take the bribe. But the very same point holds in w1: that he is greedy doesn't entail or maybe even make likely that he takes the bribe--yet, we supposed, it explains it. If we accepted the explanation of the categorical claim in w1, we should accept the corresponding explanation of the conditional claim in w0, if w1 is close enough to w0.

## Molinism, presentism, explanation and grounding

Fundamental Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents are brutish: they are not grounded in other propositions, nor made true by a truthmaker, lack of a falsemaker and/or the obtaining of properties/relations between entities.

Now, suppose as seems plausible to me that there are precisely two kinds of explanation: constitutive-style and causal-style explanations. Constitutive-style explanations explain a truth by explaining how the truth is grounded: the knife is hot because its molecules have high kinetic energy. Causal-style explanations explain a truth by giving non-grounding conditions that nonetheless in a mysterious but familiar causal or at least causal-like give rise to the holding of the truth.

Now, brutish truths have no constitutive-style explanations. For the constitutive-style explanation involves the describing of a grounding. But brutish truths also have no causal-style explanations. For causal-style explanations involves the describing of causal-style relations between the aspects of the world (in the concrete sense) that ground the explanandum and explanans. (In fact, for this reason, brutish truths not only lack causal-style explanations but are not causal-style explanations for anything else.) So, brutish truths have no explanations.

But if there are true fundamental Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents, there will also be ones that have explanations. For, some, maybe all, free actions can be explained in terms of the reasons the agent had. Thus, Curley accepts the bribe because he wants to be richer. Granted, this is a non-necessitating explanation--that Curley wants to be richer does not entail that he accepts the bribe. But that's still an explanation, and one of causal-type. And exactly parallel explanations can be given for Molinist conditionals. Thus, Curley would have accepted the bribe in circumstances C because circumstances C includes his wanting to be richer. And presumably this kind of explanation would have held even had Curley never existed, and presumably if Molinism is true, there are such explanations for true conditionals about actually non-existent agents. Thus some fundamental Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents can be explained. But this contradicts their brutishness.

Moreover, presumably some fundamental true Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents explain God's creative inactions. Thus, perhaps, God did not create Badolf Bitler, because Bitler would have been so much worse than Hitler. But these conditionals do not provide a constitutive-style explanation for such actions. So they provide a causal-style explanation. But they can't do that, because they're brutish.

The same argument goes against Merricks-style presentism on which fundamental truths about the past are brutish. But many, perhaps all, fundamental truths about the past are explained by other fundamental truths about the past.

## Molinism and probabilistic explanation

Suppose Molinism is true. We know the truth values of some Molinist counterfactuals because we know that their antecedent and consequent are true. But we also have reason to believe many other Molinist counterfactuals. Absent further evidence, if P(A|C) is high, and C is an appropriate antecedent for a Molinist counterfactual C→A, that gives me reason to believe C→A. It certainly gives me reason to believe C→A if I know C is actually true; for if I know C is true, then if P(A|C) is high, P(A) will be fairly high as well, and so A is probably true, and hence C→A is probably true. But I also have reason to think C→A is true in cases where C is false. For instance, if Jones is the sort of person likely to accede to my minor requests, then I have reason to believe that were I to make such-and-such a minor request, he'd accede to it, and I have reason to believe the conditional whether or not I make the request (at least assuming Molinism is true so that the conditional has non-trivial truth-value).

This suggests that if the objective probability of A on C is high, then the objective probability of C→A is also high. So the Molinist conditional C→A, assuming it's true, doesn't seem to be a mere brute fact. It is a fact subject to meaningful probabilistic assignments. But if it's not a mere brute fact, it seems reasonable to look for an explanation of it. What is that explanation?

Well, maybe we have a probabilistic explanation. Maybe the fact that C makes A probable explains why C→A. But this is weird. It seems that probabilistic explanation is a species of causal explanation (with probabilistic causation). But there is surely no causal explanation of why C→A, at least in worlds where C is not true. (What would the cause be? The truthmaker of C? But C is not true and has no truthmaker.)

I'll leave it as a puzzle: How is a Molinist to explain the connection between P(A|C) and the probability of the conditional C→A?

## The Value Component of Plantinga's Free Will Defense

A defense (in Plantinga's sense) against the logical problem of evil requires two components: a metaphysical component, which claims that a certain scenario is logically possible, and a value component, which claims that if the scenario in question were actual then it would be consistent with God's goodness to weakly actualize a world containing evil. In Plantinga's Free Will Defense (FWD), the scenario in question is one in which every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity (TWD). Now, in both The Nature of Necessity and God, Freedom, and Evil Plantinga's focus is squarely on the metaphysical component, defending the coherence of Molinism and the possibility of every creaturely essence suffering from TWD. The value component is almost completely ignored. Plantinga supposes that, if every creaturely essence suffered from TWD, then God would create a world with evil, and this would not in any way impugn his goodness. But why does Plantinga think this? I suppose he probably endorses:

(1) God's perfect goodness consists in his actualizing the best world he can

and

(2) If every creaturely essence suffered TWD, then the best world God could actualize would contain some evil.

## The New Collection

Seems that describing it as "shameless self-promotion" absolves one, though I doubt it. But that's the line so I hereby use it, whatever purgatory consequences... My new collection, in draft form, LaTeX'ed to beautiful purposes by Oxford's document class, is here.

Any thoughts welcome, of course--would love to minimize the errors!

## Sovereignty

Suppose that I know that if I cause A, then either B or C will eventuate. Suppose that each of B and C furthers my plan, and neither of them furthers it better than the other. Then it does not seem that sovereignty would require me to know or decide prior to my decision to cause A which of B and C would eventuate. Sovereignty perhaps requires that nothing happens that is contrary to God's plan, but it does not require that God's plan should determine every detail.

Here is try at a notion of sovereignty built on this idea:

1. x sovereignly executes plan P iff x successfully executes P and if we let Q be what x strongly and knowingly actualizes in executing P, and we let K be all that x knows explanatorily prior to x's decision to strongly actualize Q, and we let W be the set of all worlds at which both Q and K hold, then no world in W better fits the goals of P than any other.

In other words, x is sovereign in the execution of a plan provided that, given what x does and knows, he can't be disappointed in respect of the quality of the plan's execution.

One way to ensure sovereignty in the execution of a plan is to strongly and knowingly actualize every little detail. This is a Calvinist or maybe Thomistic way. Another way is to know exactly how the details would turn out. That's a Molinist way. Another way is the "chessmaster way" (not my terminology or original idea; I think the view has been developed by W. Matthews Grant and Sarah Coakley): to choose a plan in such a way that no matter how things turn out, the goal wouldn't be any the less well achieved by the lights of the plan. One can do this in two ways: setting one's goal appropriately (so that whatever turns out, fits--that's not how chessmasters do it) or choosing the plan very carefully or some combination of the first two disjuncts.

## An argument against the possibility of transworld depravity

Transworld Depravity (TWD) is the thesis that possibly every feasible world with significantly free agents contains moral evil. I will offer an argument, assuming Molinism, that TWD is necessarily false. I don't think the argument is all that strong, but I hope it will push Molinists to think about a certain interesting (to me) issue.

In order to get Adams to accept some counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCFs, denoted with →), Plantinga offered this example. Actually Curley takes a bribe of a certain amount. Surely, then, it is true that were Curley to have been offered a larger bribe, he would have taken that, too. Adams agrees.

One might not unreasonably take Plantinga's example to support the following thesis:
(*) Necessarily: If x actually freely chooses A in circumstances C, then had x instead been in circumstances C* instead of C such that D(C*,C,x,A), then x would still have freely chosen A.
Here, D(C*,C,A) says that circumstances C* are a variation on C (this minimally implies that they occur in the same spatiotemporal location, but more may need to be added), and they dominate circumstances C for x in respect of A in the following sense: (a) the agent is non-perverse and hence without the least inclination to act unreasonably for the sake of acting unreasonably, (b) any consideration operative for x in C in favor of A is also operative for x in C* in favor of A in at least as strong a form, and (c) any consideration operative for x in C* against A is operative in C against A in at least as strong a form.

One might then generalize (*) to:
(**) If C and C* are sufficiently determinate circumstances for a free choice, then (C → x freely does A) & D(C*,C,x,A) entails C* → x freely does A.

Suppose (**) is true. Imagine circumstances C where there is only one free agent, Eve, who makes only one free choice: whether to eat a yummy apple or to dance a merry jig (no other options are available, and it is not possible to do both), and this choice is significantly free because God forbade Eve to eat the apple. Eve has no inclination to disobey God or act unreasonably as such. Eve, however, has a desire to eat the apple on account of its yumminess or to dance the jig on account of its merriness. Call these circumstances C. Now, let C* be circumstances just like these, except that God instead forbade Eve to dance the jig.

Now, suppose TWD holds. Then, C→(Eve freely eats apple) and C*→(Eve freely dances jig). But this contradicts (**), since C* dominates C in respect of apple-eating for Eve. Why does domination hold? Well, any operative consideration in favor of apple-eating in C (namely the yumminess of the apple) is present in C*, and any operative consideration against apple-eating (namely the merriness of the jig) in C* is present in C. The only difference is that the fact that God forbids the apple-eating in C but it is the jig-dancing that is forbidden in C*; but given that Eve has no inclination to act unreasonably or disobediently as such, this does nothing to contradict C's being dominated by C* in respect of apple-eating (that God forbids apple-eating in C either counts for nothing or counts against apple-eating in C, etc.)

## Another argument against Molinism

I shall use the phrase "non-derivatively libertarian-free" (NDLF) to describe a libertarian-free choice that does not inherit its freedom from earlier free actions. This corresponds to Kane's Self-Forming Actions. Now consider this plausible principle:
Thesis 1: If x NDLF-ly chooses A in circumstances C, and p is a proposition explanatorily prior to x's choosing A, then were x not to have NDLF-ly chosen A in C, p would still have been true.

A consequence of this is the following PAP:
Thesis 2: If x NDLF-ly chooses A in C, then x's failing to NDLF-ly choose A in C is logically compatible with any proposition that is explanatorily prior to x's NDLF-ly choosing A in C.

(The argument from Thesis 1 to Thesis 2 is this. Suppose Thesis 2 is false. Then we have a proposition p explanatorily prior to x's NDLF-ly choosing A in C such that p entails x's NDLF-ly choosing A in C. But then x's failing to NDLF-ly choose A in C entails ~p. It is obvious that if x NDLF-ly chooses A in C, then x's NDLF-ly choosing A in C is not logically necessary. But if u entails v, then at least if u is contingent, were u to hold, v would hold. So, were x to fail to NDLF-ly choose A in C, then ~p would hold. But by Thesis 1, it follows that were x to fail to NDLF-ly choose A in C, then p would. But these two conditionals cannot both be true if the antecedent is possible, as it is. So Thesis 2 cannot be false.)

Now on to the argument. If Molinism holds, then the following scenario is possible:
Scenario 1: God believes that were he to place agent x in circumstances C, the agent would NDLF-ly choose A in C, and for that reason God in fact places agent x in circumstances C.

Now, assume that if p and q are explanatorily prior to r, so is the conjunction p&q. Suppose Scenario 1 holds. Let p be the proposition that x is in C, and let q be the proposition that God believes that were God to place x in C, x would NDLF-ly choose A in C. Then p and q are explanatorily prior to x NDLF-ly choosing A in C. Hence so is their conjunction. Hence, their conjunction does not entail x's NDLF-ly choosing A in C (by Thesis 2). But, necessarily, God believes only truths. So, q entails that were God to place x in C, x would NDLF-ly choose A in C. By modus ponens, p&q entails that x NDLF-ly chooses A in C. Hence, p&q both does and does not entail that x NDLF-ly chooses A in C, which is a contradiction.

This is, of course, a version of Adams' circularity-in-the-order-of-explanation argument. Strictly speaking, it doesn't show that God can't know conditionals of free will, but only that it is incoherent to suppose him to act on that knowledge in the way indicated in Scenario 1. Thus, the argument is compatible with a weak Molinism on which God knows the conditionals but must bracket that knowledge when choosing to act.

I actually don't quite buy the argument because my current view of counterfactuals does not support Thesis 1 (but neither does it support Molinism).

## A problem with strong actualization

Plantinga defines strong actualization thus: "God strongly actualizes a state of affairs S if and only if he causes S to be actual and causes to be actual every contingent state of affairs S* such that S includes S*" (Profiles, p. 49).

It is crucial for Plantinga's arguments that "includes" have an interpretation such that if S entails S* and S* is contingent, then S includes S*. Otherwise, Plantinga's FWD includes an invalid argument. For Plantinga is going to argue that if W is a world where Eve freely doesn't take the apple, then T(W)--the maximal strongly actualized state of affairs that includes all the states of affairs strongly actualized in W--does not include Eve's freely refraining from taking the apple, and hence the conditional T(W)→(Eve freely refrains from taking the apple) cannot be necessarily true. But the latter only follows if entailment implies inclusion.

Moreover, it is crucial to the FWD that God cannot strongly actualize a state of affairs of someone doing something freely.

But now we have a problem. For suppose that in some world W where Eve freely doesn't take the apple, God earlier confidentially remarks to the Archangel Gabriel that if Eve doesn't freely refrain, God will create life on Pluto. Let S1 be the state of affairs of God making that remark to Gabriel, and let S2 be the state of affairs of there being no life on Pluto. Suppose S2, as well as S1, obtains at W. It seems that God strongly actualizes S1 and that God strongly actualizes S2.

But now we have a problem, for God strongly actualizes each of two states of affairs whose conjunction entails Eve's freely refaining. Now it either is or is not true that if God strongly actualizes each of two states of affairs, he strongly actualizes their conjunction. If it is true, then it follows, contrary to what is needed for the FWD, that God strongly actualizes Eve's freely refraining. If it is not true, then T(W) need not in general exist--there will, perhaps, always be a state of affairs that includes all the states of affairs strongly actualized at W, but that state of affairs will not itself be strongly actualized by God (why? becuase that state of affairs will include S1 and will include S2, but the conjunction of S1 and S2 is not strongly actualized). And Plantinga's argument seems to require the existence of T(W).

## Weak actualization

Central to Plantinga's formulation of the FWD is the notion of "weak actualization". In the Profiles volume, Plantinga defines this as follows:

1. God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes S* and S* → S, where → is "counterfactual implication".
I think this is a problematic definition. Here is the basic problem. Say that a conditional C is "centered" iff pCp holds whenever both p and q hold. Then, trivially:

Theorem 1. If (1), and → is centered, then if God strongly actualizes any actual state of affairs, God weakly actualizes every actual state of affairs.

(Proof: Let S* be any actual state of affairs that God strongly actualizes. Let S be any actual state of affairs. Then, by centering S*→S, and so by (1), God weakly actualizes S.)

Theorem 1 is clearly problematic, as we can see by substituting "Al" for "God". Since Al strongly actualizes some state of affairs (say, the writing of The Nature of Necessity), it follows that he weakly actualizes the Battle of Waterloo.

In light of Theorem 1, we could simplify the concept of "weakly actualizes": God weakly actualizes S iff S is actual and there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes. But if that is what "weakly actualizes" comes down to, it is not a very interesting concept. It is a pretty trivial concept, and I think it does not seem to support the proof that Plantinga gives of Lewis's Lemma.

## A variant on the grounding objection to Molinism

Premises:

1. If there are any Molinist counterfactuals, there are ungrounded true contingent propositions.
2. Propositions reporting divine beliefs are grounded.
3. If p is a contingent truth (i.e., true proposition), then either God's belief is explained constitutively or causally by p, or p is explained constitutively or causally, or there is some third truth that explains both p and God's belief constitutively or causally.
4. An ungrounded truth cannot be explained causally.
5. An ungrounded truth cannot explain causally.
6. When a truth p explains q constitutively, something that grounds p grounds q.
7. God believes every truth.
It follows from (6) that an ungrounded truth cannot explain or be explained constitutively. It follows then (2)-(5) that no ungrounded contingent proposition is believed by God. It then follows from (7) that no ungrounded contingent proposition is true. It then follows that there are no Molinist counterfactuals.

Premise (3) is a way of working out the idea that God's beliefs are knowledge and cannot be merely contingently related to what makes them true.