Value Promotion and Sub-Optimal Worlds
August 9, 2012 — 19:38

Author: Dean Zimmerman  Category: Existence of God  Tags: , ,   Comments: 20

Call an objection to the existence of God a ‘problem of sub-optimal worlds’ when it appeals to the claim that God has reason to maximize the value of worlds. Since there are better (feasible) worlds than the actual one, these problems infer in some way or another that God does not exist. Although I haven’t looked at the literature closely, my impression is that every instance of the problem of sub-optimal worlds assumes a very simple relationship between the intrinsic value of a state of affairs and reasons for action (they don’t always talk about reasons, but my point could be cast in terms of virtues or whatever else one prefers). Something like this is typically assumed without comment:
Promotion: For every domain of intrinsic value D and subject S, S has reason to maximize D, i.e., for every additional degree of D that could be attained, S has reason to attain that additional degree of value.
Promotion is plausible for some domains of intrinsic value, such as welfare. It’s plausible that, for every additional degree of welfare that I could bring about in your life, I have some reason to take the necessary means of attaining that additional degree of welfare. But does Promotion hold for every domain of intrinsic value? I don’t think so.


Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholars Prize Deadline Approaches
January 1, 2011 — 22:46

Author: Dean Zimmerman  Category: News  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: Off

I am pleased to announce the imminent publication of the winning essay from the 2009 Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholars Prize: “Ontological Nihilism”, by Jason Turner (University of Leeds). It will be the lead article in Vol. 6 of OSM, due early 2011 from Oxford University Press. I am also happy to report that Karen Bennett and I are now co-editors of OSM; Karen has been breathing new life into the series, and the results will already be apparent with Vol. 6.
It is also time to remind all the younger metaphysicians out there that the due date for submission to the 2011 competition is fast approaching! It is NOT January 15 (as last OSM reported), but January 30. The winning essay will be published in OSM (often alongside runners-up) and the author receives an $8,000 prize. You still have a whole month in which to prepare your submissions. Get to it!
The competition is supported by the Ammonius Foundation — which supports a similar $8,000 award for the Younger Scholars Prize for Philosophical Theology, a parallel competition associated with Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (with a deadline of August 31). “Younger” metaphysicians and philosophers of religion (in grad school or within ten years of receiving a Ph.D.) should check out the details at:
Both prizes were dreamed up and are financed by the Ammonius Foundation. The Foundation’s grants have encouraged many younger metaphysicians with generous essay awards (past winners are Rachel Briggs, Graeme A. Forbes, Jason Turner, Jeff Russell, Bradford Skow, Stephan Leuenberger, Matthew McGrath, Cody Gilmore, and Thomas Hofweber), and more senior metaphysicians with individual research grants for projects in metaphysics and philosophy of religion (past recipients include Derek Parfit, Jonathan Schaffer, Mark Johnston, John Hawthorne, Alvin Plantinga, George Bealer, and Jan Cover).
If you just go to the main Ammonius Foundation web site, however, you won’t find any link to a really interesting, closely related page:, the home of Coming to Understanding, the grand metaphysical system constructed by the founder of the Ammonius Foundation, Marc Sanders. The author, aka “Ammonius”, has developed an elaborate monistic, neo-platonic ontological scheme described in a (free!) downloadable book (which includes a critical essay by yours truly, and another by Gordon Graham). There are a lot of interesting ideas in his carefully crafted system, and the religious thrust of the book will resonate with those attracted to a deity like “the Highest One” of Mark Johnston’s recent book, Saving God. (After the manner of philosophers and junior high students, I show my respect for Ammonius’s system by relentlessly attacking it along multiple fronts.)
Marc Sanders is retiring from his role as head of the Ammonius Foundation, and passing the reins to his son, Eric Sanders, who plans to continue the two Younger Scholar Prize competitions, among other things. It has been a real privilege and pleasure to work with Marc and his Foundation over many years. Although Ammonius has a distinctive mission (, much of what the Foundation does has no goal other than to promote serious work in metaphysics and, now, philosophical theology, no matter the conclusions reached. The Foundation’s grants to the Younger Scholars program have been absolutely “no strings attached”; a committee of three judges, culled from editorial board members of OSM, makes the call, not me (committees have included Karen Bennett, Hud Hudson, Trenton Merricks, Ted Sider, Andrew Cortens, Yuri Balashov, and John Hawthorne, among others). I can’t imagine a pleasanter relationship with a grantor than mine with Ammonius.
As Marc steps down, I want to thank him publicly for his steadfast support of excellence in metaphysics. But I know that public praise and attention is the last thing he wants — he wants our attention drawn, not to him, but to the ideas in his metaphysical system. So the only way I can adequately say “thanks” is to encourage you to check it out for yourself: Coming to Understanding.

CFA: 2011 APRA
December 13, 2010 — 15:09

Author: Dean Zimmerman  Category: News  Comments: Off

CFA: 2011 Australasian Philosophy of Religion Conference
When: Saturday July 16th- Sunday July 17th, 2011
Where: University of Auckland
Submission Deadline: May 1st, 2011
The Australasian Philosophy of Religion Association (APRA) invites abstracts of 200-300 words on any topic in philosophy of religion. You will have 25-30 minutes for presentation and 25 minutes for questions. Submissions should be sent by email to Dr Chris Tucker ( Please use the subject line “APRA Submission.” Expect a decision within two weeks of your submission. For further details about the conference, please visit
Committed speakers include:
Trent Dougherty (Baylor University)
John Hare (Yale Divinity; Seelye Charitable Trust Distinguished Fellow)
Mark Murphy (Georgetown University; Auckland University Distinguished Visitor)
Erik Wielenberg (DePauw University)
There will be a Naturalisms in Ethics conference (NEC) immediately preceding the APRA conference. You are welcome to submit an abstract for the NEC as well. Confirmed speakers include Rosalind Hursthouse (University of Auckland), John Hare, Mark Murphy, and Erik Wielenberg. Further details here: