Here’s a modal quandary. Both modal arguments seem correct. Both arguments seem valid.
1. Necessarily, God actualizes the best world.
2. There is no best possible world.
3. :. God does not exist.
1. There is no best possible world.
2. It is impossible that God actualizes the best possible world.
3. :. It is not necessary that God actualizes the best world.
The problem arises because we are (implicitly) reasoning counterfactually (strictly, counterpossibly), and there’s room for different ways to resolve the vagueness involved.
Here’s a dilemma that might be worrisome for theists. It’s, in any case, a worry for me. Consider, first, the thesis in (1).
1. Possibly, God actualizes a morally perfect possible world or a morally very good possible world.
Most of us believe that (1) is true, indeed, many of us believe that (1) is necessarily true. But if we affirm (1), we have to deny (2).
Some theists say that, if there is a best world, then God must actualize it; but if there is no best possible world, then God can actualize a bettered world w. A bettered world w is a world for which there is a better actualizable world w’. The thought that God cannot actualize a bettered world when there is no best world is what we might call an optimal illusion.
I listed five false consequences of the standard view of personhood. Let me offer the continuant argument that I’m not a person. I mean, of course, that I am not essentially a person in the standard sense of personhood. I’d like to know where the argument goes wrong. I can’t see any place where it does. It’s actually a simple argument.
Let’s say someone is a person if and only if he possesses self-awareness, consciousness, rationality, the ability to communicate, and so on. Call that the standard view. The standard view is found in Singer, Glover, Tooley, Lowe, Williams, McMahan, and Parfit and goes at least as far back as Locke. According to the standard view, the property of being a person confers a special moral status on those who instantiate it. Only persons have the full profile of moral rights, so their lives have a moral protection that is not afforded to non-persons.
If I were a person, then all of the following would be true:
Suppose for the sake of discussion that (1) is true. I have no idea whether there are worlds in which there are just 100 happy people, but it does simplify the discussion.
1. w includes 100 happy people existing for 10 minutes only.
The value of w, I think, is ten times the value of w’ in (2).
2. w’ includes 100 happy people existing for 1 minute only.
Now let w” be exactly like w, but add the fact that w” is an eternalist world. w” includes 100 happy people. There is no time in w” at which it is false that 100 happy people exist.
3. w” includes 100 happy people and it is true at each time t that 100 happy people exist.
Since it is true at each time in w” that a 100 happy people exist (and despite the fact that it is not true at each time that 100 happy people exist at that time), the value of w” should be much higher than the value of w. The value of a world is a function (in part) of the number of happy people existing in the world over time. It doesn’t much matter where in the world they are (spatially or, it seems to me, temporally).
Are there possible worlds that include unimaginable suffering? On behalf of the Anselmian theist, Tom Morris denies that there are such worlds.
Such an [Anselmian] God is a delimiter of possibilities. If there is a being who exists necessarily, and is necessarily omnipotent, omniscient, and good, then many states of affairs which otherwise would represent genuine possibilities, and which by all non-theistic tests of logic and semantics do represent genuine possibilities, are strictly impossible in the strongest sense. In particular, worlds containing certain sorts or amounts of disvalue or evil are metaphysically ruled out by the nature of God, divinely precluded from the realm of real possibility. (‘The Necessity of God’s Goodness’ in his Anselmian Explorations 48 ff.)
But I think there’s an interesting argument that there are such worlds. I call it the Property Argument.
Stephen Grover offers an interesting version of the Mere Addition Paradox (‘Mere Addition and the Best of all Possible Worlds’, Religious Studies, 1999) against Swinburne’s brief argument (The Existence of God, Oxford, 1979, 114 ff.) that there is no best world. Swinburne’s argument goes this way.
… take any world W . Presumably the goodness of such a world.will consist in part in it containing a finite or infinite number of conscious beings who will enjoy it. But if the enjoyment of the world by each is a valuable thing, surely a world with a few more conscious beings in it would be a yet more valuable world W’ . . . I conclude that it is not, for conceptual reasons, plausible to suppose that there could be a best of all possible worlds, and in consequence God could not have overriding reason to create one.
There are good reasons to deny that Swinburne’s argument shows anything like there is no best world. Still, the argument does not suffer from the Mere Addition Paradox (MAP).
There is widespread belief that compatibilism + theism cannot offer a credible solution to the logical problem of evil. Why does anyone believe that? I think they’re reasoning this way: if compatibilism is true, then, necessarily, God can actualize a morally perfect world. That’s of course true, and it entails that the free will defense fails. But then they reason, if, necessarily, God can actualize a morally perfect world, then, necessarily, God does actualize a morally perfect world. It is then observed that, obviously, there is evil. So, compatibilism + theism is incoherent; it cannot solve the logical problem.
Many of you will know that I’m sympathetic to modal realism; I think it solves many more problems than it causes, especially for theists. I want to address here what I think is a mistaken objection to modal realism: the so-called problem of indifference. The objection is originally formulated in Robert Adams.
Indeed, if we ask, “What is wrong with actualizing evils, since they will occur in some other possible world anyway if they don’t occur in this one?”, I doubt that modal realism can provide an answer which will be completely satisfying ethically (Theories of Actuality, 1974).
If Lewisian modal realism is true, then, just as we exist and our worldmates exist, so does every other individual and person inhabiting every other world. They all exist even though they are not all actual; they all exist, though they are not all our worldmates; they all exist though they do not all exist in our world. And these existing, non-actual persons are all as concrete, sentient, caring, and rational as we are. What Adams is calling attention to is that, if all of these beings exist in the same sense that we do, then they all matter morally, just as much as you and I do. But if we consider (literally or unrestrictedly, now) every existing sentient being in deliberating about what we should do, Adams complains, we will always reach the conclusion that it just doesn’t matter what we do.
No matter what we do–whether we do good or evil–it does not matter to the overall value of the pluriverse (i.e. the overall value of all possible worlds). If we do good, some counterpart of ours in similar circumstances will opt to do evil. If we do evil, some counterpart of ours in similar circumstances will opt to do good. It will necessarily balance out; the pluriverse and all of it’s inhabitants will not be any better off, or any worse off, overall no matter what we do. The overall value of the pluriverse is unchangeable. So, what difference does it make what we choose to do? We are led to moral indifference.