The Leveling Argument
February 2, 2015 — 23:47

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Concept of God Existence of God Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 23

Here is an interesting theistic argument that I call the ‘leveling argument’.  The leveling argument takes as a premise the common assumption in (1). I agree that (1) is tendentious.

1. God cannot actualize a suboptimal world.

Now take any level of value v and suppose that every possible world has an intrinsic value no higher than v. If a possible world w has value v, then God could actualize w. God would have optimized in actualizing w. But if w had value v and w’ had value v+, then God could not actualize w. God would have failed to optimize in actualizing w. So, whether God can actualize a world w depends on what other worlds w’ he might actualize. It is the comparative value of worlds that determines whether God could actualize them, not their intrinsic value. Immediately, we can reach two broad conclusions.


On Terrible Libertarian Worlds
January 30, 2015 — 20:08

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Divine Providence Free Will Problem of Evil Uncategorized  Tags: , ,   Comments: 8

Consider a morally perfect world, w, that includes only libertarian free agents. Everyone in w is acting morally, no one is acting immorally. Let S be the set of all agents in w, where S = {a0, a1, a2, a3, a4, . . .,an}. And let A be the set of actions of agents in w, where A ={M0, M1, M2, M3, M4, . . ., Mn}, where ‘Mn’ indicates that agent n performed a moral action. But we know that the actions of agents in w are libertarian free, so we know that the actions are fully independent: no one’s action is causally dependent (or logically dependent, or otherwise dependent) on anyone else’s action. Otherwise, these actions are not free. So, we know that there is a possible world w’ where the set of actions are A’ = {Im0, M1, M2, M3, M4, . . ., Mn}, where ‘Imn’ indicates that agent n performed an immoral action. In w’, one of the agents chooses to act immorally. But then, on the same assumptions, we know that there is a possible world w” where the set of actions is A” = {Im0, Im1, Im2, M3, M4, . . ., Mn}. In w”, three of the agents choose to act immorally, the rest act morally. We know that they are free to do so. But then we know that there is also a possible world wn where An = {Im0, Im1, Im2, Im3, Im4, . . ., Imn}. In wn all agents decide to act immorally. This is possible too, given libertarianism. But we know something much, much worse.


Adams on Creating the Best
January 27, 2015 — 23:21

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Christian Theology Existence of God General  Tags: ,   Comments: 25

Robert Adams famously argued that an unsurpassable being need not actualize the best possible world. Adams urges that he does not believe that there is a best world, but assumes there’s one for the sake of argument.

I think it is fairly plausible to suppose that God could have created a world that would have the following characteristics: (1) None of the individual creatures in it would exist in the best of all possible worlds. (2) None of the creatures in it has a life which is so miserable on the whole that it would be better for that creature if it had never existed. (3) Every individual creature in the world is at least as happy on the whole as it would have been in any other possible world in which it could have existed. (‘Must God Create the Best’, PR, 1972)


The Point of Pointless Evil
January 25, 2015 — 10:41

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 6

William Hasker has interesting things to say about the consequences of the standard view that God cannot permit a single instance of gratuitous evil. I won’t fuss the metaphysical issue of the nature of gratuitous evil, but it’s really worth thinking hard about it. I’m interested in Hasker’s claim about what he calls the ‘limited harm principle’, (LH). Here’s the essential argument (EA) for permitting gratuitous evils.

. . . if (LH) is true, and an agent knows it is true, then the agent’s inclination to take moral requirements seriously is likely to be very significantly lessened. But this result is contrary to God’s intention that human beings should place a high priority on fulfilling moral obligations, and should assume major responsibility for the welfare of their fellow human beings. Put more briefly: If we know that God will permit a morally wrong action only if it results in a compensating good, then our motivation to take morality seriously as a guide to life is likely to be seriously impaired.(‘Defining Gratuitous Evil’, Religious Studies, 2010)


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.


Doing the Impossible
January 19, 2015 — 8:52

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 22

Suppose it is true, as so many theists believe, that there is no best possible world (I think this is false, as I argued here). Certainly, the most common theistic response to this metaphysical fact is that it presents no insurmountable problem for the perfect being theist. God cannot be required to actualize the best world–or the unsurpassed world–since there is no such world. Here’s an argument that’s often given against the claim in (C).

C. A perfect being cannot actualize a sub-optimal world.


Can Theists be Libertarians?
January 15, 2015 — 23:02

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 14

I take minimal libertarianism (ML) to entail that, for any time t, free agent S, action A, and world W, S is libertarian free at t in W with respect to A only if S can (is able to) do A at t and S can (is able to) do ~A at t. It is central to the freedom of the libertarian free agent S in W that S has available to her at t an A-world, w, and a ~A-world, w’, each of which share the same past. There are of course many complicating clauses we can add to (ML), and various resulting versions of libertarianism, but the minimal conditions in (ML) is all we will need.

Theists often find libertarianism appealing.  But can theists consistently be libertarians? The standard view on gratuitous evil is in (P).

P. Necessarily, God prevents every instance of gratuitous or pointless evil.

(P) of course expresses a necessary truth (if true). (ML) also expresses a necessary truth. Both (P) and (ML) are widely accepted among theists. But if (P) is true, as it certainly seems to be, and God exists, then (ML) is false. How would a proof go?


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).


Adams and Creation*
January 12, 2015 — 7:58

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 48

Robert Adams defends a form of actualism according to which everything that exists is actual, nothing x can have a property P in a world w if x does not exist in w, and neither singular propositions about x nor haecceities (unique non-qualitative properties) of x exist in worlds where x does not exist.

An important implication of Adams’ view is that, for beings that do not actually exist, there are nothing more than qualitative possibilities: no individual essences and no thisnesses (e.g., the property of being identical to Socrates). Compare Plantinga who argues that there are individual essences (properties that belong uniquely to the individual who instantiates those properties) in every world (whether or not it is instantiated). What this means for Adams is that, when God is imagining what he wishes to create–which world he wants to actualize–the most he can do is imagine kinds of individuals, not particular individuals.


A Multiverse Solution?
January 9, 2015 — 11:15

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Existence of God Problem of Evil  Tags: , ,   Comments: 51

The multiverse solution to the problem(s) of evil (and the problem of suboptimality) is a systematic response to these problems, and one that is fairly popular. Still, lot’s of people have argued against the view (see, for instance, Monton, 2010, Almeida, 2008, 2010) and some use multiverses for other purposes (see O’Connor, 2008). For a nice overview of multiverse approaches (and bibliographic citations) see Klaas Kraay here.

The thought, according to multiverse theorists, is that God necessarily actualizes a possible world W that includes lots of cosmoi, or lots of universes, U0, U1, . . ., Un. All of the universes are actual, so the multiverse is not a pluriverse (for instance, it is not a Lewisian pluriverse). The universes “chosen” (don’t take this too literally) for actualization are the universes (of those worlds) that include an on balance positive value. It is of course a much longer story, and I would argue that it is probably not a coherent story (and, further, not the story that multiverse theorists think they are telling), but this is the basic multiverse thought.