Compatibilism and the Free Will Defense
November 10, 2007 — 8:00

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Divine Providence Free Will Problem of Evil  Comments: 23

I’ve long suspected that the basic structure of Plantinga’s free will defense doesn’t require a libertarian view of free will, but I’ve never gotten around to trying to figure out in detail why that might be so. Well, Andrew Fulford has a proposal. Relying on the notion of creaturely integrity, Andrew offers an account of why God’s options might be limited by how God himself may have intended a person’s compatibilist freedom to work itself out, and for all we know this may be true for every actual person. In other words, it may well be that transworld depravity of a very particular sort may be true. It’s possible for all we know that, for each actual person, there is no possible world in which that person does no wrong. There is the problem of dealing with non-actual people, but that’s where God’s choice to actualize people with a certain kind of creaturely integrity comes in. Perhaps it’s true that anyone with the right sort of creaturely integrity, that God would have good moral reasons for wanting to bestow on people, will be transworld depraved in the way Andrew imagines.

What’s interesting about this proposal is that objections to it seem to be the same sort that people might raise against Plantinga’s own libertarian version of transworld depravity or his use of it. If that’s right, then he’s used the basic structure of the free will defense without relying on libertarian freedom.

Probability and Providence
August 13, 2007 — 14:55

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Divine Providence  Comments: Off

Over at my philosophy blog–This is the Name of This Blog–a discussion has cropped up on the theological consequences of a probabilistic account of counterfactuals.  Some readers might be interested in that discussion.  I know I'd be interested in readers' comments. 

Calvinism Among Philosophers
February 17, 2007 — 10:09

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Christian Theology Concept of God Divine Providence Free Will Problem of Evil  Comments: 7

Keith DeRose reflects on Calvinism and philosophers. Why amidst a resurgence of Calvinism in mainstream evangelicalism (both among theologians and at the popular level) has there been virtually no change in the libertarian orthodoxy in Christian philosophy? Keith seems to agree with Dean Zimmerman that this has to do with having to put up a more serious defense of Christianity with secular philosophers, since most Christian philosophers are in secular philosophy departments, and most Christian theologians are in Christian seminaries and colleges. I think that’s probably right as a sociological explanation.
I do find it somewhat interesting given that I (as a Calvinist) find the Calvinist response to the problem of evil to be more thoroughgoing in its consequences (even if more difficult to motivate in its foundations), as a number of Christian philosophers throughout history have held. After all, if Calvinism is true, then every bit of evil is fully explained with no remainder. But it’s at the foundations of a response to the problem of evil that most Christian philosophers are turning to libertarianism. It’s also in the face of considerable social pressure against libertarianism, given that compatibilism is now the default in the philosophical world (a situation interestingly parallel to the dominance of materialism, with many Christian philosophers holding on to dualism).
I’ve got some more detailed thoughts on this at my personal blog, but I thought it was worth directing Prosblogion readers to this discussion without subjecting all of you to the details of how a Calvinist will view this whole issue. Those who want to see that can read my lengthier reflections there.

Simple Foreknowledge vs. Open Theism on Providence, Round 1
May 18, 2006 — 11:38

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: Concept of God Divine Foreknowledge Divine Providence  Comments: 58

I’ve been thinking lately about God’s foreknowledge as it relates to His providence. More specifically, I’ve been thinking of an argument made by a number of philosophers (Hasker, Flint, Basinger–but most forcefully I think in Sanders’ “Why Simple Foreknowledge Offers No More Providential Control than the Openness of God,” Faith and Philosophy 1997) that God’s having simple foreknowledge (as opposed to middle knowledge) would not aid God in His providential control of the world. The basic idea is that if God has foreknowledge, then what He knows is true, and it’s thus ‘too late’ for Him to do anything to providentially control whether or not what He foreknows will happen. I think a helpful way to think of it is in terms of the following (more below the fold).


Prevolitionality and What is Beyond God’s control
June 11, 2004 — 20:11

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: Divine Providence  Comments: 3

Since Molinism seems to have such a strong place in the comments section, I want to try out an issue on the concept of prevolitionality. The issue is central to discussions of Molinism, because Molinists take the truth of counterfactuals of freedom (CFs) to be prevolitional for God: that is, they are true prior to, in the logical order of things, anything that is true as a result of God’s will.
Some Molinists, such as Tom Flint, also claim the prevolitionality claim is the same as claiming that there is nothing God could do to make such CFs false. I have resisted this identification in print, insisting that the presence of snow in a certain spot in northern Indiana is prevolitional with respect to me but not beyond my control: I could have put a piece of cardboard over the spot and it would not have had snow on it.
Flint replied by claiming that the case of God is different. He thinks God’s case is more like what would be the case had I thought about the spot in Indiana, and consciously refrained from interfering, claiming “Here, a full explanation of why the snow is there would have to take account of the various acts and processes going on in my mind. So the ground�s being snow covered would obviously be both post-volitional and non-resilient.” (A claim is resilient for S iff S lacks counterfactual power over its truth-value.)
I think this response is inadequate. If we begin with the concept of prevolitionality, the natural understanding of it is in terms of causality. We might say that a truth is prevolitional for S iff it is not true in virtue of any act of S’s will, but the notion of “in virtue of” seems obviously causal. If we take prevolitionality in causal terms, there is a straightforward understanding of causation on which, even if I decided not to go to Indiana and interfere, no act of my will caused the presence of snow on the spot in question.


If the premises are necessary, is the conclusion necessary?
June 6, 2004 — 20:15

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: Divine Providence  Comments: 5

Here’s a question related to van Inwagen’s consequence argument and its implications for an Edwardsian position on the compatibility of strong sovereignty and (compatibilist) free will, I think, but I’m not here commenting on his argument but rather a general point. (Those of you more up-to-speed on van Inwagen and free will may be able to educate me here…)
The argument I’m thinking about begins with the usual understanding of determinism:
Premise 1: some specification of initial conditions
Premise 2: a listing of the true laws of nature
Conclusion: the entirety of the future
The idea of the argument is that determinism allows one to infer the entirety of the future given only the laws of nature and some specification of initial conditions.
(There is a caveat here that I will ignore below. We need also to insist that determinism involves the claim that nothing ever happens except what can be explained in the above fashion. Otherwise the possibility of miracles, in terms not of contradicting laws of nature, but of contravening them in some other way, changes the status of the above argument. It changes it in such a way that the conclusion follows from the premises, not of logical necessity, but only of nomological necessity. This difference won’t matter below, so I ignore it in what follows.)
Now for my version of a consequence argument. It employs three premises:
Premise 1: In the above argument, the first premise is necessary.
Premise 2: In the above argument, the second premise is necessary.
Premise 3: In the above argument, the connection between the premises and the conclusion is necessary.
Conclusion: Therefore, the conclusion of the above argument is itself necessary.
I’m interested in the general principle that “from necessary premises, necessary conclusions follow.” Call this principle “NPNC”. This principle is fine when the kinds of necessity in the premises are the same, but note that in my version of the consequence argument, there are 3 kinds of necessity. In premise 1, the necessity is accidental necessity; in premise 2, nomological necessity; and in premise 3, logical necessity. NPNC is also fine in some cases where the kinds of necessity differ. If, for example, the necessities can be nested in terms of strength, the principle is fine as long as the necessity attributed to the conclusion is the weakest kind. So is there any defensible version of NPNC for this argument?