Nelson Pike Conference
August 13, 2010 — 19:10

Author: Garret Pendergraft  Category: Divine Foreknowledge Free Will News  Comments: 2

Some of you may have seen the announcement on Philosophy Updates, but in case you haven’t (or as a reminder):
On December 11th, 2010, the University of California, Riverside and the University of California, Irvine will co-sponsor a conference in honor of Nelson Pike. It will be held at UCI, and the speakers will be:

  • Robert Adams,
  • Marilyn Adams,
  • David Woodruff Smith, and
  • John Fischer.

It should be good times, so please save the date! Stay tuned for more details as they develop, or feel free to contact John Fischer.
And, as an added bonus, only for Prosblogion readers,* to get you pumped for the conference, check out this re-reading of Pike’s argument from the aforementioned John Fischer (along with his co-authors Patrick Todd and Neal Tognazzini).
* Not really—but it is difficult to find online.

A dialogue on Calvinism
April 7, 2010 — 15:20

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Christian Theology Concept of God Divine Providence Free Will Hell Problem of Evil Theological Fatalism  Comments: 55

Ari: Consider this horrific theology: God forces Sally to sin, in a way that takes away her responsibility, and then he intentionally causes eternal torment to her.
Cal: I thought you were smarter than that. That isn’t Calvinist theology! Calvinism holds that God intentionally causes people to sin in a way that retains their responsibility, and then punishes some of them.
Ari: I didn’t say it was a Calvinist theology. You agree that this is a horrific theology, I take it?
Cal: Yes, of course.
Ari: Why?
Cal: Because God is punishing an innocent.
Ari: I said nothing about punishment. I said God intentionally caused eternal torment. I didn’t say that the torment was a punishment.
Cal: How does that make it not be horrific?


The first sin and compatibilism
April 1, 2010 — 8:01

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Christian Theology Divine Foreknowledge Divine Providence Free Will Problem of Evil Theological Fatalism Virtue  Comments: 33

Begin with this plausible principle:

  1. If x is necessitated by his internal state and the circumstances to do something wrong, then either (a) x’s character was in some way vicious prior to the action or (b) x is not culpable for the wrong (or both).

This principle is one that both compatibilists and incompatibilists can accept. Hume certainly accepts it, because he thinks we are culpable insofar as our actions reveal our vicious character. We can imagine cases where an internal state that is in no way vicious necessitates a wrongful action. For instance, one might justifiably believe that some action A is right, and one’s virtuous character might necessitate one to do what one believes to be right, but objectively A is wrong. However, in that case, one is not culpable for A. If there is nothing vicious in x’s character, and the character necessitates an action, it is hard to see how the action could be a culpable action.

But now add these premises:

  1. The first sin was culpable.
  2. The internal state of the first sinner was in no way vicious prior to the first sin. (The goodness of creation)

It follows from (1)-(3) that:

  1. The first sinner’s first sin was not necessitated by his internal state and the circumstances.


A problem with strong actualization
January 15, 2010 — 10:43

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Free Will Molinism Problem of Evil  Comments: 30

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).


Adams and “The Virtue of Faith”
November 28, 2009 — 20:32

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Christian Theology Concept of God Divine Foreknowledge Divine Providence Free Will Molinism Open Theism Theological Fatalism  Comments: 9

I recently finished Robert Adams’ old article “The Virtue of Faith” (chapter 1 of the book The Virtue of Faith), and I found a really interesting point. Uncertainty and faith are necessary for a certain sort of special good in a relationship. I think it’s worth quoting Adams on this:


Two more arguments against an infinite past
October 6, 2009 — 8:23

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Existence of God Free Will  Tags: ,   Comments: 26

In my earlier post, I gave a Grim Reaper based argument against an infinite past. Here I want to give two more arguments. Unlike the earlier argument, these two arguments are not going to be useful for arguing for the existence of God, since they make use of premises that the atheist is likely to deny (in one case, a version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and in the other, the existence of God). But they are useful in a broader sense, namely they help show what might be wrong with an infinite past.

Argument 1. If there is an infinite past, we could imagine that each January 1 in the infinite past somebody looks around and checks if there are any rabbits. If there are, she does nothing. If there aren’t, she makes a breeding pair. Of course, once a breeding pair of rabbits exists, there will be rabbits forever. Nobody and nothing but one of these potential rabbit-makers makes a rabbit. The setup entails that there have always been rabbits, and the rabbits have not been made by anybody or anything, contrary to a causal version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Argument 2. If there is an infinite past, the following scenario should be possible. The universe contains nothing but bobs, and at no time is there more than one. A bob is an asexually reproducing person who lives for a century. At the end of the century he dies, but at the end of his existence he has a choice whether to reproduce or not, and can choose either way. If he freely chooses to reproduce, a new bob comes into existence out of the old bob’s body after death. So, this is a universe where every bob has always chosen to reproduce, though they could have chosen otherwise. But now consider the following very plausible Thesis:
(*) Necessarily, if a world contains at least one contingent being, then there exists something in that world determined into existence by God’s will.
But the story in Argument 2 seems to violate (*), since each bob’s existence is partly dependent on the free choice of the preceding bob. Maybe God has determined, then, not the fact that there is a bob, but that there is some initial infinite sequence of bobs, without determining which initial infinite sequence there is. But even that there is an initial infinite sequence of bobs already depends on bob-made choices.

Argument 2 won’t impress theological compatibilists.

God’s nature
July 15, 2009 — 16:10

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Concept of God Free Will Problem of Evil  Comments: 22

The doctrine that God is identical with his nature has traditionally been defended by Christians, and would be useful for responding to the following argument (defended by Quentin Smith, Wes Morriston, etc.):

(*) The best answers to the problem of evil all involve significant libertarian freedom; but significant libertarian freedom is not something God has (because he cannot do wrong); a freedom that God does not have is not the most valuable kind of freedom; therefore, significant libertarian freedom is not the most valuable kind of freedom.

The challenge this argument presents is to come up with a reason to think either (a) that significant libertarian freedom is valuable in us, but would not be valuable in the case of God because of some relevant difference between us and God, or (b) that God has a kind of freedom which is more valuable than significant libertarian freedom, but it is a freedom that we cannot have. Both kinds of responses (actually, they may not be very different) require the identification of a disanalogy between us and God. One proposed disanalogy is that God is identical with his nature, while we are not. Therefore, actions that are necessitated by God’s nature are rooted precisely in God. But we are not identical with our natures, and hence any actions that were necessitated by our nature would be rooted in something outside of us, contrary to source incompatibilism.

One of the next moves in the dialectic (Wes Morriston does this) is to question the coherence of the doctrine of divine simplicity that the identity of God with God’s nature is based on, giving standard objections such as asking how God’s attributes could be identical (e.g., how could God’s omnipotence be identical with God’s mercy?) However, although I have tried to answer such objections, I think this is not how the present dialectic should go. For the doctrine that God is identical with God’s nature is not the doctrine of divine simplicity–it is only one of the entailments of the doctrine of divine simplicity. Thus, it is prima facie possible to defend the identity of God with God’s nature without defending the doctrine of divine simplicity. Perhaps in the end one can derive divine simplicity from the identity of God with God’s nature. But those are going to metaphysically controversial arguments.

So, how might one defend the identity of God and his nature? Well, let’s ask what the alleged difficulty in that identity is. I see three metaphysical difficulties, actually: (1) Could anything be identical to its nature? (2) Even if so, could anything concrete be identical to its nature? (3) Even if so, could anything causally efficacious be identical to its nature?


Moral Defeatism
April 23, 2009 — 8:55

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Free Will Problem of Evil  Comments: 21

Let (R) be the denial of moral defeatism. I’m worried about the truth of (R) quite apart from God’s existence, so assume the possible moral responses in (R) do not include divine responses.
R. For any evil E that occurs, there is a possible response R to E such that R is a free moral response to E, R is impossible in the absence of E, the moral value of (R & E) is (neutral or) positive.
I include of course any evil E that is occurring, has occurred or will occur. The denial of (R) is the position that there exists some evil to which every possible moral response is defeated. That is, every possible moral response is such that (R & E) is negative. By free moral responses to evil I have in mind actions (individual and collective) that display moral courage, charity, perseverance, compassion, care, hope, mercy, generosity, justice and the like. Some well-known exemplars of free moral responsiveness include M. Gandhi, M. L. King, Mother Teresa, among, of course, many others. These individuals display what is possible in the way of free moral responses to evil. Now consider (P1) and (P2).
P1. If moral defeatism is false, then the existence of gratuitous evil depends largely on what we freely choose to do.
P2. If moral defeatism is true, then there is (was, will be) some evil E such that there is nothing anyone (or any group) could ever do, over any amount of time, in response to E that is not defeated by E.

The Incarnation and Compatibilism
April 7, 2009 — 9:39

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Christian Theology Free Will  Comments: 19

I’ve been thinking for a little while about two related arguments for compatibilism based on Christian theology. In this post, I’ll look at the implications of the traditional approach to the Incarnation, and in a second post I’ll look at what the kind of robust view of inspiration that I favor will require. I’m cross-posting this at my personal blog.
It seems to me that with the traditional understanding of the Incarnation, something like compatibilism must be true of Jesus’ freedom. The traditional view of the Incarnation is that Jesus is fully God and fully human, and his divine nature prevents him from doing anything sinful, but at least in his earthly life he had all the human ability to do so, being fully tempted in every way. This means that we need some sense in which it’s possible that Jesus do something wrong and some sense in which it’s not. The best way I know of that anyone has captured this is to say that it was possible for Jesus to do wrong in relation to his human nature but not possible in relation to his divine nature.
But what does that mean? If it means that two natures constrain him, and one allows it while the other doesn’t, then it just implies that it’s not possible for him to have sinned. His human nature would have allowed it, but the divine nature prevented it. This seems just like the situation for someone with no legs: it’s possible for them to walk with respect to their brain but not possible for them to walk with respect to their legs. So it’s simply just not possible for them to walk, unless it’s ever proper to ignore the obstacle sufficient for preventing that possibility, and it pretty much never is unless you’re talking about attaching new legs or something like that. But there’s no such analogous possibility with Jesus, as if he could lose his divine nature. So this doesn’t well capture the intuition that there’s some sense in which Jesus could have sinned, in order to explain the statements about his having been genuinely tempted. This complaint strikes me as much like the complaint that libertarians on free will offer against compatibilism.


God as author and creaturely freedom
April 5, 2009 — 8:53

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Divine Providence Free Will  Comments: 9

The analogy of God as the author and us as his characters has a venerable history. Here I want to object to one use of the analogy as a way of resolving the tension between providence and creaturely causation, deterministic and especially indeterministic. The puzzles the analogy is addressing are like this:

  1. How can it be that horses evolved fully under the influence of random stochastic processes, and yet we can also explain the existence of horses in terms of the way they glorify God?
  2. How is it that Francine freely chose to accept baptism in the name of the most holy Trinity, and yet the choice was entirely caused by God’s grace?

The suggestion made is that in these cases there are two entirely non-competing explanations. The case is parallel to the way that an event in a story can be explained both in terms of the author’s activity, plans and motivations, and in terms of in-story causal processes. Thus, there is no conflict between:

  1. Colonel Mustard was murdered because the author believed that books about murdered colonial colonels sell well.
  2. Colonel Mustard was murdered because he knew that Captain Catsup was not as great a tiger hunter in India as he claimed to be.

It would be a mistake to give (3) as the explanation when solving the mystery, except in a post-modern sort of novel–think of the absurdity of the great detective in the novel getting everybody in a room together, and then saying (3).

This use of the author analogy is mistaken for a simple reason. The “because” in (4) is in the scope of a fictionalizing operator. What (4) really says is:

  1. According to the story (Colonel Mustard was murdered because he knew that Captain Catsup was not as great a tiger hunter in India as he claimed to be).

And “According to the story” is a truth-canceling operator. The “because” in (5) is within the scope of that truth-canceling operator, and hence does not provide an explanation.