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).

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Weak actualization
January 7, 2010 — 17:42

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism Problem of Evil  Comments: 28

Central to Plantinga’s formulation of the FWD is the notion of “weak actualization”. In the Profiles volume, Plantinga defines this as follows:

  1. God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication”.

I think this is a problematic definition. Here is the basic problem. Say that a conditional C is “centered” iff pCp holds whenever both p and q hold. Then, trivially:

Theorem 1. If (1), and → is centered, then if God strongly actualizes any actual state of affairs, God weakly actualizes every actual state of affairs.

(Proof: Let S* be any actual state of affairs that God strongly actualizes. Let S be any actual state of affairs. Then, by centering S*→S, and so by (1), God weakly actualizes S.)

Theorem 1 is clearly problematic, as we can see by substituting “Al” for “God”. Since Al strongly actualizes some state of affairs (say, the writing of The Nature of Necessity), it follows that he weakly actualizes the Battle of Waterloo.

In light of Theorem 1, we could simplify the concept of “weakly actualizes”: God weakly actualizes S iff S is actual and there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes. But if that is what “weakly actualizes” comes down to, it is not a very interesting concept. It is a pretty trivial concept, and I think it does not seem to support the proof that Plantinga gives of Lewis’s Lemma.

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A variant on the grounding objection to Molinism
December 17, 2009 — 13:18

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism  Comments: 11

Premises:

  1. If there are any Molinist counterfactuals, there are ungrounded true contingent propositions.
  2. Propositions reporting divine beliefs are grounded.
  3. If p is a contingent truth (i.e., true proposition), then either God’s belief is explained constitutively or causally by p, or p is explained constitutively or causally, or there is some third truth that explains both p and God’s belief constitutively or causally.
  4. An ungrounded truth cannot be explained causally.
  5. An ungrounded truth cannot explain causally.
  6. When a truth p explains q constitutively, something that grounds p grounds q.
  7. God believes every truth.

It follows from (6) that an ungrounded truth cannot explain or be explained constitutively. It follows then (2)-(5) that no ungrounded contingent proposition is believed by God. It then follows from (7) that no ungrounded contingent proposition is true. It then follows that there are no Molinist counterfactuals.

Premise (3) is a way of working out the idea that God’s beliefs are knowledge and cannot be merely contingently related to what makes them true.

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:

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Prophecy
August 20, 2009 — 9:04

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Divine Foreknowledge Molinism  Tags:   Comments: 5

For simplicity, I shall ignore the distinction between God talking and Jesus talking. I shall also write “deny” for “deny libertarian-freely” (note: typical libertarians allow for the possibility of free choices that are determined by character and circumstances, as long as the agent had a sufficient role in forming the character through properly indeterministic choices; it is only the latter that I will call “libertarian-free”). Take the case where God tells Peter that Peter will deny him. What divine knowledge was the prophecy based on? Suppose we say: God tells Peter that Peter will deny because God knows that Peter will deny. This would be a simple-foreknowledge (SF) account of prophecy. Now we have an apparent circularity in the order of explanation. God telling Peter that Peter will deny is explanatorily prior (“e-prior”) to Peter’s denial–it affects Peter’s state of mind when choosing whether to deny. But Peter’s denial is, presumably, e-prior to God’s knowing that Peter will deny. (Thomists and Calvinists will likely deny this. And so such Thomists and Calvinists will have no difficulty.) And God’s knowing that Peter will deny is e-prior to the prophecy. So we come full circle.

There is a way out of this argument: God ensures that Peter’s choice whether to deny is causally isolated from Peter’s memory of the prophecy. This breaks the circle, since then God’s prophesying to Peter that Peter will deny will no longer be e-prior to Peter’s denial. Moreover, Scripture says that only after the denials did Peter remember the prophecy, so there is some exegetical ground for supposing some causal isolation.

The difficulty with this SF account of prophecy is that it only makes prophecy possible in cases where the prophecy is isolated from the prophesied event. I shall argue that the Molinist may face a similar problem.

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Two kinds of conditionals of free will
April 1, 2009 — 9:09

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism  Comments: 1

Suppose that George voted for a friend to be hired, and now he want to figure out whether he did it for the sake of friendship, or whether he did something nepotistic. One way for George to figure this out is for him to ask:

  1. Were Jane not my friend, would I still have voted for her?

An affirmative answer would show, barring weird circumstances (such as Black watching one’s brain, and ensuring that one cannot but vote for Jane), that George should stop worrying.

But, now, I think that

  1. Were Jane not his friend, George would still have voted for her

is not a Molinist conditional. Here is why. What George wants to know is something about his actual motivations. The truth value of (2) understood Molinistically is irrelevant to how things actually went–there is another possible world, where everything in fact goes just as it does, but where (2) understood Molinistically has a different truth value. At most, the truth value of (2) understood Molinistically may be evidence for the truth value of (2) understood in the way which makes it relevant to George’s question about his motivations.

When George asks (1), he is looking for an answer that supervenes on facts about his motivations. The Molinist answer to (1) does not do that, though it may be probabilistically connected with facts about his motivations.

At the same time, there are times when we really do want to know the truth of a Molinist conditional. Thus, prior to the vote, Jane might ask herself:

  1. If I were to cease to be George’s friend, would he vote for me?

In asking herself this, she could have two questions in mind. She could be trying to find out something about George’s motivations and his character. In that case, she is not interested in the truth value of a Molinist conditional. Or she could be trying to figure out whether it is prudent for her to break off the friendship before the hiring vote (of course, the only way she could get a certain answer to that question would be by divine revelation). In the latter case, the truth value of a Molinist conditional is precisely what she wants to know.

The above raises a worry for Molinists that they have to have two kinds of subjunctive conditionals of free will, the Molinist and the non-Molinist ones, while anti-Molinists need only one, the non-Molinist one. Maybe, though, the Molinist can say that when Jane is trying to figure out George’s motivations and character, she is not interested in the truth value of the B→V conditional (were I to break off, he’d vote for me), but in the probability of that conditional. (See also this post).

Free Will Defense and compatibilism
January 26, 2009 — 11:09

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Free Will Molinism Problem of Evil  Comments: 15

It seems very plausible that a good answer to the problem of evil will require some version of the Free Will Defense (FWD). If a FWD requires incompatibilism, then there is a very plausible argument from theism to incompatibilism.
But I think it may well be that a FWD does not require incompatibilism. First of all, a FWD does not need that freedom of will and responsibility be incompatible with determination by prior non-agential causes or by laws of nature. At most what we need for a FWD is that freedom be incompatible with total determination by prior agential causes (the case that matters is that of God’s creative act), a claim that I think some compatibilists will accept.
Second, even if freedom of will and responsibility are compatible with determination by divine agency, it does not follow that the FWD is completely out of steam. For it may be that certain kinds of good decisions depend on some of their value on something more than bare freedom of will and responsibility. For instance, for a promise to be valid, more is needed than that the object of the promise be good and that the promise be made with freedom of will and responsibility. A promise made at gunpoint is invalid, even if it is made responsibly and with freedom of will (one does, after all, have a free choice whether to utter the promise or to die, assuming one does not lose freedom and responsibility through panic, but this is not enough for validity).
Here would be one sketch of a FWD that is compatible with compatibilism (even compatiblism between freedom and responsibility, and determination by an agential cause): A love is of much greater value when the lover is not causally determined by the beloved to love the beloved. This claim is compatible with saying that the lover could freely and responsibly respond with love to the beloved even if determined to do so–for there is more that we want in a response to love than mere freedom and responsibility (e.g., someone with amazing powers of self-control could freely and responsibly respond with love to a threat, but that’s not the most valuable kind of loving response). But a failure to respond with love to God’s love is always an evil. But it might be that the only way God could ensure that there are agents all of whom respond with love to God’s love is by causally determining them to do so. (One way to argue for this is to suppose Molinism transworld unresponsiveness: In every feasible world in which agents are not determined by God to respond with love to his love, some agent fails to do so.) It might then be that God is justified in creating creatures some of whom fail to respond with love to his love.
But while this example shows that a FWD need not require the incompatibility between determination and freedom/responsibility, this FWD still requires the compatibility between freedom/responsibility and lack of determination–it requires the possibility of libertarian-type choices. (Hume thinks that freedom requires determination. Fischer, on the other hand, is an even-handed compatibilist–freedom is compatible with determination adnw ith lack thereof.)

Open Theism and the Problem of Evil
December 10, 2008 — 8:35

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism Open Theism  Comments: 20

It seems to me that some folks–perhaps not philosophers–think that Open Theism (OT) somehow significantly helps with the Problem of Evil. But I do not think it does. The natural reason to think OT helps is to say that if an omnipotent God foreknows that George will freely do some evil E, then God can prevent George from doing E, and OT means that God can’t foreknow it, so we can’t blame God for failing to prevent E. But this is confused. For it would be impossible for God to both foreknow–or even forebelieve–E and prevent E. Foreknowledge does let God put plans for an event into effect before the event happens, but for actual prevention of foreknown evils, what would be needed is Middle Knowledge, not foreknowledge.
I am curious if any philosophers have committed the error I criticize here.

A fallacious argument against Molinism
October 10, 2008 — 9:02

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism  Tags:   Comments: 8

Here is an argument against Molinism, which while valid, is fallacious in an interesting way. This argument is an improved version of one that I have earlier defended.

  1. God brings it about that x is in circumstances C because of God’s belief that x would freely do A in C. (Hypothesis for reductio)
  2. If y brings it about that p because of y’s belief that q, then y’s bringing it about that p because of y’s belief that q is causally prior to p’s holding. (Premise)
  3. If x freely does A in C, then x’s being in C is causally prior to x’s freely doing A. (Premise)
  4. If E is causally prior to F, and the occurrence of E entails the occurrence of F, then E deterministically causes F. (Premise)
  5. That x freely does A is not deterministically caused by anything. (Premise)
  6. p is entailed by its being the case that God does B because of God’s belief that p. (Premise)
  7. Causal priority is transitive. (Premise)
  8. God’s bringing it about that x is in circumstances C because of God’s belief that x would freely do A in C is causally prior to x’s freely doing A in C. (By 1, 2, 3 and 7)
  9. That God brings it about that x is in circumstances C because of God’s belief that x would freely do A in C entails that x freely does A in C. (By 6)
  10. God’s bringing it about that x is in circumstances C because of God’s belief that x would freely do A in C deterministically causes x’s freely doing A in C. (By 4, 8 and 9)
  11. 10 contradicts 5.

What is wrong with the argument, I think, is the seemingly innocent (4). Claim (4) commits a mistake that I have identified elsewhere, the mistake of thinking that one can define concepts conjunctively. Deterministically causing is not just a conjunction of causing and logically determining (i.e., entailing), just as causing intentionally is not just a conjunction of causing and intending. The standard example for the latter is something like: George is pointing a gun at Bob and intends to kill Bob, and George’s intention to kill Bob causes his hands to shake and accidentally squeeze the trigger. Then George intended and caused Bob’s death but did not intentionally cause Bob’s death. For x to intentionally cause B, it has to be the case that x intends B and x causes B, but these two facts also have to be related in the right way. Likewise, for A to deterministically cause B, it has to be the case that A causes B and that the occurrence of A entails the occurrence of B, but these two facts also have to be related in the right way.

I don’t have a counterexample to (4). It could even be that (4) is true for some deeper reason. But as it stands, with (4) being presented simply because of its intuitive plausibility, the argument is fallacious in the following sense: Its plausibility rests in part on a cognitive fault of the interlocutor. The cognitive fault is that we have a tendency to accept conjunctive characterizations like (4) when we should always be suspicious of conjunctive characterizations, because just about always one needs the conjuncts to be satisfied in an appropriately related way. I think this may be because our minds automatically assume an appropriate connection between conjuncts, even if a statement does not give one. Consider “He pressed the trigger and the gun went off.” We automatically assume that the speaker is telling us that the gun went off because of the pressing of the trigger. But no such claim is made.

Suppose we fix up (4) by adding that the entailment must be appropriately related to the causal claim. But now (10) cannot be derived, because we don’t have an argument that in that case the appropriate relation holds.

Molinism and essentiality of origins for events
September 29, 2008 — 8:34

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism  Tags: , ,   Comments: 21

According to a version of essentiality of origins for events, if an event E is explanatorily prior to an event F, then F could not have occurred without E. Of course, an event qualitatively just like F might have occurred without E, but F itself could not have.
Suppose Molinism is true. For a reductio, suppose God brought it about that George would be shipwrecked, because God believed that
(1) Were George shipwrecked, he would freely behave heroically.
Let F be the event of George’s shipwreck. I shall assume, as is plausible, that it is an essential property of F that F is a shipwreck of George’s. Let E be the event of God’s believing (1) to be true. Then, E is explanatorily prior to F. By essentiality of origins for events, the occurrence of F entails the occurrence of E. But the occurrence of E entails the truth of (1) (by God’s essential infallibility).
Therefore, that George is in F entails (1). Likewise, that George is in F entails the antecedent of (1), since it is an essential property of F that F is a shipwreck of George’s. Therefore, that George is in F entails that George freely behaves heroically. (If p entails a subjunctive conditional and its antecedent, it entails the consequent, because modus ponens holds in all worlds.) But this means that if George is in F, he cannot but behave heroically, and for libertarian reasons, it follows he does not freely behave heroically. Thus he both does and does not behave freely in F. Therefore, we must reject the possibility of the assumption that God brought about George’s shipwreck because God believed (1).