The following propositions are incompatible:
- Metaphysically necessarily, there are no facts of the matter about future free actions.
- Metaphysically necessarily, one is better off insofar as one's morally good plans are fulfilled and worse off insofar as one's morally good plans are not fulfilled.
- Metaphysically possibly, there was a person x who permanently ceased to exist and who made a morally good plan whose fulfillment required a free action after x's permanent death.
- Metaphysically necessarily, one is neither well nor badly off when one does not exist.
I conclude that (1) is false, but others might draw other conclusions.
There is a difficulty about the permanent cessation of existence. As Jon Kvanvig has pointed out, if there is an open future, there are some difficulties in making sense of any logically contingent facts about the future, even ones that are predictable by means of the laws of nature. However, if an at all orthodox open theism (not that I think an open theism can be very orthodox) is true, then God has to be able to guarantee claims about the respective eternal destinations of the just and the unjust. If God can do that in some way (say, by making binding promises), he should be able to guarantee that x permanently ceases to exist. Alternately, if one thinks that temporally gappy existence of persons is logically impossible, one can replace "permanently ceased to" with "ceased to exist". There will also be theological difficulties for those who think that annihilation, which is after all worse than eternal damnation, is incompatible with divine goodness. Open theists convinced of these difficulties will be able to shrug off my argument.
Suppose Open Theism (OT) holds. There is a possible world where a demon is better off doxastically than God in respect of future free actions of creatures. On some views of inductive knowledge, there is a possible world where a demon is better off epistemically than God in respect of future free actions of creatures. Hence OT is false. This may be all old hat. But, hey, it's fun to reinvent the wheel–the thrill of discovery, of seeing it roll, etc. Now I need to argue for my above claims.
Since there’s still little going on here, I thought I’d direct readers to another post in my series based on my introductory philosophy course lecture notes. This time it’s on foreknowledge and freedom. Again, I don’t expect it to include anything newsworthy for many readers of this blog, since we’ve discussed all these issues here in much more depth in the past, but I’ve tried to summarize the main moves in the discussion at a level someone in an introductory course could understand, and some may want to take a look at that or offer feedback. Newer readers less familiar with our discussions on this topic or with the literature on the issue may find it informative as well. I did try to include the most current work on the subject.
In a new issue of Religious Studies, Gordon Knight has an interesting article on universalism and open theism that many PBers may be interested in (“Universalism for Open Theists,” 42 (2006):213-223).
Here is the central thrust of his argument:
I will argue that belief in the openness of God makes a hard case even worse. Furthermore, while this problem is perhaps most vivid in the case of open theism, it also can be generalized for all theists who accept a non-Molinist account of foreknowledge and who accept a libertarian conception of freedom of the will. On the other hand, this very same commitment to liberatarian freedom also precludes non-Molinists from accepting the sort of necessary universalism recently advocated by Talbott. The solution, I will argue, lies in adopting a version of contingent universalism that is able to avoid the moral problems of the [traditional] doctrine of hell while at the same time not doing violence to the strong conception of libertarian freedom to which open theists (among others) are committed (214).
A few comments below the fold.