Is Modal Realism Immoral?
February 5, 2015 — 13:46

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: ,   Comments: 4

Many of you will know that I’m sympathetic to modal realism; I think it solves many more problems than it causes, especially for theists. I want to address here what I think is a mistaken objection to modal realism: the so-called problem of indifference. The objection is originally formulated in Robert Adams.

Indeed, if we ask, “What is wrong with actualizing evils, since they will occur in some other possible world anyway if they don’t occur in this one?”, I doubt that modal realism can provide an answer which will be completely satisfying ethically (Theories of Actuality, 1974).

If Lewisian modal realism is true, then, just as we exist and our worldmates exist, so does every other individual and person inhabiting every other world. They all exist even though they are not all actual; they all exist, though they are not all our worldmates; they all exist though they do not all exist in our world.  And these existing, non-actual persons are all as concrete, sentient, caring, and rational as we are. What Adams is calling attention to is that, if all of these beings exist in the same sense that we do, then they all matter morally, just as much as you and I do. But if we consider (literally or unrestrictedly, now) every existing sentient being in deliberating about what we should do, Adams complains, we will always reach the conclusion that it just doesn’t matter what we do.

No matter what we do–whether we do good or evil–it does not matter to the overall value of the pluriverse (i.e. the overall value of all possible worlds). If we do good, some counterpart of ours in similar circumstances will opt to do evil. If we do evil, some counterpart of ours in similar circumstances will opt to do good. It will necessarily balance out; the pluriverse and all of it’s inhabitants will not be any better off, or any worse off, overall no matter what we do. The overall value of the pluriverse is unchangeable. So, what difference does it make what we choose to do? We are led to moral indifference.


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.


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.


Subtraction and Impossible Objects
January 2, 2015 — 13:38

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Uncategorized  Tags: ,   Comments: 0

Subtraction arguments begin with the modest assumption that there are worlds that do not include more than a finite number of concrete (or concrete*) objects. Each of these concrete objects has the essential property of not existing necessarily. Each of these concrete objects also has the essential property of being such that their non-existence entails the existence of no other concrete objects: each has the essential property of possibly co-non-existing with everything concrete. If any one of the finite objects in these worlds fails to have the essential property of possibly co-non-existing with every concrete object, the subtraction argument fails.

We might find that, in the spirit of modal ecumenism, this is a tolerable view.  Why not believe that some finite number of concrete objects, all of which exist in some odd world w, have this interesting modal property of possibly co-non-existing with all other concrete objects?

Well, first, it occurred to me that the assumption is overkill. Why not assume that just one of the objects in w has this interesting modal property. This assumption alone ensures that there is some concrete-empty world somewhere in metaphysical space. So , then, why not just assume that object x1 in w, but no other objects x1, x3….xn in w, has the property of possibly co-non-existing with all other concrete objects?