Which Worlds are Possible?
February 18, 2015 — 9:58

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Problem of Evil Uncategorized  Tags: , , , , ,   Comments: 5

Are there possible worlds that include unimaginable suffering? On behalf of the Anselmian theist, Tom Morris denies that there are such worlds.

Such an [Anselmian] God is a delimiter of possibilities. If there is a being who exists necessarily, and is necessarily omnipotent, omniscient, and good, then many states of affairs which otherwise would represent genuine possibilities, and which by all non-theistic tests of logic and semantics do represent genuine possibilities, are strictly impossible in the strongest sense. In particular, worlds containing certain sorts or amounts of disvalue or evil are metaphysically ruled out by the nature of God, divinely precluded from the realm of real possibility. (‘The Necessity of God’s Goodness’ in his Anselmian Explorations 48 ff.)

But I think there’s an interesting argument that there are such worlds. I call it the Property Argument.


The Faith Project Announces 2015 Summer Research Awards
February 17, 2015 — 7:25

Author: Jon Kvanvig  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 0

The winners of the 2015 Summer Seminar Awards have been chosen! The winners are:

Kenny Boyce University of Missouri
Rebecca Chan University of Colorado/Notre Dame
Frances Howard-Snyder Western Washington University
Kristen Irwin Loyola University Chicago
Yoaav Isaacs Princeton University
Anne Jeffrey Georgetown
Samuel Lebens Rutgers University
Errol Lord University of Pennsylvania
Dan McKaughan Boston College
Michael Pace Chapman University
Ted Poston University of South Alabama
Lindsey Rettler The Ohio State University

For more information about the project, visit the Project website.

Mere Addition
February 13, 2015 — 11:35

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Existence of God General Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 0

Stephen Grover offers an interesting version of the Mere Addition Paradox (‘Mere Addition and the Best of all Possible Worlds’, Religious Studies, 1999) against Swinburne’s brief argument (The Existence of God, Oxford, 1979, 114 ff.) that there is no best world. Swinburne’s argument goes this way.

… take any world W . Presumably the goodness of such a world.will consist in part in it containing a finite or infinite number of conscious beings who will enjoy it. But if the enjoyment of the world by each is a valuable thing, surely a world with a few more conscious beings in it would be a yet more valuable world W’ . . .  I conclude that it is not, for conceptual reasons, plausible to suppose that there could be a best of all possible worlds, and in consequence God could not have overriding reason to create one.

There are good reasons to deny that Swinburne’s argument shows anything like there is no best world. Still, the argument does not suffer from the Mere Addition Paradox (MAP).


Evil and Compatibilism
February 8, 2015 — 11:33

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Concept of God Existence of God Free Will General Problem of Evil Uncategorized  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 17

There is widespread belief that compatibilism + theism cannot offer a credible solution to the logical problem of evil. Why does anyone believe that? I think they’re reasoning this way: if compatibilism is true, then, necessarily, God can actualize a morally perfect world. That’s of course true, and it entails that the free will defense fails. But then they reason, if, necessarily, God can actualize a morally perfect world, then, necessarily, God does actualize a morally perfect world. It is then observed that, obviously, there is evil. So, compatibilism + theism is incoherent; it cannot solve the logical problem.


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.