The mystical security guard
February 17, 2015 — 10:58

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Problem of Evil  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 8

One objection to some solutions to the problem of evil, particularly to sceptical theism, is that if there are such great goods that flow from evils, then we shouldn’t prevent evils. But consider the following parable.

I am an air traffic controller and I see two airplanes that will collide unless they are warned. I also see our odd security guard, Jane, standing around and looking at my instruments. Jane is super-smart and very knowledgeable, to the point that I’ve concluded long ago that she is in fact all-knowing. A number of interactions have driven me to concede that she is morally perfect. Finally, she is armed and muscular so she can take over the air traffic control station on a moment’s notice.

Now suppose that I reason as follows:

  • If I don’t do anything, then either Jane will step in, take over the controls and prevent the crash, or she won’t. If she does, all is well. If she doesn’t, that’ll be because in her wisdom she sees that the crash works out for the better in the long run. So, either way, I don’t have good reason to prevent the crash.

This is fallacious as it assumes that Jane is thinking of only one factor, the crash and its consequences. But the mystical security guard, being morally perfect, is also thinking of me. Here are three relevant factors:

  • C: the value of the crash
  • J: the value of my doing my job
  • p: the probability that I will warn the pilots if Jane doesn’t step in.

Here, J>0. If Jane foresees that the crash will lead to on balance goods in the long run, then C>0; if common sense is right, then C<0. Based on these three factors, Jane may be calculating as follows:

  • Expected value of non-intervention: pJ+(1−p)C
  • Expected value of intervention: 0 (no crash and I don’t do my job).

Let’s suppose that common sense is right and C<0. Will Jane intervene? Not necessarily. If p is sufficiently close to 1, then pJ+(1−p)C>0 even if C is a very large negative number. So I cannot infer that if C<0, or even if C<<0, then Jane will intervene. She might just have a lot of confidence in me.

Suppose now that I don’t warn the pilots, and Jane doesn’t either, and so there is a crash. Can I conclude that I did the right thing? After all, Jane did the right thing—she is morally perfect—and I did the same thing as Jane, so surely I did the right thing. Not so. For Jane’s decision not to intervene may be based on the fact that her intervention would prevent me from doing my job, while my own intervention would do no such thing.

Can I conclude that I was mistaken in thinking Jane to be as smart, as powerful or as good as I thought she was? Not necessarily. We live in a chaotic world. If a butterfly’s wings can lead to an earthquake a thousand years down the road, think what an airplane crash could do! And Jane would take that sort of thing into account. One possibility was that Jane saw that it was on balance better for the crash to happen, i.e., C>0. But another possibility is that she saw that C<0, but that it wasn’t so negative as to make pJ+(1−p)C come out negative.

Objection: If Jane really is all-knowing, her decision whether to intervene will be based not on probabilities but on certainties. She will know for sure whether I will warn the pilots or not.

Response: This is complicated, but what would be required to circumvent the need for probabilistic reasoning would be not mere knowledge of the future, but knowledge of conditionals of free will that say what I would freely do if she did not intervene. And even an all-knowing being wouldn’t know those, because there aren’t any true non-trivial such conditionals.

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.


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)


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).


A Multiverse Solution?
January 9, 2015 — 11:15

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Existence of God Problem of Evil  Tags: , ,   Comments: 51

The multiverse solution to the problem(s) of evil (and the problem of suboptimality) is a systematic response to these problems, and one that is fairly popular. Still, lot’s of people have argued against the view (see, for instance, Monton, 2010, Almeida, 2008, 2010) and some use multiverses for other purposes (see O’Connor, 2008). For a nice overview of multiverse approaches (and bibliographic citations) see Klaas Kraay here.

The thought, according to multiverse theorists, is that God necessarily actualizes a possible world W that includes lots of cosmoi, or lots of universes, U0, U1, . . ., Un. All of the universes are actual, so the multiverse is not a pluriverse (for instance, it is not a Lewisian pluriverse). The universes “chosen” (don’t take this too literally) for actualization are the universes (of those worlds) that include an on balance positive value. It is of course a much longer story, and I would argue that it is probably not a coherent story (and, further, not the story that multiverse theorists think they are telling), but this is the basic multiverse thought.


Analytic Theology Cluster Group at University of Navarra (Spain)
January 9, 2015 — 6:04

Author: Martín Montoya  Category: News  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   Comments: 2

The 2015 Analytic Theology Cluster Group at University of Navarra (Spain)

The Cluster Group in Analytic Theology at the University of Navarra “Philosophical and Theological Perspectives on Divine Providence” gather together philosophers and theologians to study and discuss the main approaches made to this issue with an analytic methodology. As a result of the group activities Analytic Theology will be introduced for the first time in Spanish academia. The Cluster Group is supported by the Project “Analytic Theology” of the Center for Philosophy of Religion of the University of Notre Dame, funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

We will hold ten monthly Seminars related to our research project. Topics include:

  • Providence, Omniscience and Foreknowledge.
  • Providence and Divine Action.
  • Providence and Evil.
  • Providence, Libertarian Free Will and Determinism.

Two of the seminars will be given by two guests lecturers, Eleonore Stump and Brian Leftow. But also, we have two Public Lectures at Room 03, Amigos Building, University of Navarra. Participation is free without need of reservation.

  • Lecture 1 (Monday 2 March, 2015), Brian Leftow: Providence Determinism and Hell.
  • Lecture 2 (Monday 20 April, 2015), Eleonore Stump: Eternity, Simplicity, and Divine Presence.

For further information you can have a look at our website:

The Modal Problem Improved
January 6, 2015 — 22:45

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Existence of God Problem of Evil Religious Belief  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 13

There’s a good version of the modal problem of evil in Ted Guleserian’s (TG), ‘God and Possible Worlds: The Modal Problem of Evil’ (GPW) in Nous (1983). GPW is directly largely to Plantinga’s modal realism+theism and similar views. But I think the problem is more difficult than he suggests. TG tries to show that there is a possible world in which there is pointless and preventable evil. And so he invites a response of modal skepticism about such a world. He would have been better advised to provide a series of worlds, a G series and a B series, and then ask how the evil in the B series could be necessary to a greater good: i.e., how the evil in the B series could be justified evil.


The Fundamental Problem of Evil
January 3, 2015 — 10:28

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Problem of Evil  Tags: ,   Comments: 40

Here’s a nice challenge: What is the fundamental problem of evil? If there is a fundamental problem of evil P, then there is some organization among the many proposed problems of evil. That would be good news. Let a fundamental problem of evil P be such that (i) a solution to P would solve all other problems of evil and (ii) a solution to other problems of evil would not (necessarily) solve P. Let’s say that a problem of evil P is more fundamental than a problem P’ just in case (i) a solution to P would solve P and (ii) a solution to P’ would not (necessarily) solve P.

The challenge in the logical problem of evil is to show that it is metaphysically possible that God co-exists with evil, E. There are various ways to take the challenge; one natural way is to take it as asserting that it is impossible that God cannot eliminate E without a cost of a greater good G. All possible evil is gratuitous.