The Cluster Group on Analytic Theology at University of Navarra (http://www.unav.edu/en/web/facultad-de-filosofia-y-letras/analytic-theology) is pleased to announce four new lectures videos by Eleonore Stump:
1) ‘Eternity, Simplicity, and Divine Presence’ by Eleonore Stump. Second Public Lecture on Analytic Theology. Cluster Group at University of Navarra. April 20, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtHOqnQBAMo
2) Q&A ‘Eternity, Simplicity, and Divine Presence’ by Eleonore Stump. Analytic Theology Cluster Group at University of Navarra. April 20, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlW8ueEYbhw
3) ‘The Openness of God: Eternity and Free Will’ by Eleonore Stump Second Special Session for the Cluster Group on Analytic Theology at the University of Navarra. April 21, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JVzy-eXqKU
4) Q&A ‘The Openness of God: Eternity and Free Will’ by Eleonore Stump. Analytic Theology Cluster Group at University of Navarra. April 21, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js9K9R9_F-4
The Cluster Group in Analytic Theology at the University of Navarra “Philosophical and Theological Perspectives on Divine Providence” gathered 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 was introduced for the first time in Spanish academia. The Cluster Group was 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.
Comments are very much welcome.
Yesterday, I discussed Thomas Flint’s response to the grounding objection in chapter 5 of Divine Providence: The Molinist Account. Today, I want to discuss his response to Robert Adams in chapter 7.
Adams’ objection turns on a notion of explanatory priority which, Flint complains, is not adequately defined. Flint argues that there is an equivocation in the argument, and that Adams relies on a transitivity assumption which is not plausible when applied across the different sorts of priority involved. I think, however, that Flint is mistaken on both counts: first, the notion in question is not equivocal. Rather, it is a genus containing several species. Second, transitivity is not actually required. What’s required is just an anti-circularity principle. The anti-circularity principle is abundantly well-justified across the entire genus.
The notion of priority here corresponds to the notion of objective explanation. That is, A is prior to B iff B because A. That’s simple enough. Of course, there are many different uses of ‘because’ and I’m inclined to agree that the anti-circularity principle won’t apply to all of them. That’s why we require that the because or priority here track objective explanation, i.e., that A really be a reason why B is true, and not merely a fact that helps make B intelligible to some particular mind. It is extremely plausible to suppose that there can be no cycles in chains of objective explanation.
The types of priority/explanation at issue include these:
- The priority of reasons (and, more generally, considerations) to actions (whether divine or creaturely).
- The priority of God’s creative act to all creaturely activity.
- The priority of causes to effects.
- The priority of free choices to free actions.
Now, it is, as I said, extremely plausible that an anti-circularity constraint applies here. For instance, it is incoherent to suppose that I should choose to act in a certain way because I am going to act in that way. Similarly, if my action causes it to be the case that P, then P can’t be among the reasons for my action, since (barring overdetermination, etc.) P won’t be true unless I take the action. (Of course, I might take the action because taking the action will cause it to be the case that P. That’s different.)
Now, let C be a proposition describing a total circumstance and let A be a proposition stating that a creature takes some free action in that circumstance. The Molinist is clearly committed to:
(1) C -> A is prior to God’s decision to weakly actualize C.
(2) God’s decision to weakly actualize C is prior to the agent’s having the reasons, considerations, etc., which lead her to choose A.
(3) The agent’s reasons, considerations, etc., are prior to her choice that A.
(4) The agent’s choice that A is prior to A.
By the anti-circularity constraint, this implies that neither the agent’s choice that A, nor A itself, is prior to C -> A.
But then why is C -> A true? If the Molinist says, for no reason at all, she runs into the randomness objection. The anti-circularity constraint prevents the Molinist from saying it’s because of the agent’s choice or the agent’s action. The Molinist obviously can’t say it’s due to God. If it’s due to the agent’s essence, nature, character, etc., then we’re presupposing a compatibilist theory of freedom and don’t need to bother with all the complexities of Molinism. There’s a serious problem here, and Flint hasn’t defused it.
(Cross-posted at blog.kennypearce.net.)
Here’s a dilemma that might be worrisome for theists. It’s, in any case, a worry for me. Consider, first, the thesis in (1).
1. Possibly, God actualizes a morally perfect possible world or a morally very good possible world.
Most of us believe that (1) is true, indeed, many of us believe that (1) is necessarily true. But if we affirm (1), we have to deny (2).
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.
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: http://www.unav.edu/en/web/facultad-de-filosofia-y-letras/analytic-theology
Many theists are libertarians about free will. I take it as a minimal implication of libertarianism that at any time t at which an agent S freely chooses A, S might have chosen ~A instead. The future branches into many genuinely possible alternatives. I want to make a few observations.
1. Note first that the free will defense (FWD), as Plantinga offers the argument, simply assumes that we have libertarian freedom. It is the assumption of libertarian freedom that makes it possible for (what I’ll call) bad CCF’s to be possibly true: recall we are invited to consider a world in which CCF’s of the sort, God creates S in T ☐⟶ S goes wrong, are true. Such counterfactuals could not be true unless we assumed that there are worlds in which God exists and agents produce evil. He could have ended the argument right there, after affirming that at least one of these is true somewhere in metaphysical space, since that is the conclusion we’re after.
2. That brings me to my second quick observation. For all of the fuss in the FWD, all we really need, for Plantinga’s purposes, is one counterfactual of the sort, God creates S in T ☐⟶ S goes wrong, to be true in some possible world. The rest of the argument is unnecessary for the main purpose. If there is such a true counterfactual, then God exists in some world where there is evil, contrary to the logical argument from evil. So ends the dispute.
My main point is that atheological opponents might reasonably balk at the idea that libertarian freedom is compatible with theism. Here’s why. Assume we have libertarian freedom. For any rational agent S, if S has libertarian freedom with respect to action A, then S can perform ~A. For actions A with moral significance, libertarian freedom entails that you can perform the morally wrong action ~A. But the modal claim that you can perform the wrong action ~A entails the further modal claim that God can actualize a world in which you go wrong. So far, I assume, so good. Now, unless it is true that you and everyone else is universally transworld depraved in every possible world in which you go wrong, which is simply not credible, this means that God can actualize a world in which you go wrong when he might have actualized a world in which you go right instead. Certainly, there is some world like that under the assumption of libertarianism. But why should an atheological opponent accept that? He shouldn’t. Why wouldn’t an atheological opponent urge instead that God cannot actualize a world in which you freely go wrong when he might have actualized one in which you freely go right. He would. But then it’s reasonable to believe that libertarianism is not compatible with theism.
Trent’s interesting post about evil and hiddenness has reminded me of the following draft that I wrote some time ago:
The problem of evil challenges theism by raising the following question: if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why is there evil in the actual world? Theists have proposed many responses to the problem, such as the free will response, the soul-making response, the greater good response, and so on. Whether any succeeds has been debated for hundreds of years.
Suppose now, for the sake of argument, that there is a successful theistic response to the problem of evil explaining the reason, call it X, that God has to allow evil. Unfortunately, this does not end the story because the existence of X raises a new question: If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why does He not tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil? A state of affairs in which we remain puzzled by not being told by God that X is the reason that He has to allow evil seems to undermine the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Let us call this the ‘second-order problem of evil’.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is a successful theistic response to the second-order problem of evil explaining the reason, call it Y, that God cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil. Unfortunately, this does not the end the story because the existence of Y raises a new question: If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why does He not tell us that Y is the reason that He cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil? A state of affairs in which we remain puzzled by not being told by God that Y is the reason that He cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil seems to undermine the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Let us call this the ‘third-order problem of evil’.
And so on, ad infinitum.
What does this observation teach us? First, it teaches us that theists who think that they have found a successful response to the problem of evil should beware of overconfidence; such a response raises new challenges for them. Second, it encourages theists to investigate a link between evil and God’s hiddenness. The only plausible explanation, if there is any, that God does not prevent evil, does not tell us X is the reason that He has to allow evil, does not tell us Y is the reason that He cannot tell us that X is the reason that He has to allow evil, and so on, appears to be that God has to remain hidden from us; that is, God has to avoid any form of interaction with us which suggests His existence. We can see this clearly by showing that the above infinite regress does not arise for the problem of divine hiddenness, despite the fact that the problem of divine hiddenness is structurally parallel to the problem of evil. Suppose that there is a successful theistic response to the problem of divine hiddenness explaining the reason, call it Z, that God has to remain hidden from us. Unlike the case of the problem of evil, the existence of Z does not raise the following second-order question: If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, why does He not tell us that Z is the reason that He has to hide Himself? If there is any valid reason that God has to hide himself then He cannot tell us that that is the reason because by telling it to us God would fail to hide Himself from us. This seems to indicate that there is a link between the problem of evil and the problem of divine hiddenness and that theists might be able to stop the infinite regress of the higher-order problems of evil by appealing to God’s hiddenness. Conversely, it might be that the higher-order problems of evil cannot be resolved without first resolving the problem of divine hiddenness.
I’ve been thinking about the metaphilosophical issue of the value of opinionated philosophy and the value of (maybe highly) opinionated philosophers. Maybe philosophers with strong Socratic sympathies expect all good philosophy to end somewhere in aporia, but a good deal of philosophy doesn’t. There is in any case a common criticism of philosophy of religion that it often borders on Christian apologetics, though the criticism is really more general than that. I think I can make sense of this criticism as charging that philosophy of religion is often highly opinionated. And by ‘opinionated’ here I simply mean that the philosophical work includes settled views on points that are really worth controverting or that really ought to be held with less confidence. Maybe the notion of ‘opinionated’ I’m after is reflected in the ratio of the confidence with which p reasonably ought to be held to the confidence with which p is held by the author. Maybe it’s reflected in the degree to which one is mainly interested in speaking to the like-minded. There really is something unphilosophical about that, but it’s hard to pin down.
I don’t think the criticism can be deflected simply by pointing out that all philosophical work makes some assumptions (for the sake of argument). Of course that’s true, but the criticism does not make that mistake. I don’t think the criticism can be avoided by noting that many philosophers bring to discussion strong philosophical views. We can likely name, for instance, the committed invariantists, contextualists, relativists in epistemology, and the committed three-dimensionalists, four-dimensionalists, essentialists, and monists in metaphysics. But (many of) these philosophers spend a lot of time in defense of these views. They have not simply stopped arguing for them, given their deep conviction that they’re true. And I don’t think the criticism can be deflected by pointing out that certain philosophical problems require a lot of assumptions (e.g. think of philosophical problems in cosmology, where the discussion is high up in physical theory or philosophical problems in the neurobiology of free will). It’s true again that many interesting and controvertible assumptions are made in discussions here, but that is most often not a problem. The criticism is not making this mistake. I don’t think the problem can be deflected by noting that all good philosophy includes some strong opinion(s). Of course that’s true; I don’t think anyone is confused about that. Finally, I don’t think the (not-so-uncommon) mark-my-bravery response deflects the criticism. Here the idea, I assume, is to take standing firm without reply as some sort of virtue. I admire philosophical bravery (not bluster or bravado, but the real thing) by which I have in mind not backing away from a defensible philosophical position or research program for reasons of (even formidable) discipline pressure or social pressure or psychological pressure. But I take philosophical bravery to include a willingness to address at least the good/powerful objections to the contrary.
I raised the issue of opinionated philosophers because it might illuminate what some find wrong with opinionated philosophy. It is really hard (for me anyway) to get much from philosophical discussion with (even excellent) philosophers who have come to lots of settled opinions on frankly controvertible philosophical issues. All one can do (weirdly, what I feel like I’m expected to do) is just note what I’m told. What does that have to do with philosophy? I don’t have a lot of interest in doing that. What I want to do is take up the controversial issues in the expectation that they will be discussed fairly, and that is what invariably fails to happen in these cases. When I read an opinionated philosophical paper I get a similar impression. Maybe that’s the problem, but I’m not sure. I do know that highly opinionated philosophy is disproportionately boring. Maybe that’s the problem.
The Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and Religion under the direction of RenÃ© van Woudenberg welcomes proposals to investigate scientism and its manifestations in research into free will, moral belief formation and moral character, rational decision-making, and religious belief. The research project Science beyond Scientism is embedded in the research of the Theoretical Philosophy section of the Department of Philosophy at VU University Amsterdam. VU University Amsterdam is an accredited research university with excellent library and other research facilities.
Scientism is the view that science, and science alone, can give us knowledge, tell us what exists, and answer our moral, existential, and religious questions. Scientism is rampant in contemporary intellectual culture: it is assumed and endorsed in- and outside academia by influential scientists and philosophers writing about evolutionary theory, genetics, brain science, psychology, and philosophy. From there, scientism also wields influence on various social and professional practices, such as medicine, law, education, religion, and child rearing. We think scientism is not only false, but also harmful. False, because there are other sources of knowledge besides science. Harmful, because it undermines notions that are central to human self-understanding and flourishing, and to various social and professional practices; notions such as free will, rational decision-making, moral character, and religious belief.
Fundamental Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents are brutish: they are not grounded in other propositions, nor made true by a truthmaker, lack of a falsemaker and/or the obtaining of properties/relations between entities.
Now, suppose as seems plausible to me that there are precisely two kinds of explanation: constitutive-style and causal-style explanations. Constitutive-style explanations explain a truth by explaining how the truth is grounded: the knife is hot because its molecules have high kinetic energy. Causal-style explanations explain a truth by giving non-grounding conditions that nonetheless in a mysterious but familiar causal or at least causal-like give rise to the holding of the truth.
Now, brutish truths have no constitutive-style explanations. For the constitutive-style explanation involves the describing of a grounding. But brutish truths also have no causal-style explanations. For causal-style explanations involves the describing of causal-style relations between the aspects of the world (in the concrete sense) that ground the explanandum and explanans. (In fact, for this reason, brutish truths not only lack causal-style explanations but are not causal-style explanations for anything else.) So, brutish truths have no explanations.
But if there are true fundamental Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents, there will also be ones that have explanations. For, some, maybe all, free actions can be explained in terms of the reasons the agent had. Thus, Curley accepts the bribe because he wants to be richer. Granted, this is a non-necessitating explanation–that Curley wants to be richer does not entail that he accepts the bribe. But that’s still an explanation, and one of causal-type. And exactly parallel explanations can be given for Molinist conditionals. Thus, Curley would have accepted the bribe in circumstances C because circumstances C includes his wanting to be richer. And presumably this kind of explanation would have held even had Curley never existed, and presumably if Molinism is true, there are such explanations for true conditionals about actually non-existent agents. Thus some fundamental Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents can be explained. But this contradicts their brutishness.
Moreover, presumably some fundamental true Molinist conditionals of free will about non-existent agents explain God’s creative inactions. Thus, perhaps, God did not create Badolf Bitler, because Bitler would have been so much worse than Hitler. But these conditionals do not provide a constitutive-style explanation for such actions. So they provide a causal-style explanation. But they can’t do that, because they’re brutish.
The same argument goes against Merricks-style presentism on which fundamental truths about the past are brutish. But many, perhaps all, fundamental truths about the past are explained by other fundamental truths about the past.