Problems with Plantinga’s free will defense: the way detailed version

This is the one section of chapter 6 of the book that I’m particularly confident in.

The lack of agreement about much of anything is widely recognized by philosophers themselves. But sometimes, a philosopher will say, “True, we philosophers cannot agree on the big questions, like ‘is there a God?’ or ‘what is free will, if it exists at all?’ But over time we’ve managed to settle a number of smaller questions, and the answers to these smaller questions help us better understand the big ones.” I am not sure this claim is false, but I do know that every time I’ve looked closely at a specific claim that philosophers are unanimous on a specific “smaller question,” the specific claim has turned out to be false.

I gave one example of this in the last chapter: the claim that thanks to Plantinga, it’s now agreed that none of the older versions of the problem of evil work. Here, I’ll give a more detailed, updated explanation of what that claim is wrong. I’ll start with a quote from philosopher Gary Gutting’s book What Philosophers Know:

Consider a standard atheistic argument from evil: An all-good being would have wanted to prevent the Holocaust, and an all-powerful being would have been able to do so; therefore, since the Holocaust did occur, there is no being that is both all-good and all-powerful – hence no God in the traditional sense. No one familiar with Plantinga’s free will defense can think that there is a compelling case for the initial premise of this argument. It is logically possible that an all-good being would permit the Holocaust for the sake of avoiding even greater evils and that even an all-powerful being could not have prevented the Holocaust and avoided greater evils. The argument as formulated is demonstrably inadequate, and anyone who rejects the existence of God on the basis of this argument has been misled. (p.232)

In a blog post written for the New York Times website, Gutting makes similar but more sweeping claims:

When philosophers disagree it is only about specific aspects of the most subtle and sophisticated versions of arguments for and against God’s existence (for example, my colleague Alvin Plantinga’s modal-logic formulation of St. Anselm’s ontological argument or William Rowe’s complex version of a probabilistic argument from evil). There is no disagreement among philosophers about the more popular arguments to which theists and atheists typically appeal: as formulated, they do not prove (that is, logically derive from uncontroversial premises) what they claim to prove. They are clearly inadequate in the judgment of qualified professionals. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/philosophy-and-faith/ Accessed 22 Dec 2011

I have heard many people make claims like the ones in these two paragraphs. However, the claims in both paragraphs are easy to disprove. In an essay published after his death, philosopher David Lewis (1941-2001), writes:

The most ambitious versions of the argument [from evil] claim that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and completely benevolent deity…

In my view, even the most ambitious version succeeds conclusively. There is no evasion, unless the standards of success are set unreasonably high. Those who try to escape the conclusion have to insist that no use can be made of disputable premises, however antecedently credibly those premises may be. But philosophers can and do dispute anything. Some, for example, are prepared to argue about the law of non-contradiction (p. 231).

The fact that Lewis had previously written about Plantinga’s free will defense disproves the claim the first quote about “No one familiar…” etc., etc. It helps that a substantial minority of philosophers think Lewis was the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. Lewis also gives a nice explanation of what’s wrong with the line in the second quote about “uncontroversial premises.” Lewis may recognize the needed premises are disputable, but he disagrees with other philosophers in thinking the argument “succeeds conclusively” anyway.

This is enough to show that Gutting is wrong to say no disagreement exists. But someone might claim that Lewis, in spite of being well-respected, was hopelessly confused and therefore he doesn’t matter. So I’ll explain one reason why there’s disagreement about this issue. “Plantinga’s free will defense” is a response to a specific argument J. L. Mackie (1917-1981) gave in the 50′s. Mackie’s argument went like this: God is defined as omnipotent (all-powerful) and good, “a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can,” and “there are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do.” That means that if God exists, evil cannot, but evil exists, so God does not.

Plantinga argued that, on the contrary, maybe no matter how God created the world, as long as he allowed people significant free will, people would make at least some bad choices. (Bad choices are a kind of evil.) And maybe God foresaw this, but decided that free will was worth the price of bad choices. If that’s possible, it seems possible for God and evil to coexist after all.

In Mackie’s original paper, he talked a version of the free will defense, and said he thought the notion of free will was incoherent. The key issue here is the “incompatibilist” or “libertarian”  view of free will. Incompatibilism says that free action is incompatible with the action being determined. Libertarianism (no connection to the political view) is just incompatibilism plus the claim that free will in fact exists.

“Determined” here just means determined by starting conditions (and the relevant scientific laws, or something similar). It doesn’t necessarily mean God deciding how people will act just by decreeing it.

So, let me re purpose  one of Plantinga’s examples. Suppose Curley Smith, mayor of Boston, is offered a $35,000 bribe, and given his bad character (and various other conditions, including his financial situation and estimate of the odds of getting caught), it’s a forgone conclusion that he’ll accept the bribe. Maybe if he were more honest, or he felt certain he’d be caught, he’d reject the bribe, but given how things actually are, there’s no way he’s going to reject it. Also imagine, if you like, that the laws of psychology also play a role in determining Curley’s action.

Now, given this, once Curley accepts the bribe, did he freely accept it? Did he chose to accept it? Could he have rejected it? I think the answer to all three questions is yes. So being determinism is compatible with free action, compatible with choice, even compatible in a sense with being able to do otherwise.

I say “in a sense” for the question about being able to do otherwise, because there’s a sense in which determinism means being unable to do otherwise. It means being unable to do otherwise holding all relevant starting conditions and laws exactly fixed. But in these contexts, I think it’s natural to say “he could have done otherwise” if what we mean is, “he might have rejected the bribe if he were more honest, etc.”

The libertarian, however, says that Curley wasn’t free. The libertarian says that if an action is determined by prior conditions, it is not free. Curley’s action was determined by prior conditions, so according to the libertarian it is not free. I think libertarians are wrong about this. I’m a compatibilist, meaning I think freedom and determinism are compatible. David Lewis was another compatibilist. There is evidence that most ordinary people’s intuitions favor compatibilism. Furthermore—and I think I speak for many if not most compatibilists here—I think compatibilism is true as a conceptual matter and I don’t think there’s any way libertarianism could have turned out to be true.

Now that we’ve got all this background, we can see why there’s diagreement about Plantinga’s free will defense. Plantinga is a libertarian. His free will defense requires this. If the notion of free will is incoherent, as Mackie claimed in “Evil and Omnipotence,” then it doesn’t make any sense to imagine God allowing evil for the sake of free will. Similarly, if compatibilists like Lewis and I are right, God could have given people free will, but done things to ensure they would always do right (for example, he could have given them only good desires, or made them very good at resisting temptation.) So on certain views of free will, Plantinga’s free will defense doesn’t work.

To get clear just what I have shown in this section, here are three claims about Plantinga’s free will defense:

  1. Plantinga’s free will defense refuted Mackie’s version of the argument from evil.
  2. No one who’s read and understood Plantinga’s free will defense can deny it refuted Mackie’s version of the argument from evil.
  3. No one who’s read and understood Plantinga’s free will defense can deny it refuted all the more popular versions of the argument from evil, for example, the argument that a loving God would have prevented the Holocaust.

I think all three of these claims are false. However, I understand if you think (1) is true. If you are a libertarian, you will probably think (1) is true. (2) and (3) on the other hand are things no informed person should believe. That is not to say no informed person does believe them; plenty of people who ought to know better have said things like (2) and (3).

(2) is false just because Lewis and Mackie and I all read and understood Plantinga’s free will defense, and were not convinced, in large part because we disagreed with Plantinga’s view of free will. And (3) has an additional problem: Plantinga’s free will defense argues that God might allow some bad choices for the sake of free will. However, just because God gave the Nazis the free will to decide to try to kill as many Jews as possible doesn’t mean he had to let them be so successful at it. After all, there are lots of stories in the Bible where someone tries to do something bad (keep the Jews in slavery, kill baby Jesus, etc.), but God intervenes so that they fail.

I took the trouble of explaining all this in such detail it’s such a great example of a false claim of “no disagreement” on a particular philosophical question. Claims like this, in my experience, never turn out to be true. There is always at least one well-respected philosopher who disagrees (and when I say “well-respected,” I do mean better respected in the philosophical community than any anti-evolutionist is in the biological community). Next time you hear a claim like this, you’d be wise to be skeptical.

  • karmakin

    For what it’s worth I think free will vs. evil pretty much falls apart when we think of “evil” or at least bad things that don’t stem from human decisions. Cancer, earthquakes, drought etc.

  • G.Shelley

    Is the argument essentially “There was no way god could put just some limits on free will, it had to be all or nothing”?
    That seems a little different to what I had assumed to be the main objection that to god, one sin is just as bad as another, so if people are free to not worship, they have to be free to rape and murder. Which doesn’t refute the free-will argument

  • Paul King

    Showing that the Argument from Evil isn’t absolutely logically airtight might be significant in philosophical terms, but in terms of defending Christianity it isn’t much good. If the best you can say is that your religion is only ALMOST certainly false, you have a problem.

  • b9

    Since God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good, and we’re not, it’s only logical that we should follow his example if we want to be good. And if that means he does not intervene when nazis are killing jews, then neither should we.

  • Annatar

    This was an awesome post. I found a refutation of Plantinga’s defense by Ray Bradley on Infidels.org, but don’t know the philosophical language well enough to follow. This made things pretty clear.

    Also, one of the strongest responses I’ve heard from atheists in response to the Free Will Defense is the problem of heaven–There is free-will in heaven (presumably), but there is no evil in heaven (presumably). So the phrase “no matter how God created the world, as long as he allowed people significant free will, people would make at least some bad choices” isn’t actually true. What are your thoughts on that?

    • Freefaller

      “Also, one of the strongest responses I’ve heard from atheists in response to the Free Will Defense is the problem of heaven–There is free-will in heaven (presumably), but there is no evil in heaven (presumably).”

      This one often ensnares the amateur critic (and a good number of professionals too). The FWD has nothing to do with the actual world or the freewilling abilities of the denizens thereof.

      “So the phrase “no matter how God created the world, as long as he allowed people significant free will, people would make at least some bad choices” isn’t actually true.”

      If we allow that there are non-human but created persons (the unfallen heavenly host for example) this is correct, but irrelevant. The FWD only requires that there be some possible world where every creaturely being suffers from transworld depravity, not that every creaturely being *actually* suffers from it.

      • Annatar

        I’m not sure I follow.

        Could you point out exactly where I go wrong?

        The FWD goes thusly:

        God COULD have created a world of mindless automata, who always follow God’s commands. However, following God’s commands is better when it is freely chosen, so God gave us free-will. Inevitably, in a world of free creatures, some are going to choose to do evil. God couldn’t create a world where people have free-will AND always do good, since by having free-will God is no longer in control of them, and they may rebel. However, on the whole, a world of free creatures, some of whom choose to do evil and some of whom choose to do good, is better than a world of automata who mindlessly do the good.

        Correct?

        The response is this:

        But, according to Christian theology, God created heaven. In heaven there is free-will (since having free-will is better than not having free-will, and heaven is supposed to be better in all respects than Earth), and yet there is no evil–neither the heavenly host nor the human denizens choose to do evil. So God not only COULD create a world with Free-will and w/o evil, but he DID. So the free-will defense fails in its claim that “Free-will exists” and “no evil exists” are incompatible.

        “The FWD only requires that there be some possible world where every creaturely being suffers from transworld depravity, not that every creaturely being *actually* suffers from it.”

        Why couldn’t God actualize a world where no one suffers from transworld depravity? Wouldn’t the FWD have to show that EVERY possible world suffers from transworld depravity?

        • rayndeonx

          Plantinga’s argument is a little bit more complex than that. According to Plantinga, God has knowledge of all the contingent countefactuals of freedom. For instance, consider some mayor Curley. Perhaps corresponding to him is this counterfactual of freedom

          (C) If Curley was offered a $5,000 bribe from Smede, Curley would accept it.

          but it could also be the case that

          (C*) If Curley was offered a $5,000 bribe from Smede, Curley would reject it.

          CFFs (contingent counterfactuals of freedom) are of the form “If an agent A was placed in some situation C, they would freely do A” or “If an agent A was placed in some situation C, they would freely refrain from A.” Either one could be true.

          According to Plantinga, when God has no ability to make these counterfactuals true or false. They are, in a sense, brute facts. So, when God looks at the world, while Plantinga agrees that there are possible worlds where all beings go right with respect to every action and God exists, those worlds are not necessarily actualizable. For when God looks at the worlds he could create, he might see that something like (C) is true. God cannot make (C) or (C*) true or false – he cannot make one CFF or another true without compromising freedom, so the fact as to what CFF obtains is a brute fact.

          So, suppose it contingently happens to be the case that (C) is true. So, although in some possible worlds (C*) is true, God cannot bring about a world with that CFF since he is essentially stuck with the CFFs that obtain as a matter of fact. So, not every metaphysically possible world is in fact actualizable by God. Let’s call worlds God can actualize “feasible” worlds. The upshot of Plantinga’s argument is to show that while every feasible world is a metaphysically possible world, not every metaphysically possible world is a feasible world.

          Now, this has some serious tensions with the idea of God being a necessary being, but let’s ignore that for now. So, Plantinga brings forth the scenario: consider an essence transworldly depraved such that no matter what God does, it will go wrong with respect to at least one action. So, in all feasible worlds, God is stuck with the person (who is the instantiation of that essence) doing wrong at some point in their life. So then Plantinga proposes: consider the case that EVERY essence is such transworldly depraved. Then it follows, no matter what, God cannot actualize a world where everyone freely does good all the time. So, none of the feasible worlds are such that everyone does good all the time.

          Well, what about natural evil? Well, suppose there are demons who bring about such disasters. Obviously this is ridiculous but the idea is to create a coherent counterexample: if you can show a counterexample to a deductive argument, no matter how bizarre it might be, it’s enough to refute the premise in question. Remember, the logical problem of evil is a deductive argument, not an inductive one.

          • Paul King

            The argument still seems to have serious lapses.

            If God is truly omnipotent than He can presumably actualise any world that is possible – indeed any world that is both logically possible and consistent with the pre-existing fact of His existence. If God cannot do this, then why not ?

            Where do these “depraved” essences come from ? If God creates them, then why create “depraved” essences ? If God doesn’t, are these also necessarily existing beings which are necessarily “depraved” ?

            It does not directly address the issue of Heaven. If Heaven is truly free of the existence of evil, then the absence of evil must be possible. Why doesn’t Plantinga take a stand on this, for instance, explicitly saying that Heaven can’t be free of evil, if that is what he believes ?

            It does not address the issue of God intervening – perhaps in indetectable ways – to prevent excessive evil. If natural evils are caused by supernatural forces, then God could intervene to prevent them without anyone being the wiser. Proposing that demons cause natural disasters is not enough without an explanation of why they are allowed to succeed in creating natural disasters.

            Finally, as I stated earlier simply finding some loophole in an argument is only enough to show that the argument is not an absolute proof – it may still be a very strong argument. Proposing that God had to put pre-exisitng essences that are necessarily “depraved” into whatever world He created (if that is what Plantinga claims) might be sufficient to escape absolute disproof of an omnipotent, omniscience, omnibenevolent God, but it doesn’t offer even a remotely plausible explanation for evil – and it’s far enough from mainstream Christian views that Christians ought ti be very uncomfortable in accepting that argument.

          • Annatar

            Thank you for the breakdown Rayndeonx, I appreciate the clarification! I don’t have any formal philosophical training (my BA is in music), so bare with me if I ask some silly questions.

            I think my confusion turns on this:

            “God cannot bring about a world with that CFF since he is essentially stuck with the CFFs that obtain as a matter of fact.”

            I’m inclined to agree with what Paul King said:

            “If God is truly omnipotent than He can presumably actualise any world that is possible – indeed any world that is both logically possible and consistent with the pre-existing fact of His existence. If God cannot do this, then why not?”

            Omnipotence is usually defined by theologians as “having no non-logical limitations,” right? If God is omnipotent, then how could a world be logically possible, but not feasible? What could “feasible” even mean when discussing an omnipotent being?

            Why would God be stuck with certain CFF’s that obtain “as a matter of fact?” Can’t God change them? He is omnipotent, so he can do anything logically possible, and if the CFF’s are contingent by definition, then why couldn’t he actualize a world that has the CFF’s that he wants? Why would he be “stuck with them,” unless they are logically necessary? I think I’m just asking the same question over and over, but I hope I’m being clear.

            It seems to me that saying a world is “possible” for God but not “feasible” for God is analogous to saying “God couldn’t make a world where everyone has free-will but no one does evil” in the simpler version of the FWD. You might say, “It’s *possible* for a world to exist with FW and w/o evil, but it’s not *feasible*.” Is that too much of a simplification, or can that part of Plantinga’s argument more-or-less be mapped onto that part of the simpler FWD?

  • Jeffy Joe

    Annatar – Bingo. Why not just make the entire universe heaven? I think the problem of evil is irrefutable if one wants to maintain a belief in the “standard” Christian heaven.
    I never thought of it before, but when the post made an off-hand mention of god taking away Herod’s free will to kill baby Jesus, I realized that the Bible has god intervening in the most screwed-up way possible. He doesn’t warn *every* family with an infant boy, he just warns Joseph and Mary so they can hightail it out of town. I guess he would have been interfering a little too much if he didn’t let Herod kill a few babies, at least.

  • Patrick

    According to 2 Peter 2,4 it IS possible to sin in Heaven. Now, from the fate of sinning angels described there one can see that if one were in Heaven, but nevertheless chose sin, one’s fate would be sealed. So the fact that we are not put immediately to Heaven may be the price we have to pay that we can sin and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again.

    A very elaborate formulation of the argument that God could only have created Heaven can be found in the following paper entitled “Evil, Freedom and the Heaven Dilemma”, written by philosophy professor Simon Cushing. It can be found in the following link:

    http://www.flint.umich.edu/~simoncu/heaven.pdf

    In the following I’m going to answer to some of the arguments put forward in the paper.

    From Simon Cushing’s paper “Evil, Freedom and the Heaven Dilemma”: “Saintly freedom (so named because it is presumably the freedom exercised by moral saints) is genuine freedom that in fact never results in evil. But if there can be a state of existence with truly free beings but no evil, then an omnipotent God could have given us all that saintly freedom here on Earth, thereby both giving us freedom and preventing evil, and a God who was both omnipotent and omnibenevolent would have done so.”

    According to Ezekiel 11,19-20, John 8,34-36, Romans 8,29, 2 Corinthians 5,17, and Galatians 5,16-18 God indeed provided us with the possibility to attain that saintly freedom here on Earth, at least to some degree (1 John 1,8). It the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to be in such a state. But one must be willing to strive after this freedom (Romans 6,11-14, 12,2, 13,13-14, Galatians 5,16-18, Ephesians 4,17-24). God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone asking Him (Luke 11,13). We may even expect that one day the vast majority of humankind will be in such a state here on Earth (Isaiah 2,1-5, 11,1-10).

    From Simon Cushing’s paper “Evil, Freedom and the Heaven Dilemma”: “According to metaphysical libertarianism, my truly free action is genuinely undetermined by the sum of facts about me (and indeed the entire universe). That is, you could imagine two parallel universes with completely identical histories up to a particular point where I, a free being, am making a choice; the metaphysical libertarian insists that the nature of freedom allows that it is perfectly possible for me to make one choice in one universe and my counterpart another in the other, and that both would be rightly endorsed by the “me” in that world as the choice that he fully intended to make. But if this is so, then it does not matter which action I perform—whichever act I perform will be equally a free action. This point in itself could be enough to subvert the supposed relationship between freedom and desert that T12 seems to require. Surely I only deserve punishment if something about me determined my choice of evil. But if for every evil choice I make there is a good choice that I, with exactly the same history, beliefs, desires and current mental state could have made, then in what sense would I deserve condemnation for the evil choice or praise for the good? Neither is a product of me or a reflection of my character.”

    I don’t think that we can always at any time choose any act we want. In my view it’s more that by choosing to act in a specific way we create circumstances which gradually make it more likely that we act in a specific way. The following analogy can illustrate my point: Someone walking on a crest is deviating from the path. The further he goes away the steeper the ground becomes and the more difficult it becomes to walk upright, until there is some point of no return and consequently he is falling down the mountain.

    From Simon Cushing’s paper “Evil, Freedom and the Heaven Dilemma”: “However, even if the libertarian can block this apparent implication of his view, there are further problems for the theist who wishes to use this libertarianism to respond to the Heaven Dilemma. For it would appear that it implies that God could prevent all evil without disrupting freedom. Let us suppose, for example, that I am contemplating a heinous murder. I raise the knife. At this point I could genuinely go either way – stab or not. The future where I go ahead and kill is as possible as the future where I put the knife aside, and both are equally consistent with everything about me up until this moment (so that, on Swinburne’s view, not even God can predict which would happen). Suppose, at this point, God intervenes and ensures that I do not kill, and that therefore evil is averted. Has he subverted my freedom? I do not see that he could be said to have. This action is just as in keeping with all of my character and intentions as the evil action. I can endorse it as my choice just as willingly as the action of committing murder, and with just as much justification. It is possible that I would have done it anyway, but if I had, it would feel no different to me from the case where God intervenes. Nobody can claim that God has altered my character or intentions or made me do anything against my will. But if all that is true, then it is surely within the power of an omnipotent God to have a world of free beings without evil, provided he is prepared to intervene (which, as an omnibenevolent being, he certainly should be).”

    An answer to this objection may be found in point (3) of the theodicy outlined below called “Theodicy from divine justice”. It explains why God may not be inclined to interfere in this world more conspicuously.

    (1) God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).
    (2) Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.
    (3) The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.
    (4) Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.
    (5) A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
    (6) A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    (7) There are degrees of punishment in the afterlife depending on one’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), and, as mentioned before, one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25).
    (8) Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.
    (9) Animals will inhabit the “new earth” mentioned in Isaiah 65,17-25, 2 Peter 3,13 and Revelation 21,1, where they will be compensated for their pain they will have experienced here.

  • Freefaller

    Paul King weighs in with some concerns:

    “If God is truly omnipotent than He can presumably actualise any world that is possible – indeed any world that is both logically possible and consistent with the pre-existing fact of His existence. If God cannot do this, then why not ?”

    He doesn’t have it within his power to actualize possible but non-feasible worlds because of those pesky brute fact contingent counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. In some situations that God finds himself in, these counterfactuals are fairly well behaved and He can realize his ambitions to create morally perfect worlds containing free creatures with no effort. But in other circumstances that God finds himself in, these counterfactuals are much less well behaved, and his ambitions to create, say, a morally perfect world with free creatures, are far more limited, or perhaps they are not a possibility (in that circumstance) at all.

    Even more suprisingly (at least for those who don’t really have a handle on this argument), the opposite situation is possible too. There are other circumstances where God might want to permit some evil to achieve some greater good but he is unable to actualize any worlds containing any evil (in those circumstances where the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are such that whatever creatures God creates, those creatures only choose the good.)
    Here again God’s options are limited in the other direction. He might want to permit some evil, but all the creaturely beings he has the power to create in that circumstance are such that they would frustrate this goal by always choosing only the right course of action.

    The key here is that these contingent counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are part of the fundamental furniture of reality, and they delimit God’s creative actions in any circumstance where God wants to bring about worlds containing free creatures.

    “Where do these “depraved” essences come from ? If God creates them, then why create “depraved” essences ? If God doesn’t, are these also necessarily existing beings which are necessarily “depraved” ?”

    Essences are necessary beings, and transworld depravity is a contingent property exhibited by these necessary beings. In some worlds these necessary beings are tranworld depraved. In other worlds these necessary beings are not transworld depraved. Whether these necessary beings are transworld depraved or not is not up to God. Wether he creates these creatures (ie, instantiates these essences) is up to him, and whether they are free or not is also up to him, but whether they do good or evil *given he decides to create them free* is not up to him. This is entirely up to those pesky counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.

    “It does not directly address the issue of Heaven. If Heaven is truly free of the existence of evil, then the absence of evil must be possible. Why doesn’t Plantinga take a stand on this, for instance, explicitly saying that Heaven can’t be free of evil, if that is what he believes ?”

    Of course the absence of evil is possible. In fact, for some creaturely beings, the absence of evil is *actual*. The important thing to note is that the absence of good (or creaturely moral perfection) is *also* possible, and its this *possibility* that hobbles the problem of evil in its deductive form.

    “…Finally, as I stated earlier simply finding some loophole in an argument is only enough to show that the argument is not an absolute proof – it may still be a very strong argument.”

    Here we have a problem of semantics. A deductive argument that has a live counterexample -one that we recognize *as* live- isn’t strong, its completely debilitated. That is, its a debilitated *argument*. You might be able to salvage some scraps and string together something that qualifies as “evidence” for some claim or other from the wreckage, but whatever that evidence is, it isn’t an *argument*.

    • Paul King

      I don’t think that my concerns have really been addressed.

      First, for a truly omnipotent being to be unable to arrange a particular state of affairs, there must be a logical impossibility involved. I have yet to see any indication that there is any logical impossibility in God successfully dealing with these essences to create a world without evil.

      Second, the idea that there is a necessarily existing essence that fully represents the personality of each individual human seems somewhat strained – and contrary to mainstream Christian beliefs. Also, if “transworld depravity” is merely a contingent, randomly assigned property of essences, should it not be possible for God to remove it? Without causing any harm?

      Thirdly your answer to the question of Heaven seems to be simply confused. The possibility of other states of affairs is irrelevant. The only possible answer to the logical problem of evil is the assertion that it is logically impossible for God to make anything better. That is why Heaven is such a huge problem.

      Fourthly, you are simply wrong about the status of the argument. If a logical argument can only be defeated by assuming highly implausible circumstances it is still a strong argument.

  • Nolan

    Beautifully written, Chris. I would add that the majority of philosophers are compatibilists, and a minority are libertarians (based on a philpapers.org survey http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl).

    It might be fair to question the consensus of philosophers, but the three claims about Plantinga’s free will defense that you outlined in your post are put into a much more shaky context when we take into account that for most professional philosophers (non-libertarians), the defense is an automatic failure.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    I think that this is how he escapes the “compatibilist” argument:

    Plantinga argued that, on the contrary, maybe no matter how God created the world, as long as he allowed people significant free will, people would make at least some bad choices.

    What you say about compatibilism is this:

    Similarly, if compatibilists like Lewis and I are right, God could have given people free will, but done things to ensure they would always do right (for example, he could have given them only good desires, or made them very good at resisting temptation.)

    And the reply, then, is to ask if this would still, in fact, be “significant free will”? If it is impossible for you to make a bad choice through failing at resisting temptation or through inadvertently forming a bad desire, or even simply through a reasoning failure, then that doesn’t seem like significant free will. Most compatibilist positions allow for real decisions to be made, but that they depend on the factors present in the individual, and so are still determined but are meaningful decisions. Your answer here would have God determining, for the most part, the factors in each individual and biasing them precisely towards certain behaviours, which seems to violate that.

    So, in order to say that your view damages the refutation, you’d have to argue for why under the “God sets these things” model we still have significant free will. That’s not clear at all from what was said here, and the compatibilist position does not necessarily allow for the sort of interference you are asking God to be compatible with significant free will.

    • Paul King

      In my view, a fully omniscient, omnipotent creator of our universe must have already chosen all our actions for us, and choosing entirely good actions for us does nothing to reduce whatever “Free Will” that might leave us. That conclusion does not even rely on determinism (it does rely on the assumption that the future is knowable, but that’s widely accepted as part of omniscience).

      But going on to your point, if our natures are ultimately beyond our control (as they must be) it is hard to see how God giving us extremely good natures would be an imposition on compatibilist Free Will. Since this is the version you are objecting to, I’d have to ask what alternative, given compatibilism, you see as giving us any more freedom. If there is none, then I can’t think of any way that you can both accept compatibilism and retain your objection.

      • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

        Well, it depends on the sort of compatibilism that’s being espoused. But, in general, there seems to be a difference between cases where the nature you have was produced through impersonal and unintentional mechanisms versus if it was produced by a deliberate and intentional attempt to shape it to the desires of an intentional agent. Take this example:

        Imagine someone is planning to shoot someone, and at the last minute they stop themselves. Compare these three reasons:

        1) It’s just not in their nature to kill; they feel a strong revulsion and just stop.

        2) Someone places an image of their spouse near the target, knowing that this will cause them to feel a strong revulsion and just stop.

        3) Someone deliberately alters their nature so that the instant they start to pull the trigger in that case they will feel a strong revulsion and just stop.

        1) is clearly compatible with all compatibilist positions. 2) is likely acceptable as well. We’d start to have problems with 3).

        The case you are describing is clearly 3, but it is indeed significantly different from 1, which is the case you are using to justify 3 being acceptable as a meaningful choice.

  • rayndeonx

    @Paul King #5.1.1.1.1.

    Part of Plantinga’s argument is to show that while every feasible world is metaphysically possible, not every metaphysically possible world is feasible. So, God essentially has no say whatsoever as to the truth value of those CFFs – they are either true or false as a matter of brute fact. And if it should turn out that every possible essence was transworldly depraved in the way Plantinga argues, then it follows that it was not within God’s ability to actualize beings who would freely choose to never go wrong. This doesn’t detract from God’s omnipotence, argues Plantinga, for if God had strongly actualized such an essence’s instantiation (a person) to do right, then that person would not have freely done the right thing, which would logically contradict God being persons who freely choose to do right. Since it is part and parcel of standard phil. of rel. that God’s omnipotence doesn’t scope over logical impossibilities, God can be unable to bring about certain metaphysically possible worlds yet retain his omnipotence.

    You ask “Where do these ‘depraved’ essences come from.” Per Plantinga, essences exist necessarily and the fact that they are transworldly depraved or not is a mater of brute, contingent fact, dependent on the CFFs.

    You ask about Heaven and I agree it raises serious theological tensions for Plantinga to hold onto transworld depravity. But I think Plantinga could respond to that challenge in two ways: first, Plantinga’s argument only seeks to show a logically possible scenario, not necessarily a plausible one, since a single counterexample is needed to refute a deductive argument. Secondly, Plantinga could argue that perhaps in some initial world segment (IWS) prior to Heaven, every essence is transworldly depraved and that perhaps God cannot bring such beings into Heaven as such without them doing at least one wrong thing.

    It’s true that Plantinga’s account of natural evil and this entire account in general is implausible. I think even Plantinga grants that. The point however is that the logical problem of evil is framed as a deductive argument, showing that the existence of God and the existence of evil are contradictory or metaphysically impossible. Plantinga merely needs to show one metaphysically possible counterexample to deal with the argument. Hence, his FWD is a free will defense, not a free will theodicy.

    @Annatar #5.1.1.1.2.

    Please see my response to Paul King above, especially regarding the difference between logically/metaphysically possible and feasible worlds.

    @Verbose Stoic #10.

    I don’t think that was what Lewis was arguing. He was saying that God could have created beings who would be naturally inclined to always do the right. So, they would have significantly free moral choices before them, but they would choose to do the right. Basically, it takes a look at Plantinga’s distinction between weak actualization and strong actualization and dismisses it as nonsense, since the distinction only arises for incompatibilist theories of freedom.

    • Paul King

      To show that the argument as it stands is not logically airtight Plantinga needs only one counter-example, although I have yet to be convinced that he has even managed that. However, the argument could simply be augmented to rule out that possibility and – if Plantinga’s proposal is not plausible – the augmented argument would still be rationally compelling.

      Clearly there is no freedom in being compelled to do evil by brute facts which just happen to exist. Thus there seems to be no loss of freedom in removing “transworld depravity” even if it could exist (by my understanding essences do not have any contingent properties). So far as I can see, a decision made in the absence of “transworld depravity’ is at least as free as one made under the influence of “transworld depravity” (arguably more so) and therefore removing “transworld depravity” entails no loss of freedom.

      I still think that you have yet to properly address the question of Heaven. If we accept that Heaven does or will exist and there is no evil there then we have to address the question of why that state is not actualised here and now. If it is not possible for God to produce that state here and now – as Plantinga asserts – then the lack of any explanation of how it will be possible to produce that state elsewhere or in the future would seem to be a severe problem for Christianity.

  • rayndeonx

    Ok, so I’ve been trying to lay clear what Plantinga’s account is as perspicaciously as possible. This is to make possible good objections to his FWD. Here are some of my thoughts what seem like good or utterly decisive objections. Since I’ve got seven of them, let’s call them the seven sins of the FWD. I kid, I kid. Anyway,

    (1) Libertarian freedom is nonsense. Let’s begin with the obvious: in my view, libertarian free will (LFW) is simply incoherent. Why is this? Well, for a couple of reasons. (a) LFW is contracausal freedom. The idea is that your actions and choices are literally uncaused. But, if my actions are uncaused, how can I exert any causal control over them? LFW reduces freedom to “freedom” by accident, where freedom is just what you randomly decide to do. That’s not freedom, as many philosophers of volition realize. Some proponents of LFW say that agent-causation is really being “self-caused”, but what the heck is this supposed to mean? They can’t mean it was literally self-caused, since that’s incoherent, so they have to reduce to some brute fact. But, you can’t control brute facts. You don’t get to decide what brute facts about you are true or not; that’s why they’re brute.

    (b) LFW makes no sense under common understanding of volition. Apparently, under LFW, your action is just that: your action. It’s the ultimate regress stopper, where we stop asking for explanations. Except… that’s not how we view free choice at all. Does anyone seriously contend that we do not consider the reason or motivation someone might have for doing what it is they do? Perhaps LFWers seek to appeal to some element of “self-caused-ness” but it’s clear that we seek causal explanations for just about any aspect of human behavior.

    (c) Determinism of the mind is (mostly) true. Leaving aside quantum mechanics, mental states appear to be more or less determined. Spatial and temporal summation in the brain integrates thousands of neural input in a deterministic fashion. Even substance dualists, are in the end, dualists; if the brain is significantly determined, just what room is there to argue that the mind is not also, if causally interacting with the brain, is not likewise determined?

    (2) I’m not confident that Transworld Depravity (TD) is metaphysically possible. Here are a few worries: first, Heaven as mentioned by Paul King seem to pose a near insurmountable problem for FWDers. It does then seem feasible in all worlds that God exists for God to instantiate essences that freely go right with respect to any action. In my hypothetical reply last post, where I talked about how Plantinga might posit that perhaps one will be transwordly depraved in the IWS corresponding to Earth. But, why instantiate essences on Earth? What prevents God from instantiating them into Heaven immediately? Moreover, it is not at all clear that TD is modally possible and Plantinga’s reasoning to get to it is suspect. Plantinga seems to argue like this: “Okay, imagine 1 essence that has TD. Then, you can conceive of 2, right? Then, 3, then 4, and so on? So, it could be that there is no feasible world at which an essence is not TD” This has a major problem. First, perhaps there are a denumerable amount of essences that have TD. It doesn’t then follow that ALL essences have TD since (a) arguably there are a number of essences that exceed the size of any conceivable set – they correspond to a proper class and (b) we can see what’s wrong immediately with this reasoning as Daniel Howard-Snyder and John O’Leary Hawthorne did: “Imagine one world where John and Jill don’t marry. Imagine 2, 3… so, there is no world at which they marry.” Just because there might be an infinity of essences that are TD, it doesn’t mean every single essence is. This seems even more clear if you consider the case of Heaven or the angels or what have you.

    (3) The CFFs are theologically unacceptable. Per traditional theism and in other works Plantinga looks at, the doctrine of aseity is taken seriously; everything apart from God is dependent on God. Per the Molinism Plantinga invokes, he would have one suppose that there exist contingent facts of the world that God can do nothing about. Moreover, just what makes the CFFs true a.k.a. the familiar Grounding objection. According to many Molinists, nothing makes them true, they just are. But, this seems to fly in the face of the aseity/sovereignty doctrine. Moreover, it seems clear that there exist essences that will never be transworldly depraved under traditional theism i.e. essences in Heaven and angels.

    (4) The CFFs as Plantinga sets them up are incoherent. Let us see why, if we consider Plantinga’s case. In God, Freedom, and Evil, Plantinga considers the following CFFs:

    (8) If S’ were to obtain, Maurice will freely take the oatmeal.
    (9) If S’ were to obtain, Maurice will freely refrain from taking the oatmeal.

    Here is a quote from Plantinga in God, Freedom, and Evil: “For consider a possible world W’ that shares S’ with the actual world (which for ease of reference, I’ll call Kronos), and in which Maurice does not take the oatmeal. (We know there is such a world because S’ does not include Maurice’s taking the oatmeal.) S’ obtains in W’ just as it is in Kronos. Indeed everything in W’ is just as it is in Kronos up to time t. But whereas in Kronos Maurice takes oatmeal at time t, in W’ he does not.

    Now W’ is a perfectly possible world; but it is not within God’s
    power to create it or bring it about. For to do so he-must actualize S’ But (8) is in fact true. So if God actualizes S’ (as he must to create W’) and leaves Maurice free with respect to the action in question, then he will take the oatmeal; and then, of course, W’ will not be actual. If, on the other hand, God causes Maurice to refrain from taking the oatmeal, then he is not free to take it. That means, once again, that W’ is not actual; for in W’ Maurice is free to take the oatmeal (even if he doesn’t do so). So if (8) is true, then this world W’ is one that God can’t actualize; it is not within his power to actualize it even though He is omnipotent and it is possible world.”

    Plantinga makes the same argument in 9) were true, so God cannot make Maurice freely take the oatmeal. But, here’s the problem for Plantinga: he includes the CFF in S’. That is, it is not somehow that the CFF “becomes” true at t, but that it has always been true. Part of Plantinga’s argument is to think that S’ obtaining can cohere with Maurice either freely taking or refraining from the oatmeal. But, he cannot get this counterfactuality. Since Plantinga posits that S’ includes (8), then there is no metaphysically possible world at which S’ obtains, (8) obtains, and Maurice freely refrains from taking the oatmeal. This is in fact logically contradictory since the conjunction

    S’ ^ (8) ^ (Maurice refrains from eating the oatmeal)

    are an inconsistent conjunction of propositions. Plantinga has not in fact described a possible world at all; under his stipulations, W’ is in fact an impossible world. Any world at which S’ obtains (and S’ includes (8)), Maurice will eat the oatmeal. Perhaps Plantinga means instead that (8) only applies to the actual world, but not to the proposed world W’. But then, God could have actualized a world in which (9) was true, so it is unclear what hope Plantinga has to saving his account.

    (5) The CFFs fail to cohere with LFW. The above concerns can be used to show that Plantinga’s account is entirely inconsistent with libertarian free will. Consider some initial world segment (IWS) that leads up to some time t, at which some person P in some situation S freely chooses to or refrains to actualize A. So, there are some worlds W at which the IWS obtains and P chooses to actualize A and some worlds at which the IWS obtains and P refrains from actualizing A. Now, let suppose we define the IWS, for an example, as follows, given the CFF that

    (*) If P were in S, S would actualize A

    Now, consider the IWS* where it includes P, S, and (*). Here’s the problem though. In all worlds where IWS* obtains, S actualizes A. There are no worlds containing IWS* and S refrains from actualizing A, else we get the inconsistency I drew out earlier. So, it follows that God actualizing IWS* determines S actualizing A. But then, S actualizing A isn’t actually free, so the CFF is incoherent with free will.

    I think Plantinga has answered before to this objection by saying that this is merely logical determination (i.e. in the sense God knows all things per analogy), not the causal determination needed to be incoherent with LFW. But, what about this scenario is not causal? Usually, when we think about cause and effect, we think about a cause temporally prior to the effect where the cause brings about the effect in a determinative fashion. Or we might think of it following a Lewisian counterfactual analysis, where the effect would fail to obtain if only the cause fails to obtain. The above case satisfies every single category of this distinction. So, it is a causal determination. It’s not as though the CFFs express some random correlation between the past state of affairs and an agent’s action (although given the nature of LFW, one might argue this – but then you aren’t talking about free will anymore are you?) There is supposed to be some intimate connection between the two, as the above analysis shows, it is a causally determinative one. But that is straightforwardly incoherent with LFW.

    Because of concerns like this, some theists particularly married to the notion of LFW have actually rejected that CFFs have truth values and also hold that God does not know the future; these are so-called open theists like Robert Adams or William Hasker. Such a view might defuse the logical problem of evil – maybe – but it also isn’t the God discussed in the problem to begin with.

    (6) Plantinga’s account of TD is either irrelevant or incoherent. This is I believe the strongest objection one can make. Plantinga’s account of essences includes them existing in all possible worlds; Plantinga is a platonist of sorts, so he believes in abstract exemplifiables, of which essences are a sort of. The interesting thing is that Plantinga seems to assign contingent, accidental properties to some of these essences.

    Let’s look back at that mayor Curley. Now, for Curley, there is some conjunction/set/class of propositions/facts/properties/states of affairs/insert metaphysical flavor here for which they are essential to him. They define what makes Curley, well, Curley. To say that Curley exists is to say that there is something that exemplifies being Curley. Let us call this conjunction/set/class of properties… er, for the sake of ease and my own sanity, let’s just call it a set of properties, even if that account make not be strictly correct. Ok, so corresponding to Curley is some set of properties P. So, being Curley means to be having P. That is, essences are necessary entities; they exist in all possible worlds.

    So now, consider the following CFFs corresponding to Curley

    (C) If Curley was offered a $5,000 bribe from Smede, Curley would accept it.

    but it could also be the case that

    (C*) If Curley was offered a $5,000 bribe from Smede, Curley would reject it.

    So, Curley is predicated contingently either with C or C*. So, call the former Curley Curley-C and the latter one Curley-C*. In possible worlds where Curley exists and is predicated with C, God cannot prevent Curley from freely accepting the bribe. Now, here’s the upshot of the argument: what about Curley-C*? Isn’t there an essence being Curley-C*? Certainly, that is another essence, and since essences are necessary, they exist in all possible worlds. But, if being Curley-C* is possible, God could have actualized Curley freely refraining from taking the bribe by creating Curley-C* instead.

    The point of the argument is this: for any set of properties, there is some essence corresponding to it. For a coherent set of properties, this is an essence that can be exemplified. So, even under the conditions of the CFFs, there are essences God could actualize that never go wrong. So, no matter what world God finds himself in, God can create essences that will always freely refrain from wrong. Plantinga cannot argue that being Curley-C* is impossible or somehow predicated by (C), since being Curley-C* is clearly possible. But then, transworld depravity is either an irrelevant or incoherent defense.

    For any essence you pick out, you subcategorize them under further essences. Just as being human lends itself to numerable other essences under which different CFFs can be predicated upon them, so can the essence being Curley. This is why I find Plantinga’s idea of a “transworldly depraved” essence to be bizarre. An essence is just defined set of properties that things could exemplify. Appending additional properties isn’t the same essence per se, but a subcategory thereof. Easy example: predicating the essence being a dog with being brown picks out the common subcategorical essence being a brown dog. So to call being Curley “transworldly depraved” is to only pick out being Curley-C type essences, but this doesn’t somehow prevent the existence of being Curley-C* essences. Saying that Curley is predicated with C only means that a mamber of the set of essences being Curley is predicated with C; not that all possible members are.

    So, Plantinga’s use of universal transworld depravity is either irrelevant or incoherent. If by saying that Curley is transworldly depraved, Plantinga means that there are instantiations of Curley that he will go wrong with respect to at least one action, sure, but that’s irrelevant for there are essences under being Curley that Curley never goes wrong with respect to any action. But, if instead Plantinga means that all such essences of being Curley are transworldly depraved, then this concludes that being Curley-C* and other similar essences are impossible. But, clearly, they are not – they are coherent and possible. And Plantinga accepts that as such, which would commit him to saying that they are both possible and impossible, a flat contradiction.

    So, either Plantinga’s FWD with the usage of TD is irrelevant or incoherent.

    (7) Plantinga’s FWD calls into serious question if God’s moral perfection is preserved.

    There was an interesting paper by Nathan Hanna I read that raises a very good point: God in worlds where He is able to actualize beings who freely go right with respect to any action whatsoever (a world which Plantinga grants is metaphysically possible) is more morally praiseworthy than the one Plantinga looks at, where God must secure moral good while being unable to eliminate moral evil. But, it is logically impossible for God to be more morally praiseworthy if He’s morally perfect, so there is a new type of LPOE that can be ran with this objection. See the paper here: http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Hanna-Resurrecting-the-Logical-Problem-of-Evil-draft.pdf

    One concern comes from the debate between Klaas Kraay, William Rowe, and Daniel Howard-Snyder regarding “axiological unsurpassability” and its relevance here, but I think the argument is seriously worth considering. I found it potent enough to consider here as a “good” objection to the FWD.

    • Annatar

      I’m sorry, I don’t mean to beat a dead horse or pester you, but I’m still confused about this.

      It seems like Plantinga is saying:

      (1) God is omnipotent–that is, he has no non-logical boundaries to his power.

      (2) It is logically possible to actualize a world, W, with free-will and without evil.

      (3) It is beyond God’s power to actualize W.

      My response is, “Well, one of those statements has to be false.” How does “metaphysical possibility” tie into this at all? God isn’t bound by metaphysical limitations, he is bound ONLY by logical ones!

      Chris, are you following? Is there some level of higher thinking that I’m just not tuned into?

      • rayndeonx

        Don’t worry about it Annatar. In modern possible world semantics, philosophers have drawn distinctions between lots of different kinds of modalities. Here’s two of them

        Logically possibility: This also goes by the name “strict logically possibility”. This is the largest category of modal possibility; basically, if something is logically coherent (contains no contradictions), it is logically possible. If something is tautologous (i.e. follows from a theorem or some analytic truth i.e. “All squares have four sides”), then it is logically necessary. Finally, if something is contradictory (Euclidean round squares), then it is logically impossible.

        Metaphysical possibility: This has three other names I see frequently enough, “alethic possibility,” “subjunctive possibility,” and “broadly logically possible.” Now, just what metaphysical possibility is… is actually not very well-defined! At least, I have never really found any good definition that nails down what “counts” as metaphysical possibility. For the longest time, philosophers were convinced that logical and metaphysical possibility were the same thing. Then, some sharp philosophers (Gottlob Frege, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Saul Kripke, and Hilary Putnam among others) came up with the idea of things that were “really” impossible, even though there was no formal logical contradiction.

        For instance, it is claimed that it is metaphysically necessary that “Water is H2O” and “the Morning Star is the Evening Star”. So, they would say that while the statement “Water is not H2O” is not logically contradictory, it is impossible since water cannot be anything other than H2O. The arguments that motivate this point of view have a lot to do with philosophy of language and Kripke summarized a lot of this in his seminal work Naming and Necessity. Kripke’s argument came from rigid designation, where he argued that naming is based on a causal account of reference. So, when we refer to water as “water”, we rigidly fix the contingent properties that make water, well, water. So, we cannot just a priori reason to certain modal truths – they actually have to be argued or discovered towards.

        So, since then, philosophers have become convinced that there non-analytic and non-contradictory necessities and impossibilities, that shrink the modal space to what we call metaphysical possibility. Basically, Kripke and others have introduced the idea of the synthetic a priori into modal space. There are claims that are really impossible or necessary.

        So, whatever the space of metaphysical possibility, it is the modal space in which just about everything in philosophy is now construed. This account enjoys just about near universal acceptance as far as I can see, although I myself have reservations with it.

        But enough introduction, let me try to address your point. Plantinga would deny (2) because he argued that it could, as a matter of brute fact that God has no influence on whatsoever, that there are counterfactuals of freedom in such a way that no matter who God chose to create, they would go wrong with respect to at least on action. Now, recall Plantinga’s account of CFFs – they’re brute contingent facts about how you would act in some situation. So, consider the following hypothetical as being true

        (1) if I was offered twice what my car was worth, I would freely sell it

        Let’s suppose that hypothetical is contingently true. Then, consider some world where I freely choose to sell the car (call it A) and some other world where I freely refrain from selling it (call it B).

        Now, consider some world segment up to some time t, where I am made the offer, S. Now, we regard (1) as true. So, if S is made actual by God, then I will freely choose to sell the car. So, God has actualized* A. But, note that B is metaphysically possible. Couldn’t God have made it that I chose to refrain from selling the car. No, because then I would have freely refrained from selling the car, since (1) is in fact true. So, it although B is possible, since (1) is in fact true it is not metaphysically possible for God to actualize my freely refraining from selling the car – in other words, given the scenario above, it is not metaphysically possible for God to actualize B, despite B being metaphysically possible. So God cannot, on pain of incoherence, actualize B, so God’s omnipotence is not threatened in this manner, since God cannot actualize what is metaphysically impossible.

        This is how Plantinga creates the account of “feasible worlds” – dependent on the truth values of the various CFFs, the modal space of worlds he can actualize will differ.

        How does this tie into the account of transworld deparvity? Well, he considers a person being transworldly depraved in that, as a matter of contingent fact, the CFFs arrange in such a way that no matter what feasible world God actualizes, that person will go wrong with respect to at least one action.

        Plantinga then argues that TD is universal – it is metaphysically possible that EVERY essence suffers from TD.

        So Plantinga’s TD is really multiple theses in one.

        a) CFFs are brute and state how an agent will freely act when placed in some situation S
        b) transworld depravity states that an essence has TD iff its CFFs are such that no matter what situation that agent was placed in, it would go wrong with respect to at least one action in its life.
        c) transworld depravity is total: every essence suffers from it

        Plantinga argues that the above is possible and hence, constitutes a coherent counterexample to the logical problem of evil.

        However, I think, despite my extended defense and presentation of Plantinga’s FWD, there ARE a number of good, if not fatal, objections to Plantinga’s argument. See #12.

        If this is still confusing, let me know. I sure was a heck confused when I read through these arguments. To some extent, I still am.

        *This is known as weak actualization in this case.

        • Annatar

          Oh my lord, that cleared up a lot of things for me. THANK YOU!!!! Obviously I disagree with Plantinga, but I can at least see where he is coming from now and how these issues are thought about. It all seemed like so many angels dancing on pins.

          Two questions/comments I wanna make.

          1) I’m not entirely sure how to phrase this one. Couldn’t one argue that when you say “There is a possible world where the morning star is not the evening star” that that is in fact a false description? Since “the morning star” is just another word for “Venus,” and likewise with “the evening star,” aren’t you saying “There is a possible world where Venus is not Venus?” That, in fact, there is NO possible world where “The morning star is the evening star” does not obtain?
          Obviously, we can conceive of possible worlds where “the morning star” and “the evening star” refer to two different things, but then we are defining our terms differently, right? Are these the phil. of lang. issues you mentioned?

          I’m thinking of a Shelly Kagan video where he discusses Descartes argument for mind/body dualism, would you humor me and watch it (7 mins)? It seems to me that the issues he discusses with that argument are the same issues we’re discussing regarding metaphysical and logical possibility. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A_T5ZQW7kY

          2) I also get the compatibilist objection to Plantinga. In a compatibilist view, a person could be caused to behave in a certain way, and as long as he behaved according to his own desires, it was still “sufficiently free.” (right?) Why do you think that many philosophers think Plantinga succeeded in his FWD, while so few philosophers hold onto libertarian views of free-will?
          Additionally, since Plantinga is a Calvinist, he (presumably) believes in predestination and thinks humans are too depraved to have free actions. Does he then not buy his own FWD?

        • rayndeonx

          You don’t ask any easy questions Annatar :)

          With regards to your first point, yes, this is more philosophy of language stuff. Kagan’s video is an excellent primer on various different views on how to view the issue and he breaks it down into a few of ways of seeing the problem

          The first way is that perhaps one didn’t sufficiently conceive the scenario in enough detail. So, in certain situations, one might be conceiving of a metaphysical impossibility simply from failure to imagine well enough. A related point he raises is that perhaps conceivability is not always a good guide to metaphysical possibility. He brings up the example of a round square, but I think there are two much easier examples of necessary truths that people frequently imagine as being false:

          0.999… = 1

          The Monty Hall problem

          So, in the first case, you will find legions of would-be mathematicians who will be absolutely convinced that 0.999 ≠ 1, but, as a matter of fact, it does. I was surprised at one point when even my high school mathematics teacher thought this was false. So, clearly, lots of people clearly conceive 0.999 ≠ 1, even though that’s metaphysically impossible. Or take the Monty Hall problem. Thousands of people, people with Ph.Ds even, were convinced that the odds of success were 50:50, not 66% from switching, even though on objective probability, the latter obtains on a matter of logical necessity.

          So clearly, our ardently conceiving something doesn’t necessarily mean it exists, at least so much seems clear for mathematical truths. The controversial nature of Kripke, Frege, Barcan, and Putnam’s work was to go farther, and show that there are necessary a posteriori truths, per the argument and its like I showed earlier.

          But the issues get even more complicated than that. You mention that “Obviously, we can conceive of possible worlds where ‘the morning star’ and ‘the evening star’ refer to two different things, but then we are defining our terms differently, right?”

          There is a popular approach to parse out this intuition, while retaining Kripke and others theories of modality, called two-dimensional semantics. It heavily relies on Frege’s idea of sense and reference – reference means the object to which the word itself refers to and sense means the way in which this reference is mediated.

          Now, the upshot of 2D semantics is to consider primary and secondary intensions (senses) of modal claims. Here is a great summary of this idea on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-dimensionalism

          Consider the principal case

          “Water is H2O”

          The primary intension, as proponents of 2D semantics would argue, is that “water” refers to water-like stuff. So, what “water” actually refers to could be different. This is the primary intension, or sense. So, as Chalmers and others would say, it means to consider worlds where water is not H2O as it if they were actual.

          The secondary intension is determined by how in fact the world turns out to be. As a matter of physical fact, water is H2O. No way around it – if it isn’t H2O, it isn’t water. So, the secondary intension regards water as a matter of fact to be H2O, per necessity and following Kripke’s causal theory of reference. That is, it considers other worlds as being counterfactual, so water is not in fact anything other than H2O and “water” rigidly refers to H2O.

          So, we can consider either the primary intension or secondary intension, depending on the situation and hence, we can bridge the apparent tension in holding that a claim can be both necessary (the secondary intension) and a posteriori (the primary intension).

          Here’s a somewhat opinionated, but good intro to 2D semantics: http://consc.net/papers/twodim.html

          You should also check out the SEP link if interested in these kind of things: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/two-dimensional-semantics/

          As for the second option Kagan looks at, relative and contingent identity are fairly controversial views, but do have respected defenders i.e. Peter Geach.

          With regards to your second point,

          Your description of compatibilism is pretty much spot on. The philosophers that think Plantinga succeeded are much all in philosophy of religion, which is somewhat insular from other fields. In philosophy of freedom and in philosophy of mind, very few people take libertarian freedom seriously. The only real defender with some force I know of is Robert Kane, who attempts to reconcile libertarian freedom with our actual knowledge of neuroscience and physics. Most philosophers of religion (most of them theists also) are incompatibilists. See http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl?affil=Philosophy+faculty+or+PhD&areas0=22&areas_max=1&grain=coarse

          For some data on how many philosophers of action accept compatibilism vs libertarianism or other theories, http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl?affil=Philosophy+faculty+or+PhD&areas0=14&areas_max=1&grain=coarse

          So only around 14% of philosophers of action accept libertarianism.

          As far as philosophers of mind, http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl?affil=Philosophy+faculty+or+PhD&areas0=16&areas_max=1&grain=coarse

          Only around 12% of philosophers of mind accept libertarianism.

          An overwhelming majority in both fields soundly reject libertarianism and I myself was a little surprised looking at these numbers, since other contentions in other areas of study are usually not this one-sided. Now, consensus doesn’t mean truth. But it does suggest that a lot of people working in those relevant fields have looked at libertarianism and by and large consider it bunk.

          Also, there are some philosophers who do not think Plantinga succeeded i.e. Quentin Smith among others. But, most of the debate has moved onto the evidential problem of evil instead. Why? I suspect because there is a “consensus” that the LPoE is dead and papers returning back to defend aren’t as “sexy” as papers on the evidential problem. Really, I don’t know, but it seems that discussion on the LPoE is by and large sparse.

          As far as Plantinga’s views, I have no idea. I have no interest in philosophical theology in general and people have held more inconsistent ideas.

          Hope all this rambling helps.

          • rayndeonx

            Er, that should be “our conceiving something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s possible.”

          • Annatar

            You are amazing. Thank you so much.

      • rayndeonx

        Whoops, I meant to say the necessary a posteriori and contingent a priori in the above.

        Also, one quick point I forgot to mention, about the evidential problem of evil I didn’t mention in my polemical post: very frequently, the usage of freedom by wrongdoers ends up constricting the freedom of others. In the case of mass murderers and tyrants, it can be the freedom of a LOT of people that ends up being restricted. Theistic theodicies from free will invert our ordinary morality – they would hold that actions such as those should be allowed to exist to preserve significant moral choices, in some sense, putting the freedom of the wrongdoer above the innocent. Which is the exact opposite conclusion our moral intuitions draw.

        This, among other concerns, has lead to consider if theism doesn’t seriously destroy morality; perhaps, as Steven Maitzen argues, ordinary morality and theism are incompatible. If anything, moral realism might imply atheism, not theism as certain apologists argue.

        Then, there is that whole mess of sophistry which consists of persons trying to justify the existence of Hell and a good person, let alone one that is morally perfect.

        • Patrick

          “Also, one quick point I forgot to mention, about the evidential problem of evil I didn’t mention in my polemical post: very frequently, the usage of freedom by wrongdoers ends up constricting the freedom of others. In the case of mass murderers and tyrants, it can be the freedom of a LOT of people that ends up being restricted.”

          You seem to confuse “freedom” with “free will”. Wrongdoers do indeed constrict the freedom of others, but they don’t constrict their free will.

          “Theistic theodicies from free will invert our ordinary morality – they would hold that actions such as those should be allowed to exist to preserve significant moral choices, in some sense, putting the freedom of the wrongdoer above the innocent. Which is the exact opposite conclusion our moral intuitions draw.”

          Point (2) of the “Theodicy from divine justice” outlined above may show that this needn’t be the case.

  • rayndeonx

    I also want to point something of a polemical point on the evidential problem of evil*; on the balance of things, under ordinary morality, we honestly do not give a damn about the purported freedom of a wrongdoer. Someone’s freedom to rape, smash a child’s face in, and murder them, for instance, is just about never considered valuable.** Often, when I read various theodicies propounding the great wonders of freedom, or I read the various apologetics pieces trying to actually justifying Hell and the belief that God is morally perfect, I come away thinking that perhaps theists are speaking a different moral dialect when talking about these issues. It is as if the terms “good” and “evil” cease to have the meanings we normally think them to have and suddenly becomes whatever the hell they want it to mean, if only to satisfy some apologetic nub. I find it ludicrous that anyone could entertain the idea of Hell being even remotely compatible with the concept of a good being, let alone a morally perfect one. Sophistry abounds in this particular intersection of philosophy and theology.

    *Not an argument against the relevant theological positions, but my continued annoyance with them.
    **http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2125024/Tori-Stafford-trial-Jury-horrific-photos-girl-abducted-raped-murdere.html

  • Freefaller

    rayndeonx admirably attempts to elevate the level of criticism directed at the FWD. Some remarks on some of his less familiar criticisms:

    “(2) I’m not confident that Transworld Depravity (TD) is metaphysically possible. Here are a few worries: first, Heaven as mentioned by Paul King seem to pose a near insurmountable problem for FWDers. It does then seem feasible in all worlds that God exists for God to instantiate essences that freely go right with respect to any action…”

    If heaven, at a minimum, consists of beings that freely never go wrong, then clearly there are some possible worlds and situations where God does not have it within his power to populate heaven.

    In particular, in all those situations where creaturely essences suffer from either transworld-depravity, or transworld-appaling-depravity (transworld-appaling-depravity is like transworld-depravity, except that instead of these essences being such that their instantiations go wrong with respect to at least one significantly free action, they go wrong with respect to lots, most, or even all their morally significant actions.) So the fact that God has populated heaven in *this world* is a contingent fact about heaven.

    “…Plantinga seems to argue like this: “Okay, imagine 1 essence that has TD. Then, you can conceive of 2, right? Then, 3, then 4, and so on?…. It doesn’t then follow that ALL essences have TD…”

    This interpretation seems bizarre. Where is the textual basis for this imputation? If there is any accepted reasoning even remotely like this, its from particulars to universals, not from particulars to infinities, and then from infinities to universals. In particular, that second step is a doozy. Who reasons: an infinite number of Naturals are Primes, therefore all Naturals are primes. Attributing this sort of blunder to Plantinga will require much more evidence

    “(3) …Moreover, it seems clear that there exist essences that will never be transworldly depraved under traditional theism i.e. essences in Heaven and angels…”

    Why think that these heavenly creatures are “never” (not possibly?) transworld depraved? At most, they are not *actually* transworld depraved, but to say that there is no possible world where they are transworld depraved seems a bit much

    “(4) The CFFs as Plantinga sets them up are incoherent…. But, here’s the problem for Plantinga: he includes the CFF in S’.”

    But CFF’s are not included (or excluded) in S. We know this because of the definitions given for “inclusion”. Briefly, a state of affairs T includes a proposition p, only if its not possible (in the broadly logical sense) that T obtains and p fails to be true. For there are possible worlds where S obtains and the relevant CFF fails to be true. Of course, every possible world will include or exclude the CFFs (as per the previous definition), but initial world segments like S aren’t possible worlds.

    “That is, it is not somehow that the CFF “becomes” true at t, but that it has always been true.”

    The CFF is always true (or false) at the world w of which S is an initial world segment, but CFFs are’t true in any initial world segment. If you want to claim that Plantinga “includes” CFFs in states of affairs like S, you should either (a) argue for the inclusion, or (b) quote him to that affect. Option b is going to be difficult given what he says about initial world segments in NN pg.176.

    “(6) Plantinga’s account of TD is either irrelevant or incoherent. This is I believe the strongest objection one can make….So, Curley is predicated contingently either with C or C*. So, call the former Curley, Curley-C and the latter one Curley-C*. In possible worlds where Curley exists and is predicated with C, God cannot prevent Curley from freely accepting the bribe. Now, here’s the upshot of the argument: what about Curley-C*? Isn’t there an essence being Curley-C*?”

    Ahh, sweet metaphysics. Actually, Curley-C* is not an essence, given ordinary definitions of “essence”. A property E is an *individual essence* of some object x only if the following two conditions are met: (a) its not possible for x to exist and fail to exemplify E, and (b) Its not possible for E to be exemplified by anything other than x. An *essence* of some object x is just any property that meets condition (a).

    But here, your property of Curley-C is neither an individual essence of Curley, nor an essence of Curley, for Curley-C is the conjunctive property: [being-identical-to-Curley] & [being-such-that-if-p-were-true-then-q-would-be-true]. While the leftside conjunct is clearly an essence of Curley, the rightside conjunct is not (For there are possible worlds where Curley exists and fails to be such that if p were true, then q would be true – namely, at any world w where Curley exists and that conditional is false in w). Rule of thumb: A conjunctive property P&Q&..N is an essence of some individual x only if: P is an essence of x, & Q is an essence of x, &….N is an essence of x.

    “…Certainly, that is another essence, and since essences are necessary, they exist in all possible worlds. But, if being Curley-C* is possible, God could have actualized Curley freely refraining from taking the bribe by creating Curley-C* instead.”

    While Curley-C* is not an essence, it is at least a compossibly exemplifable complex property. However, your comments assumes that any possibly exemplifiable property (like Curley-C*) is necessarily exemplifiable. But this is clearly incorrect. Consider the following complex properties: [being-Curley] & [being-the-tallest-man-in-New-York] and also this property: [being-Plantinga] & [being-the-tallest-man-in-NewYork]. Lets further stipulate that there is at least and at most one tallest man in New York. Call the first conjunctive property C+ and the second conjunctive property P+. Clearly both C+ and A+ are possibly exemplified (there are possible worlds where each is exemplified) However, any state of affairs where C+ is exemplified will be a state of affairs where A+ is not exemplified and vice-versa. In fact, this is a necessary truth. So not every exemplifiable property is necessarily exemplifiable. Here we find another conditional logical limitation on God’s creative power, not unlike the limitations imposed on him by CFFs. If God instantiates C+, it is not within his power to also instantiate A+ (or vice versa), even though there are possible worlds where he instantiates C+ and possible worlds where he instantiates A+.

    “Appending additional properties isn’t the same essence per se, but a subcategory thereof. Easy example: predicating the essence being a dog with being brown picks out the common subcategorical essence being a brown dog.”

    *Being-a-brown-dog* isn’t an essence of anything. While *being-a-dog* is probably an essence of any dog, *being-brown* isn’t an essence of anything – or at least its not an essence of anything that is a dog. Therefore, the conjunctive property isn’t an essence of anything either (see above.)

  • Alicia

    Could panentheism solve the problem of evil?

  • http://ignosticmorgansblog.wordpress.com LordGriggsSkepticGriggsyCarneadesHume

    We’ve determined volition,not free will.
    Plantinga is a masterful practioner of sophisticated but sophmoric,solecistic sophistry of woeful, wiley woo.His unknown defense and greater good arguments are just arguments from ignorance. Fr. Meslier’s the problem of Heaven defends all logical and evidential arguments from evil.
    Please refute also his argument from reason, his notion that omni-God can use flourishes -the imperfections, whilst limited God would have perfections! and his argument that perhaps demons do wrong. And does that apply to our erring in the from reason?
    He is a dolt.

  • Fr.Griggs

    I wish that you or George Smith would do a book against Plantinga, Polkinghorne, McGrath, Ian Barbour, John Haught, Eleanore Stumpf , Richard Swinburne, Feser and any other advanced apologist.

    • Chris Hallquist

      You mean like a whole book on one guy? I’m not sure even Plantinga is worth the trouble, and Feser sure as hell isn’t worth the trouble.

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