A Short Argument that There is No God

I was thinking about Mackie and Plantinga on the problem of evil today and I thought of the following short argument that, I think, captures the spirit of Mackie’s point and avoids Plantinga appeal to transworld depravity. I would be interested to know what people thought of it.  

1.  If there is a God then He is metaphysically free and always freely chooses to do the right thing.

2. Thus, if there is a God it is possible that something be (metaphysically) free and always freely choose to do the right thing.

3. If it is possible to be free and always freely choose to do the right thing then, if God were to create a world He would create a world in which there were creatures that were metaphysically free and always freely choose to do the right thing.

4. But the world that we find ourselves in is not a world where we are free and always freely choose to do the right thing, and if we assume that God created it, then

5. It is not possible for something to be metaphysically free and always freely choose to do the right thing

6. So, there is no God

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60 thoughts on “A Short Argument that There is No God

  1. I have to admit I am unfamiliar with Mackie and Plantinga you are discussing, but perhaps my comment is still relevant as it deals with your #3 exclusively:

    Why should God choose to create a world in which there were creatures that were metaphysically free and always free to choose to do the right thing?

    Perhaps, God being metaphysically free and always free to choose to do the right thing would choose not to create a world in which the creatures were metaphysically free and always choose to do the right thing. It is God’s prerogative to create whatever world God sees fit: Leibniz would say that this is the best of all possible worlds. I suppose this could be taken to imply that God does not live in the best of all possible worlds if God has provided us with a different world than God exists in and ours is best, but I think there are ways around this. Maybe the best world has only one God and lots of us, or a spectrum of levels of metaphysical freedom from the least free all the way up to God(s) is the best world.

  2. Hi Richard, I think that proper form of 2 would be

    p: it is metaphysically possible that some *one* thing, namely God be (metaphysically) free and always freely choose to do the right thing.

    So, the jump to:

    q: it is metaphysically possible that there are multiple agents each of which be free and choose to do the right thing.

    isn’t so straightforward.

  3. Hi Noah, Thanks for the comment!

    The idea behind (3) is that God would want to create the best possible world that he could for us (since he is all-loving) and a world where there are free agents who always freely choose to do good is better than a world where there are free agents who sometimes freely choose to do evil. So if God could create such a world and He wanted to create a world it follows that he would create that world over any other (again, or else he isn’t all loving). So while I agree that it is God’s perragotive, if he is a moral being like they say He is then He is obligated to create the best possible world for us.

  4. Hey Tanasije,

    I take it that if something is logically possible then if there is a God he can do it. If there is nothing contradictory in there being one being like that, why can’t God make other beings like that?

  5. The idea is that one it might be metaphysically possible for there to be one thing like that, it is metaphysically impossible for there to be other things like that.

    One can think of such possibilities where it is metaphysically possible for one thing to have some property, but not multiple things. The simplest example being the property of ‘being the only X’.

  6. Right, I agree, but why think the thing we are talking about is like that? It is straightforward why there can’t be more than one thing which is ‘the only x’, nothing like that is going on with ‘being free and always freely choosing the good’

  7. I don’t have good argument about that. But doesn’t seem obvious to me that it is not the case, especially that there will be the implicit asymmetry of Creator vs. Creation.

    That is, if God for example is supposed to be ground (reason) for everything else there is, there will be necessarily some properties that God will have but not his creations. From there, what might be metaphysically possible in case of God, might not be for his creations.

  8. Hi,

    My problem is that I am not convinced that God believes “a world where there are free agents who always freely choose to do good is better than a world where there are free agents who sometimes freely choose to do evil.” I don’t presume to know what God believes to be the best world. Perhaps our view of better worlds is the same as what God would consider to be better, but because I have no access to that information, I cannot make this assumption.

    It looks like we are in this situation:

    If God Exists –> We live in a perfect (metaphysically free, free to do the right thing, etc.) world.

    and

    If We do not live in a perfect world –> God does not Exist.

    If I am right that this is our situation, then we are arguing the contrapositive of the same statement. My understanding of the world God would create does not require us to be metaphysically free (at least under these circumstances) and yours does. Unless we can resolve the sort of world that God would create and compare it to our world, we will be unable to resolve who is right. Therefore I do not believe your original argument to be conclusive because #3 has not been established.

  9. Hi Noah,

    You say,

    “My understanding of the world God would create does not require us to be metaphysically free (at least under these circumstances) and yours does.”

    Perhaps it doesn’t, but then if your understanding of God includes the claim that He is a supremely loving being then your understanding is contradictory. How can you possibly maintain that God could have created a world where everything is just as it is now except that people do not freely choose to rape and murder and yet He doesn’t do that? I find it hard to believe that you really think that a world with serial killers and torture and war and yet also has free moral agents free choosing to do the right thing isn’t straightforwardly worse off than a world just like that without all of that suffering! I mean, c’mon!

    Tanasije,

    “I don’t have good argument about that. But doesn’t seem obvious to me that it is not the case, especially that there will be the implicit asymmetry of Creator vs. Creation.”

    I don’t think there is a an argument for that. You keep pointing out properties where it is logcally possible that only one thing posses that propert. So, it is not logically possible that two thing be the one and only x. I haven’t disagreed with you. What I do disagree with is your claim that it is isn’t obvious that there can be many beings who are free and always freely choose to do the good. I have given an argument that it is possible; namely that God can do what is logically possible and it is logically possible that there be more than one being that are free and always freely choose to do good. There is nothing contradictory in imagining that there are two such beings, nothing contradictory in imagining that there are two, one of whom is infinite and has always existed and the other finite and made in the image of the first. So, you would have to show that there is something wrong with this idea, like you can show with there being more than one ‘one and only x’. It should be obvious that you can’t do this.

  10. As I said, I don’t have an argument that being free agent and always freely choosing the same thing falls in the same category as “being only X”, or that it is dependent on the distinction between Creator and Creation.

    But just pointing that this is a possibility that you jump over in your argument. That is from possibility of ONE thing with property p, possibility of multiple things with property p doesn’t follow (and add to this that they have already different properties because of the Creator/Creation asymmetry).

  11. 3. If it is possible to be free and always freely choose to do the right thing then, if God were to create a world He would create a world in which there were creatures that were metaphysically free and always freely choose to do the right thing.

    How does (3) avoid the freewill defense (fwd)? (3) is exactly what the fwd shows is false. It follows from the fwd that, possibly, there is no feasible world w (i.e., no world that God could weakly actualize) such that, for every being E God creates in w, E does no wrong at all. In short, it is possible that God cannot actualize the kind of world that you describe in (3).

  12. Excuse me to use this blog for this question, but if Mike is the person I think he is, and if he wants, I was wondering is his Philosophy of religion blog moved somewhere, or simply ‘discontinued’?

  13. Hi Richard,

    I’m not sure how you intend the phrase “metaphysically free and always freely chooses to do the right thing” to be understood. For example, if we assume that the only real form of free will is the libertarian one–that is, that having free will
    entails the ability to do otherwise–then we could just bite the bullet and say that God could have freely chosen to do the wrong thing in any given circumstance. (God might always freely chose to do the right thing, but if so it would be a matter of luck.) In that case, God could not bring it about that a person always freely chooses to do the right thing, for God’s bringing it about would be inconsistent with the action’s being freely chosen.

  14. Hello,
    I do not think that a world in which all those bad things you say are gone is not better than this world. That isn’t the problem. The issue is that someone maintaining the “God works in mysterious ways we do not understand” line of argument can easily ignore your #3.

    You are right to now accuse me of dodging the issue about how God could allow rape, war and other bad stuff could happen, but if this is the case, then I have successfully postponed the conclusion that God does not exist. Instead of arguing whether God exists, we are now arguing the details of possible things God would allow. Now we have arrived at a definition of faith: that there is some master plan, even if we cannot see how particular events could possibly be part of it.

  15. It follows from the fwd that, possibly, there is no feasible world w (i.e., no world that God could weakly actualize) such that, for every being E God creates in w, E does no wrong at all. In short, it is possible that God cannot actualize the kind of world that you describe in (3).

    The darkened script is a little sloppy. It should read instead, “. . .such that, for some free being E that God creates in w, E never freely goes wrong.” The sort of freedom Plantinga has in mind is libertarian freedom; but I guess that’s widely known.

  16. You think it’s easy to make the best possible world? You try! Trust me, I tried one where the creatures were metaphysically free and all chose to do the right thing, and it was terrible! No one developed morally, no one really took goodness to heart, no one really loved my creation in the right way. Man, what a bummer. So I made this world. It’s the best I could do. Which, by happy coincidence, is the best anyone could possibly do. Biatch.

    All-knowlingly, All-powerfully, and All-Lovingly Yours,

    God

  17. Having looked at God’s post, I see no logical error in his reasoning. There may be a factual question, but I don’t see how we limited creatures could challenge God on that one.

    Josh

    PS Happy April Fool’s Day!

  18. Shesh! I turn my back for a second and everyone is ganging up on me! :) I guess I can take a “break” from grading exams to do some bloging ;)

    Tanasije, you say “That is from possibility of ONE thing with property p, possibility of multiple things with property p doesn’t follow”

    It does follow, unless there is some contradiction in there being more than one of the thing we are considering.

    Hi Mike, thanks for the comment!

    You ask “How does (3) avoid the freewill defense (fwd)? (3) is exactly what the fwd shows is false.”
    The free will defense only shows that (3) is false on the assumption that God could not have made us so that we always freely choose the good. This is what (1) and (2) are supposed to show. No matter what your view of free will is it is possible that God should have made us so that we always freely choose the good (this is the spirit of Mackie’s point). Plantinga wants to show that there is a possible world where God exists and He cannot get rid of evilbecause in that world everyone is a transworld deviant, but (3) is meant to challenge Plantiga’s assumption that it is possible for God to create a world that is not the best of all possible worlds. But that entails that God knowingly chooses to create a world with suffering, when He didn’t have to, which means that we have the problem all over again.

    Jason, thanks for comment.

    “I’m not sure how you intend the phrase “metaphysically free and always freely chooses to do the right thing” to be understood.”

    I don’t think it matters which theory of free will one endorses. Take your favorite and plug it in!

    “For example, if we assume that the only real form of free will is the libertarian one–that is, that having free will
    entails the ability to do otherwise–then we could just bite the bullet and say that God could have freely chosen to do the wrong thing in any given circumstance.”

    OK, let’s say that. I never meant to imply that God couldn’t do otherwise, surely He could. But the claim is that, though for every act that he performs he could have done otherwise, He none the less chooses to do the right thing every time. There is no biting the bullet here (unless you think that by merely allowing that God could choose to do evil we have allowed to much? I guess some people think that God is bound by independent moral laws…)

    “(God might always freely chose to do the right thing, but if so it would be a matter of luck.)”
    Why would it be a matter of luck? It would be a matter of His choosing. Libertarian free will does not mean ‘chance’!

    “In that case, God could not bring it about that a person always freely chooses to do the right thing, for God’s bringing it about would be inconsistent with the action’s being freely chosen.”

    I suppose if one thought that free will just meant randomly producing actions then it would be impossible for God to create a creature with that kind of free will that always chose the good (though I’m not sure…if he knows everything, then He should know the (random) choices that I will make. If that is the case then He should be able to look at the set of all possible human beings and arrange them into the ones that (randomly) choose only the good, those that randomly choose only the bad and those that randomly choose a mixture. Hecould then just create the ones that always (randomly) choose the good. What’s wrong with that?

    Noah, thanks for the response!

    I agree that someone can maintain that response if they want. One can in the end retreat from reason and cling to faith, and who knows, in some cases faith is a good thing. But it seems to me that in most cases it is extremely terrifying to meet someone who believes things in the face of plausible evidence to the contrary. But we can leave that aside. If one adopts the response that you have then you are in effect admitting that WITHOUT some AMAZING story that we learn later about why this world had to be so fucked up it is reasonable to assume that there couldn’t be a God. You can hope for that amazing story, but I doubt that any story could be told that would moraly excuse a being who could stop suffering (serial killers, rapists, tortue, war, poverty, to name a few) but didn’t.

    God, I mean Josh :) I know you are joking and all, but there is a flaw in God’s argument. If He really created a world where there were metaphysically free creatures who always chose to do the right thing, and if those things that you have God complaining about are examples of things that are right then those free creatures would indeed have done those actions. If, on the otherhand, those things that God complains about are not really right, then He wouldn’t complain if free creatures who always choose the right fail to perform them (unless He is less than perfect…)

  19. No matter what your view of free will is it is possible that God should have made us so that we always freely choose the good (this is the spirit of Mackie’s point).

    That’s false, and not Mackie’s view. Mackie’s view is that if compatiblism is true then God can make a world in which we are free and never go wrong. Mackie denies that libertarian freedom is genuine freedom. If there is libertarian freedom, and if there are true counterfactuals of freedom (neither of which is even mentioned, let alone disputed, in this argument), then there is no interesting argument against fwd here. You write,

    Plantinga wants to show that there is a possible world where God exists and He cannot get rid of evilbecause in that world everyone is a transworld deviant

    What Plantinga in fact argues is that there is a world in which every possible creaturely essence (creaturely essences exist necessarily, as all properties do for Plantinga) that God could instantiate is transworld depraved. This means that, possibly, were God to instantiate any of these creaturely essences E in any (maximal) and strongly actualizable state of affairs T, then E would do something wrong. Nothing that is said in (1) or (2) precludes this possibility. What is said in (1) is this.

    1. If there is a God then He is metaphysically free and always freely chooses to do the right thing.

    In actualizing the best feasible world, God would be doing what is right, even if some agents go wrong in the best feasible world. And (2) says this.

    2. Thus, if there is a God it is possible that something be (metaphysically) free and always freely choose to do the right thing.

    Plantinga never denies that it is possible that every free agent always goes right. He never denies that there are such worlds. So, (2) has nothing to do with fwd. What Plantinga says is that, possibly, there is no feasible world in which some free creature does no wrong. The set of feasible worlds is a subset of the set of possible worlds that have the property that God can actualize them. FWD entails that possibly, God cannot actualize every possible world: he can actualize only some subset of them (i.e., the feasible ones) and in all of the feasible ones, we free creatures do something or other wrong.

  20. Oh well, then we could say that A follows from A an B (if not B) :)

    OK, I seeing that you have A LOT of objections, and also God himself has an objection, I think I will say OK, let’s call that “not B” implicit in the argument :)

  21. Thanks for the response Mike!!! This is really helpful.

    You’re right about that, I didn’t mean that Mackie said that (I only meant it in the spirit of Mackie’s point). He thinks that if compatiblism is true then God could make us so that we freely choose the good. I am claiming that it actually doesn’t matter what view of free will one has. So, if as you say we adopt libertarian freedom and true counter-factuals of freedom it should be easy for God to make a creature that always goes right. He can pick from all the counterfactuals of freedom the ones that ensure this and actualize those; He can then ensure that the world is such that the antecedent of the counter factuals where the creatures go wrong never show up. So, though the world Plantinga talks about may be possible it is not one that God would actualize given better alternatives.

    What Plantinga in fact argues is that there is a world in which every possible creaturely essence (creaturely essences exist necessarily, as all properties do for Plantinga) that God could instantiate is transworld depraved. This means that, possibly, were God to instantiate any of these creaturely essences E in any (maximal) and strongly actualizable state of affairs T, then E would do something wrong. “

    Maybe I am misunderstanding something here. Is the claim supposed to be that since there is some possible world where every possible creaturly essence is a transworld devient that means that in any given possible world there will be at least one creaturely essence that goes wrong (with respect to some morally significant action)? Or is the claim supposed to be that there is a possible world where any creaturely essence God makes will go wrong? I have been reading PLantinga’s argument as the latter, it sounds like you are saying the former.

  22. It dawned on me last night that how to explain all the good in the world would cause a problem for you. You say that all the evil things are evidence that God could not exist, but someone of faith would take all the good things as evidence that God does exist. So the onus is on you, if you want to maintain your argument, to give a positive account of where the good in the world comes from.

    And if God were to come down from on high to tell me a story (regardless of the subject matter), it damn well better be freaking amazing.

  23. Why would that cause a problem for me? A person of faith simply cannot take all the good in the world as evidence for the existence of a God that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect since such a being would not allow a world like this to exist.

    As for where the good in the world comes from (if there is no God), I assume it comes from the same place as everything else; namely the choices that people make. Due to our limited capacities and limited rational resources some of make good decisions and some of us make bad ones. Where is the problem for me supposed to be?

    “And if God were to come down from on high to tell me a story (regardless of the subject matter), it damn well better be freaking amazing.”
    :)

  24. I guess I ought just stick to the ‘amazing story’ argument for maintaining a perfect God.

    My concern about the origin of the good was more about countering an argument against the existence of God based upon all the bad things in the world. Your argument hinged on the existence of even one bad thing, so I was a bit off. Shows me right for thinking of something at night and publishing it the next day without thinking about it again.

  25. I’m inclined to just throw benevolence out the window. (i.e that god doesn’t match our interpretation of ‘all good’… why would he?)

    But I have a back door solution to keep it using a bit of science – first 2 reasonable assumptions…

    1) imagine there are multiple universes.
    2) imagine that any two universes that are identical are the same thing
    now a moral assumption
    3) assume god prefers that you exist to you ‘not existing’
    now god tries to fix all of this by creating every possible universe so every potential you exists some of which are evil some good some suffer and some are happy.

    we are left with
    1) ‘why doesn’t god change the two assumptions’ [that might or might not be a valid complaint]
    2) thats a pretty neutered version of god [yes indeed, no random intervention in the universe for him]
    3) the god seems to want people to exist even if they suffer terribly and want to die (think of the marginal case) [a challenge to benevolence to some degree – or possibly an inevitable cost – if one believes in qualia one might argue such people have their qualia turned off – hehe…]

  26. Hi GNZ,

    You ask “I’m inclined to just throw benevolence out the window. (i.e that god doesn’t match our interpretation of ‘all good’… why would he?)”

    The idea is supposed to be that He is a perfect being and a perfect being would, by definition, be a morally perfect being. So if God is perfect then he is maximally benefecient.

    But I don’t get your argument in the rest of the comment. God could satisfy your 1, 2, and 3 by creating only the universes where I do good and do not suffer. Granted that means there will be fewer mes, but there will still be many unerverses and I will exist…so why does He have to create all the ones where I suffer?

  27. Hmmm.. not sure one can treat perfection like that, after all is he also perfectly evil? or perfectly ‘blue’? But I can see what the point is.

    “Granted that means there will be fewer mes”

    My point is that this god sees that as a fatal flaw. he effectively has to kill the other yous and he doesn’t want to do that, he considers it evil in the same way that it might be evil to kill ALL the yous.

    In order to do that he does need to make some ‘yous” suffer where they could just not exist – which is effectively a statement against euthanasia. The idea that a life with suffering is better than none at all is a view I’m sympathetic to as it applies to myself, so I guess the idea doesn’t seem too far out to me in relation to a god, although I’m not committed to enforcing it on anyone else (while the god would have to be).

  28. “is he also perfectly evil?”

    No, evil comes about via the misuse of free will and God does not, perhaps cannot, abuse His free will in that way. Is he perfectly blue? Not literally, but if he is the source of blueness then he must be perfectly blue in the sense of containing its essence, perhaps….

    OK, but I see your argument now. But now I can’t see any reason to think that it’s true. Why is it that not creating the other possible worlds where I exist is to ‘effectively kill’ those possible beings? If God never creates them, then he never destroys them…Consider this, if what you say is true then it would become immoral for God to end the world; for that would mean that there are possible beings that do not get created (anyone who would have been born AFTER the end of the world) and so ending the world would be ‘effectivelly killing’ these creatures…

  29. > No, evil comes about via the misuse of free will and God does not, perhaps cannot, abuse His free will in that way.

    yes, I suppose it rests on defining a certain set of things as being fundamental attributes, like free will power knowledge etc (so god is the perfection of them) still not entirely sure why but its a bit intuitive – does anyone (authors) expand on the why of that?

    In this model he never does ‘end the world’. He follows every possibility until via some necessity it ceases (if it ceases at all). One could then argue about what things are necessities for ending the world but I guess one could try to throw in various things here if one wanted.

    > Why is it that not creating the other possible worlds where I exist is to ‘effectively kill’ those possible beings?

    I would think that, to a god who is above time, making you cease to exist at any moment including the moment you would have been created seems very similar. He is fully cognizant in that decision of your full potential that he is snuffing out. Maybe you have a model for why that would be different in nature?

    > I can’t see any reason to think that it’s true.

    This may not provide a reason to beleive it is true vis a vis materialism, but seems to imply a god from first principles that is surprisingly difficult to disprove without actually being designed specifically in order to be difficult to disprove.

  30. Hmmm…you have an interesting view.

    But I am still not getting it all. He does not make it so that I cease to esist. What ceases to exist is a counter-part to me in some alternate universe. Having that thing gone does not effect me or my potential. I am still free (or not) to do what I do, so he is not suffing out my full potential. He is snuffing out the possibilities where I suffer. How is that wronging me?

  31. > But I am still not getting it all.

    Hmm, not a good sign for my resolution to try to explain myself better!

    OK.
    I’m trying to maintain a god’s eye view in order to consider the god’s morality. To the god you and alternate you (‘you+1′) have equal and individual* moral weighting. if he cares about you then he cares exactly the same about you+1.

    If he makes you and you+1 the same person there may be no apparent person suffering but there is now one less ‘you’. In the same way that it could be considered moral for him to create anything in the first place – it would seem likely to be immoral for him to reduce that creation (putting aside ‘preventing suffering’ for the moment) or for that matter to fail to also ‘create’ anything that is almost identical (i.e. ‘you’ or ‘you+1′).

    As to your point – In the end you might get an anthropic principle effect where the only you not snuffed out is the you that was not effected, so your conclusion could be that ‘you’ never suffered. that might (?) make sense from your retrospective point of view while not making sense from the god’s.

    *although there could be complex necessary interactions between alternate yous (think quantum mechanics).

  32. Your argument is not an argument, it is neither deductively valid nor inductively forceful and definitely not sound. Please do not state any opinion you ever have from this day forth. The universe would explode from incomprehensible stupidity if you did so. Please go take a critical thinking course, before any more arguments are stated.

  33. Wow, Smitty Dinkle, you are a real asshole (and wrong). Don’t post here again unless you are prepared to back up your claims without the insults. Shesh…I don’t what they teach you at EMU but ’round here, we mind our –expletive deleted– manners.

    GNZ,

    “it would seem likely to be immoral for him to reduce that creation (putting aside ‘preventing suffering’ for the moment) or for that matter to fail to also ‘create’ anything that is almost identical (i.e. ‘you’ or ‘you+1′).”

    So, god must create an infinite number of ‘you’?

  34. Yes

    (Although it may not actually be infinite, since you may be able to count every unique you with an very large finite number.)

  35. ROFL, wow. And while yes I may have been an asshole, no I am not wrong please go look up the definitions of the terms I used. I am actually doing a project on reconstructing arguments and this one is as bad as the ones I’ve seen for creationism, if not worse. He makes several conclusions/premises which are not backed up by any other premise, making this argument invalid, if he intended for this argument to be forceful then he has failed again seeing as the probability of his overall conclusion being wrong is greater than that of being right based on the premises provided.

    P1)If P then Q
    ______________
    C1/P2) If Q then Q is possible
    P3) If Q is possible then P would make everything Q
    ____________________
    C2/P4) We are not in Q, and if P and not Q then there is no P

    first of all the amount of assumptions present in this argument is mind boggling
    The Missing P1) P would only make Q
    The Missing P2) If Q then P (this one might be seen in P3 but does not appear to be conditional to me)

    And Richard, at EMU I am taught by emu’s. And my name is Smitty Dinkle. lololololololololololololololololol

  36. That’s better Smitty…but you’re still wrong. The way you symbolize the argument is incorrect. Here’s what it really looks like.

    1. If G then M

    2. Thus, if G then it is possible that M

    3. If it is possible that M then, if C then W

    4. But not W and if we assume C, then

    5. It is not possible that M

    6. So, not G

    Now, as we have seen, we can argue over the soundness of this argument, I think it is sound, others do not, but there is no question that it is valid…

  37. Plantinga answers this exact objection in that it is logically possible that there is no logically possible world in which there is no evil and there are free creatures. He outlines this in both “God, Freedom, and Evil”” and “The Nature of Necessity” (and likely elsewhere).

    Further, I’m curious as to how exactly it is that your argument even proves there is no god in the first place, as it would seem to, at the most, prove that God does not act in a benevolent way 100% of the time.

    Stephen Parrish’s “God and Necessity” also deals with this same problem.

    And finally, I don’t see how your argument manages to avoid Plantinga’s “transworld depravity” in any way, as his notion of “transworld depravity” assumes that God is limited by the laws of logic, and therefore has a limited set of worlds that it is possible to create, and it is possible that of this set, there is no world in which there is no evil.

  38. JW,
    RBs answer to that same poi nt above was that
    “The idea is supposed to be that He is a perfect being and a perfect being would, by definition, be a morally perfect being. So if God is perfect then he is maximally benefecient.”

    I suspect Plantinga probably agreed with that…

    As to the last point that is sort of what I was looking at – ie under what circumstances would it be logically impossible to improve the world in terms of good vs evil. I thinks some sort of plausible theory along those lines is what the theory needs to help support itself.

  39. Hi J. W. Wartick and GNZ,

    Sorry to be joining the discussion later…you know how it is out here in meatspace!

    I think that GNZ’s answer to J. W.’s question is right. I am assuming that God is essentially morally perfect and that this requires the perfect use of morally significant free will on God’s part. If either of those two claims is false I would be inclined to say that there is no God…those who are happy to accept the existence of a morally flawed God seem to me just like people who claim that Santa exists because parents give toys to kids as Santa.

    As for your second question about transworld depravity. In the first instance you don’t have Plantinga quite right (this was a mistake I made at first too). It isn’t that there is no possible world where people freely choose to do what’s right, it’s that this possible world exists but God can’t actualize it without contradiction.

    Now transworld depravity is supposed to show that premise (3) is false. That is, it is supposed to show that there is a possible way things might be such that God could not actualize the possible world where we are all free and freely choose the good. But what transworld Sainthood shows (as discussed in the comments section of the above inked post) is that the space of possible worlds includes worlds where I have transworld depravity and worlds where I have transworld Sainthood (these are both contingent properties). It seems to me reasonable to assume that this means that God could have actualized either one of these worlds and what that means is that premise (3) is true. (though I agree that this was by no means clear in this original post!)

  40. So let’s say that you have transworld depravity in some worlds, but sainthood in others. This still is no way around Plantinga’s argument, because of the fact that a potentially infinite number of other persons exist in any given world.

    I’m not sure how saying that God could actualize one or the other eliminates the potentially infinite number of other persons. Further, it is entirely possible that there is NO world in which there are NO persons without transworld depravity that does not involve some kind of contradiction, given a literally infinite number of potential contradictions in any given world. Note that we are talking about possibility, and it is indeed possible that this is the case (that there is no world without a contradiction that is filled with transworld saints [using that term]).

    Not only that, but transworld depravity could easily extend to any being across every world. Let us say that Smith is a being with transworld depravity. It is possible (note that I’m not even saying actual or likely) that Smith exists in every possible world (that is, Smith exists in every world that involves no contradiction). Thus, it is possible that every world has at least 1 being with transworld depravity. Further, it is possible that there are an infinite number of Smiths out there. Again, these cases are possible, not necessarily actual or even likely, but those using arguments like yours only need a possible solution.

  41. “So let’s say that you have transworld depravity in some worlds, but sainthood in others. This still is no way around Plantinga’s argument, because of the fact that a potentially infinite number of other persons exist in any given world.

    The idea is supposed to be that EVERYONE in the world be a tansworld saint or transworld deprived.

    “Note that we are talking about possibility, and it is indeed possible that this is the case (that there is no world without a contradiction that is filled with transworld saints [using that term]).”

    No that isn’t possible. A world filled with transworld saints is just as conceivable as one filled with transworld depraved individuals as long as conceivability is our guide to possibility then I don’t see what your claim amounts to. What kind of contradiction could be manifested in a world where everyone is such that they always freely choose to do the right thing in any possible situation that God makes them? If this were the case we would find that the transworld depraved cases involve contradiction.

    ” Let us say that Smith is a being with transworld depravity. It is possible (note that I’m not even saying actual or likely) that Smith exists in every possible world (that is, Smith exists in every world that involves no contradiction).”

    I have discussed this problem here. I don’t find the idea that I necessarily exist very convincing, and neither should you since the exact same reasoning gets you the claim that each action you perform necessarily exists and if you and all your actions are necessary beings then it starts to look like we don’t have freedom after all….

    One thing that may be confusing you is the distinction between something like epistemic possibility and metaphysical possibility. So, presumably, I am either a necessary being or a contingent being. Both cannot be true. There is a sense in which both are possible though. That is, given what we know right now nothing rules them out (i.e. there is no contradiction that we can find in either scenerio), but only one of them is really contradiction free….so the problem with your arguments, and Plantinga’s, is that it takes a merely epistemically possible scenario for something that is genuinely a metaphysical possible world.

  42. “No that isn’t possible. A world filled with transworld saints is just as conceivable as one filled with transworld depraved individuals as long as conceivability is our guide to possibility then I don’t see what your claim amounts to. What kind of contradiction could be manifested in a world where everyone is such that they always freely choose to do the right thing in any possible situation that God makes them? If this were the case we would find that the transworld depraved cases involve contradiction.”

    I feel as though you’re missing my point entirely. I would agree that it is possible there is a possible world full of transworld saints. However, it is also possible that no such possible world exists. I never said that the world with transworld saints was a contradiction because of its being filled with transworld saints. I was saying there could be something else in those worlds that prevents them from being possible–perhaps those worlds are filled with square circles, for example.

    Unless you have some kind of proof that shows that a transworld saint-filled world could not possibly have any contradiction whatsoever (as in, it would necessarily exclude square circles, married bachelors, things simultaneously existing and not existing) I don’t see how you have any grounds for saying that it is impossible that such a world could fail to be possible.

    Further, note that I’m not saying the world is filled with transworldly depraved individuals. It really only takes one. Also, there could be equally many transworld saints in possible worlds. This doesn’t exclude evil, as any given possible world could have quite a mix of both. Now let us exclude my previous Smith argument, I see what you’re saying initially with necessity (though your conclusion that if I’m a necessary being then my actions are necessarily determined is quite odd), but there don’t have to be beings such as smith. There only needs to be some being, Suzy, who exists in several possible worlds with transworld depravity, and some being, Jim-Bob, who exists in the rest. Or you could break it down further and say being A exists with transworld depravity in 100/(however many possible worlds, n), B exists in 100/n, C exists in 100/n, etc. ad infinitum until n is completely covered. There could be an equally great (or larger) number of transworld saints, but having just one Jim-Bob, A, B, C, or Suzy means there is evil in the world.

  43. “I feel as though you’re missing my point entirely. I would agree that it is possible there is a possible world full of transworld saints. However, it is also possible that no such possible world exists.”

    I feel as though I must be as well because I can’t make any sense out of this. if it is possible that there is a world full of transworld saints then there is a possible world such that there every person in it is a transworld saint, if it is not possible that there is a world full of transworld saints then there is no possible world where every personis a transworld saint. How can both of these things be true? The only way to make any sense of it is with the epistemic/metaphysical possibility distinction but you don’t seem to mean that….

    “Unless you have some kind of proof that shows that a transworld saint-filled world could not possibly have any contradiction whatsoever (as in, it would necessarily exclude square circles, married bachelors, things simultaneously existing and not existing) I don’t see how you have any grounds for saying that it is impossible that such a world could fail to be possible.”

    But I do have proof! I can conceive of a world where there are no square circles, married bachelors, etc, and in which every person is a transworld saint…of course by your reasoning it is also possible that NO worlds where there are transworld depraved individuals. Isn’t that enough to make the point I am making?

    “Further, note that I’m not saying the world is filled with transworldly depraved individuals. It really only takes one. Also, there could be equally many transworld saints in possible worlds. This doesn’t exclude evil, as any given possible world could have quite a mix of both”

    This response misses the point. There is a possible world where every creature is a transworld saint and if that world were the actual world then God would not be able to make any of the worlds that have evil; so the worlds you talk about may be possible worlds but God would not be able to actualize them without bringing into existence a contradiction. Since according to Plantinga transworld depravity is a contingent property and since according to me transworld sainthood is also a contingent property it follows that we can divide the space of possible worlds up into those that have all and only transworlds depraved individuals and those that have all and only transworld saints (leave aside the mixed worlds for the reason I stated above). Surely God can choose which ‘quadrant’ of the space of possibility to start us of in, right? Or is it out of God’s control?

    “I see what you’re saying initially with necessity (though your conclusion that if I’m a necessary being then my actions are necessarily determined is quite odd)”

    I don’t see what’s odd about it. S5 allows us to construct a proof that any namable object necessarily exists if one thinks that actions are namable (call my typing right now ‘george’ and I can prove that george necessarily exists in S5)

  44. I apologize in advance because I don’t know how to do all kinds of nifty things like italicizing.

    “I don’t see what’s odd about it. S5 allows us to construct a proof that any namable object necessarily exists if one thinks that actions are namable (call my typing right now ‘george’ and I can prove that george necessarily exists in S5)”

    Ah, I see what you are saying now. Here’s the thing: you are equating de dicto necessity with de re necessity in the following:

    “the claim that each action you perform necessarily exists and if you and all your actions are necessary beings then it starts to look like we don’t have freedom after all….”

    Your example with “george” quoted above only shows a de dicto necessity for actions (which I would agree with, as it’s basically a tautology: I am ‘george’-ing right now, georging = georging = necessarily true). But you haven’t shown how that disproves free will, for you haven’t shown how it is any kind of de re necessity, only de dicto necessity, which, as I said, I would agree with.

    Now, as for the actual matter at hand. I was not saying that it is possible that it is simultaneously true that the “transworld saint” world is possible and not possible, rather that independently, it is one or the other. However, this doesn’t seem to be any kind of argument against God, even the God of classical theism (i.e. omnibenevolent), for, it is entirely possible that no such possible world exists. Further, you seem to be assuming that if a transworldly saintly world (let’s call it S) exists, then God would necessarily choose S to create. But this, as Plantinga points out in a number of places (the one I recall instantly is his debate with Daniel Dennett), assumes that God’s plan of atonement and redemption is somehow less good or not as good as simply having S.

    Why assume that God would necessarily choose S over some other world in which there are evil beings but that his plan of divine redemption and atonement can occur? For it is clearly obvious that in S there need be no atonement or redemption.

    Now, finally, I would like to bring up the main point that I was missing before. As I was first reading through the argument I recall thinking that part of Plantinga’s argument was ignored. It was, in fact, ignored, and your argument does nothing whatsoever to Plantinga’s argument. I’ll only quote him briefly here, for I think that’s all that is needed:

    “…it is possible that every creaturely essence–every essence including the property of being created by God–suffers from transworld depravity” (Plantinga, “God, Freedom, and Evil” p. 53).

    Thus, Plantinga is arguing that it is possible that every single created essence can suffer from transworld depravity, which your argument actually does nothing to overcome (not to mention that it makes some assumptions [i.e. about redemption/atonement] that the theist has no reason to accept).

    So I reject premise 3 entirely, on the grounds of God’s plan for atonement and redemption, and I add that Plantinga himself is arguing that every created thing could (possibly) suffer from transworld depravity, which would thus defeat the idea of a transworldly saintly world or a world in which every creature always freely chooses to do the right thing (as it is possible that this itself is impossible). Therefore I believe your argument fails.

  45. Yeah, I know that Pllantinga is arguing that all ‘creaturely essences’ might be transworld deprived; likewise I have been arguing that all creatures might be transworld saints so that doesn’t change anything.

    I don’t want to even get into the atonement and redemption as that is clearly a non-starter; how can we be redeemed if we are transworld deprived?

    As for the de re/de dicto thing I think we must be crossing paths here. I mean that ‘george’ stands for the action that you are performing at some time; I can then show that that action necessarily exists in just the same way that I can show that YOU J. W. Wartick necessarily exist. In neither case is anything de dicto going on…completely de re….

  46. “how can we be redeemed if we are transworld deprived?”

    What is your understanding of transworld depravity? It’s not that there is no hope for some being’s redemption. I’m not sure what your point is with this.

    “Yeah, I know that Pllantinga is arguing that all ‘creaturely essences’ might be transworld deprived; likewise I have been arguing that all creatures might be transworld saints so that doesn’t change anything.”

    Right, but Plantinga doesn’t need to prove his case, as all the defender of theism needs to do is show that it is possible that evil and God can coexist.

    “As for the de re/de dicto thing I think we must be crossing paths here. I mean that ‘george’ stands for the action that you are performing at some time; I can then show that that action necessarily exists in just the same way that I can show that YOU J. W. Wartick necessarily exist. In neither case is anything de dicto going on…completely de re….”

    So you are saying that I could not have failed to exist (de re)? I am sitting right now, so it is necessarily true that I am sitting (de dicto), but it is not true that I have the property of sitting necessarily (de re).

  47. Yes, that’s right. If you think S5 is the correct modal logic and if you think that you can use individual constants like JW=YOU J. W. Wartick then it is quite easy (the proof is in the post I linked to above)

    “Right, but Plantinga doesn’t need to prove his case, as all the defender of theism needs to do is show that it is possible that evil and God can coexist.

    Well, once you have transworld saints in the picture it isn’t so obvious. The defender needs to do more than show that there is some sub set of possible worlds such that if those were the “accessible” worlds from the actual world then God couldn’t make free creatures without evil. Assuming this doesn’t take into account transworld saints. This is because we have another subset of possible worlds such that if they were the “accessible” worlds from the actual world then God couldn’t help but make free creatures without any evil. So what determines which of these subsets that we start in? if God then His not choosing to do so shows he is not *something* (take you pick), of course if not God then he is not all powerful. (and maybe this is Plantinga’s view ultimately…do you know if he thinks that the attributes of creaturely essences are out of God’s control? Which brings us to the redemption stuff.

    “What is your understanding of transworld depravity? It’s not that there is no hope for some being’s redemption. I’m not sure what your point is with this.”

    My understanding of it is Plantinga’s understanding of it. It is a property that I have such that no matter how God makes me I will do something morally wrong. It is thus a weird kind of meta-determinism. Redemption, as I understand it, is something like the deliverance from sin, which might be interpreted as our losing the property of transworld depravity and becoming transworld saints (this having something to do with Jesus dying in atonement of our sins). So what this amounts to is the claim that God cannot control, nor can we, whether or not we have transworld depravity which is surely to limit His power!

  48. I don’t think you ever linked to such a post, but I think I found it and read through it and I must say I’m not at all convinced. The Kripkean way around it that you pointed out in a later post is one reason I’m not convinced, other reasons include that I still think at the most you’re just showing a tautological necessity, not a de re necessity. In either case, it doesn’t matter all that much for this discussion anyway.

    “So what determines which of these subsets that we start in? if God then His not choosing to do so shows he is not *something* (take you pick), of course if not God then he is not all powerful. (and maybe this is Plantinga’s view ultimately…do you know if he thinks that the attributes of creaturely essences are out of God’s control?”

    I believe that God is logical as part of his identity, so, necessarily, anything that is not logically possible is outside of omnipotence. Thus, the transworldly depraved individual still solves this problem. Introducing the concept of transworld saints makes it more interesting, but it doesn’t defeat transworld depravity at all as a defense.

  49. Putting aside any opinions and feeling I have about or for God, (I’m agnostic by the way), I would say that you have a very neat, succinct argument. However, there are one or two flaws/assumptions that you have made.

    Firstly, you have assumed that the entity that is supposedly ‘God,’ is as described by the Christian or Jewish religion. In these religions, God IS metaphysically free and always chooses to do the right thing. If you look at, say, Norse mythology, or Egyptian mythology, you will find that the Gods are NOT metaphysically free. In Norse mythology, for example, they can take earthly forms and but live in Asgard (Heaven). However, when Ragnorok (the end of everything) comes, they, like humans, will die. They can also be hurt (such as Odin losing his eye) and often do NOT do the right thing. This is shown when often they admit to favouritism, pride, anger, prejudice, violence and debortuary.

    Gods like THESE would definately live and possibly create a world as flawed as ours.

    The other big assumption you are making is that God can’t exist if he didn’t create the world/universe. For example, If I said, “yeah, you’re right, God is metaphysically free and chooses to do the right thing. He wants our world to be like that… But he didn’t create it… That douchebag over there created it!” Then your entire argument falls to pieces.

    I see where you’re coming from and it is a good argument, but I think that I am still on the fence. You haven’t quite converted me to atheism yet!

  50. Hi Louis, thanks for the comment.

    I agree with your first point. I have assumed that and that is because I think that is the only theistic claim worth taking seriously.

    As for the second point I don’t agree at all. If there is a God then that being is morally perfect, all powerful and all-knowing; such a being would not allow some douche bag creating the world. Since, as you admit, He wants our world to be like that, and He has the power to do it.

  51. Oh, and I am not trying to convert you to atheism…actually I am an agnoistic too (see here…I developed this argument as part of my project to try and show that there are equally compelling arguments on both sides of the issue.

  52. This argument uses the notion of “the right thing” without defining what “rightness” is and, in particular, whether what is “right” for God must necessarily be “right” for His creation (see, for example, Modeling Morality.

    This means that it does not necessarily follow that God would make creatures that were free to do “the right thing” by the standard the God Himself follows.

    After all, authors create worlds all the time with heros and villains, good guys and bad guys. We can, I think, agree that it was the “right thing” for Lucas to create Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars universe, just as it was the “right thing” for Lucas to create Luke Skywalker.

  53. If God created only that world in which everyone freely chose to do the right thing, then the world would not have me in it. Perhaps God created this particular world out of love, despite our failings.

    Also, suppose that A is a better possible world than B. You have assumed that God is not quite metaphysically free, but is constrained to choose between the creation of A and the creation of B. If God has no constraint to choose between A and B, but can create both at the same time, then would it be better to create A only or would it be better to create both?

    Perhaps God creates all possible moments in all possible worlds, and the idea that you are living in a bad time in a bad world is just from a particular perspective. It doesn’t necessarily exclude the creation of other, perhaps better, times and worlds.

    After all, this “B” world might not be ideal, but if you were to take a poll I suspect you would find overwhelming support for its existence versus its non-existence. I can hardly think of its non-existence as necessarily being an improvement, all else being equal.

    There might be a better me living in the ideal “A” world, and I wish that me well. But I don’t agree with your idea that the existence of this “B” me in this “B” world proves a limitation on either God’s creative power or God’s goodness.

    But suppose there is some limitation on God’s creative power. I think most theologians hold that God can only create possible worlds, and that notion of the possible could include constraints such as “must evolve from a featureless singularity on the basis of a simple set of rules”. I think such a constraint might naturally follow from God’s inherent simplicity (“without body, parts, or passions” as the old trinitarian formula goes). Given that constraint, it very well might be that the best possible world is one in which there are active moral agents, who rail against the flaws in the creation (including the flaws in other such moral agents) and go about trying to fix them. In other words, the answer to the problem of evil might very well be us.

  54. Disclaimer – I’m relatively new to philosophy, so excuse me if I’m confusing terms or the logic.

    Question:

    A being that is metaphysically free still can’t duplicate itself, because God’s “duplicates” would still just be one big essence. (My understanding of God is that He isn’t made of up parts – He is unique, boundless, and only one.) He cannot create a world populated by beings who are also metaphysically free and always choose to do the right thing. So, why would the choice of “doing the right thing” be one that is impossible?

    “If” God were to create a world, it would be with metaphysically free/always good-doing beings, but He can’t, and didn’t. How is this not making the choice to do the right thing? Is the right thing zipping around the cosmos dusting it with squared-circles?

    It seems that making a choice to do the right thing shouldn’t be impossible.

    So… the existence of a world where there are finite “lesser” beings that do not always do good and are not metaphysically free doesn’t strike a blow to the possibility of God’s omnipotence, love, or existence.

    Thanks!
    -S

    • Hi Stephan, sorry for not getting back to you sooner! I am not sure I am following what your objection is, but that may be because I don’t understand it. Are you saying that _the reason_ that God always freely chooses to do the right thing is that He isn’t made up of parts? If you are, I don’t know why you would say that. If you aren’t then God could make a creature that had that property but which was composed of parts.

      • Dude, thanks for getting back to me though. You the man.

        Let me try and rephrase….

        I’m saying that just because something is metaphysically free doesn’t make it absolutely omnipotent, for example, anything that wouldn’t make him to be omnipotent (duplicating himself, rock so big he can’t lift it, etc).

        The reason I said “parts” is that duplication of something that was a 1st cause of everything would also have to be the 1st cause of everything. Two different things cannot be a 1st cause of everything, so the work-around is that they must be different “parts” of the same essence/being.

        But, the whole idea of God is that He is not made up of “parts,” rather is simplistic – pure Act, I believe.

        That said, a world created with duplicate gods does not fall under omnipotence, but is impossible. So, “always doing the right thing” (which would be creating other metaphysically free beings/duplicate gods) is something that does not comport with God’s omnipotence.

        Did that make sense?

        • does this resolve the issue?

          Even if you eliminate some options as being for some reason impossible, you are still left with the question why god does not create a more “free and all good doing” model.

          Or are you willing to argue that we are the best there could possibly be as we are?

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