Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sovereignty

Here is a thought. Suppose that I know that if I cause A, then either B or C will eventuate. Suppose that each of B and C furthers my plan, and neither of them furthers it better than the other. Then it does not seem that sovereignty would require me to know or decide prior to my decision to cause A which of B and C would eventuate. Sovereignty perhaps requires that nothing happens that is contrary to God's plan, but it does not require that God's plan should determine every detail.

Here is second try at a notion of sovereignty built on this:

  1. x sovereignly executes plan P iff if we let Q be what x strongly and knowingly actualizes in executing P, and we let K be all that x knows explanatorily prior to x's decision to strongly actualize Q, and we let W be the set of all worlds at which both Q and K hold, then no world in W better fits the goals of P than any other.

In other words, x is sovereign in the execution of a plan provided that, given what x does and knows, he can't be disappointed in respect of the quality of the plan's execution.

One way to ensure sovereignty in the execution of a plan is to strongly and knowingly actualize every little detail. This is a Calvinist or Thomistic way. Another way is to know exactly how the details would turn out. That's a Molinist way. Another way is the "chessmaster way" (not my terminology or original idea; I think the view has been developed by W. Matthews Grant and Sarah Coakley): to choose a plan in such a way that no matter how things turn out, the goal wouldn't be any the less well achieved. One can do this in two ways: setting one's goal appropriately (so that whatever turns out, fits—that's not how chessmasters do it) or choosing the plan very carefully. Or a combination.

14 comments:

Alexander R Pruss said...

I missed out on a necessary condition: the plan succeeds!

Heath White said...

I get this, and I think it's helpful. (With the caveat!) One worry might be that grandmaster plans (I think the terminology derives from Geach, actually) which were detailed enough to be acceptable would, in effect, require Calvinist/Thomist levels of monitoring.

For example: suppose the master plan is to save 50% of humanity, though which 50% is not critical. Then any individual in a state of grace might legitimately worry that God was not protecting his soul very diligently, having plenty of backup options as it were. One is not being treated as worth very many sparrows. To counter this, one might stipulate that an "acceptable" plan is one where God does guard the souls of those in a state of grace. But the more one goes down that road, the more "interventionist" the plan becomes.

So the question for the grandmaster view would be, what exactly are the goals of the plan, and can they be executed with significant degrees of freedom (about salvation, say, or suffering serious temporal evil) in the creation.

Bert Power said...

But doesn't God have to decide how He will act in the world before actualizing the world?

And it would seem that to carry out His plan in world x He will need to act in way y, but to carry out His plan in world x' he will need to act in way y'. (e.g. suspending the natural laws at such-and-such a moment/place in world x might be Providential, but in world x' totally arbitrary).

So, in order to act Providentially, wouldn't he need to know whether the world wold be x or x' before actualizing it?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Bert:

On the chessmaster version, the plan can include conditionals: "If x does A, then God does B." I will deem these to be material conditionals that God strongly actualizes.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Heath:

I don't know if I disagree with anything you say. Whether such a view works does indeed depend on what God's plan is, and what that requires.

Heath White said...

I also have a version of Bert's worry. Part of it is not knowing what to make, exactly, of talk about strong vs. weak actualization. For example, I'm not sure I understand the idea of actualizing a material conditional without, as it were, actualizing any material conditions.

I might put it like this. All acts of creating are explanatorily prior to what they create. Furthermore, no act of creating is explanatorily prior to any other act of creating. (I could defend this by appeal to eternality or simplicity or both. In fact I think there's just one big act of creating.) This picture doesn't allow the grandmaster strategy; I assume you'd deny the second premise.

Bert Power said...

Ah, now I see. Thanks a lot Alex.

Alexander R Pruss said...

On any view, there are going to be explanatory priority relations between aspects of God's creative act. God creates some things for the sake of others. We probably don't want this to count as multiple acts of creation. And there could also be an explanatory structuring that allows contingent creaturely decisions to explain aspects of the creative act. It's not obvious that this is contrary to divine timelessness or simplicity. (If it is contrary to it, I'll abandon it.)

Another move would be that God simply enacts the material conditionals as such. How? I don't know. As the Psalm says, God speaks and it is done.

If one wants more detail than that, God could enact the material conditionals in whatever way he enacts the laws of nature. For instance, if laws of nature are implemented by means of immanent dispositions in things, God can create special immanent dispositions to ensure all the right conditionals hold.

It may be better that the consequents of the conditionals not speak of God. Thus, God could enact that if Moses asks him A, Moses hears B, and if Moses asks him C, Moses hears D.

You might worry that this isn't really a conversation. But the same worry applies on a Calvinist version, I think.

Heath White said...

On any view, there are going to be explanatory priority relations between aspects of God's creative act. God creates some things for the sake of others. We probably don't want this to count as multiple acts of creation.

OK, helpful.

And there could also be an explanatory structuring that allows contingent creaturely decisions to explain aspects of the creative act.

It is less clear to me that this can be done without multiple acts of creation.

God could enact the material conditionals in whatever way he enacts the laws of nature.

I thought of this. My (very mild) tendency is to think of laws of nature as God's policies governing his creative acts. Perhaps that leads me into occasionalist swamps; I'm not sure.

Huume said...

This is wildly off topic. I think you have the best blog on the internet. Its like reading pascal. I dont mean to flatter you.

Bert Power said...

On this account (or really any account in which God is outside of time and the resurrection life has no end) are you forced to say that God's created an actual infinite when he created the world? And, if so, are you troubled by Hilbert's Hotel type problems? Or do you see a way in which these problems would not arise?

Thanks

Alexander R Pruss said...

I am troubled by an actual infinity being prior to an event, but not by a futureward actual infinity.

Bert Power said...

I'm sorry, Alex, but I don't follow would you mind clarifying?

My problem is that posterior to God's creative act it seems that he will have created an actual infinite. This seems as incoherent as someone who says that they "have drawn" (cf. "are drawing") an infinitely long line. This doesn't seem to me to be a "futureward" actual infinity, but rather an "existant" actual infinity.

But, I have a feeling that I'm just misunderstanding you.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I am not troubled by the production of an actual infinity as such.

I think what would be problematic is the production of an actual infinity prior to some event.