Thursday, April 21, 2011

A simple free will defense

I posted this on prosblogion, but I rather like it so I am posting it here (reworded a little).  By "creature" I shall understand an entity created by God.  Then:
  1. (Premise) Necessarily, if some creature is significantly free, then it is possible that some creature does evil.
  2. (Premise) It is possible that God creates a significantly free creature. 
  3. Therefore, it is possible that a creature does evil. 
  4. (Premise) Necessarily, if a creature exists, God exists. 
  5. Therefore, it is possible that God exists and a creature does evil. 
We can also modify the argument as follows: We might say that if God's goodness makes it impossible for him to create a creature that does evil, then God's goodness makes it impossible for him to create a creature that is significantly free, and the conclusion is absurd.

8 comments:

Jarrett Cooper said...

Prof. Pruss,

Is the adjunct significantly necessary for the first premise? Couldn't one use a more modest modifier of free, and say if one is even slightly free then it's possible that creature does evil?

(Does only being 'slightly' free make it non-necessarily so for that creature to do evil? Whereas if you are 'significantly' free, it's necessarily possible for that creature to do evil?)

However, I wouldn't know exactly how to write syntactically the differences between significantly and slightly--when it comes to freedom. Are there syntactic explanative statements with regards to degrees of freedom in which we could say this or that is only slightly or significantly free?

I guess a problem one could say to the argument is show me how we (or any other creature) are significantly free. Basically, the argument doesn't actually work if you can't show that we (or any creature) are significantly free. (One can accept the argument, but simply retort that we are not significantly free. I'm presuming the burden of proof would be on the proponent of the argument in question.)

awatkins69 said...

"We might say that if God's goodness makes it impossible for him to create a creature that does evil, then God's goodness makes it impossible for him to create a creature that is significantly free."

True. But I wonder then how we can call God all-good if God does not create the best world (or at least better world) where all creatures always freely choose to do what is good? That doesn't seem good, at least if we're using our language univocally. What are your thoughts?

awatkins69 said...

^That of course depends on us admitting the possibility of a world where all significantly free creatures always freely choose what is good. I think it is possible. This creates the problem, since it means God allows unnecessary suffering and evil. The evil could have been prevented by actualizing a better world. But if it's not possible to allow unnecessary evil and still be all-good, then God is not all-good. But God is all-good according to theism. Hence, if theism is true, then God is not all-good and God is all good, which is absurd.

Hence, I think we have to understand God's goodness differently, not univocally.

Douglas said...

Do you need line 4? Might 5 follow from 1 and 2 alone?

Mike Gage said...

"We might say that if God's goodness makes it impossible for him to create a creature that does evil, then God's goodness makes it impossible for him to create a creature that is significantly free, and the conclusion is absurd."

I don't think it has to be phrased in terms of impossibility, thus, we could avoid the absurd conclusion. Think of it this way. I have a 10-month-old son. If I am good and truly love him, then I will not intentionally throw him off a cliff. Of course, it's possible, but people would think it was incompatible with the initial properties I described. So, perhaps we could say that God's goodness makes it so that he wants us to achieve salvation even at the cost of some level of freedom.

One final example with my son - a new father's curse! I love to see my son explore and learn things. I think it's good for his development, etc. Yet, I have a baby gate at the open stairs to our basement. I limit his freedom to avoid a fate worse than not being completely free.

bethyada said...

Agreed.

I wonder if significantly free needs to be clarified, and do you mean moral freedom?

I think it could be expanded to include the concept of love; that is significant (moral) freedom is needed for love, thus if God makes creatures that can love him there is the possibility of evil.

DWLindeman said...

This is headed in a good direction, I think. We are "Creatures in Creation", we have agency, that is. So did Adam and Eve for that matter, although the Garden of Eden presupposes a "special" state of non-alienation with regard to God that was lost through their fatal choice. It must be stressed that it was their choice. It is certainly horrible, but Sin, and alienation from God, must be placed at man's doorstep, not God's. But God did not not act; he engaged humankind's sin through the Incarnation and Christ's sacrifice.
Particularly important is getting past the "Felix Culpa dilemma". DWLindeman

DWLindeman said...

"Made in God's image" is an altogether and crucial aspect of this argument. There is something about Free Will that is irreducible. It should be observed that God, being Omnipotnent, could will that which is evil, but does not. Presumably, God's Love prevails over evil, but this is also his will. We may cite Christ, who said, by implication at least, that our Earthly realm, and Heaven (or The Kingdom), are dissimilar (harking back to Genesis, I think). Free Will for humankind, after The Fall, has come with a price, Incarnation is our call, our summons to vocation.