Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Schellenberg's deductive argument from evil

Schellenberg has an interesting argument that evil is incompatible with the existence of God. The idea is this. God creates in order to make beings that model God's good features. Now each of the goods that God exemplifies is pure: it logically requires neither the existence nor the permission of evil for its existence, e.g., in the way in which courage requires the existence of evil (either the feared evil or an illusion of it, which is itself). The beings that God creates are thus created to instantiate particular goods that are instances of the same types of goods that God's pure goods are supreme instances of, and that model the divine goods. Thus, God may create a limited knower that it might instantiate the good of knowledge, of which God's omniscience is a supreme instance of.

But now since the goods that God exemplifies are pure and supreme, it seems that God can always do better than creating a creature in order to instantiate impure goods like courage. For any good g that God would want to have instantiated is going to fall under the same type T as some divine good G (indeed, I think Schellenberg thinks they wouldn't be goods if they didn't fall under the same type as some divine good). But the divine good G is pure. So it is possible for there to be a being that instantiates a pure good that falls under T. Moreover, since the supreme good in the type T is the pure divine good G, we shouldn't think that the impure goods in T are somehow better than the pure ones—there should be better and better pure goods in T, approaching the divine good G. So God should create one of these better pure goods.

Now, I think there are at least two things wrong here. The first is that even if the supreme good G falling under T is pure, this does not mean that the pure non-divine goods falling under T are better models of G than the impure ones. For it could be that although they better model G in respect of purity, they more poorely model G in respect of some more important feature.

Second, it could well be that all of the non-divine goods falling under T have to be impure. Here is an analogy. God's self-understanding is an instance of self-divinization: seeing oneself as divine. God's self-understanding will, according to Schellenberg, be an instance of some type T of good. The divine instance of T thus has the property of self-divinization. But no non-divine instance of T has the property of self-divinization: a self-divinizing self-understanding can only be a good when it is had by God. What I said about self-divinization could, in principle, hold for purity. It could be that none of the non-divine instances of T have purity.

Here is a non-trivial case. Here is a good feature of God: God is responsible for choosing correctly. This good feature is an instance of some type of good. Presumably the relevant type T to consider is: being responsible for choosing rightly. But now any creature that is responsible for choosing rightly has to be able to choose wrongly (maybe not at this point, but at some point). This is controversial, but since Schellenberg expressly says he accepts the Free Will Defense, he should accept something like this. God, on the other hand, is responsible for choosing rightly without the ability to choose wrongly. How to hold these things together is a difficult question (maybe divine simplicity is relevant; maybe the fact that a deterministic creature would have all its actions externally caused is relevant), but theists who accept the Free Will Defense generally do hold them together. Given this, while a divine instance of T will be pure, necessarily every creaturely instance of T will be impure, and Schellenberg's argument fails. Basically, the Free Will Defense defeats Schellenberg's new argument, even though the argument was designed to get around the Free Will Defense.

The above is right on non-Molinist versions of the Free Will Defense. But the point needs to be modified on the Molinist version of the Free Will Defense. If the Molinist version of the Free Will Defense works (and I think it doesn't, but again Schellenberg seems not to object to it), and if responsibility for choosing rightly requires signficant freedom, then it is possible that every feasible world (world God can create given the conditionals of free will) that contains a creature responsible for choosing rightly also contains a creature that chooses wrongly. If so, then it's possible that God could model responsibility for right choices only in worlds where there happens to be a wrong choice as well.

16 comments:

Alexander R Pruss said...

It seems like my post could be expanded into a response. Anybody want to do that with me?

Edward T. Babinski said...
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Edward T. Babinski said...
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Edward T. Babinski said...
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Edward T. Babinski said...

What keeps people always making the right choice in heaven for eternity, or at least never making a damnable choice in heaven for eternity? What constraints are there on free will or its expression in heaven?

Does God have free will? If not, then is free will necessary in order to be good? And do human beings possess an ability God does not? How can that be?

Is there any evil in God? Can God even imagine anything evil?

Per Christian theology all of Creation came solely out of the perfect will, perfect power, perfect goodness of a perfect Being. But how could evil possibly arise if everything came "solely" out of "perfect goodness?" What room was there in God or his mind for "evil" to arise by acts of a perfectly good God, even indirectly arise? Or is ontological distance from God the ground for all "evil?" But what is "ontological" distance to an infinite Being that is everywhere and remains in everything from the beginning -- and that creates solely out of its own perfection? Logically there is no "distance."

So if everything arose solely from God's will, power, wisdom and goodness, then what room was there for evil to creep in? Evil must be something entirely and utterly new.

If God was a toymaker, I imagine that having infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, and making toys solely out of such infininte power, wisdom and goodness, you'd have good toys. One would not except some toys to wind up "evil," certainly not a majority of them, such that they require being smashed for eternity.

Philosophy and logic do not solve the problem of evil, but merely exacerbate it. You cannot add something entirely and utterly new to an equation (free will or evil, both of which God lacks) if you do not start with it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Augustine struggled much with this question, and concluded that evil wasn't a new thing, that it wasn't a reality at all, but that it simply was a lack of reality, a lack of good.

wissam h said...
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wissam h said...

A few thoughts.

First of all, Schellenberg's premise that God creates in order to make beings that model God's features, combined with your proposition that God's creatures cannot be completely pure, seems to imply that God does (or would) not create.

Also, you said God does not have the ability to choose wrongly. I think many theists believe that God is able to choose wrongly but in every possible world in which he exists, he chooses not to do wrongly.

About the property of self-divinization, it seems equally pure and good to the property "understanding the divine nature of God"- as in the internalization of God's reasons for good action, his moral attitudes, etc. The latter can be instantiated by the non-divine beings.

Also, there is something I didn't get. You said: "For it could be that although they [pure non-divine goods] better model G in respect of purity, they more poorely model G in respect of some more important feature"--- So you are saying that (at least some) pure non-divine goods lack a certain significant feature of divine goods , and this lack of feature entails the existence of evil.--- But you also said: "pure: it logically requires neither the existence nor the permission of evil for its existence". This means that what's pure does not imply the existence of evil.

So 1) ~(pure-->evil), by definition.
2) (pure & lack feature F)--> evil.
3) pure & ~ evil. (from 1)
4) ~(pure & lack F) v evil. (from 2, material imp)
5) ~pure v ~lack F. (3, 4, DS)
6) ~lack F (3,5, DS)

wissam h said...

...property "understandingness of the divine nature" (or seeing oneself as divine-like)= self-divinization.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Schellenberg's premise that God creates in order to make beings that model God's features, combined with your proposition that God's creatures cannot be completely pure, seems to imply that God does (or would) not create"

I don't see the implication. A model typically does not share every feature of what is modeled. In this case, the models may not share purity.

"I think many theists believe that God is able to choose wrongly but in every possible world in which he exists, he chooses not to do wrongly."

This claim about worlds entails that it is metaphysically impossible for him to choose wrongly. How is that compatible with being able to choose wrongly?

"So you are saying that (at least some) pure non-divine goods lack a certain significant feature of divine goods , and this lack of feature entails the existence of evil"

No. :-)

wissam h said...

"This claim about worlds entails that it is metaphysically impossible for him to choose wrongly. How is that compatible with being able to choose wrongly?"

Necessarily, God does A iff (God can do A and God wants to do A).

So, necessarily, God chooses wrongly iff (God can choose wrongly and God wants to choose wrongly).

It is impossible that God chooses wrongly.

So, necessarily, ~(God can choose wrongly and God wants to choose wrongly).

Only one of the conjuncts has to be false. So what's wrong with saying that God can choose wrongly but necessarily doesn't want to choose wrongly?



"I don't see the implication. A model typically does not share every feature of what is modeled. In this case, the models may not share purity."

M is an appropriate model of x iff M exemplifies all essential properties of x.

An essential property of God's good features is purity.

So if human beings cannot exemplify purity, then they cannot appropriately model God's good features.

God wants to create human beings only if they can appropriately model God's good features.

Therefore, God does not want to create human beings.

wissam h said...

It's more appropriate to say that it is metaphysically impossible THAT God choose wrongly.

wissam h said...

M is an appropriate model of x iff M exemplifies all essential properties of x. "

The property "transcendence", for example, is non-essential, since it is only relational.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Model airplanes lack many essential features of airplanes.

wissam h said...

It depends on what the model is modelling. An appropriate model of the shape of an airplane would not exhibit all the essential properties of an airplane but it would exhibit all the essential properties of the shape of an airplane. Such a model might not fly.

But an appropriate model of an airplane would fly, have its shape, etc.

Anyway, it seems plausible to say that God creates human beings in order that they model his purity.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Why purity? Why not other things?