Sunday, October 5, 2014

Divine hiddenness and a fallacy of practical reasoning

There is an old Soviet joke. A visitor arrives in the Soviet Union and by the airport he sees two workers with shovels. The first digs a hole. Then the second covers up the hole. He asks the workers what they are doing. They say: "The worker who puts the trees in the holes didn't show up."

The joke illustrates this fallacy of practical reasoning:

  1. I have good (very good, excellent, etc.) reason to make p hold.
  2. A necessary condition for p is q.
  3. Thus, I have good (very good, excellent, etc.) reason to make q hold.
There is good reason to plant a tree. Digging a hole and filling in a hole are necessary conditions for planting a tree. But that only gives one reason to dig the hole when one expects a tree to be put in, and it only gives one reason to fill in the hole when the tree has been inserted.

One's reason to make p hold transfers to a similar weight reason to make the necessary condition q hold only when it is sufficiently likely that the other conditions needed for p will come to be in place.

I will call inferences like (3) instances of the Necessary Condition Fallacy.

Now consider this familiar line of thought.

  1. If God exists, then for each sufficiently epistemically rational person x, God has an overriding reason to bring it about that x enters into a love relationship with him.
  2. A necessary condition for a sufficiently epistemically rational x's entering into a love relationship with God is that x will believe that God exists.
  3. A necesasry condition for a sufficiently epistemically rational x's coming to believe that God exists is x's having evidence of God's existence.
  4. So, a necessary condition for a sufficiently epistemically rational x's entering into a love relationship with God is that x have evidence of God's existence. (5 and 6)
  5. So, if God exists, for any sufficiently epistemically rational human x, God has an overriding reason to bring it about that x has evidence of God's existence. (4 and 7)
  6. But what God has an overriding reason to do always happens.
  7. So, if God exists, every sufficiently epistemically rational person has evidence of God's existence.
  8. But not every sufficiently epistemically rational person has evidence of God's existence.
  9. So God doesn't exist.
But the derivation of (8) is a clear instance of the Necessary Condition Fallacy.

So the question now is whether there is a way of deriving (8) without making use of this fallacy. If it were the case that

  1. every sufficiently epistemically rational creature would be very likely to enter into a love relationship with God upon receiving evidence that God exists,
then (8) would have some plausibility. (I say "some", because I am not sure the overridingness transfers from (4) to (8) given merely a high probability of success in producing a love relationship.) But (13) is not particularly plausible, especialy given that it seems likely that there are people who rationally believe in God but don't love him. (One thinks here of the line from the Letter of James about demons who know that God exists and tremble—but surely don't love.)

So, at least, further argument is needed for (8).

11 comments:

Jakub Moravčík said...

it seems likely that there are people who rationally believe in God but don't love him.

At least partly my case. Lookin´ for the ways how to change things, but so far without much success. Keeping trying ...

Sorry for being little off-topic.

Mark Rogers said...

What if you changed 6 to read 'sufficient' evidence for belief, as demons 'know' God exists?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Mark:

The demons surely have evidence of God's existence.

Heath White said...

If this is right, then one would think that God would decline to provide evidence of his existence only to those for whom it would not lead them to a love relationship with himself. Now this means that, prior to his decision about what sort of evidence to provide some person A, God either (i) knows or (ii) judges it probable that, if he were to provide evidence to A, it would not lead A to a love relationship with himself.

If (i), we need Molinism or theological determinism to take this route to defusing arguments from divine hiddenness. If (ii), one might object that God is taking odd gambles (ones with no upside?) with people’s salvation.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Heath:

There could well be upsides. God might expect that this person's believing without loving would likely lead other people away from love of God. Or he might think that this person is more likely to come to love God if he matures more before he comes to believe. Or it might just be that believing and not loving is much worse than not believing and not loving.

Mark Rogers said...

13. every sufficiently epistemically rational creature would be very likely to enter into a love relationship with God upon receiving evidence that God exists,

13. Every sufficiently epistemically rational creature would be very unlikely to enter into a love relationship with God without God calling that creature's attention to the evidence of His existence.



Mark Rogers said...

Dr. Pruss,
Sorry for my last cryptic comment. What I meant is that while you say:

 '13. every sufficiently epistemically rational creature would be very likely to enter into a love relationship with God upon receiving evidence that God exists,'

Perhaps what would work better is something like:

13. Every sufficiently epistemically rational creature would be very unlikely to enter into a love relationship with God without God calling that creature's attention to the evidence of His existence.

Sorry about that.


Alexander R Pruss said...

It does seem plausible that knowing that God exists increases the probability of entering into a love relationship with him.

But (a) knowing that God exists and not loving him might be much worse than (b) not knowing that God exists and not loving him. So in cases where the probability of one's loving God is small, God might have very good reason not to give one knowledge that he exists.

M.E. Lastrilla said...

Dr. Pruss,

What do you think of the idea that it might be more probable for some people to enter into a loving relationship with God if they don't believe he exists? One might think of anonymous Christians here.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's possible, too, but in this post I am granting for the sake of argument that explicit belief in x is a necessary condition for a love relationship with x.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I hasten to add that the fallacy in the argument that I gave isn't in Schellenberg. Also, most of the positive contribution of this post is in Howard-Snyder 1996. See Schellenberg's comments here.