Monday, August 30, 2021

Divine simplicity and responsibility for creation

Libertarians believes something like this:

  1. If an agent has primary responsibility for a state of affairs A, then the agent gained that resposibility by intentionally indeterministically causing A.

Here, primary responsibility is distinguished from the kind of derivative responsibility that someone who freely got drunk (and hence has primary responsibility for getting drunk) has for the accident caused while drunk.

Next, add this plausible thesis:

  1. If an agent gains primary responsibility for a state of affairs A by intentionally causing A, then the agent has primary responsibility for an intention relevantly connected to A.

Now, combine (1) and (2). Suppose Alice has primary responsibility for A. Then she had an intention I = I1 relevantly connected to A that she had primary responsibility for. Applying (1) and (2) to I1, we conclude that Alice had primary responsibility for an intention I2 relevantly connected to I, and primary responsibility for an intention I3 relevantly connected to I2, and so on, ad infinitum.

But of course we don’t have an infinite chain of intentions. So we must break out of the chain. I think there is only one way to do so: at some point, In = In + 1. In other words, the intention relevantly connected to In just is In once again: there is no further intention. Rather, one’s intention to produce In is just constituted by In.

This means that it is possible for one to be primarily responsible for a state of affairs A—say an intention In—when the intention with which one caused A is itself at least partly constituted by A.

Now, I take it that something like this is what happens when a simple God creates something: God’s intention to create horses is partly constituted by horses, rather than simply by some inner state of God’s.

There is a lesson here: The primary worry that one has about a simple God’s contingently creating things—namely, that a simple God cannot have contingent inner states—is mirrored by a parallel worry about a libertarian agent’s production of intentions.


Walter Van den Acker said...

But, Alex, "horses" do not exist until (logically) posterior to God's intention to create them, hence "horses" are pert of God's inner state.

JohnD said...

This is a good lesson you have laid out. It came up in a recent discussion we had about the topic of modal collapse:

Dominik Kowalski said...

Actually no, it's impossible for limited essences to be within the most fundamental ontological level. Due to the fact that every idea is dependent on the same thing and that every idea is a limit upon that which it's dependent upon we can show that there are models of extrinsic divine willing that are consistent with Pruss's proposal. Additionally there is no such thing as the divine intention that is posterior to God and prior to creation, this layer gets eliminated through the immediacy of God's willing something and its existing. I think Alex would agree with that.

More later once I have time

Wesley C. said...

@Dominik, Could you explain what you mean by every idea being dependent on the same thing and being a limit upon?

As for divine intention, couldn't it be prior to creation in the sense that without the intention, creation wouldn't be caused?

Alexander R Pruss said...

If divine intention is something contingent, then it is a part of creation since everything contingent is created by God.