Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Transworld depravity is false

Plantinga’s transworld depravity thesis holds that in every world that God is contingently capable of actualizing (i.e., every “feasible” world), either there is no significant freedom or there is at least one free wrong choice. I will argue that transworld depravity is in fact false, assuming Molinism.

But consider a possible situation A where the first significantly free choice runs as follows. Eve has a choice whether to eat a delicious apple or not, while knowing that God has forbidden her from eating the apple. Eve comes into the choice with a pretty decent character. In particular, she is so constructed that she is unable to take God’s prohibitions to be anything but reasons against an action and God’s commands to be anything but reasons for an action. Nonetheless, she is free: she can choose to eat the apple on account of its deliciousness, despite God’s prohibiting it.

By Molinism, if enough detail is built into the situation, either:

  1. in A, Eve would eat the apple, or

  2. in A, Eve would not eat the apple.

If (2) is true, then transworld depravity is false, because God could simply take away freedom after Eve’s first choice, and so we have a feasible world where there is exactly one significantly free choice, and it’s right.

Suppose then (1) is true. Now imagine a situation A* where just before Eve is deliberating whether to eat the apple, God announces that the prohibition on eating the apple is now changed into a command to eat the apple. If in A, Eve would eat the apple on account of its deliciousness despite its being forbidden, she would a fortiori eat the apple if God were to command her to do so. Thus:

  1. in A*, Eve would eat the apple.

But then transworld depravity is false, because again God could take freedom away after Eve’s first choice.

The argument as it stands does not show that transworld depravity is necessarily false. I try to do that here with a similar but perhaps less compelling argument.


James Reilly said...

What's your preferred solution to the logical POE, if you don't find Plantinga's to be credible?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, I accept mere foreknowledge, and with mere foreknowledge it's easier to run a free will defense than with Molinism. For God's decision whether to create X cannot depend on God's mere foreknowledge of what X will do, as that would involve a vicious circularity (X exists because X does A, and yet X does A in part because X exists). Thus, God's decision whether to create a free being involves an element of risk. So there is a possibility of God creating a person who does evil. That's all we need for a defense.

Theodicy is a different matter. I find myself immensely impressed by the idea that our earthly life is but a blip as compared to our infnite future, and that it shouldn't be hard to justify a very short segment of evil at the beginning of a long happy life.