Monday, December 21, 2009

A theistic argument against (worldly) states of affairs

By "worldly states of affairs (WSOAs)", I mean existing states of affairs, say of the Armstrong variety. These are not the Plantingan more abstract states of affairs that exist whether or not they are actualized. I've sometimes called the WSOAs "concrete states of affairs", but as Jon Kvanvig has pointed out to me, that's inaccurate, because the worldly states of affairs include some concrete ones, like my writing this post, and some abstract ones, like two plus two being four.

  1. If WSOAs exist, there are some intrinsically evil contingently enduring WSOAs, such as my being sinful.
  2. It is wrong to freely and directly sustain in existence something that is intrinsically evil.
  3. God freely and directly sustains in existence everything that contingently endures.
  4. God does no wrong.
  5. Therefore, WSOAs do not exist.


Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

Doesn't any realist about universals or their instances face the same problem, mutatis mutandis? If you've got events, Platonic property instances, or tropes, you've got something that is contingently existing and intrinsically evil. If you don't have anything that can play the role WSOAs play, then it's not clear to me you're going to be a successful realist.

What to do then? Premises 3 and 4 look good, so that leaves 1 and 2. Depending on what is meant by "intrinsically evil", either could go.

Why doesn't premise 2 just force a re-airing of the problem of evil?

Alexander R Pruss said...

This is a version of the ontological problem of evil which Augustine struggled with.

As for realism, it could be so sparse that there might be no universals that it's bad to exemplify. For instance, there might be a universal of virtue, but not of vice. It might be that vice is just a lack of virtue.

The parallel move would be to deny that there is a WSOA of my being sinful.

Rob K said...

I'm not sure that Armstrong would concede that there is a WSOA of your being sinful, or any other privative condition. Are any positive WSOAs intrinsically evil?


Alexander R Pruss said...

Armstrong explicitly believes in negative existential WSOAs. In fact, one of the motivations for his theory is to find truthmakers for negative existential (or equivalently positive universal) propositions. He is a truthmaker maximalist and so he wants there to be truthmakers for things like the proposition that there are no unicorns. Thus, he believes there is the state of affairs of there being no unicorns. Likewise, there will be a truthmaker for the proposition that ARP has sinned, and the minimal truthmaker for that will be the WSOA of ARP having sinned. But this WSOA seems intrinsically bad. It is bad that it exists. (In this way, WSOAs differ from Plantingan necessarily existent abstract SOAs. For it is not bad that the abstract SOA of my having sinned exists. It would be great if this abstract SOA existed but did not obtain. But for the WSOA of my having sinned, to exist and to obtain are the same thing.)

It seems that this argument shows that a theist cannot be a truthmaker maximalist. For the truthmaker of ARP has sinned is surely something bad, something whose existence is intriniscally bad. And if theism is true, nothing is like that.

I used to be a truthmaker maximalist. Then I inclined away from it, albeit remaining open to it. This argument convinces me that it must be rejected.

Alexander R Pruss said...

A related consequence in the axiology/ontology of mental states: either (a) pains are not intrinsically bad or (b) pains do not exist. Here, (b) pushes towards nominalism, while I myself like (a).