Dean Zimmerman's New Paper Against Molinism

Molinism -- the view that God knows not only what free creatures do, will do and could do, but also what they would (freely) do in every possible circumstance -- is a popular view among contemporary Christian philosophers. William Lane Craig uses it to account for such things as the compatibility of the inspiration of scripture and human free will, the compatibility of freedom and foreknowledge, and the compatibility of a semi-exclusivist account of soteriology with the fact that many will never hear the gospel and will be damned. And it's arguable that Alvin Plantinga requires molinism for the success of his famous free will defense against the logical problem of evil (although some, such as Swinburne, deny this. Kenneth Perszyk argues that Plantinga's free will defense is doubtful with or without molinism).

Two common criticisms of molinism (cf. R. Adams, Hasker, et al.) are that (i) it leaves the counterfactuals of human freedom without a metaphysical grounding, and that (ii) molinism involves a vicious explanatory circularity. However, "star" metaphysician and Christian philosopher Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers) has a huge (90 page) paper coming out (in a collection in honor of Robert Adams), and it offers a critique of molinism that's wholly independent of these two criticisms. It's also persuasive. If he's right, then philosophers like Craig will have to look elsewhere to solve the problems mentioned above.

Here's a link to the paper.

P.S., Dean Zimmerman is one of my favorite contemporary metaphysicians. See his stuff on material composition, David Lewis' global supervenience thesis, his stuff on the A-theory of time, and his stuff on the metaphysics of gunk (I know, funny philosophical jargon).


Roman said...

Hi exapologist, love your blog.

Do you know if Craig or anyone has responded to Zimmerman's argument? And whether their response is any good?

exapologist said...

Hi Roman,

Thanks very much! So far as I know, there are as yet no published replies to Zimmerman's paper. However, though I have yet to watch it, I THINK Zimmerman discusses some points from this paper in his talk at the recent Plantinga conference (videos now on YouTube). If he did, then perhaps his respondent at the conference (Donald Smith, Virginia Commonwealth University) had something interesting to say in reply.

All the best,

Roman said...

Hi exapologist, sorry for this late reply. I appreciate your response. I remembered that I left a comment on your blog on a post about something interesting but then completely forgot which post I commented on and couldn't find it. It only occurred to me today to Google it.

Anyway, thanks for your response, I've been meaning to watch zimmerman's video for some time and now I have more reason to check it out.

ab138501 said...

It looks like there will be a published reply to Zimmerman's article in a book that is due out in December 2011 or January 2012.

The book is "Molinism: The Contemporary Debate" by Ken Perszyk.

I found the information at

It looks like chapter 10 might/will be a published response to Zimmerman from William Lane Craig.

exapologist said...

Thanks very much.