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Does Plantinga's Free Will Defense Help Defuse the Problem of Evil?

Here's a thought I'm toying with: Suppose you agree with a number of epistemologists that the way things seem or appear to one is defeasible, prima facie evidence for the way things are. To use Plantinga's terminology: beliefs that appear to one to be true are "properly basic" for one. Now suppose further that it appears to some person -- let's call her 'Sue' -- that nothing could morally justify some of the evils that occur in the world (the Holocaust, for example). Then it follows that Sue has defeasible, prima facie evidence that nothing could justify some of the evils that occur in the world.[1] Finally, assume that Sue accepts the fairly standard view that an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good god wouldn't allow an evil to occur without sufficient moral justification. Then Sue would have a good reason to think there is no all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good god.

How could one defeat Sue's basis for her atheism? If we assume the truth of the premises that (i) the way things appear is defeasible, prima facie evidence for the way things are, and that (ii) no all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good god would allow evil without sufficient moral justification, this will amount to offering Sue, at a minimum, an undercutting defeater for her belief that nothing could justify certain evils in the world. But that belief is based on a seeming, and to undercut such a seeming-backed belief, it's not enough to show her that it's epistemically possible that God has a good reason for allowing these evils to occur. Rather, one would have to provide her with a good reason for thinking that it's metaphysically possible that God has a good reason for allowing these evils to occur.[2]

What, then, could one offer Sue to undercut the basis of her atheism? I imagine some would be inclined to tell her all about Plantinga's free will defense. Here's the rub, though: Plantinga's free will defense seems to be a mere epistemic possibility. But if that's right, then how could Plantinga's free will defense undercut Sue's unbelief?

But surely, you might say, it's odd to think that anyone is in Sue's predicament. But is that really true? Richard Swinburne, for example, thinks the proposition that nothing could justify some of the evils in the world is (absent defeaters) properly basic for just about any rational, mature adult who reflects on the matter; I'm inclined to think he's right about that.

Anyway, as I said, it's just a thought I've been toying with. I should also say that it's not original with me. As I mentioned above, Swinburne has raised it. Furthermore, Paul Draper raises the issue in his review of Swinburne's Providence and the Problem of Evil.

Comments? Criticisms?
-----------------------------
[1] Some recent proponents of this sort of principle (e.g., Michael Huemer) offer a weakened version of it, according to which seemings provide at least prima facie pro tanto justification for the way things are. To avoid this debate, let's stipulate that Sue's seeming is sufficiently forceful to furnish her with very strong justification for her belief.

[2] I'm using the notion of epistemic possibility here in a way that's more in keeping with its occasional usage in the contemporary epistemology of modality literature than with epistemology proper. Thus, say that something P is metaphysically possible just in case there is a genuinely viable or possible world W at which P obtains, and say that P is epistemically possible just in case our evidence can't rule out that there is a metaphysically possible world W at which P obtains.

On this way of making the distinction, there is room for some P to be epistemically possible -- i.e., our evidence doesn't rule out that there is a metaphysically possible world W at which P obtains --, and yet P is nonetheless metaphysically impossible.

Example: consider Alvin Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. The key premise is that, roughly, there is a possible world at which a necessarily existent individual exists. But given Axiom S5 – the one that says that what’s possibly necessary is necessary simpliciter -- the truth of the key premise entails that Plantinga’s god exists. Now suppose my evidence can't rule out the God described by Plantinga as metaphysically impossible. Then Plantinga's god is epistemically possible. But if epistemic possibility entails metaphysical possibility, then it follows that Plantinga's god exists.

Perhaps some will find no fault with the conclusion above. But now consider Peter van Inwagen’s “knownos” . A knowno is a being that knows there are no necessary beings. Now my evidence doesn't rule out the metaphysical impossibility of knownos. So knownos are also epistemically possible, in. So if epistemic possibility entails metaphysical possibility, then necessary beings are metaphysically impossible.

Something has gone wrong in our reasoning. For necessarily, only one of the two claims above can be true. For an Anselmian being is possible just in case a knowno is impossible. Diagnosis: what has gone wrong is that we have assumed that epistemic possibility entails metaphysical possibility.

Here's the payoff (and the punchline): Plantinga has only shown that the heart of his free will defense -- his thesis of transworld depravity -- is epistemically possible. and the problem is that that's not enough to undercut Sue's justification for believing that there is no metaphysically possible world W such that (i) God exists at W and (ii)some tokens of the types of evils that obtain at the actual world obtain at W.

Comments

Marc said…
exapologist:

What about a skeptical theist's seeming?

Suppose that appearances suggested to Sally that, by virtue of our limited cognitive condition and God's (omniscient) cognitive condition, at least some of God's actions will be extremely difficult for us to understand. Sally is a mother of five and has extensive firsthand experience of situations in which her children find it extremely difficult to understand her actions, even though they're intended to maximize her children's flourishing. Upon reflection, Sally concludes that the epistemic distance between God and humans is considerably greater than the epistemic distance between parents and children, and if children find it difficult to understand some of their parents' actions, it's especially likely that humans will occasionally encounter even more difficulty with understanding some of God's actions. For Sally, these appearances provide her with defeasible, prima facie evidence that at least some of God's actions will be extremely difficult to understand.

I'm inclined to think that Sally's seeming can be translated into an undercutting defeater for Sue's seeming, or at least into a seeming as epistemically credentialed as Sue's. Sally might attempt to persuade Sue that the seeming that "nothing could morally justify some of the evils that occur in the world" is or can be rendered consistent with the seeming that something like skeptical theism is true. This is because Sally's seeming suggests it's true that "nothing we can think of could morally justify some of the evils that occur in the world." Although it's extremely difficult for us to understand why God would permit certain evils to occur, it appears that this could be one of the things which our limited cognitive condition prevents us from (fully) understanding.
exapologist said…
Hi Marc,

Skeptical theism is an important reply to the problem of evil, but I'm currently interested in the issue of whether Plantinga's free will defense functions as a defeater for people in Sue's position. What do you think?
Ian said…
I'm probably missing the point here, but doesn't the whole "without sufficient moral justification" assumption defeat the "all-powerful" bit? Couldn't an "all powerful" God simply find a better way to do things? One that doesn't involve evil and suffering?
Matt McCormick said…
Interesting question, and great post as usual, Ex. A couple of thoughts and questions: so if it's just the FWD you want to focus on, then the sorts of evils that this discussion will be confined to are moral evils like the Holocaust, and not, for instance, natural evils like the Japanese or Thailand tsunamis, right?
I'm not sure what you mean by epistemic vs. metaphysical possibility here. Whether or not I judge something to be metaphysically possible can't really be separated from my epistemic conditions. Maybe you could clarify.

And it's also relevant that the FWD was originally formulated just as a response to the logical problem of evil or the claim that it is impossible for God and evil to coexist. The FWD is alleged to show that it is in fact possible for God and at least moral evil to exist. As for either of them being actual, that's a different matter.

Matt McCormick
exapologist said…
Hi Matt,

Thanks!

Yes, I'm just focusing on Plantinga's FWD and moral evils. As for the epistemic/metaphysical possibility distinction: say that something P is metaphysically possible just in case there is a genuinely viable or possible world W at which P obtains, and say that P is epistemically possible just in case our evidence can't rule out that there is a metaphysically possible world W at which P obtains.

On this way of making the distinction, there is room for some P to be epistemically possible -- i.e., our evidence doesn't rule out that there is a metaphysically possible world W at which P obtains --, and yet P is nonetheless metaphysically impossible.

Example: consider Alvin Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. The key premise is that, roughly, there is a possible world at which a necessarily existent individual exists. But given Axiom S5 – the one that says that what’s possibly necessary is necessary simpliciter -- the truth of the key premise entails that Plantinga’s god exists. Now suppose my evidence can't rule out the God described by Plantinga as metaphysically impossible. Then Plantinga's god is epistemically possible. But if epistemic possibility entails metaphysical possibility, then it follows that Plantinga's god exists.

Perhaps some will find no fault with the conclusion above. But now consider Peter van Inwagen’s “knownos” . A knowno is a being that knows there are no necessary beings. Now my evidence doesn't rule out the metaphysical impossibility of knownos. So knownos are also epistemically possible, in. So if epistemic possibility entails metaphysical possibility, then necessary beings are metaphysically impossible.

Something has gone wrong in our reasoning. For necessarily, only one of the two claims above can be true. For an Anselmian being is possible just in case a knowno is impossible. Diagnosis: what has gone wrong is that we have assumed that epistemic possibility entails metaphysical possibility.

Here's the payoff (and the punchline): Plantinga has only shown that the heart of his free will defense -- his thesis of transworld depravity -- is epistemically possible. and the problem is that that's not enough to undercut Sue's justification for believing that there is no metaphysically possible world W such that (i) God exists at W and (ii)some tokens of the types of evils that obtain at the actual world obtain at W.
exapologist said…
Hi Ian,

No you've got the idea. But theists typically want to say that (i) there are goods that it's logically impossible[1] to achieve without allowing for the possibility of evil (e.g., creating a world where free beings freely do what is right), and (ii) such goods are so weighty that it's morally permissible for a morally perfect being to allow the possibility of such evils to get these goods.
------
[1] a tricky, technical point: there may even be possible worlds that even an omnipotent God can't bring about (e.g., perhaps there are possible worlds where free creatures always freely do what is right, and yet God can't actualize them. For it's at least partly up to those creatures which worlds are actualized). To handle for such tricky cases, some philosophers of religion distinguish between possible worlds and feasible worlds (where an infeasible world is a possible world an omnipotent being can't actualize), and then argue that, for all we know, there are no feasible worlds in which free creatures always do right.
cadfan17 said…
Wait. There are people who think epistemological possibility implies metaphysical possibility?

What if I have a mathematical equation I cannot solve? If it is true it is necessarily true because its built from axioms. But if its false its necessarily false for the same reason.
Ian said…
But isn't the whole idea that there are "goods that it's logically impossible to achieve without allowing for the possibility of evil" a total cop-out? Isn't it the same as saying "I lack the imagination, so it's beyond the power of God"? That's not just a total rejection of an all-powerful God, it's a rejection of a mildly creative God.

Think about natural evil. Imagine, say, a world without HIV. If you're over 40, it's not hard to imagine such a world - you would be able to remember it. Think about smallpox and the other diseases that wiped out the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Their existence is a specific consequence of the domestication of specific types of animals. One that the people of the Americas did without. Would 'God's plan' have been thwarted if we had simply domesticated plants and not animals?

And then there's Japan. Why is an omnipotent God unable to figure out a way for plates to move around on the earth's surface without getting stuck? That's all - just stop the plates from getting stuck. Shouldn't be hard for an all powerful, all good deity.

It seems to me that the only way to have an all-powerful, all-loving God is to have one that's supremely incompetent. A bumbler who just can't get things right.
Marc said…
EA:

Apologies. It would appear that, while crafting my comment, I failed to appreciate some of the relatively minor details about your post, such as its title and its content. =) I’ll see if I can manage to interact with one or two of your thoughts this time around…

Judging by your description of how Sue came to have defeasible, prima facie evidence “that nothing could justify some of the evils that occur in the world,” it seems to me that you’re suggesting something along the following lines:

(1) If it seems to S that p is epistemically possible, then this seeming provides defeasible, prima facie evidence for S that p is metaphysically possible.

Or, in other words:

(2) If it seems to S that p, then this provides defeasible, prima facie evidence for S that p.

In Sue’s case, it seems to her that nothing could possibly justify certain evils which occur in the world. That is, according to Sue’s seeming, it’s impossible for God to have a morally sufficient reason for permitting certain evils to occur. Since, in the present context, an epistemically suitable possibility claim (associated with the FWD) would undercut Sue’s basis, maybe something like this would suffice. Perhaps appearances suggest to Sally that certain counterfactuals of freedom are possibly such that there are no feasible Mackie worlds. To Sally, this has at least a decent chance of being possible. So, Sally has defeasible, prima facie evidence that certain counterfactuals of freedom are possibly such that there aren’t any feasible Mackie worlds. And if, all things considered, possibility claims generally inspire more epistemic confidence than impossibility claims, Sally’s seeming appears to furnish a credible undercutting defeater for Sue’s seeming.
exapologist said…
Hi Ian,

That's a bit of a different topic: the problem of moral evil is one thing, and the problem of natural evil is another. I agree with you that the latter problem of evil may be a bit tougher, but I'm currently concerned with the former. To give the theist a fair chance on the points you raise, however, I'd recommend taking a look at John Hick's soul-making theodicy, Swinburne's stuff, and two papers from Peter van Inwagen: (i)"The Magnitude, Duration, and Distribution of Evil: A Theodicy", and "The Problem of Evil, The Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence".

Best,
EA
exapologist said…
Hi Marc,

No worries, my friend.

Yes, but that's the trick, right? To present Plantinga's FWD in a way that doesn't merely fail to seem impossible but positively seems possible. My own worry is that it's not clear how to do this. Full disclosure: my interest in this issue is connected to a broader project of applying my account of modal epistemology to issues in philosophy of religion.

Best,
EA
Ian said…
Thanks, I'll look (some of) them up.

My point in bringing up natural evil was mostly to simply things. It still seems to me that the whole argument free will argument seems to boil down to "if I can't figure it out, then God can't do it" (which is an interesting contrast with the intelligent design argument, which often seems to boil down to "if I can't figure it out, then God did it").

But all this has gotten very far from your question, which actually approaches the issue from the other side.

My answer to Sue's argument would be that it doesn't justify atheism, it simply defeats one possible concept of God - an all-powerful, all knowing, good God. So Sue may have the basis for rejecting canonical Christian ideas of God, but not 'God' in the broadest possible sense.
Ian said…
One more thought - doesn't this all hinge on the issue of what "good" is? If good is an absolute, then it's reasonable to conclude that God is not good (or is impotent). If good is a relative (good is what God does) then God is by definition good, and we have defined the problem out of existence.

The free will argument seems to hinge on the idea that we may not be able to see the big picture.

To take Marc's example of Sally, the counter to that would be that Sally's children don't understand what she is doing because she chooses a style of parenting that is based off of authority rather than reason. The fact that she doesn't explain herself to her children doesn't mean that she can't explain herself to them.

During WW II, my mother's family (except her father) was evacuated to a town in the mountains to avoid Allied air raids. When the war was over they returned home (with all their stuff), but given the lack of communications or infrastructure there was no way for my grandfather to know when they were coming. So my grandmother had to leave my six-year-old mother and her 12-year-old sister at the bus station (with all their possessions) while she walked across town to find my grandfather, who then had to secure a push cart to bring their possessions home.

It must have been a terrifying experience for my mother, and I'm sure she couldn't really understand why her mother had left them alone in an unsafe environment. (Bear in mind that they had possessions - many people, either bombed out of their homes or refugees fleeing from the East had nothing at all.) Yes, there was a greater good here - reuniting the family, returning to their own home. Whether she understood it or not, the trauma could have been vastly reduced if there had been some way to provide constant reassurance. Imagine if something like cell phones had existed.

An all-powerful God could provide real reassurance. The God that hung out with Adam or visited Abraham, rather than the God who stayed silent during the Holocaust.

So sure, the free will argument can undercut Sue's argument, but it would fail because God is silent. And a God that refuses to reassure his people, despite having done so in the past, lacks compassion, and thus lacks goodness.

Now, of course, you can counter with Sally's argument - that there's a reason that God cannot reassure his people. That it's also part of the greater good. And you could come up with another exception. And it would meet the same argument.

Any argument that in essence boils down to repeated cycles of "none of us is smart enough to answer that question" isn't a logical argument. It's just an infinite series of special pleadings.
exapologist said…
Hi Cadfan17,

Yes, there is a popular account of our knowledge of possibility according to which epistemic possibilities provide evidence of metaphysical possibilities. However, the notion of epistemic possibility involved in the account involves certain qualifications and distinctions (derived from two-dimensional formal semantics, as well as some of Saul Kripke's work) to rule out obvious conterexamples (e.g., I can't rule out that water isn't H20 based on what I know a priori; so, it's metaphysically possible that water is H20). See, esp., David Chalmers' account of modal epistemology. His paper, "Does Conceivability Entail Possibility?" offers a nice statement and defense of his account.

Chalmers acknowledges that cases like the Anselm's God vs. Knowno case and the Goldbach's Conjecture case are at least prima facie problematic for his account. However, he thinks his account of modal epistemology accrues support in virtue of a number of arguments, and further that the tricky cases can be explained/handled.

I myself am unpersuaded by his account, though, and I discuss some of the reasons in my dissertation.
Marc said…
EA:

How do you think we should characterize Sue’s belief so that—slightly altering what you said—it doesn’t merely fail to seem possible but positively seems impossible? That is, the belief that

(B) God could have a morally sufficient reason for permitting certain evils

doesn’t merely fail to seem possible but positively seems impossible. And once we’ve developed the appropriate characterization of Sue’s belief, what prevents us from applying that same characterization to Sally’s belief?

Suppose we characterize Sue’s seeming such that it positively seems impossible for God to have a morally sufficient reason to permit certain evils, and this seeming provides defeasible, prima facie evidence. Is there a principled way to exclude characterizing Sally’s seeming in this fashion, where her seeming is such that the truth of certain counterfactuals of freedom preclude there being feasible Mackie worlds? My intuition is that Sally’s seeming isn’t epistemically inferior to Sue’s, or at least that there isn’t a plausible, principled way to characterize Sue’s seeming such that it’s epistemically superior to Sally’s.

But there might be a principled way to show that Sally’s seeming is epistemically superior to Sue’s. Sally’s seeming is a possibility claim, and Sue’s seeming is an impossibility claim. Shouldn’t we be inclined, all things considered, to accept an epistemically weaker seeming than an epistemically stronger one?

I suppose, however, that we could express Sue’s seeming in terms of a possibility claim and Sally’s seeming in terms of an impossibility claim.

Sue: possibly, there is a feasible Mackie world.

Sally: not possibly, there is a feasible Mackie world.

Of course, we began with something like:

Sue: not possibly, God has a morally sufficient reason to permit certain evils.

Sally: possibly, God has a morally sufficient reason to permit certain evils.

I guess this is unavoidable given the interdefinability of modal concepts. How ought we to epistemically arbitrate here?
exapologist said…
Hi Marc,

I want to make sure I understand your main point, so please correct me if I'm wrong. Is the idea that

(i) it appears to Sally that there is no feasible Mackie world (i.e., a feasible world at which free creatures always do right).

(ii) Sally's evidence can acquired by Sue via Sally's testimony.

(iii) once acquired, the evidence can function as an undercutting defeater for Sue's seeming that nothing could justify certain evils in the world?
cadfan17 said…
Huh. Clearly there's something here I'm completely misunderstanding, because I don't see how two different people, each in different epistemic positions about something that if true would be necessarily true, wouldn't screw his argument.
Marc said…
EA:

That’s a very good, very precise expression of what I have in mind.

Regarding (ii), I do want to suggest that Sue’s acquisition of Sally’s evidence isn’t purely testimonial in nature. That is, Sue understands the details of Sally’s seeming, so Sue doesn’t have to rely on the trustworthiness of Sally’s word. Also, by saying that Sue apprehends the details of Sally’s seeming, I don’t meant to imply that Sue (necessarily) shares Sally’s seeming.
exapologist said…
Thanks, Marc. Perhaps I see. So both Sally and Sue understand the details of Plantinga's TWD thesis, but such understanding makes it appear to Sally that TWD is metaphysically possible, while such understanding merely makes TWD fail to appear metaphysically impossible to Sue. And the idea is that when they convey this information to each other (esp. the way things seem to Sally), that should suffice to justify Sue in believing that TWD is metaphysically possible. Do I have it right?

If that's the idea, then I guess I'm not sure why it ought to tip the scales for Sue. Are they true epistemic peers? Then I'm inclined to think that awareness of disagreement should, if anything, push both to agnosticism about the metaphysical possibility of TWD (at least once they discuss the details of TWD together, and yet still find that they disagree).

For what it's worth, my own view is that the way forward in getting past the epistemic impasse between Sally and Sue is by appeal to issues in modal epistemology. For if we have a plausible account of our knowledge of possibility and necessity, then we can apply that account to Plantinga's thesis to see if it satisfies plausible criteria of imaginability or conceivability.
Marc said…
Yes, I believe you have it right. Thanks for the helpful clarity, and for the interesting discussion.

I guess I’m inclined to think that unless Sue discerns something impossible about Plantinga’s TWD thesis—unless appearances suggest to her that TWD is impossible—then she should rationally look more favorably upon Sally’s seeming. If TWD considerations fail to appear metaphysically impossible to Sue, perhaps this creates some epistemic or logical space for Sally’s possibility seeming. Maybe this is because p’s failing to appear metaphysically impossible to S is inconsistent with p’s (positively) appearing metaphysically impossible to S. So, if TWD doesn’t appear metaphysically impossible to Sue, then I wonder if she has a good reason to think that TWD isn’t possible.

Suppose I tell you that p seems impossible to me, but then you tell me that q seems possible to you. We both understand what the other person is saying, and that p and q are inconsistent. I then proceed to inform you that q fails to seem impossible to me, and you respond by asking, in light of this, if I have a good reason for not taking q to be possible. Suppose I return to p and how it seems impossible to me. You might say that the fact that q fails to seem impossible to me should lower my epistemic confidence in my p-seeming. You might also direct my attention to the following epistemic principle:

(EP) For any x and y, if (1) x is an impossibility claim and y is a possibility claim, (2) x and y are incompossible, (3) x seems impossible to S and y fails to seem impossible to S, then, all things considered, S should be more inclined to believe that y.

Do your modal epistemological sensibilities provide a way to dissolve the impasse between Sue and Sally?
exapologist said…
Hi cadfan17,

No I agree. As I said, I myself don't accept Chalmers' account. Indeed, I developed and defended a form of van Inwagen's mitigated modal skepticism in my dissertation. But one reply on behalf of Chalmers-style accounts is that even if the math cases are problematic, they are unusual and special cases of modal imaginings. For unlike typical thought experiments, they usually don't overtly involve objectual imagination, that is, the imagining of a distribution of a set of objects and properties. So perhaps the math counterexamples can be screened off by restricting legitimate, justification-conferring imaginings to objectual imaginings.
exapologist said…
Marc,

Do your modal epistemological sensibilities provide a way to dissolve the impasse between Sue and Sally?

That's my hope, anyway. My own view is that the most plausible account of our knowledge of possibility entails that such knowledge/justified belief is grounded in our knowledge of the actual world in various ways (cf. Timothy Williamson, Christopher Hill, Rebecca Hanrahan, Stephen Biggs, Peter Hawke, and yours truly).

Given a picture of this sort, we have a principled basis for evaluating claims about what's metaphysically possible. And if that's right, then if Sue is persuaded that a non-libertarian account of human agency is the best explanation of the data in the actual world, she lacks a basis for accepting Plantinga's TWD.

If I'm right about the previous points, then it looks as though providing Sue with a defeater will require persuading her of the existence of libertarian agency at the actual world.
Marc said…
EA:

>> “And if that's right, then if Sue is persuaded that a non-libertarian account of human agency is the best explanation of the data in the actual world, she lacks a basis for accepting Plantinga's TWD.”

It seems that we could suggest that while a non-libertarian account of human agency may appear to be the most plausible to Sue, viewing Plantinga’s TWD thesis as metaphysically possible is consistent with her beliefs. As long as libertarianism is considered to be metaphysically possible, doesn’t this give Plantinga what his defense needs, and Sue a defeater?

>> “Full disclosure: my interest in this issue is connected to a broader project of applying my account of modal epistemology to issues in philosophy of religion.”

I hope your pursuit of this project inspires some future posts. I'm interested to see the results of the application of your views.
exapologist said…
Hi Marc,

On my own account of our knowledge of metaphysical possibility, knowledge or justified belief with respect to what is metaphysically possible is grounded in knowledge or justified belief with respect to what is actual. But if so, then if belief in the possibility of libertarian agency isn't grounded in our knowledge or justified beliefs about the actual world, then belief in the metaphysical possibility of libertarian agency is unjustified.
exapologist said…
I hope your pursuit of this project inspires some future posts. I'm interested to see the results of the application of your views.

Thanks, Marc. I do indeed plan on doing so in future posts.
Marc said…
If Sue's defeater for the FWD is reliant upon the belief that libertarian agency is impossible, and Sally's defeater for Sue's FWD-defeater is reliant upon the belief that libertarian agency is possible, then I worry that Sue will be unable to secure warrant for her belief which is comparable to or in excess of Sally's warrant. Given the total available evidence, I'm uncertain whether Sue is justified in confidently believing that libertarianism is impossible, or is as justified as Sally. (My intuition here is partly motivated by the ostensible coherence of some accounts of libertarian agency. Another motivation is that we often seem inclined to take libertarianism to be the commonsense or pre-theoretical view of human agency.) For it seems to me that Sally's belief is probably epistemically more judicious, resting as it does on a possibility claim.

What do your intuitions tell you?
exapologist said…
Hi Marc,

I guess I'm not seeing how the FWD can function as a defeater for Sue's belief (that nothing can justify certain evils in the world) if it the FWD (Plantinga's TWD in particular) doesn't seem possible for her, but rather merely fails to seem impossible. Compare: Suppose I accepted Anselmian theism on the basis of Plantinga's modal ontological argument. It doesn't seem to me that my belief would be undercut by, say, failing to see that van Inwagen's knownos are impossible.

Now of course if Sue were convinced by argument that libertarian agency has a good chance of being true of actual agents, then that would provide decent grounds for accepting Plantinga's TWD (whatever's actual is possible, after all). But it seems to me that a number of atheists don't find libertarianism viable, and if Sue's like them, neither does she.
Marc said…
EA:

Just a couple of quick clarification questions, and some brief comments.

In the original construction of your scenario above, are we only evaluating Sue’s beliefs—whatever they may be—and how they influence her perception of Plantinga’s FWD? Or are we evaluating Sue’s beliefs and the reasons behind them, and how the conjunction of Sue’s reasons and beliefs influences her perception of Plantinga’s FWD?

If the former, then it seems to me that your scenario is asking us to consider but not (necessarily) appraise Sue’s epistemic situation. If the latter, then it seems to me that your scenario is asking us to consider and appraise Sue’s epistemic situation.

I welcome your correction if I’m misunderstanding you (as well as your forgiveness if I’m just being obtuse), but my impression is that you’ve generally been approaching the scenario from the former perspective, whereas I’ve generally been approaching it from the latter perspective.

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