Friday, May 15, 2015

New Papers on Plantinga's Free Will Defense... the newest issue of IJPoR:

Otte (165–177, 2009) and Pruss (400–415, 2012) have produced counterexamples to Plantinga’s famous free will defence against the logical version of the problem of evil. The target of this criticism is the possibility of universal transworld depravity, which is crucial to Plantinga’s defence. In this paper, we argue that there is a simpler and more plausible free will defence that does not require the possibility of universal transworld depravity or the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. We assume only that libertarianism is possibly true and that God’s existence is consistent with the existence of free agents who never go wrong. We conclude the paper by explaining how our defence may be able to succeed without assuming , in a way that is consistent with compatibilism.

This paper argues against the sufficiency of Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense, as presented in God, freedom, and evil as a response to the logical problem of evil. I begin by introducing the fundamental issues present in the problem of evil and proceed to present Plantinga’s response. Next, I argue that, despite the argument’s wide acceptance in the field, a central notion to the defense, transworld depravity, is internally inconsistent and that attempts to resolve the problem would result in an abandonment of the original terms of the discussion. Finally, I consider some potential alternatives for a free will defense beyond the one presented by Plantinga and conclude that the logical problem of evil may have more worth as a philosophical topic than has been thought in recent years.

And if I should find a copy of these in my inbox...
UPDATE: Many thanks!


Rayndeon said...

The upshot of the first paper is pretty simple - given alternative possibilities, if a subject is free with respect to some action A, then there is a possible world identical up to the time of the choice where the agent performs A and another possible world identical up to the time of the choice where they perform ~A.

So, God can create saintly agents in that they never go wrong, although apparently he can't make transworldy saintly agents such that can't go wrong. So, suppose God makes a saintly agent such that it goes right with respect to A at time t - it does A. Then, there is another world identical up to the time of the choice such that the agent does ~A and hence goes wrong with respect to A. Since it's identical up to the time of the choice, it includes God's existence, so God's existence and the existence of moral evil are compatible.

I'm surprised the authors don't seem to be aware of Mike Almeida's work in this domain, where he has basically the same sort of idea in "Freedom, God, and Worlds" or in his recent Midwest Studies paper "The Logical Problem of Evil Regained." Roughly speaking, along similar lines, Almeida argues that it is impossible that necessarily God actualizes a morally perfect world (although he agrees that necessarily God can actualize one>, since if necessarily God actualizes a morally perfect world, no agent displays significant freedom with respect to their actions. Almeida then connects with his work in Freedom, God, and Worlds to argue that gratuitous evil is compatible with God's existence. But, as Peter Forrest noted in his NDPR review, this practically evacuates God's goodness as any kind of substantive notion, as it is compatible with anything whatsoever. So, perhaps Almeida (and by extension, Bernstein and Helm) have put forward a powerful defense against the PoE, but it may well be too powerful. See Almeida's own brief thoughts on the issue here:

I'll try to write up some additional worries I have for the first paper later.

Rayndeon said...

In addition, I'm not sure how this defense ties up with broader worries about the connection between alternative possibilities, God's freedom, and God's value. Presumably, God never goes wrong with respect to any action - but does this threaten his freedom or does it not? If it does threaten this freedom, then what is supposed to be the value of God creating free agents, when the being of ultimate metaphysical value himself lacks it? If on the other hand that it does not threaten it (one might try to motivate this with broadly source incompatibilist concerns which typically deny the Principle of Alternative Possibilities), then there's nothing incompatible with freedom and God necessarily creating saintly agents. Pruss has a paper on this issue, but I didn't find it too convincing.

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