Thursday, 3 July 2014

Plantinga's Free Will Defence

This is about the Logical Problem of Evil, and Plantinga's "Free Will Defence". I am drawing largely from this web page, and quotes come from there:

Logical Problem of Evil

The page kind of summarises the Logical Problem of Evil in this claim:
(18) It is not morally permissible for God to allow evil and suffering to occur unless he has a morally sufficient reason for doing so.
The issue then is that either there is some such reason or God cannot exist, and Plantinga invokes free will as that reason.

Morally Significant Free Will

Plantinga holds that people have a morally significant free will - that is, they can choose good actions and they can choose bad actions (which, incidentally God cannot, so by this argument God does not have morally significant free will). I am not sure where I stand on the free will issue, but I certainly cannot show Plantinga is wrong, and all Plantinga needs is the possibility he is right, so I will assume morally significant free will exists.

But does it have value?
God’s creation of persons with morally significant free will is something of tremendous value. God could not eliminate much of the evil and suffering in this world without thereby eliminating the greater good of having created persons with free will with whom he could have relationships and who are able to love one another and do good deeds.

There are a few assumptions in there.

Assumption 1: Only a being with morally significant free will is capable of having a relationship with God
Assumption 2: Only a being with morally significant free will is capable of loving another such being
Assumption 3: Only a being with morally significant free will is capable of doing a good deed
Assumption 4: The capacity to do these things is more important than preventing suffering

I can see no reason to suppose any of those are true. However, I concede that they might be, so it is still possible that Plantinga's argument works.

Impossible? No!

We need to quickly consider omnipotent. Plantinga claims that an omnipotent god is still limited; he cannot do the logically impossible. This is important to note as it does then restrict the type of universe God can create. This is entirely reasonable, as far as I can see.

From there, Plantinga's argument requires that it be logically impossible for God to create a world with free will and with no evil. Okay, so I grant that God cannot do it if it is logically impossible, but I ask; What about heaven?

Obviously there is no evil in heaven, thus, if Plantinga is right, then logically there is no free will in heaven. And therefore those in heaven cannot have a relationship with God, cannot love one another, cannot do good deeds (remember the assumptions above).

A False Dichotomy

So how does morally significant free will means that there must be evil? From the web page:
If God is going to causally determine people in every situation to choose what is right and to avoid what is wrong in W3, there is no way that he could allow them to be free in a morally significant sense. Peterson (1998, p. 39) writes,
if a person is free with respect to an action A, then God does not bring it about or cause it to be the case that she does A or refrains from doing A. For if God brings it about or causes it to be the case in any manner whatsoever that the person either does A or does not do A, then that person is not really free.

God can’t have it both ways. He can create a world with free creatures or he can causally determine creatures to choose what is right and to avoid what is wrong every time; but he can’t do both. God can forcibly eliminate evil and suffering (as in W2) only at the cost of getting rid of free will.
The argument would seem to be that either God gives us complete free will to do as we like, or he "is going to causally determine people in every situation". And this is where, to me, it all falls down. For me there is a middle ground - God gives us free will, but he steps in occasionally. He steps in just before the rapist attacks, just before the terrorists strike, he alerts people just before the tsunami strikes.

Does that stop people having morally significant free will? I do not think it does. It stops the rapist at that moment, yes, but if God does nothing, the rapist's victim losses her free will. Warning about an impending tsunami gives people choices - enhancing their free will.

Further, the Bible specifically claims that God does just this! Throughout scripture we see examples of God intervening occasionally, and so it is especially baffling that Plantinga has ignored this possibility.

Plantinga argument would seem to be founded on a false dichotomy, and that would seem to break it.

Natural Evil

So far, this can only explain moral evil, but Plantinga claims it applies to natural evil too. Natural disasters are not in themselves evil, of course, as they have no sense of morality. Natural evil is God allowing (or causing) then to happen.

Plantinga claims natural evil could be due to demons (from here):
Plantinga extends the Free Will Defense to natural evil by holding that it is possible that all natural evil (destructive floods and earthquakes, for example) is really moral evil, because it is possible that it is evil resulting from the free actions of non-human agents, namely, Satan and his minions.
What Plantinga is doing is saying there is no natural evil, as intelligent being with morally significant free will are the root cause of all evil, and he has, he claims, already solved that.

So the claim is that God desires for Satan and his minions to have free will. Remember, the first reason cited for God giving free will to people was that he "created persons with free will with whom he could have relationships and who are able to love one another and do good deeds". Are we to suppose that God does not stop Satan because he wants a relationship with Satan? Or so Satan can love us? Or so Satan can perform good deeds?

I find that somewhat implausible, to say the least.

But it gets worse. Plantinga's argument might be fine for early Christians, but nowadays we have this thing called science. We know earthquakes are due to plate tectonics, we know diseases are due to viruses, etc.

We know that natural evil is due to how the universe is. If it was created by God, then natural evil is here because of how he chose to create the universe.

Significantly, Plantinga is not claiming that natural evil is due to demons, he is only claiming that it is a possibility. Technically, that is all he needs. But when his argument rests on a claim that he does not believe is true himself, I am going to reject it as wholy implausible, even if possible.

I guess we can summarise then:

It is possible for an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good God to exist and to allow evil in the world, but only if we assume that all natural disasters are caused by demons that God allows to gave free will so that they can relationships with him, to love one another and to do good deeds.

Once the false dichotomy is explained, anyway.

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