Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Free Will Defense and Divine Command Theory: A Tension?

A common line of reasoning in response to the problem of evil is (very roughly) that free will is an exceedingly great good, but God can't give us this good without thereby preventing the possibility of our misusing it and causing evil in the world. My concern at the moment is not whether the free will defense is a successful defeater for the problem of evil, but rather whether it fits well with another common element in a popular theistic view of meta-ethics, viz., divine command theory. 

To see the worry, start with a crude version of divine command theory, according to which all moral properties, including both moral values and moral duties are grounded in God's decrees. On such a view, God can confer moral value on anything he likes by mere decree, in which case free will isn't intrinsically valuable, in which case God's ability to bring about the greatest goods is dependent upon creating creatures with free will, in which case the free will defense looks to be in big trouble.

One might reply that the problem for free will raised above can be avoided by appealing to a more sophisticated version of divine command theory, such as the modified version developed and defended by Robert Adams and others. However, it's not at all clear that this will be of help to the theist. For while it's true that moral value and moral worth doesn't depend upon God's will, it does depend upon God's nature, where something has moral worth or moral goodness just to the extent that it resembles God's nature. But the problem is that God doesn't have the kind of free will in play in the free will defense. This is because God is essentially morally perfect, in which case there is no possible world at which God freely does something morally wrong. But if that's right, then the kind of free will attributed to humans in the free will defense doesn't resemble the kind of agency had by God. In fact, Adams-style modified divine command theory seems to have the implication that creatures with a kind of will incapable of performing morally wrong actions have greater moral value or worth than creatures that are capable of performing them. And if that's right, then the free will defense looks to be in just as much trouble when conjoined with divine command theory as it does when paired with the crude version of divine command theory.

New Paper on Modal Fictionalism and the Ontological Argument

Ted Parent offers a powerful critique of the modal ontological argument in his paper, "The Modal Ontological Argument Meets Modal Fictionalism", Analytic Philosophy (forthcoming). Here is the abstract:
This paper attacks the modal ontological argument, as advocated by Plantinga among others. Whereas other criticisms in the literature reject one of its premises, the present line is that the argument is invalid. This becomes apparent once we run the argument assuming fictionalism about possible worlds. Broadly speaking, the problem is that if one defines “x” as something that exists, it does not follow that there is anything satisfying the definition. Yet unlike non-modal ontological arguments, the modal argument commits this “existential fallacy” not in relation to the definition of ‘God’. Rather, it occurs in relation to the modal facts quantified over within a Kripkean modal logic. In brief, we can describe the modal facts by whichever logic we prefer—yet it does not follow that there are genuine modal facts, as opposed to mere facts-according-to-the-fiction. A broader consequence of the discussion is that the existential fallacy is an issue for many projects in “armchair metaphysics.”

The penultimate draft can be found here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Levey's Important New Paper on PSR

Levey Samuel. "The Paradox of Sufficient Reason", The Philosophical Review 125:3 (July 2016), pp. 397-430.

Here's the abstract:
It can be shown by means of a paradox that, given the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), there is no conjunction of all contingent truths. The question is, or ought to be, how to interpret that result: Quid sibi velit? A celebrated argument against PSR due to Peter van Inwagen and Jonathan Bennett in effect interprets the result to mean that PSR entails that there are no contingent truths. But reflection on parallels in philosophy of mathematics shows it can equally be interpreted either as a proof that there are “too many” contingent truths to combine in a single conjunction or as a proof that the concept contingent truth is indefinitely extensible and there is no such thing as “all contingent truths.” Either interpretation would reconcile PSR with contingent truth, but the natural rationales of those interpretations are at odds. This essay argues that the second interpretation is a more satisfactory explanation of why, if PSR is true, there should be no conjunction of all contingent truths. This sheds new light on the nature of the explanatory demand embedded in PSR and uncovers a number of surprising implications for the commitments of rationalism.
Required reading.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two New Objections to the Fine-Tuning Argument

Rough draft:
First objection: Necessarily, nothing can create concrete objects ex nihilo. So the posterior probability of the fine-tuning of the universe of concrete objects on the hypothesis that the god of classical theism both (i) designed it and (ii) ultimately created it ex nihilo is nil. But according to classical theism, for any world W containing concrete objects, God ultimately created the concrete objects in W ex nihilo. Therefore, classical theism entails that God ultimately creates ex nihilo any world containing concrete objects he designs. Therefore, the posterior probability of fine-tuning on the hypothesis of classical theism is nil.

Second objectionThere are final causes in God's nature that are ontologically prior to his intelligent agency. For example, God's intellect and will work together to perform various functions, such as designing and creating things.  God's life is also meaningful and purposeful according to classical theism. On classical theism, therefore, final causes are built into God's nature without a prior cause. But if that's right, then classical theism entails the existence of final causes at the metaphysical ground floor that God cannot create. And if that's right, then theism entails that non-conscious teleology is a more fundamental feature of reality than teleology caused by intelligence. And if that's right, then we'd expect base-level teleology in the universe that's not caused by God on the hypothesis of theism. Therefore, absent a further reason for thinking cosmic fine-tuning isn't expected unless caused by a divine fine-tuner, cosmic fine-tuning doesn't confirm theism vis-a-vis naturalism.

Toward a Plausible Framework for Doing Philosophy of Religion


I've argued that no divine personal agent that's wholly distinct from the natural world of concrete objects has the capacity to serve as the ultimate ground of abstract objects, concrete objects, final causes, or objective moral duties.  Now suppose I'm right about that. Then either some of these things (e.g., final causes and objective moral duties) derive from more fundamental entities, or they don't. If they do, then as we've seen, no divine personal agent that's wholly distinct from the natural world of concrete objects serves as their ultimate ground.  If they don't, then the world is chock full of eternal, uncreated entities of the sort listed above -- abstract objects, concrete objects, final causes, and objective moral values, in which case no divine personal agent that's wholly distinct from the natural world serves as their ultimate ground.  Either disjunct leaves many interesting candidates within the space of epistemic possibilities -- e.g. pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, Spinozism, demiurgism, etc. However, one historically important candidate has been ruled out, viz., the god of classical theism. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Theism, Naturalism, and Final Causes

There is a long tradition in theistic philosophy of religion of appealing to God as the ultimate ground or architect of final causes -- of purpose, plan, and function -- found in nature. A key rationale behind this appeal is that final causes have an intelligent source as part of their nature or essence. This rationale appears to be at work in a wide range of arguments for God. Examples include design arguments, arguments from reason, arguments from intentionality, and arguments from life-meaning and purpose. 

Here's the rub: There are final causes in God's nature that are ontologically prior to his intelligent agency. For example, God's intellect and will work together to perform various functions, such as designing and creating things.  God's life is also meaningful and purposeful according to classical theism. On classical theism, therefore, final causes are built into God's nature without a prior cause. But if that's right, then classical theism entails the existence of final causes at the metaphysical ground floor that God cannot create. And if that's right, then theism entails base-level final causes that do not require intention. 

The moral: Theism entails that non-conscious teleology is a more fundamental feature of reality than teleology caused by intelligence, in which case it's not at all clear why base-level final causes are problematic for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Contrarian Philosophy of Religion Assertion Wednesday

Theism entails that non-conscious teleology is more fundamental to reality than teleology caused by intelligence.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Contrarian Philosophy of Religion Assertion Tuesday

On classical theism, purpose is built into God's nature without a prior cause, in which case classical theism entails the existence of purpose that God cannot create at the metaphysical ground floor, in which case theism entails purpose that doesn't require intention -- and indeed, that non-conscious teleology is more fundamental than teleology caused by intelligence --, in which case it's not clear why purpose in the universe without intention is problematic for naturalism.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Summer 2016 Issue of the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion...

...is out, and looks to be a great read. It contains a book symposium on Metz'  Meaning in Life, as well as articles on a host of other topics.

New Issue of Philo

Here. The table of contents is below to whet your appetite.


Dan Flores, Correlations and Conclusions: Neuroscience and the Belief in God
Mark Glouberman, ‘O God, O Montreal!’: Secularity and Turbo-Charged Humanism

Mark Glouberman, ‘O God, O Montreal!’: Secularity and Turbo-Charged Humanism

Tony Houston, Renaissance Humanism: Obscurantist Impieties

R. Zachary Manis, The Problem of Epistemic Luck for Naturalists

Steve Petersen, A Normative Yet Coherent Naturalism

CP Ruloff, Against Mind-Dependence

Lawrence Torcello, On the Virtues of Inhospitality: Toward an Ethics of Public Reason and Critical Engagement

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