Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Freewill and Evil


My friend Charlie (the picture is Al Plantinga, not Charlie -- Charlie's much better looking) has challenged me to defend Plantinga's Freewill Defense (FWD), a possible solution to the logical problem of evil (here is a really brief summary of the FWD), which is a little like asking Kuwait to defend the United States from invasion. So I'm replying to a post on his blog. Anyway, here are some thoughts -- sorry we're already in the middle of this discussion.

(Charlie wants to be sure I agree with the FWD)
Don't worry -- I agree with Plantinga, so this should be good grist for the mill.
OK, I'm thinking carefully about what you're saying, and it is very interesting. I need to re-read the essay myself.

One critical issue seems to be this idea of freedom. Let me introduce another important distinction -- possibility and feasibility. (I didn't make this up, it's a traditional way of understanding possible worlds and middle knowledge.)
Today I had pizza for lunch, which I think was a free choice. Now, there is a possible world in which I had Chinese for lunch today, given the exact same circumstances. It is possible only in the LOGICAL sense. I.e., talking about that world entails no logical contradictions -- saying "Chris was in circumstances C and freely chose Chinese food" does not violate logic. However, since in circumstances C, I actually chose pizza, that is what God foreknew. Therefore, even though the Chinese world was LOGICALLY possible for God, it was not FEASIBLE. In order to create the Chinese world, God would have to cause me to choose Chinese instead. This would no longer be a free choice on my part. With me so far?
OK. What I think Plantinga is saying is that a world in which Eve is in circumstances C and she freely chooses not to eat the fruit is LOGICALLY possible, but not feasible, since God knows that Eve will, in fact, freely eat. He cannot change that fact anymore than he can create a square circle.

So your beef is, why doesn't God just create a different world in which all the choices of all people are always good? I.e., God just needs to make sure all the "good" circumstances are in place to ensure this. This strikes me as an odd scenario.
Why? Let's use an analogy. Suppose I am the dictator of a 3rd world country, and I hold elections. I tell you, "Vote for whomoever you like." But on the ballot, there is only my name. This does not appear to be a genuinely free choice, since you could not have voted for anyone else.

Also, suppose that the whole point of the garden scenario is to give Adam and Eve an opportunity to choose to serve God freely. If God never gave them a genuine opportunity to say "no," then would their decision to serve him be free in any meaningful sense?

I think you have raised an interesting issue here, Charlie. Let's keep talking. Anyone who would like to join in the fray should feel free.

13 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

Great topic. So is it logically impossible for an agent to choose something that God didn't foreknow? In other words, is God's foreknowledge a causal necessity to actual events? I have my own views on this, but I am interested in hearing yours.

2:13 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Foreknowledge doesn't cause anything, any more than my knowledge that 2+2=4 causes it to be true, or my knowledge that my wife is at the store is causing her to be there.

Your first question is a bit tangled. I think many people misunderstand what it means for God to know the future. To put it simply, whatever you choose to do, that's what God foreknows. Your free choice makes God's foreknowledge true. If you freely choose differently, God's foreknowledge would have been different.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

So are you suggesting a compatabalist view of foreknowledge and free will or something closer to Molinism?

4:26 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Well, if you're going to get technical, I'm probably a Molinist. I think Plantinga is also, but I could be wrong about that. Are you studying philosophy?

5:23 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Yeah I'm a philosophy major, and a Christian to boot :) This topic really interests me b/c I think that it can be such a powerful apologetic if presented in the proper way. It has links to the argument for the best possible world being a world in which the "higher order" goods can be actualized. A world without free will is a world without love, which is the ultimate ethic.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

btw. I'm in fundamental agreement with your post and am sympathetic to the Molinist approach to freewill. I mean, even if it isn't totally Scripturally correct, Molina was a pretty ingenius fellow to come up with it. I am still trying to come to satisfactory answer in regards to the state of man's freewill after the Fall. I'm not sure as of yet. I always thought that Plantiga was somewhat reformed in his thinking, at least in his epistemology anyway. But I can't say for sure.

9:37 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Yes, he is reformed, but he has different ideas about a few things. Where are you going to school? I enjoyed checking out your blog -- how's your lung, by the way?

10:20 PM  
Blogger wiploc said...

Suppose we have two people with identical cars arguing about which car is lighter in color.

A: "Mine is lighter because it has a white roof."
B: "Mine is just as light. It has a white roof too."
A: "No, yours is darker because it has a blue body."
B: "Mine is exactly as light as yours, because yours has a blue body too."
A: "No, mine is light because the roof is white."
And so on.

Anybody can see the problem here. Person A makes claims, but instead of defending them, he always changes the subject. No progress can be made so long as he continues this evasive dodging back and forth.

Since we can all see what's wrong with A's tactics in the above discussion, I wonder why people have trouble seeing the problem in this one:

A: "Eve has free will because she passes the Pass Test."
B: "Then she'd have free will even if she hadn't sinned, because she would still pass the Pass Test."
A: "No, then she'd lack free will because she'd fail the Flunk Test."
B: "Well then sinful Eve also lacks free will, because she also fails the Flunk Test."
A: "No, sinful Eve passes the Pass Test, so she does have free will."

Chris, you don't have to persuade me that sinful Eve passes the Pass Test. Everybody does. And you don't have to persuade me that sinless Eve fails the Flunk Test. Everybody does. What I want to know is why you arbitrarily switch back and forth between the tests. You say Eve has free will if god creates a world in which her 31,023rd, 542,112th, and 200,000,007th choices will be sinful; but you say she lacks free will if god creates a world in which all of her choices will be sinless. That isn't logical. Why do you do it?

crc

10:32 AM  
Blogger chris said...

I think I see what you are getting at. Maybe we should define some terms. Action = an event in which an agent causes her body or mind to change in some way. Choice = an act of will in which there are at least two live options. Free choice = a choice, the origin of which, is solely determined by the agent. (A little sloppy, but we'll start there.) Non-free choice: a choice which determined by something other than the agent.

How do these sound?

12:40 PM  
Blogger wiploc said...

I think they're going to sound like this:

Chris: If Eve doesn't sin, then she doesn’t have free will because a [b]non-free choice[/b] is a choice determined by someone else, as god has clearly determined her decisions by creating (with foreknowledge) a world in which he knows she won't sin.

Wiploc: If Eve's choices are unfree when she doesn't sin, then they are unfree when she does sin. If we say that god determines Eve's choices in one case, we have to say that in the other too, because in both cases god knows every decision Eve will make in the whichever world he decides to create.

Chris: No, no. If Eve sins, her choices are [b]free choices determined entirely by herself.[/b] God's foreknowledge doesn't constrain Eve's choices, rather it is determined by her choices.

Wiploc: In that case, Sinless Eve's choices are as free as those of Sinful Eve. In neither case does god's foreknowledge constrain Eve's choices.

Chris: Ah, no, see that's where you're wrong. If Eve doesn't sin, then her choices are non-free because they are determined by god when he created (with foreknowledge) a world in which he knows she won't sin.

crc

4:13 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

I am a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and my lung is staying inflated quite nicely, thank you.
Wiploc, I'm afraid that I cannot understand your line of reasoning here with the Pass/Flunk test thing. Plantiga is arguing that it is logically impossible for God to have created a world in which men can ONLY freely choose good. (Plantiga: "Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely.")
In other words, it is a contradiction in terms to say that someone is free to do A or B, but that they can only choose B (see Chris's illustration of the 3rd world election in the post above). A world in which people can only choose good is a world of automatons where choice does not actually exist.
Also, another point that Plantiga makes is "the claim that it is possible that God could not have created a universe containing moral good without creating one that also contained moral evil. And if so, then it is possible that God has a good reason for creating a world containing evil." Notice that Plantiga does NOT say that it is possible that God COULD HAVE created a world in which only moral good existed, he onlys says that it is possible that God could have refrained from creating the world that presently exists. Since this world does exist, we can assume that God has good reasons for creating in the first place. For example, without the presence of evil and suffering such moral goods as courage, perseverance, patience, etc. could not have existed.

6:03 PM  
Blogger wiploc said...

Josh Wrote:
Wiploc, I'm afraid that I cannot understand your line of reasoning here with the Pass/Flunk test thing. Plantiga is arguing that it is logically impossible for God to have created a world in which men can ONLY freely choose good.


That's the Flunk Test. I don't mind if you use the Flunk Test, but you should be consistent about it.



Josh: (Plantiga: "Now God can create free creatures,

Not if we're using the Flunk Test. If we use the Flunk Test, god cannot create any free creatures, regardless of whether they sin. If we use the Flunk Test, then god's determination of what people will do (by choosing which world to create with full knowledge of the choices people will make in that world) denies them free will. It is of no relevence whether they always sin, never sin, sin only on Saturdays, sin at every third moral choice, or intersperce sinful and virtuous acts in patterns that seem to us random. If our test of free will is based on whether god determined our actions by choosing which world to create (with full knowledge of what actions we would choose in that world) then everybody flunks, and god cannot create any free-willed person.

Now, if you'd rather switch to the Pass Test, I don't mind. I only ask that you be consistent about it.



Still Josh quoting Plantinga: but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely.")

See, Plantinga used the Pass Test for six words, and then two-stepped right back to the Flunk Test.


Josh: In other words, it is a contradiction in terms to say that someone is free to do A or B, but that they can only choose B (see Chris's illustration of the 3rd world election in the post above). A world in which people can only choose good is a world of automatons where choice does not actually exist.

You never have to explain this to me, Josh. I don't agree with the Flunk Test, but I do understand it. The Flunk Test says that if god chooses people's choices for them by knowingly creating a world in which they will make exactly those choices, then they are not to be designated as having free will.



Josh: Also, another point that Plantiga makes is "the claim that it is possible that God could not have created a universe containing moral good without creating one that also contained moral evil.

This could distract us from the line of discussion that we're already invested in, so I won't follow it up at this time, beyond pointing out that you shouldn't take this position if you also accept the Moral Argument as evidence that god exists.


Josh: And if so, then it is possible that God has a good reason for creating a world containing evil."

Again, since this would distract us from the line we're already invested in, I'll not follow it up beyond pointing out that if you use "good" for whatever you're using it for here, then you'll need some other word for an antinym for "evil."



Notice that Plantiga does NOT say that it is possible that God COULD HAVE created a world in which only moral good existed, he onlys says that it is possible that God could have refrained from creating the world that presently exists.

According to Plantinga, god could have created any possible world. And he knew every detail of what would happen even in the impossible worlds. If it is your position that god isn't really omnipotent, that he was somehow restricted to a choice of Kronos (this particular world, the real world) or nothing, then I'll grant you that the PoE doesn't disprove the god you believe in. The PoE doesn't even address that god. Plantinga's FWD isn't about that god either.

crc

10:18 AM  
Blogger wiploc said...

Two Kinds of Free Will

There are two different things that we've been calling free will.

If we use the Flunk test, then nobody has free will if there is an omniscient creator. (Because that creator determined your choices for you by creating the universe in which he knew you would make exactly those choices.) Let us call this worthless kind of free will, "Plantingan free will."

(I say "worthless" because my situation is neither better nor worse for having or lacking this kind of free will. The FWD must fail if the suffering we experience is in payment for PFW (Plantingan free will). PFW is without value, so there is no sense in which it can be "good" that we suffer in exchange for it.)

The other kind of free will (Pass Test type) is what Chris described on my blog: "If you beleive in real, libertarian freedom, then foreknowledge is in no way incompatible with it. God's forknowledge is, in a sense, caused by your free choices, not the other way around. If God forwknows that you will scratch your head in 5 seconds, this could still be a free action. If you choose not to scratch your head, then God would foreknow that you do not scratch your head. Whatever you choose, that's what God foreknows." Let us call this Gadsonian free will (GFW). You have GFW if you make your choices freely, without constraint at the time you make them.

Upshot: Everybody has Gadsonian free will, regardless of whether there is a god, and regardless of whether we sin. But, if there was an omniscient creator, then nobody has Plantingan free will, regardless of whether they sin.

So the Free Will Two-Step can be represented like this:

A: Eve1 has Gadsonian free will.
B: So does Eve2.
A: No, Eve2 doesn't have Plantingan free will.
B: Neither does Eve1.
A: No wait, see, Eve1 does have free will, she has Gadsonian free will.

Eve1 would be the sinful Eve in the traditional free will two-step. But notice that A's argument is exactly as strong, exactly as logical and persuasive, if you switch it around and make Eve1 the sinless one. In fact, you could make it about blondes and brunettes, or about people with white car roofs and blue car bodies; the argument works exactly as well in all cases.

Josh, I hope I didn't sound curt or harsh when I said you don't have to convince me that sinful Eve has GFW or that sinless Eve doesn't have Plantingan free will. I hope I didn't, but I'm afraid I did. My point is that you and I agree (along with Chris and Plantinga and, presumably, everyone else who thinks about it) that sinful people have GFW and sinless people (if the omniscient creator existed) don't have PFW.

Since we are absolutely agreed on those points, it seems to me that we should direct our discussion either to whether sinful Eve has PFW and sinless Eve has GFW (if you happen to disagree with me on those points---which I don't see how you could) or to whether it is useful and proper to switch back and forth between definitions of free will in order to be able to pretend that one Eve has free will and the other doesn't.

wiploc

11:39 AM  

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