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9/13/2017 4:49 pm  #1

A Sucessful sic Modal Disproof of God

A couple of years back I discussed a variant on the Modal Problem of Evil, the claim that since God exists in all possible worlds and God's existence is incompatible with gratuitous evil, it follows that gratuitous evil is not even possible - yet (so the atheist claims) we have reason to think that such evil scenarios are possible e.g. because we can clearly conceive them or arrive at them through subtracting elements of the actual world, thus God cannot exist in all possible worlds and thus does not exist period.

A number of potential replies were discussed, such as restricting possibility relations between worlds or giving up the claim that God was a necessary being, but the most common and satisfactory response seems to be just biting the bullet and countering that such worlds are in fact not possible afterall. On examination this claim looks more plausible: although we can 'visually conceive', 'build a logical picture', of a world containing X horrid scenario it's unlikely we can positively conceive of a world containing that scenario and nothing more. Likewise for a scenario to count as gratuitously evil on the Scholastic account (X is gratuitously evil if it contributes nothing to any being's flourishing') is rarer than would be first thought.

What if however the atheist was able to argue for a different kind of gratuitously evil scenario, one the possibility of which they could provide positive proof of. Richard Gale claims to do just this. His argument appeals a plausible background premise pertaining to free will.

Premise: Freedom entails the possibility to do otherwise i.e. if an agent freely chooses the good alternative out of two actions then it must be at least possible for them to chose the bad. In possible world terms this means this means there must be at least one possible world where the agent does chose the bad option. Let's call this the Principle of Logical Freedom.

Gale claims that the Principle of Logical Freedom proves the possibility of an evil world, a world where every free agent always performs immoral actions. Since the possibility of such a world is entailed by the nature of freedom it follows that there is a world incompatible with God, ergo God (as a necessary being) does not exist.

Comments: unlike the worlds of gratuitous evil the atheist attempts to support through conceivability/subtraction, which typically include scenarios of Natural Evil, Gale's proof pertains to Moral Evil. His atheistic argument is raised in the context of Plantinga's Free Will Defense which claims that God is justified in allowing a world where some beings chose to do wrong in order to actualise the greater good of their being free agents. Specifically Gale claims it will not do to appeal to some ad hoc positive variant on Transworld Depravity, Transworld Compassion shall we say, which claims each being in the course of its existence must perform at least one moral good action - Plantinga's position requires that the moral good of freedom far outway the occasional immoral actions on the part of agents. Obviues questions to ask would be whether all beings choising to do evil would be enough to qualify as a gratuitus evil on the Scholastic account.

Last edited by DanielCC (9/13/2017 4:52 pm)


9/13/2017 6:08 pm  #2

Re: A Sucessful sic Modal Disproof of God

There are a few things which need to be said to address this issue. First of all, the modal disproof you discuss (MD) presupposes a view of free will in which God cannot ensure that there is some moral good in the world. This presupposition assumes a strong version of libertarian free will which is at odds with both the Molinist and traditional Thomist conception of God's causality. That said, it is a view of free will which is plausible and popular in contemporary circles so I think the MD is still worth addressing.

Second, let us imagine the alleged possible world in which every agent always does moral evil, call it PWE. The presence of moral evil in PWE is either compatible with the existence of God (precisely, a good God), or it is not. If it is compatible, then no issue arises for the theist. Just as with any attempt at the problem of evil, if the evil in the world is compatible with God's goodness, it cannot be used as an argument against the existence of God. PWE may be compatible with God's goodness if a sufficiently strong version of the free will defense is used. (e.g. God is justified in creating creatures who can always freely choose the wrong because free will is such a good thing etc.)

On the other hand, we may be inclined to think that PWE is incompatible with the existence of a perfectly good God. In that case, the problem can be dealt with the same way the older modal problem of evil can be dealt with. We may simply opt to say that PWE is not a possible world.

Now, you may think that this move is not an option if we opt for the view of free will presented in 'Premise' since assuming that free will requires the ability to do otherwise (or more precisely, to choose wrongly) means that it is possible that humans always choose evil. But this isn't quite right. It doesn't take into account the background information.

If it is true that PWE is a world which is so bad that a good God has no reason to permit the evil in it (and thus no reason to allow it to be actual), then it follows that if God exists, and he gives us free will, there is some point of moral evil at which God acts to ensure that PWE is not actualized (e.g. by taking away our free will or whatever else God chooses to do). You may be worried that this would go against the assumption of the free will defense, i.e. that God has good reason to give us free will. But in that case, you should either say that (a) PWE is in fact compatible with God's goodness given the free will defense or (b) the free will defense only justifies God in permitting a certain level of moral evil, PWE is beyond that level and consequently PWE is incompatible with God's goodness. But in that case, we need not say that God does not exist, but we can say instead that PWE is impossible on account of the fact that a good God exists who has irresistable motivation to prevent it from being actual.


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