A History of the Free Will Defense (bibliography)

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 17, 2010 in Alvin Plantinga,Free Will,Problem of Evil,Resources

god freedom and evilAlvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense (FWD) to the logical problem of evil is a major accomplishment in 20th century philosophy of religion. The literature on it is vast, and it is often misunderstood, but now even leading atheists like J.L. Mackie and William Rowe have conceded that it defeats the atheist’s oldest, greatest weapon: the logical argument from evil against theism.

Still, there remains significant debate over the merits of the FWD. In 2009, Richard Otte found a problem with the FWD (which Plantinga admits) that went undetected for 35 years in one of the most widely read contemporary works of philosophy of religion. Moreover, some philosophers have attempted to reformulate the logical argument from evil in ways that dodge the FWD. So perhaps the logical argument from evil is not as dead as some suppose.

Here is an annotated bibliography on the Free Will Defense, with works listed chronologically. Please tell me what I’m missing, and share your thoughts on any of the papers listed here.

I have not given page numbers and other details. For that, please consult The Oracle.

*UNDER CONSTRUCTION*


As a historical survey of (and response to) free will defenses to the problem of evil, Flew’s article is an ideal starting place for this history of the free will defense.

The strongest classical formulation of the logical problem of evil, against which the Free Will Defense is usually positioned. But even this version contained weaknesses that Plantinga himself fixed in, for example, chapter 5 of God and Other Minds (before then offering the free will defense against it).

  • Plantinga, “Free Will Defense” in Philosophy in America (1965).

This is the first appearance of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. An expanded version of this article appears as chapter 6 of God and Other Minds.

  • Plantinga, “The Free Will Defense” in God and Other Minds (1967).

The most well-known presentation of the Free Will Defense prior to The Nature of Necessity in 1974.

  • Dore, “Plantinga on the Free Will Defence” in Review of Metaphysics (1970).
  • Plantinga, “The Incompatibility of Freedom with Determinism, a Reply” in Philosophical Forum (1970).

Here Plantinga explains the types of worlds God could not have actualized, despite his omnipotence – a central point of the Free Will Defense. This article also contains Plantinga’s first mention of “transworld depravity.”

  • Windt, “Plantinga’s Unfortunate God” in Philosophical Studies (1973).
  • Steuer, “Once More on the Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (1974).
  • Walton, “Modalities in the Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (1974).
  • Lomasky, “Are Compatibilism and the Free Will Defence Compatible?” in Personalist (1975).
  • Kane, “The Free-Will Defence Defended” in New Scholasticism (1976).
  • Sterba, “God, Plantinga and a Better World” in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (1976).
  • Walton, “Principles of Interpersonal Agency in the Free Will Defence” in Bijdragen (1976).
  • Purtill, “Flew and the Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (1977).

The first 59 pages constitute the best introduction to the Free Will Defense available, perhaps even for those unfamiliar with philosophy of religion.

  • Barnhart, “Theodicy and the Free Will Defence: Response to Plantinga and Flew” in Religious Studies (1977).
  • McGuiness & Tomberlin, “God, Evil and the Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (1977).
  • Boer, “The Irrelevance of the Free Will Defence” in Analysis (1978).
  • Burch, “Plantinga and Leibniz’s Lapse” in Analysis (1979).
  • Tooley, “Alvin Plantinga and the Argument From Evil” in Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1980).
  • Feinberg, “And the Atheist Shall Lie down withthe Calvinist: Atheism, Calvinism, andthe Free Will Defence” in Trinity Journal (1980).
  • Basinger, “Christian Theism and the Free Will Defence” in Sophia (1980).
  • Basinger, “Must God Create the Best Possible World?: A Response” in International Philosophical Quarterly (1980).
  • Anderson, “Plantinga and the Free Will Defence” in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (1981).
  • Horban, God, evil, and the metaphysics of freedom: an evaluation of the free will defense of Alvin Plantinga (1981).

Horban’s Ph.D. thesis for the University of Western Ontario…

  • Paulsen, “Divine Determinateness and the Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (1981).
  • Reichenbach, “The Deductive Argument from Evil” in Sophia (1981).
  • Ackermann, “An Alternative Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (1982).
  • Dilley, “A Modified Flew Attack on the Free Will Defence” in Southern Journal of Philosophy (1982).
  • Dilley, “Is the Free Will Defence Irrelevant” in Religious Studies (1982).
  • Basinger, “Anderson on Plantinga: A Response” in Philosophy Research Archives (1982).
  • Basinger, “Divine Determinatedness and the Free Will Defence: Some Clarifications” in Philosophy Research Archives (1982).
  • Gordon, “Paulsen on the Free Will Defence” in Analysis (1983).
  • Kondoleon, “More on the Free Will Defence” in Thomist (1983).
  • Flint, “Divine Sovereignity and the Free Will Defence” in Sophia (1984).
  • Adams, “Plantinga on the Problem of Evil” in Alvin Plantinga (1985).
  • Davis, “The Problem of Evil in Recent Philosophy” in Review and Expositor (1985).
  • O’Connor, “On Natural Evil’s Being Necessary for Free Will” in Sophia (1985).
  • Russell, “Davis’ Free Will Defence: an exposition and critique” in Encounter (1986).
  • Myers, “Free Will and the Problem of Evil” in Religious Studies (1987).
  • O’Connor, “A Variation on the Free Will Defence” in Sophia (1987).
  • Schrader, “Evil and the best of possible worlds” in Sophia (1988).
  • Plantinga, “The Problems of Evil and the Free-Will Defence” in Reformed Journal (1988).
  • Swinburne, “The Free Will Defence” in Arch Filosof (1988).
  • Aspenson, “Reply to O’Connor’s ‘A Variation of the Free Will Defence’” in Faith and Philosophy (1989).
  • Humber, “Response to Gale’s “Freedom and the Free Will Defence” in Social Theory and Practice (1990).
  • Markham, “Hume Revisited: a Problem with the Free Will Defence” in Modern Theology (1991).
  • Jordan, “The Doctrine of Conservation and Free Will Defence” in Canadian Journal of Philosophy (1992).
  • Monasterio, “Plantinga and the Two Problems of Evil” in Lyceum (1992).
  • Ingraham, “Why Plantinga’s Free Will Defence Cannot Be Expanded into a Theodicy” in Sophia (1994).
  • Calef, “Angels and Evil” in Sophia (1995).

O’Connor develops a ‘reformed’ logical argument from evil supposedly immune to Plantinga’s free will defense, but also aimed at a broader concept of theism O’Connor calls ‘orthodox theism.’

Howard-Snyder argues that while O’Connor’s ‘reformed logical argument’ from evil successfully overcomes defenses from Swinburne and Schlesinger, O’Connor misunderstands Plantinga’s free will defense and therefore does not defeat it.

Yes, in this paper the preeminent atheist philosopher William Rowe defends Plantinga’s Free Will Defense against the criticisms of theistic philosophers Daniel Howard-Snyder and John O’Leary-Hawthorne .

  • Nash, “The Deductive Problem of Evil” in Stimulus (1998).
  • Nash, “A Further Look at the Problem of Evil” in Stimulus (1998).
  • Bergmann, “Might-Counterfactuals, Transworld Untrustworthiness and Plantinga’s Free Will Defence” in Faith and Philosophy (1999).
  • Stretton, “The Moral Argument from Evil” at Internet Infidels.
  • Perszyk, “Compatibilism and the Free Will Defence: A Reply to Bishop” in Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1999).
  • Zycinski, “God, Freedom, and Evil: Perspectives from Religion and Science” in Zygon (2003).
  • Chambers, “The Free Will Defense: Do the Ends Justify the Means” in Philosophia Christi (2003).
  • Zimmerman, “Richard Gale and the Free Will Defence” in Philo (2003).
  • Pruss, “A New Free Will Defence” in Religious Studies (2003).
  • Wielenberg, “A Morally Unsurpassable God Must Create the Best” in Religious Studies (2004).
  • Oppy, “Logical Arguments from Evil” in Arguing About Gods (2006).

Santrac rejects Plantinga’s Free Will Defense as philosophically problemmatic and also unbiblical, and offers an alternative defense to the logical problem of evil: the Great Conflict Theory.

Here, Ric Otte shows that Plantinga’s concept of Transworld Depravity is necessarily false. Oops!

Plantinga fixes up his account of Transworld Depravity by calling upon time, and also responds to Howard-Snyder and O’Leary-Hawthorne.

  • Pereboom, “Free Will, Evil, and Divine Providence” in God and the Ethics of Belief: New Essays in Philosophy of Religion (2009).

Plantinga deploys the modal semantics developed in the earlier chapters of The Nature of Necessity to reformulate the Free Will Defense into its standard and most-discussed form. This is the Free Will Defense, right here.

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh April 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

Biggest problem with free will defense: free will doesn’t exist.

  (Quote)

Silver Bullet April 17, 2010 at 11:50 am

Wow Luke.

Thanks for all of this – really appreciate the PDFs.

SB

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

Josh,

Yes, but is it logically impossible?

Some have argued so, but I’m not sure.

  (Quote)

Michael April 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

What exactly was this mistake tha went unnoticed? I’ve heard of the confusion it causes under Calvinism, as Pruss commented on it recently. Woul love to gear if there was something else as well.

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Josh: Biggest problem with free will defense: free will doesn’t exist.

Then neither does evil. Problem solved?

  (Quote)

John D April 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm

What exactly was this mistake tha went unnoticed? I’ve heard of the confusion it causes under Calvinism, as Pruss commented on it recently. Woul love to gear if there was something else as well.  

Otte argues that transworld depravity is necessarily false.

  (Quote)

Shane Steinhauser April 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

The free will defense is an appeal to the possible. Appeals to the possible can defend practically *ANYTHING*.

Example One: Your honor I know you have DNA evidence on my client but it’s possible that the cops planted the evidence therefore you have not proven him to be guilty.

Example Two: Sure nobody worships Zeus anymore but it’s possible that Zeus really exists and all this lack of paganism is just part of his divine plan.

Example Three: It’s possible that Socrates is not a man but a robot. Therefore Socrates is not mortal.

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Shane,

Remember that Plantinga’s FWD is a response to the atheist claim that it is impossible that God exists if evil exists. In that case, an appeal to the possible is quite appropriate. Plantinga has written separately on probabilistic arguments from evil, as have many others.

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks April 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Then neither does evil.

The non-existence of evil if you reject libertarian free will only makes sense if you A) are an incompatibilist B) ignore natural evils, and C) narrowly define evil as “morally evil actions.”

So if free will is shown to be an incoherent concept, it doesn’t follow that there is no problem of evil.

  (Quote)

DoAtheistsExist? April 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Luke, what do you think of the Great Conflict Theory?

  (Quote)

Beelzebub April 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance of formal philosophy here but how can Plantinga define FW as person S arbitrarily choosing to act or refraining to act under the same state U of the universe:


Consider the state U of the universe up
to the time he takes or decides to take the action in question. If S is free with
respect to that action, then it is causally or naturally possible both that U hold
and S take (or decide to take) the action, and that U hold and S refrain from
it.

while at the same time we can segue to William Lane Craig stating that whatever exists must have a cause. An action is a metaphysical entity that exists, therefore it must have a cause, but this then contradicts the idea of “free will,” which by definition is an uncaused action. ???

Apologies if this is an inane question, but I’d actually appreciate it if someone could tell me what’s what.

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 17, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Hi Justfinethanks. You wrote:

The non-existence of evil if you reject libertarian free will only makes sense if you A) are an incompatibilist B) ignore natural evils, and C) narrowly define evil as “morally evil actions.”

So if free will is shown to be an incoherent concept, it doesn’t follow that there is no problem of evil.  

Well, Josh can clarify if he meant he rejected only libertarian free will. I took his statement to be without clarification, since he didn’t include any.

A) Perhaps. But I think compatibilists have a very tall mountain to climb explaining how there can be a concept of “ought” associated with a completely determined state of affairs. I’ve never been able to make much sense of compatibilism myself, for that reason.

B) What do you think is a natural evil? Tornados are bad, sure – but do they murder people? Is the earthquake wrong (ie, has it committed a punishable offense) for destroying my house? I’m inclined to think that either “natural evil” is a miscategorization, or at least think it’s possible that they are part of all feasible worlds.

C) What else did you have in mind?

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I don’t know, I haven’t read it. I spoke with the author; that’s how I know about it.

  (Quote)

exapologist April 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm

It’s important to avoid conflating logical, epistemic, and metaphysical possibilities here, in order to keep sight of what Plantinga has established (at most). At most, Plantinga has shown that it’s logically and epistemically possible that God and evil coexist. However, this is compatible with it being metaphysically impossible that God and evil coexist.

Now Plantinga’s result is certainly interesting and important (but see the paper by Otte that JohnD mentioned above, and Plantinga’s concession to Otte in his reply), but it’s not quite what is often implied by apologists, viz., that Plantinga has shown that there is a genuinely metaphysically possible world at which God and evil coexist.

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks April 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

B) What do you think is a natural evil?

I’m thinking about the existence of things like carnivores, parasites, and viruses, things that necessarily have to induce an incredible amount of suffering in order to support their existence. No, a parasite is not committing a morally evil act by attaching to a host, but the existence of a part of natural world that actively works towards increasing suffering I would count as a “natural evil,” and would exist regardless of whether or not contra causal free will is true.

C) What else did you have in mind?

Unnecessary suffering, I suppose. Under this definition, though, a person need not commit a morally wrong act in order to create “evil.” For example, breaking up with someone may be morally neutral, but the end result may create “evil” in the form of agonizing heartbreak.

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

exapologist,

Has anyone claimed to have shown that it is indeed metaphysically impossible for God and evil to coexist?

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Hi EA:

It’s important to avoid conflating logical, epistemic, and metaphysical possibilities here, in order to keep sight of what Plantinga has established (at most). At most, Plantinga has shown that it’s logically and epistemically possible that God and evil coexist. However, this is compatible with it being metaphysically impossible that God and evil coexist.

I think that’s very well said. Don’t you think, though, that one would have to refute the FWD as part of the project to demonstrate such a metaphysical impossibility?

Luke: I should have said this in my first comment, but thanks for pulling all this together.

  (Quote)

exapologist April 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

@Luke:
Well, there’s J.L. Mackie!

@Thomas Reid:
Yes, you’re right: they would. My point is just to clarify that Plantinga’s FWD functions as an undercutting, and not a rebutting, defeater for the logical POE.

  (Quote)

Landon Hedrick April 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Hey Luke,

I had a brief opportunity to talk with Keith DeRose a few hours ago after he gave a talk here for a conference. One of the things I asked him was whether or not he thought the logical problem of evil was dead, and he said that despite the fact that many theists think that Plantinga pounded the nails in that argument’s coffin, he doesn’t think so.

I’m going to a party in a little while so I might be able to ask him if he’d be willing to do your podcast.

  (Quote)

Michael April 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance of formal philosophy here but how can Plantinga define FW as person S arbitrarily choosing to act or refraining to act under the same state U of the universe:

Consider the state U of the universe up
to the time he takes or decides to take the action in question. If S is free with
respect to that action, then it is causally or naturally possible both that U hold
and S take (or decide to take) the action, and that U hold and S refrain from
it.
while at the same time we can segue to William Lane Craig stating that whatever exists must have a cause. An action is a metaphysical entity that exists, therefore it must have a cause, but this then contradicts the idea of “free will,” which by definition is an uncaused action. ???

This basically means that if determinism is not true, and that S can really choose between A and B at a givent time t in the state of affairs U… On determinism, it would not be possible for S to refrain from A, or to choose A over B, because this “choice” was determined by the state of affairs U, or at least all prior events.

To Craig:
First and foremost, he NEVER says “Everything must have a cause.” Rather, he says that “anything that begins to exist has a cause.” The Contingency argument says that “Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.” This can be a cause, making that object contingent, or necessary, as this is an explanation. In both cases, God does not qualify as needing a cause or being contingent, at least the Christian concept of God.

Second, free will is the cause, and the action is that which is caused. Free will is not an “uncaused action,” but rather “the art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.” It’s not really an entity in and of itself, though the “will” may be, just as a causal relation is not an entity. For example, it is a category mistake to see a car rear end another, and ask where exactly the “crash” is. The crash “is” the the rear ending the other. It is not separate. The cause of the “crash” was that one car hit another, and this is not an entity at all. This is not to say that there was not a cause of the car rear ending the other.

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Justfinethanks, as a working definition of “natural evil”, you wrote:

I’m thinking about the existence of things like carnivores, parasites, and viruses, things that necessarily have to induce an incredible amount of suffering in order to support their existence. No, a parasite is not committing a morally evil act by attaching to a host, but the existence of a part of natural world that actively works towards increasing suffering I would count as a “natural evil,” and would exist regardless of whether or not contra causal free will is true.

I think what you’re saying here is that these things are evil in virtue of the suffering or harm felt by the affected party, but not by anything inherent in the act. Is that right? If so then I would say that it’s hard to see how those things are actually evil if there is no freedom whatsoever (say, not even God is free). Harmful, yes, but evil? Doesn’t evil imply that a certain thing ought not to have occurred? If there is no freedom, does it make sense to talk about states of affairs not just in the sense of how they could have been, but also how they should have been?

Regarding those things which could be evil, but just not “morally evil actions”, you gave the following definition:

Unnecessary suffering, I suppose. Under this definition, though, a person need not commit a morally wrong act in order to create “evil.” For example, breaking up with someone may be morally neutral, but the end result may create “evil” in the form of agonizing heartbreak

I would have a hard time thinking of something like that as “evil”, if the person truly didn’t do anything wrong. My response above would also apply here as well, since there’s really no way to see how things should have been different if no one had a choice in the matter.

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Landon,

Cool.

  (Quote)

Hermes April 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Biggest problem with free will defense: free will doesn’t exist.

Biggest problem with free will defense: if you don’t have free will, how would you know?

  (Quote)

Shane Steinhauser April 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Luke,

Where can I read about these responses to probabilistic arguments from evil?

  (Quote)

rvkevin April 17, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Justfinethanks, as a working definition of “natural evil”, you wrote:
I think what you’re saying here is that these things are evil in virtue of the suffering or harm felt by the affected party, but not by anything inherent in the act.Is that right?If so then I would say that it’s hard to see how those things are actually evil if there is no freedom whatsoever (say, not even God is free).Harmful, yes, but evil?  

Failure to act to stop the suffering caused by natural events can still be considered evil. Let’s say you’re at a station observing seismic activity and you notice an enormously large earthquake in the ocean. It would be evil for you to not try and mitigate its effects by alerting the people near the shore by radio, or better yet, if you had the ability to stop the event, to do so. Basically, god would still be responsible for such suffering by failing to act, which means that he is either not benevolent or not omnipotent. You cannot stop the natural event because you are not omnipotent, what’s god’s excuse?

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Shane,

Howard-Snyder’s collection ‘Evidential Arguments from Evil’ is a great place to start for philosophical literature. More accessible is something like David O’Connor’s ‘God, Evil and Design’.

  (Quote)

TaiChi April 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Consider the state U of the universe up to the time he takes or decides to take the action in question. If S is free with respect to that action, then it is causally or naturally possible both that U hold and S take (or decide to take) the action, and that U hold and S refrain from it.
Hmm…

1. Subject S is free with respect to action A in circumstances U1 (Hypothesis).
2. Therefore, at U2, either A or ~A are possible.
3. If A or ~A are possible at U2, then nothing in U1 determines either A or ~A.
4. S is part of U1.
5. S does not determine either A or ~A.

.. that seems absurd – of course subjects determine their own actions. Would any defenders of libertarian free-will like to point out what I’ve got wrong?

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm

TaiChi,

Thanks, that’s roughly my own worry about free will, much better stated than I could have done. But I haven’t read much on the topic.

  (Quote)

Silver Bullet April 17, 2010 at 10:07 pm

See CPBD 025 with Stephen Matizen, who argues that the FWD is not biblical.

“the [FWD] assumes that god in fact never interferes with free will, which is I think an unbiblical assumption. If you look at Exodus 14 you find god interfering with the free will of Pharaoh, and if you read Romans 9 verse 18 you find St. Paul announcing a regular policy of interference on god’s part with free will. So for what it’s worth I think it’s an unbiblical assumption that god never interferes with libertarian free will.”

  (Quote)

Zeb April 17, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Tai Chi, perhaps you should have sublabeled S. S1 is free, S2 determines A or ~A.

  (Quote)

Muto April 18, 2010 at 3:12 am

My problem with the free will defense: Free will is not well defined. Usually if I ask somebody what it is the answer is some rambling about choise and so on. As long as there is no coherent definition, free will can not be used in an argument.

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 18, 2010 at 4:08 am

Hey TaiChi,
I’d be inclined to deny your #3:

3. If A or ~A are possible at U2, then nothing in U1 determines either A or ~A.

Although A or ~A are possible at U2, S freely would choose either one or the other at U2. So it is not true that nothing in U1 determines either A or ~A.

  (Quote)

Steve Maitzen April 18, 2010 at 5:43 am

See CPBD 025 with Stephen Maitzen, who argues that the FWD is not biblical. “The [FWD] assumes that God in fact never interferes with free will, which is I think an unbiblical assumption. If you look at Exodus 14, you find God interfering with the free will of Pharaoh, and if you read Romans 9, verse 18, you find St. Paul announcing a regular policy of interference on God’s part with free will. So for what it’s worth I think it’s an unbiblical assumption that God never interferes with libertarian free will.”

Silver Bullet: Thanks for quoting me, but I should correct what you put in square brackets before somebody pounces. I was referring to the free will theodicy, not Plantinga’s free will defense (FWD). The theodicy is offered by many theists as the actual reason God permits (say) the torture of children: God would never interfere with libertarian free will, not even a torturer’s. In that context, biblical claims that God does interfere are relevant. By contrast, Plantinga has often said he doesn’t care if aspects of the FWD are false, heretical, or unbiblical as long as they’re all metaphysically possible. Still, it’s an explicit assumption of the FWD that only libertarian freedom is morally significant, an assumption I did criticize in the interview.

  (Quote)

Michael April 18, 2010 at 7:30 am

On the other hand, on determinism, I am determined to believe in free will, in a God, and in the Christian God. It’s not up to me. So you can’t criticize someone for their beliefs, because they don’t choose them. So you may have been determined to be an atheist, or an agnostic, but that makes it no less right or wrong since it’s based on something that you had no real choice in. If I murder someone, I am not culpable because I did nor choose to do so. So punishing me is evil in itself. Now, this is the consequence of determinism and why I have a hard time buying into it.

So there are problems on both side.

Plantinga does not have to prove free will. He only has to show that God, on the Christian faith (which includes free will), is compatible with evil. For if God exists, free will exists, making God compatible with evil. Which is what he does. This is because if God exists, determinism is wrong. Free will is implied necessarily if you wish to use the problem of evil as a logical contradiction againt the Christian God.

So the argument of free will vs. deteminism has no effect on this proposal by Plantinga.

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 18, 2010 at 7:48 am

Muto,

Plantinga defines free will and “significantly free” quite explicitly. You obviously have not read Plantinga.

  (Quote)

Muto April 18, 2010 at 8:54 am

Muto,Plantinga defines free will and “significantly free” quite explicitly. You obviously have not read Plantinga.  

Yes, I have not read him. What is his definition of free will.

  (Quote)

Silver Bullet April 18, 2010 at 9:54 am

Silver Bullet: Thanks for quoting me, but I should correct what you put in square brackets before somebody pounces.I was referring to the free will theodicy, not Plantinga’s free will defense (FWD).The theodicy is offered by many theists as the actual reason God permits (say) the torture of children: God would never interfere with libertarian free will, not even a torturer’s.In that context, biblical claims that God does interfere are relevant.By contrast, Plantinga has often said he doesn’t care if aspects of the FWD are false, heretical, or unbiblical as long as they’re all metaphysically possible. Still, it’s an explicit assumption of the FWD that only libertarian freedom is morally significant, an assumption I did criticize in the interview.  

Oops.

Thanks.

SB

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Hi rvkevin. Regarding natural evils, you wrote:

Basically, god would still be responsible for such suffering by failing to act, which means that he is either not benevolent or not omnipotent. You cannot stop the natural event because you are not omnipotent, what’s god’s excuse?

Well as I said before, it’s possible that all feasible worlds (I’m using “feasible worlds” in the Molinist sense) have natural evils. Now unless that’s not possible, then it’s not true that He is either not benevolent or not omnipotent. So that’s the defense, although it’s not a theodicy.

What are God’s sufficient reasons for allowing particular natural evils? Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to say.

  (Quote)

Rups900 April 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Surely Quentin Smith’s ‘A Sound Logical Argument From Evil’, and Richard R. La Croix’s ‘Unjustifed Evil and God’s Choice’ belong here? (Especially considering Smith’s paper is the ‘Essential Divine Perfection objection’ Pruss responds to).

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Oh yeah, thanks.

  (Quote)

TaiChi April 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Luke,
I don’t know much about it either – I expect to be enlightened by somebody.

Zeb,
By your suggestion, S would be S1 throughout. I’m presuming here that choices are prior to actions, so that S1 might represent a decided subject, and A or ~A would be the action/non-action decided on. Whether or not S2 determines A or ~A in another sense (perhaps you are thinking of simultaneous causation or some such) is a beside the point.
I suppose the obvious reply to this would be for the libertarian to sharpen their definition of free-will by saying that subjects are free with regard to their choices, rather than their actions. So the argument should really be..

1. Subject S1 is free with respect to choice C in circumstances U1 (Hypothesis).
2. Therefore, at U2, either C or ~C are possible.
3. If C or ~C are possible at U2, then nothing in U1 determines either C or ~C.
4. S1 is part of U1.
5. S1 does not determine either A or ~A.

… but this is still problematic, for now a subject does not determine the choices he will make. A choice begins to look exactly as if it were uncaused, and so ascribing it to a subject supposedly responsible for it looks to be incoherent.

Thomas,
I’m not sure if my reply to Zeb helps you or not. If S2 chooses either A or ~A at U2, then still, nothing in U1 determines A or ~A in U2. If S1 chooses either A or ~A at U2, then this is a contradiction, for S1 does not exist at U2: instead S2 does.
More generally, I don’t see how you can reject 3, for 3 is just a statement of indeterminism. So too, then, is the conclusion – it’s not as though I proved anything controversial, I’ve just put indeterminism into plain light. And it looks as though, in plain light, indeterminism cannot support the assignment of responsibility. Well, what else should we expect from a contra-causal theory?

  (Quote)

Thomas Reid April 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Hey TaiChi,
I’m thinking over your argument, and don’t have a response yet. I might post something on this over at my place some time, if you don’t mind me duplicating/critiquing your argument elsewhere of course.

  (Quote)

TaiChi April 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

No problem Thomas. I expect that I can’t get away with such a simple argument, so I’ll be interested to see what solution you hit upon.

  (Quote)

DoAtheistsExist? April 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Luke, do you personally think that the logical problem of evil has been defeated now?

  (Quote)

lukeprog April 26, 2010 at 6:50 pm

DoAtheistsExist;

I have no idea. I’m working through the literature slowly.

  (Quote)

whoever May 10, 2010 at 9:40 am

The free-will defense shows that, because of being unable to actualize a world where free beings do not choose to perform evil actions, god has to allow free beings to choose to perform evil actions.
However, that does not in anyway justify God in letting the consequences of those actions affect innocent beings and cause suffering and agony.
In order to actualize a world of free choices, all God needs to do is actualize a world of free choices, not a world in which free choices haunt people and cause agony and suffering and misery.
It is a LOGICAL point.

There is no logic that says:
Freedom of choice is worthless unless the intention of those who freely choose also becomes reality.

If somebody plants a bomb in a hospital, drives to the other side of town and there pushes the button in order for the bomb to explode, he has executed his choice, chose a very evil action and the bomb can still not detonate because of a technical defect.

So:

- a free choice between good and evil was executed
- the evil action was wholly performed (planting the bomb, causing detonation)
- the evil consequences do not arise

I would agree that the evil choice being executed means that evil exists in this world, however there is a difference between:

- evil exists in the form of free beings chosing evil instead of good
and
- evil resulting from free choices of fallible beings affects others who do not deserve it.

Granted, there are evil actions that might not be freely decided in a single step and provide the possibility of a whole series of choices, among them the possibility to choose to stop.
Rape for example is a lasting procedure and not the outcome of one single choice, and a rapist surely has the choice to stop at any moment,but that is simply utterly irrelevant.
The FWD doesnt present LOGICAL reasons for the impossibility of god creating a world in which rape or any such lasting evil procedure is impossible.

If it is possible to think of evil choices freely made that do not neccesarily
lead to the suffering of innocent beings (bullet misses, bomb doesnt explode, etc) it is possible to ask why not all morally wrong choices fail to affect innocent people.

Why dont we have a free will and a determined will:
first we freely choose, if we choose right, nothing happens, if we choose wrong the determined will takes over??
If freeling choosing the good is what god intends for us, then why doesnt he allow free beings to make evil choices and before an evil choice is executed in reality he manipulates that being into doing what is good.
The good choices would still be absolutely freely chosen, and evil would not be afflicted on innocent beings and he would still know what everyone chose and therefor be able to judge those who went wrong.

How can the FWD account for the logical problem of evil consequences?

(1) God is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good.

(2) The evil resulting from free choices made by fallible beings affects other beings who do not deserve it.

Obviously true.

(3) God is justified to allow evil to occur in the form of free creatures freely choosing evil.

—-> FWD

(4) God is NOT justified in allowing the evil resulting from free choices made by fallible beings affect other beings who do not deserve it.

—-> see above

5) God, as described in (1) is logically incompatible with (2) if (4) is true.

Therefor:

6) God, as described in (1) does not exist.

If the problem of evil is just a game of constructing logical arguments that fit with general premisses of absolute goodness and existing evil etc then fine, Plantinga has, as far as i can see, solved it by the arbitrary act of putting libertarian free will (of which nobody can explain why it isnt random if its not determined by anything god can know such as our soul, or personality, our wishes and desires, etc) above any other moral consideration.

However, the FWD does not provide logical grounds for God allowing evil to manifestate in any other form than as a free choice.

  (Quote)

Rups900 September 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm
wissam October 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Where’s “The Moral Argument from Evil” by Dean Stretton?

  (Quote)

wissam October 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

1. For all x, if x is morally justified, then x is morally acceptable.

2. For all x, if x is morally acceptable, then x is not morally objectionable (analytic truth).

3. Therefore, for all x, if x is morally justified, then x is not morally objectionable (1,2, H.S.).

4. There exists at least one x such that x is morally objectionable.

5. So, there exists at least one x such that x is not morally justified (3,4, M.T.).

6. If God exists, then no x (such that x is not morally justified) exists.

7. So, God does not exist (5,6, M.T.).

  (Quote)

lukeprog October 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

wissam,

What is E in premise 2?

  (Quote)

wissam October 17, 2010 at 3:24 am

@lukeprog,

Shit, typo!

Premise 2: For all x, if x is morally acceptable, then x is not morally objectionable (analytic truth).

  (Quote)

wissam October 17, 2010 at 3:26 am

And what about Dean Stretton’s essay?

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/dean_stretton/mae.html

  (Quote)

lukeprog October 17, 2010 at 3:35 am

wissam,

There, I fixed it for you.

  (Quote)

lukeprog October 17, 2010 at 3:36 am

At first glance, Stretton’s essay seems to have more to do with skeptical theism than with the FWD.

  (Quote)

wissam October 17, 2010 at 3:41 am

@luke

Thx. Stretton’s argument, if it succeeds (which I think it does), then it would demolish all objections to the logical argument from evil, including the free will defense.

  (Quote)

wissam October 17, 2010 at 3:48 am

From Stretton:
In this paper I have attempted to show that even if theists can successfully respond to the evidential argument from evil, there is a further difficulty to be faced in the moral argument from evil. If evil is merely the harbinger of greater good, why should we be opposed to its occurrence, and why, indeed, should we be expected to prevent it? These are questions that theists have not, to my knowledge, addressed in any detail. And yet they must be addressed, since to me they seem quite damaging.

It is these questions that motivate the moral argument from evil. The gist of MAE is that if God uses evil as a means to greater good in the way theists claim, then it would follow that some people have no obligation to stop or prevent evil. In other words, God’s existence is logically incompatible with the existence of evils that certain onlookers have a moral obligation to prevent. Since there clearly do exist evils that these onlookers have an obligation to prevent evil, it follows that God does not exist.

  (Quote)

lukeprog October 17, 2010 at 7:14 pm

ok, sure

  (Quote)

wissam October 18, 2010 at 2:36 am

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/niclas_berggren/theodicy.html

A quick introduction to the free will defense and the main objections against it.

  (Quote)

wissam October 18, 2010 at 2:55 am

I can make another argument pertaining islam particularly.

See the following translations of a qur’anic verse:

http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/13/11/default.htm

Shakir translation:

“For his sake there are angels following one another, before him and behind him, who guard him by Allah’s commandment; surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition; and when Allah intends evil to a people, there is no averting it, and besides Him they have no protector”.

This verse precludes the free will defense (since God wills the existence of evils and so he is morally culpable for their existence) but includes the “purification of sin” theodicy. The latter is weak and can be rejected by the atheist, and the former must be rejected by the Muslim.

  (Quote)

lukeprog October 18, 2010 at 11:09 am

wissam,

k.

  (Quote)

wissam October 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm

@ luke,

What do you think of my arguments (the general one and the islam one)?

What do you think, does the free will defense succeed or fail?

Are there are any responses to Hanna’s “Ressurrecting the Logical Argument from Evil”?

I have a general question: does dependent=contingent?

  (Quote)

lukeprog October 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

wissam,

Sorry, do not have time to answer any of those questions. Haven’t researched these enough.

  (Quote)

wissam October 20, 2010 at 6:57 am

1. Gratuitous evil is incompatible with the existence of God.

2. Gratuitous evil possibly exists.

3. Therefore, God possibly does not exist [from 1 & 2].

4. God=df necessary being.

5. God necessarily does not exist [from 3 & 4].

  (Quote)

Tim November 22, 2011 at 6:18 am

Hi Luke,
I think you’re missing Morriston, “Is God ‘Significantly Free’?” (1985).
Link here: http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/IsGodSigFree.pdf
Smith addresses it in his 1997 paper.

Thank you for putting this together, it is a tremendous resource. I also found your how to get academic papers for free post very useful.

Tim

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }