Saturday, May 22, 2010

Molinism and Possible Worlds

In Steve Hays' response to William Lane Craig (here), he raised some arguments against Molinism, which I have been attempting to address. This post is a continuation of our exchange.

So the Molinist God instantiates a sinful world even though he hates sin, and sin is unnecessary. Doesn’t sound very coherent to me. Much less a promising theodicy.

It’s no contradiction or incoherence to permit something you hate, so long as you have good reason to do so. I suppose one could read a contradiction into this by understanding 'instantiates' in some way that denies or undermines LFW.

Yes, God is willing to permit sin to obtain the greater good.

What’s the theodicean value of the adjective (“ultimately”) in relation to the noun (“sin”)? How does the adjective magically exculpate God on Molinist grounds?

On Molinist grounds, ultimate responsibility is essential to moral culpability. Sometimes people are responsible for the downstream consequences of what they do when they are ultimately responsible, and sometimes they are not. But UR is and must always be a factor (even if an upstream one).

If that’s your argument, then sin is a necessary means to a second-order good. Felix culpa. Very supralapsarian of you.

The order of the decrees has more to do with the arrangement of events in a specific world rather than the selection on one whole world over another.

God does have an ultimate goal; His glory. He had multiple ways of achieving His goal; His wisdom and power ensured He would reach His end regardless of the many paths He could have taken or multiple possible worlds He could have created. In some of those worlds, freedom to sin, but not sin itself, was a necessary means to obtaining God's ultimate goal.

Supralapsarianism seems to require, as a brute fact, the election/reprobation of specific individuals to glorify God. Supralapsarianism hardly seems consistent with the idea of possible worlds. If God decrees the outcome first, what other outcome could there be? If the outcome requires certain specific means, what other means could there be?

Well, when I defined choice as a mental resolution (quoting Kane), you took exception.

Perhaps you are confusing me with Robert. I don’t have a problem with Kane’s definition for what Kane uses it for. I just don’t think it should be used for exegesis of scripture.

The libertarian choices of Judas have real world consequences for the existence and choices of other libertarian agents. So do his libertarian choices actualize other agents in the transaction? Do his choices instantiate the network of consequences, including all of the other parties to the same transaction?

What is “causally” possible for merely possible Judas? Does Judas cause things to happen in a possible world? In what sense?

Aren’t possible worlds timeless objects? So there is no actual cause/effect sequence in play.


I consider possible worlds as God's knowledge of what He can do and enable us to do. Thus God’s power to make Judas and make Judas such that Judas can do A or B, underwrites possible worlds with Judas doing A and Judas doing B.God's knowledge relates to truth and His power provides the basis of truth. Each possible world is a fully described set of facts (undergirded by God's power to do and enable us to do the things supporting those facts). Possible worlds include not only events, but relations between events; if two events are related determinately God knows it as a determinate relationship, if two events are related indeterminately, God knows the relationship as such.

God's knowledge is atemporal but He knows things that can have temporal and causal relationships. So it's wrong to deny time and causal relationships are 'in play' in possible worlds.

Do you simply mean “cause” in the sense that one fictional character causes something to happen in the narrative?

Not really.

So possible Judas didn’t consciously choose to be instantiated in a world where he betrays Christ. If so, then in what sense is his choice a “real” choice? Do merely possible, unconscious agents make “real” choices?

Possible conscious agents do not make real choices, they make possible choices.

ME: “It’s as if God created multiple actual worlds in multiple dimensions and sees how things turn out, except, God doesn’t actually have create those worlds and yet His knowledge corresponds to what they would have been if He had.”

STEVE: i) And how is the Molinist God in a position to see how things turn out?


What God knows He knows immediately; His epistemology is unique to Him so we cannot explain it.

Is he just a spectator who watches what nonexistent agents would do in any given situation?

Well, the hypothetical situation includes hypothetical creation and concurrence, but the truth that “Bob would do X” is logically prior to God’s middle knowledge of the same.

Why is there anything at all, much less anything in particular, that a nonexistent agent would do?

The alternative seems to be believing that if God created Bob in such and such circumstances, Bob would do nothing. But that’s implausible. The fact that you responded to my last post leads me to believe it was true that you would respond to my last post.

The question, rather, is whether the Molinist God ran a battery of hypothetical scenarios past hypothetical Judas so that Judas had a say as to which possible world God would instantiate. Unless hypothetical Judas was shown the options, how was he in any position to give informed consent?

But, of course, you’re forced to admit that this isn’t tenable, for a merely possible agent is not a conscious agent. Therefore, Judas didn’t get to vote on which real world he’d find himself in. It was the luck of the draw (as Arminian critics of Calvinism are wont to say), and he had the ill-fortune to wind up on a world where he betrays Christ and presumably goes to hell. Not his lucky day.

Explain how that’s an improvement over what Arminians and Molinists find so odious in Calvinism.


On the one hand, it's wrong to say that since Judas didn't choose every aspect in the universe, he didn't make any choices at all. On the other hand, some forms of Molinism are not necessarily opposed to Calvinistic unconditional election.

The issue you raise could be avoided by either appealing to trans-world damnation of all that will actually be damned, or by saying God's decree of who to create precedes middle knowledge. In such cases, the objections to Calvinism still hold good.

Or the issue could be embraced as an asset rather than a liability, by those who deny the possibility of trans-world damnation and place election prior to the decree to create this or that world. In such cases, such objections to Calvinism must be dropped.

Finally, a mediating position says God choose which possible world to create, which entails election. This last position falls outside of Calvinism as defined by Dort, yet still contains a different type of unconditional election. In such cases, only certain aspects of the objections to Calvinism may be maintained. Specifically, ultimate responsibility and supra-lapsarian reprobation remain significant differences between Molinism and Supra-lapsarian Calvinism.

ii) Even if Molinism were coherent, why should we believe it? Molinism is not a revealed truth. At most, the Bible reveals that God has counterfactual knowledge, not middle knowledge.

So what evidence do you have that Molinism is true? It’s not a truth of reason. It’s not entailed by a truth of reason. It’s not an empirical fact.


Molinism reconciles God's providence with man's responsibility in a way that permits the natural reading of scriptural passages. To me, this is a very valuable use of philosophy, if not it's most valuable use.

i) How do you define a “cause”? What’s your theory of causation?

The source of action. I like Suarez's expansion of Aristole's views on causation. But that level of detail seems unneeded for our present purposes. The simple necessary/sufficient cause distinction will work.

ii) Even if your metaphysical distinction were tenable, how is that morally germane? How does your metaphysical distinction between sufficient conditionality and sufficient causality ipso facto exonerate the Molinist God?

UR.

iii) How does that stand in contrast to Calvinism? What theory of causation do you attribute to Calvinism?

Calvinists seem to believe our actions have sufficient causes.

iv) Apropos (iii), why is Molinism able to distinguish between sufficient conditionality and sufficient causality, but Calvinism is not?

Logic, logical relationships, and logical deductions are not the source of action. So just because we can deduct what man will do, given God's foreknowledge, that does not mean we that action is causally determined. In Molinism, people have contra-causal powers, but God knows how people would and will use their ability. In causal determinism; people have no such ability.

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