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Thursday, June 17, 2010


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Dr Vallicella,

Thank you for the post!

My thoughts are basically on the subject of Molinism; if what is possible depends upon, is contingent upon, etc., what is actual, then what can we say about the possibility of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom? Can there be any such things?

It seems not. A counterfactual of creaturely freedom requires that there can be truths about nonexistent agents, let alone truths about what nonexistent agents would do if they were to exist.

But if, as you say, "existence individuates so that there is no individuation apart from existence, hence no merely possible individuals," then there can be no counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.

That is all good and fine by me, because I'm not a Molinist anyway. I hadn't realized the ontological consequences a Molinist view of divine providence requires, but it is interesting to note the inconsistency.

Given all this, I'm wondering what sort of providential view someone who accepts your paradigm theory of existence must accept. Of course, as you say in the book, the Paradigm is something like God, a God of the philosophers. But it seems to me that if the Paradigm is bringing things into existence, and all changes and events can be explained completely in terms of the Paradigm's activity (which you should grant, if you're an occasionalist), then the Paradigm seems pretty interested in the affairs of contingent creatures like you and I. How are we to understand the Paradigm's providential control of things?

Dr. Vallicella,

You had me until the last paragraph. I’m afraid, however, that I’m going to have to quibble with your assertion that “existence is. . . the unity of an individual’s constituents.” It seems to me that existence must be something more than this; for there are conceivably beings with no constituent parts to unite, such as angels. Therefore, existence would be for them something other than the unity of constituent parts.

Goerge R,

Constituents needn't be either spatial or temporal or material. My scheme could accommodate angels as long as they have properties.


You ask me such hard questions! Let me think about it.

I did a post some time ago on what kind of providential view an occasionalism would require.

It seems to me that, as an occasionalist, you must accept, for any contingent event that occurs in the world, that it happened because God willed it be so at that time. The question then is, why did God will that event to occur, as opposed to any other event that might have occured?

God, being a rational being, would act for reasons; he'd have some kind of end in mind in doing anything at all. Thus if he wills that E occur, then he had to have some kind of end in mind, the achievement of which requires that E occurs (or perhaps is best accomplished by E occurring). God doesn't will that E occur for no reason at all; rather, he has some kind of end in mind which he is trying to achieve.

If God is acting for reasons, and he has an end in mind when he wills events to occur, and he knows which events are proper for accomplishing that end, then he knows what the future will be. This is because he knows what else he is going to do to accomplish that end. Therefore, there are truths about the future. The truthmaker for future propositions could then be presently (or timelessly?) obtaining events in God's mind (like his planning to do X, or whatever).

You, of course, agree with me that God's knowing the future is incompatible with ordinary agents (like you and me) having libertarian freedom of the will. So, if my reasoning here is good and sound, then you shouldn't believe in libertarian freedom of the will so long as you accept occasionalism. (At least, you shouldn't believe in a libertarianism that requires AP. If occasionalism is consistent with any other kind of libertarianisms is a topic for a later discussion.)

Really, it seems to me the sort of providential view you must accept is somewhat Calvinistic. You should believe that Peter was saved (let's say) because God ultimately willed that he be saved. You don't have to accept all aspects of Calvinist theology, like limited atonement (if you believe in the atonement at all) or reprobation (if you believe in hell at all), but you should accept something pretty similar to Calvinism.

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