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Sunday, January 08, 2023

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I'd concur with the last statement, Bill. And, I'm asking for your interpretation here as well, doesn't Barry Miller say something similar, when he affirms that there's willing, but no choice in God? (A Most Unlikely God pp.102-106)

Of course, he then goes on to affirm a difference in creation as compatible through the use of an external operator. Nonetheless though, it's hard for me to take seriously claims that the world (I'll count in that term everything created, be it merely our universe or the Lewisian omniverse as described in Mike Almeida) could be truly different. I affirm differences insofar as it is in the realm of "permitted variables", e.g. indeterministic effects or human free choices.

But let's assume we are at a more fundamental stage than that. Let's take angels as an example. My claim would be that whether God creates them or not will reflect something necessary about him. To use the language of Alex Pruss, if God is impressed by the reasons to create them, then, so my argument, he'd be necessarily impressed by them, since there's no available explanation to explain why he would be impressed by these in some worlds, but not in others.

Of course a semantic argument is lingering here, that if it's a reason that impresses him, then it would be something external. A language adjustment and pointing out that reasons, if they are real objects (propositions?), are dependent on the platonic God, should be a sufficient answer. The main point should be clear though and I'd like to pose that as a question:

What is freedom but the capability to act according to ones nature in a perfectly informed state? Why would it be problematic to assume that there are conclusions that can be derived from what he is about what he will do? Especially since a real capability to do otherwise always seems to involve a brute contingency, either in relation of contingent will to the necessary essence or in the relation of willing to an unpredictable effect (Note: This is NOT a modal collapse objection). Frankly that requirement looks like a claim that God is restricted because he can't go out of existence.

Dominik,

I am intrigued by this parenthetical remark: >>(I'll count in that term everything created, be it merely our universe or the Lewisian omniverse as described in Mike Almeida)<<

I don't know what Almeida says on this topic, but surely there is something deeply incoherent in supposing that the sum-total of Lewisian possible worlds is created by God ex nihilo. Bear in mind that a Lewisian possible world is a maximal mereological sum of concreta and itsself something concrete.

Dominik,

Thanks for reminding me of the passage in Miller's book which I will have to re-read. The rest of what you say is not clear to me.

>>What is freedom but the capability to act according to ones nature in a perfectly informed state? <<

Why did you include 'capability' in that question?

Perhaps you are saying this: To act freely is to act according to one's nature in a perfectly informed state. Would that not have the consequence that no finite agent ever acts freely? For no finite agent is perfectly informed about anything including the consequences of an envisaged action.

Hello Bill.

Almeida roughly described his ontology in his small book "Cosmological Arguments" and in "Freedom, God & Worlds". He affirms that God created all actualia and possibilia of necessity, an all-encompassing omniverse. Another philosopher with similar views would be Klaas Kraay.

Now I haven't yet gotten to the second book, but if I may, I will still try to cash that out.

I will have to preface that I'm very sympathetic to that position. In a restricted way, that I'm about to describe, the idea that God of necessity creates everything, has the advantage that it removes arbitraryness. In addition, questions about why this world instead of another are actually very hard to answer and every answer I know of either involves unexplained contingency, e.g. God being impressed by different reasons or an objective standard or entails necessity on some level or another, be it through emanation or that God creates every world that contains a certain amount of good.

In my own judgment, the fact that this ontology becomes maximally bloated is only secondary, since it has the greatest explanatory power.

I don't know whether Almeida would use the same language I do, but I'd cash out "possibilia" as metaphysically possible, but never actually occurring events. In a situation where I can save a loved one from an oncoming car, it is metaphysically possible that I don't do it, but my claim in regards to free choices is that these possibilities could never become actual because of the individual itself. A difference in a world can never be traced down to a difference in choice only (assuming it's a rational choice), since the explanatory link for why we're actually acting different will always entail that the mind contemplated different facts in the preceding time. What that entails for example is that probability ascription to one decision over another, and vice versa, doesn't make sense, pace Alex Pruss.

I must admit to not have worked as much on possible worlds or on Lewis as I liked to and I think that what I described isn't quite in his spirit. But I do think that his modal realism gets unfairly ignored in these debates, especially about creation and necessity.


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I used capability since I'd say a complete account of freedom can't be made without taking the limits into account. The prisoner trying to warn the villagers from the oncoming fire he sees at the horizon has made a free choice in regards to what he's willing to do, but his shackles prevent him from acting on that. The same could be said about the man who wants to spread his wings and fly.

The account isn't perfect, but it goes in the right direction. God is maximally free in that he has the power over existence, wills a universe in accordance to his nature as the perfect Good, that perfectly glorifies him and there's nothing internal or external to him that prevents him to act that way. I'd say that is perfect freedom.

(Sidenote: I have read several times the argument that God would be restricted by his nature in that case. I can't make sense of that. According to what else would he act? Rather it seems to me that the vast majority of problems vanish if one follows Kretzmann&Stump and ditch the possibility that God might not have created at all)

Similarly if we were fully informed about our state and what the Good is, I don't think that we are able to *not* act in accordance with it. I don't think they this entails a lack of freedom, but rather that alternative possibilities are secondary. Consider the analogy with the man being forced to choose between two gates, one of which hides the beautiful princess to marry, the other a hungry lion. Is the version of him ignorant to the solution more free than the one who knows which item is behind which door?

So to answer your question: in a relevant sense, yes. The relevant sense can be seen in the topic on hell, where you and I disagree. With all due respect to Hitchens resilient attitude, I don't believe that a soul can actually resist once it is aware of the Good (Remember the quote by Meister Eckhart you used in "Existence: Two dogmas of Analysis"). And unless we are aware of it, we aren't fully informed.

I wouldn't say though that we are therefore wholly unfree. Freedom comes gradually and once again the perfect freedom is reserved to God, or rather our own perfect freedom requires God. We are free insofar as we can influence our desires by getting to know more and judging them accordingly. We are free in that it actually *is* our mind that causes the action, not exclusively our prior physical state. You are more free than I am since your decision making in regards to your views is more informed and better judged through a superior analytical capacity. Our freedom consists of the ability to act in the state of limited information we are born into, and act most ethically and in accordance to our nature with that limited information. Of course, that's prone to mistakes and we see that daily. It's not easy to be at the lowest end of the ladder of rational creatures, but we have to work with the limited freedom we are blessed (cursed?) with.

I'm changing my views very often when it comes to freedom and there are aspects I'm still not too happy with. Nonetheless I believe that an account similar to that must be true; it is the most promising when it comes to synthesizing aspects of that debate that seem to be contrary to each other when laid out at first.

Dominik: "(Sidenote: I have read several times the argument that God would be restricted by his nature in that case. I can't make sense of that. According to what else would he act?"

I too cannot make sense of that. That God is Good and His Creation is good does not mean that He is somehow restricted or restrained from creating anything else. That puts the cart before the horse. Things are good because they are created by God who is Good. God does not create in accordance with a prior notion of goodness (which would be constraining), but being Good creates goodness itself in complete freedom.

Our notion that there is a problem here stems from how the concept of the good functions for us finite beings. We might very well know what the good is, but our bifurcated (or better, trifurcated) nature introduces other motivations, desires, and needs that contradict the entelechy of the good we ought to do. It is in this situation that we feel the good as something prior and external to us which constrains or restrains, but it is really one part of the soul that is trying to constrain another part. Ultimately, this stems from the distinction between thought and being - the good is out there, and the way to the good is apparent, but we live in thought's possibilities and can imagine other more immediately desirable things to do. And so, for the good to hold, we have to think of reasons to convince and restrain ourselves to do the good rather than follow through on what we can clearly see are baser desires. I.e., we must confirm the truth of things with a will, which for us finite beings can be a rather thin reed.

But for God, there is no distinction between thought and being: God thinking of being and creation is identical with being and creation. There is no separate function of a will to make this happen because there is no need for such a separate faculty in God: thinking, will, being, and creation are all of apiece, and there is no "space" in the oneness of God for there to be any constraints on His Freedom. "I am," He said, and that sums it up.

So could God think and create an evil world? Of course, He is perfectly free. But in our finite being terms, there is no reason to do such a thing. I am sitting here, and I am perfectly free to backhand my little four-year-old daughter across the room. But there is just no reason to do such a terrible thing; so, I don't do it. There is no constraint on me, some irrefutable prior moral syllogism that binds me; I am completely free. It is simply that to the depths of my soul, there is just nothing there that would move me to violate this little girl like that, ever.

So too with God: by analogy to us finite beings, there is simply no reason to create an evil world. And by analogy to us finite beings also, God is following through with His Goodness as if He is constrained by His nature, but He is not. God, His Good Nature, His reasons, being and creation are all identical within Him and there is no place left for a constraint or anything else to limit His Freedom.

And yes, on this reading, God is perfectly free to not create anything at all. But given His Goodness, His Love, He has no reason to not create, so …. etc. and so forth.

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