A Critique of Plantinga's Free Will Defense

Exapologist offers a critique here of Plantinga's free will defense. It's very good!


Anonymous said...

Actually, I am still unclear as to how, in an atheistic universe, there can be any free will at all.

Because what you call "thought" is merely a biochemical reaction in the mindlessly evolved organic brain and dependent on the "laws" of chemistry and physics.

Steven Carr said...

Christian thought appears to obey no laws at all.

As can often be seen by the results.

I wonder how Beethoven symphonies can exist when they are nothing but dots and lines drawn on thin slices of dead wood. How can dye and wood be music?

Or is that a false dichotomy?

Rich said...

Someone here mentioned that I might want to educate myself before I dialogue here. I agree with that so I'm working on it(patting myself on the back).
I thiought this might be a good read for this issue:

I just mentioned this in another post but the free will defense doesn't even need to be plausable to answer the LPoE, just possible. It may have problems and holes but regaurdless it did show a possible scenerio for God and Evil to co-exsist.

Steven Carr said...

Plantinga's FWD is not possible, as Christians argue that God has created angels with free will that have never chosen evil.

So it is not possible for there to be no creatures with free will that never do evil.

And , sadly for Plantinga, he claims that God is a necessary being and exists in *all* logically possible worlds.

This means that God and evil have to be shown to be compatible in *all* logically possible worlds, not just one.

Good luck!

exapologist said...

Hi Rich,

You're right that Plantinga’s free will defense need only be possibly true for it to demonstrate that there's no inconsistency between the co-existence of God and evil. But the problem is that he has to establish that it's possible in the relevant sense to do so. There are several kinds of possibility, but only three are relevant here:

-x is *epistemically* possible if and only if x can't be ruled out as impossible, given the evidence.

-x is *logically* possible if and only if x doesn't entail a contradiction in first order logic.

-x is *metaphysically* possible if and only if x really could obtain -- i.e., if and only if x is viable in some metaphysically possible world.

Now in order to show that God and evil are *logically* consistent is relatively uninteresting. All you have to do is add a sentence or set of sentences that, when added to others, would logically entail the remaining one. But Plantinga admits that this would be an uninteresting "defense* of the logical problem of evil. All you have to add to the set here would be:

n) God allows evil and has a morally sufficient reason for doing so.

Beyond the intuitively unsatisfying nature of such a response is the fact that not all logical possibilities are metaphysical possibilities. In fact, not all logical possibilities are even epistemic possibilities. E.g., here's an example from Plantinga:

n') There is a prime number that is also a Prime Minister.

This statement doesn't entail a contradiction in first-order logic; so it's logically possible. However, it's obviously not metaphysically possible -- it's not a state of affairs that obtains in even a single metaphysically possible world. But even worse, it's not even *epistemically* possible -- it's ruled out as metaphysically impossible by other things we know.

In light of the previous discussion, we learn some morals:

(i) logical possibility entails neither metaphysical possibility
nor epistemic possibility.
(ii) epistemic possibility doesn't entail metaphysical possibility.

What we really want in an answer of an inconsistency charge, then, is a statement that describes something that (i) is *metaphysically* possible, and (ii) when joined with the other statements in the set, makes the state of affairs described by the statements in the set "metaphysically" consistent -- i.e. the state of affairs the set describes obtains in at least one *metaphysically* possible world. This is the kind of consistency ideally sought in responding to inconsistency charges -- at least this one.

Returning to the issue at hand: Plantinga's claim that it's possible that every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity is only *epistemically* possible at best. But if so, then in light of the previous discussion, we see that this isn't sufficient to demonstrate that the existece of God and the existence of evil are compatible in the sense we want -- viz., that it's *metaphysically* possible that God and evil co-exist. And this is why I said that it's misleading at best for apologists to assert that Plantinga has refuted the logical problem of evil.

However, recently a number of philosophers -- all of them relatively conservative Christians, interestingly enough -- think that we have no good reason to think that Plantinga's original claim is even *epistemically* possible. The most powerful version of this criticism can be found in Michael Bergmann's article, "Might-Counterfactuals, Transworld Untrustorthiness, and Plantinga's Free Will Defense", Faith and Philosophy 16:3 (1999), 336-351.

All the best,