Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Perfect Being and Worlds

1. A world W1 is preferable to W2 for a Perfect Being (PB) in the case that, all else being equal, PB wishes to actualize W1 over W2.

2. A world W1 is significantly preferable to W2 for PB in the case that, all else being equal, PB wishes to actualize W1 over W2 and PB is able to actualize W1.

3. A world W1 is completely preferable to W2 for PB in the case that every event in W1 is preferred to events that differ in W2.

4. This actual world is not completely preferable for PB to every other possible world.

5. PB would prefer at least some other worlds to the actual world (from [1, 4]).

6. If there is a world that is significantly preferable to the actual world, then PB would actualize that world.

7. PB did not actualize that world.

8. Therefore, there is no such world that fulfills the conditions of being significantly preferable.

It seems to me that (1) and (3) are pretty uncontroversial. The only thing I can see about (2) that may be controversial is the wording of the term “significantly preferable.” (4) seems to be quite true, as it seems that whatever measure we may employ for evaluating the relative worth for a possible world to a PB, we are almost guaranteed that there are many such possible worlds that are better. (5) is just analytically true given (1) and (4). (7) cannot be denied if other premises are embraced, and (8) is just the conclusion to the argument.

It is (6) that is the most controversial premise. Notably, it may be objected that there is indeed a world that is significantly preferable and that PB has not actualized it. However, this is where a world infeasible for PB comes in. Suppose PB prefers a world where Jim performs some specific action, and the world is otherwise identical in circumstance to the actual world. If Jim would not freely perform the act, then such a world, while preferable, is not feasible for PB, and hence is not significantly preferable. One may object we have not shown true metaphysical possibility. (6) does at least seem plausible, however. What reason do we have to suspect that PB would not actualize such a world? What reason do we have for suspecting that all such counterfactuals of creaturely freedom necessary for a significantly preferable world are compossible? In this case, then, it follows there are no worlds significantly preferable to the actual world.
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  1. I'm not as advanced here, so maybe I can learn something. Is P4 identical with saying that at least one event in the actual world is preferable to a differing event in all other possible worlds? Or does P4 mean to compare only two possible worlds at once, such that at least one event in the actual world is preferable to a differing event in some other possible world?

    The move from P5 to P6 is just to say that, though PB may prefer some other world to the actual world, nevertheless, since said possible world was not actualized, it follows that PB cannot actualize it; it is not significantly preferable.

    Does it follow as a consequence of this argument that the actual world is the only world that PB significantly prefers? That is, that PB could actualize a more preferable world than the actual world?

  2. Hi Daniel, thanks for your thoughtful comments! As to your questions, P4 is only saying that it is not the case that PB would prefer each and every last event that occurs in this possible world over their negations in other possible worlds. So while, in this possible world, PB would prefer events like "John Smith's freely coming to be saved," or "Jane Doe's freely choosing the good," PB does not prefer "Jane Doe freely chooses to steal," or "John Smith engages in lying," over the negations of these propositions in other worlds (however many of those there are that contain the negation of these last two). But since a world is only completely preferable in the case that every event is preferred to some other possible world, then this actual world is not completely preferable to at least one other world (namely, the world that contains the negation of the evil propositions). Really, I recognized there are many such worlds preferable to the actual world that are possible (worlds where, for instance, all of the people in the actual world commit one less act of evil, worlds where we all commit two less, and so on).

    I think your final question actually has two parts. Since "significant preferability" is directly comparing at least two worlds, I don't think this argument has as a consequence that this is the only significantly preferable world. For imagine a world where sin abounds much greater than in this world, and say only a hundred souls ever choose to be saved throughout history. Now imagine a world in which only 101 people exist, and all are saved. It seems that world is significantly preferable to the former world.

    What this argument does claim, to your second part of the question, is that while there are worlds generally more preferable (worlds in which, for example, just as many people exist but all freely choose the good and are saved) than the actual world, none are significantly preferable to the actual world, since they are not actualizible. If they were actualizible and a PB would prefer it, all else being equal, it would exist. This differs from a Leibnizian approach in that it does not require this to be the best of all worlds; it does not even require this to be the best of all feasible worlds. There could be two or more worlds that contain differing persons or events that are equally valuable to PB. It would then simply be PB's free choice to actualize one over the other.

  3. Ah, I made a mistake of sorts in paragraph two. Only in the case of the 101 souls' world being actualizible could we say it is significantly preferable. I suppose we'd just have to suppose that world is.


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