Freedom, Goodness, and Metaphysical Value – Part 2/3

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Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

Logical Freedom and Metaphysical Worth

The problem is this. God is the greatest conceivable being, and thus God must have maximal metaphysical worth. However, God is logically “determined”, in the sense that in every possible world in which God exists, he does not do evil. And yet, the theist who uses the Free Will Defense against the problem of evil must see logical freedom as a great good that provides metaphysical worth to God’s creation. Otherwise, it would seem to be preferable for God to have created a world containing creatures that are logically determined, as this would result in the absence of evil.

This seems to put the theist in a dilemma: Either it is better to be logically free than logically determined, or it is not better to be logically free than logically determined. If it is better to be logically free than logically determined, then God as the greatest conceivable being must be logically free (which he is not). If it is not better to be logically free than logically determined, then the resultant avoidance of evil seems to make a world of logically determined creatures better than the actual world (in which case it becomes inexplicable that God chose to actualize this world which includes logically free creatures).

God and Maximal Metaphysical Value

Given this dilemma, how should the theist respond? It seems to me that a clarification of what it means to be maximally great will provide the first step toward a cogent response. This response relies, first of all, on what could be thought of as an analogical extension of the commonly accepted premise that God cannot do the logically impossible. I will maintain that similar principle should be applied to the issue of God’s own nature. Namely, God cannot have logically contradictory great-making attributes, and therefore, God’s maximal greatness[7] should be construed as the maximally consistent set of great-making properties . If there are great-making properties that conflict, the greatest conceivable being will only have as many of them as is possible without contradiction. This idea has been argued for (among others) by Thomas V. Morris:

“All that perfect being theology requires is that God have the greatest possible array of compossible great-making properties, not that he have all great-making properties.”
(Morris, 2002, 64)

As I stated in a previous section of this paper, God is not “logically free” because God cannot do evil. In order to resolve the apparent tension that this creates in the metaphysical value of the different types of freedom, we need to be clear on exactly what is the great-making property that excludes logical freedom. The answer is to be found in Axiological Theism. Clearly, it is true that God cannot do evil, but this does not exhaust the moral dimension of God’s greatness. For the theist will maintain that it is a supreme great-making property for God to be the source and ground for objective moral values(henceforth referred to asSGMV ) . If God is the SGMV in every possible world, it follows that he is not logically free to do evil.[8] For that would require him to act in contrary to his own nature. This part of the response to the dilemma presented above seems unobjectionable. For surely it seems plausible to suppose that at the very least it isnot greater to be logically free than to be SGMV, given the mutual exclusivity of the two.

The next step in our response to the dilemma is to point out that there can be only one being that is SGMV. The idea that there could be more than SGMV has very severe problems. For example, the trans-world bindingness of these values (see note 8) implies that their ground and standard must exist in every possible world, and thus the necessary existence of SGMV would seem to be required.

There is an alternative account which may not be strictly logically impossible, but it seems so implausible that to spell it out in any detail is basically the same as to refute it. This alternative would be as follows: There is more than one being that ground the trans-world bindingness of objectivity of moral values. In each world, one such being exists, and even though there is no one particular being that exists in every possible world, nevertheless one of them will exist in each world, and consequently, the grounding for objective moral values exists in each world The conjunction of contingently existing beings constitutes the SGMV). The inherent absurdity of this view is revealed when one realizes that it postulates as a brute, unexplained fact the distribution of contingent beings in just the right manner in order to ground the trans-world bindingness of the objective moral values.[9] Given the absurdity of this alternative, the necessary existence (that is, existence in every possible world) of one being that is SGMV is required. But furthermore, the existence of only one being as SGMV seems to be required by the fact that it is logically possible for two or more distinct beings to come into conflict, but there cannot be a conflict in the source of the objective moral values themselves.[10]

Answering the Dilemma of Logical Freedom and Metaphysical Value

We are now in a position to respond directly to the challenge presented by the dilemma mentioned above.

God as the greatest conceivable being is the standard and ground of objective moral values, because that is an attribute that belongs to the maximally consistent set of great-making properties. This precludes God from being logically free. Thus, God is SGMV but not logically free. But given that there can be only one SGMV, it is possible (and better) for created beings to be logically free than to be logically determined.

Notes to Part 2
7.    Or indeed, any maximal greatness in more general terms. I do not intend to commit the fallacy of special pleading. The same point can be made with regard to the issue of omnipotence. It is not just God’s omnipotence but omnipotence in general which should be defined to exclude logically contradictory tasks.
8.    It seems very questionable if the idea of being the foundation of objective moral values in only some possible worlds is even coherent. Moral values (or at least some of them) seem to have the property of what could be called trans-world bindingness, which means that their nature is such that there is no possible world in which they are not binding. This point should be readily recognized by those who present the Euthyphro dilemma against the theist. One horn of that dilemma point out the problematic nature of the idea that God could have arbitrarily made the good to be something entirely different than what it is.
9.    Alternatively, their existence may be further grounded on something that exists necessarily, but in that case, it is arguably that necessarily existing being that grounds the moral values, and the existence of these other beings becomes an unnecessary complexity without any explanatory merits.
10.    However, there can be a conflict in the human application of those values into practical decision-making — at least in a fallen world.
11.    There may be arguments that would further demonstrate the need for other divine attributes beyond the attribute of necessity as prerequisites for a being that is SGMV, but the discussion of these arguments falls outside the scope of this paper.

Continue to Part 3


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