Monday, September 30, 2013

Plantinga, Satan, and the Problem of Evil

From guest blogger, Joshua. 

In Alvin Plantinga’s “Satan” Alvin says, “The more free creatures resemble God the more valuable they are and the more valuable are the worlds in which they exist” (Plantinga, 139). Alvin Plantinga believes it is better to have free creatures in the world that have the ability to do bad things then to have limited choices. I think Plantinga’s assumption of more free creatures being a good thing is wrong. The underlying assumptions Plantinga is making by saying more freedom is better is that many choices are better then one.

First off Plantinga makes the assumption a world with free creatures is better then one with limited creatures. Plantinga makes this assumption because he needs to explain the necessity of evil in the world. Plantinga uses free will to account for the two different types of evil in the world. The first kind of evil is an egregious evil. An example of an egregious evil would be someone torturing another person for fun. This action is not justified which is what makes it an egregious evil. Plantinga’s assumption though justifies this kind of action. The reason the person is being tortured is because having a world with free creatures is a good thing. For Plantinga, the good of having choices outweighs any of the evil that could be done because of free will.  The 2nd evil Plantinga has to account for is a natural evil. A natural evil is one where no human has a choice in it. For example a natural evil would be a tornado or volcano erupting that kills many people. No human was the cause of these things happening, yet it seems these occurrences are simply evil. Plantinga says the cause of all these natural evils is the Devil and his cohorts. Plantinga then uses his free will assumption to justify the existence of Satan. Plantinga says “God therefore created a world in which there are creatures with […] a great deal of power, including the power to work against God and the freedom to turn their backs against God” (Plantinga, 139). For the world to be a full of free will there needs to be a creature with the power and freedom of Satan. Therefore these evils of tornados and volcano’s are simply Satan acting against God’s will. The assumption Plantinga makes about free will is his way of explaining away the evils of the world, and getting God off the hook as it were for the evil actions going on around humans.

Plantinga’s assumption of people being more free relies on the underlying assumption that many choices are better than one. At first glance this underlying assumptions seems correct to most people. When I go to eat dinner, if I only have pizza as a choice it doesn't seem as good as having the choice between pizza, spaghetti, or hamburgers. Well this seems to be a slam-dunk case; it seems better to have even one more choice. Throwing nachos in with the other three selections seems better then having just the three selections. If this is true, you could keep expounding until you had 100 choices for food, lets look at this example. If you had 100 choices you would have to look at all the different options and evaluate which one you would want to choose. Most people would see all these choices as to overwhelming and wouldn't know which one to choose. They would feel pressured to try and make the “right” decision in this case. I say, “right” because there doesn't seem to be an inherently right decision here. With 100 of different options to weigh it might seem impossible to know which one to choose and if the decision you are making is the best one. It would seem having the a more limited array of options would make things easier on most people, and have them not feel as pressured by all the different decisions one could make. In some cases then people would say fewer options are better, and that having the fullest or more freedom isn’t necessarily a better thing in every case. If this is true, then Plantinga’s assumption about more freedom being better is no longer valid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Jeremiah 9:23-24, God declares his character and disposition:

"Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight."

If an action is predicated on a motive, and a motive is, in turn, predicated on a passion; and all these, ultimately, predicated on character and disposition, it seems the problem of evil lies to a degree with the latter. This idea does not escape Mill:

"And not only... acts, but the dispositions which lead to them, are properly immoral, and fit subjects for disapprobation which may rise to abhorence. Cruelty of disposition; malice and ill-nature; that most anti-social and odious of all passions, envy; dissimulation and insincerity; irascibility on insufficent cause, and resentment disproportioned to the provocation; the love of domineering over others; the desire to engross more than one's share of advantages...; the pride that derives gratification from the debasement of others; the egotism which thinks self and its concerns more important than everything else, and decides all doubtful questions in its own favor; - these are moral vices, and constitute a bad and odious moral character."