|Flint (Thomas P.) & Freddoso (Alfred J.)|
|Source: Morris, T. V. (ed), The Concept of God, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987, pp. 134-167|
|Paper - Abstract|
|Paper Summary||Notes Citing this Paper||Text Colour-Conventions|
When people have tried to read into ‘God can do everything' a signification not of Pious Intention but of Philosophical Truth, they have only landed themselves in intractable problems and hopeless confusions; no graspable sense has ever been given to this sentence that did not lead to self-contradiction or at least to conclusions manifestly untenable from the Christian point of view.'
Geach goes on to argue that in all probability any philosophically adequate analysis of omnipotence will have the consequence that, in order to be omnipotent, an agent has to be able to act in morally reprehensible ways. For instance, it seems reasonable to think that any omnipotent being must have the power, whether or not it is in fact exercised, to perform actions which constitute the breaking of his previously made promises. Yet Christians have traditionally believed that God is impeccable, i.e., absolutely incapable of such behaviour. Once God has promised to send his Son, for example, it appears that he no longer even has the power not to send him. But this could not be true if God were omnipotent. In short, omnipotence on any plausible construal turns out to be incompatible with impeccability.
(p. 137) should not be constructed so as to ensure that there cannot be a morally imperfect omnipotent agent, or a non-omniscient omnipotent agent, or an agent who is only contingently or perhaps even only temporarily omnipotent. But God cannot be an agent of any of these types. So even if God has all the power that a being with his nature can have, there is no a priori guarantee that he has maximal power, absolutely speaking. If Geach is right, then all our evidence points to just the opposite conclusion, viz. that God does not have, indeed cannot have, maximal power.
(p. 138) Suppose we claim that an agent S is omnipotent just in case S can perform any logically possible task, i.e., any task which is possibly such that someone performs it. This proposal rules out Smith as omnipotent simply on the ground that Smith cannot perform the logically possible task of saying something which is (at the same time) being said only by Jones. Yet it is clear intuitively that this fact about Smith in no way points to a lack of power on his part. Moreover, when we attempt to amend our analysis by claiming that S is omnipotent just in case S has the power to perform any task that it is logically possible for S to perform, we find that we are forced to count as omnipotent the notorious weakling Mr McEar, who is capable of scratching his left ear but essentially incapable of performing any other task5.
(p. 139) to bring it about that another agent has desires or needs and also opportunities that are together causally sufficient for his behaving freely (in this compatibilist sense) in a specified way. So on this view of freedom, bringing about the free actions of others is not relevantly different from actualizing states of affairs that in no way involve the free actions of others. In both sorts of cases the agent in question simply does something which, in conjunction with other operative causal factors, is sufficient for the obtaining of the state of affairs in question.
(p. 140) the free actions of another. In such cases the agent in question, by his actions or omissions, strongly brings it about that another agent S is in a situation C, where it is true that if S were in C, then S would freely act in a specified way. For instance, a mother might actualize her child's freely choosing to have Rice Krispies for breakfast by limiting his choices to Rice Krispies and the hated Raisin Bran. Or she might bring it about that the child freely donates his allowance to a relief agency by telling him poignantly of the plight of those who do not have enough to eat. In short, it is a familiar truth that one agent may contribute causally to the free actions of another in any number of ways which stop short of being incompatible with the other's acting freely. In such cases it seems perfectly legitimate to say that the one has actualized the other's acting freely in the way in question. Again adopting Plantinga's terminology, we will call this sense of actualization weak actualization. Further, it is not only the free actions of another which a given agent may weakly actualize. In addition, an agent S may weakly actualize a state of affairs p through the mediation of the free actions of another agent S*. This occurs when S weakly actualizes S*'s freely acting in such a way as to bring about p. Thus, in the second of the above examples, the mother weakly actualizes not only her son's freely donating his allowance to a relief agency but also—among others—the state of affairs of someone's hunger being alleviated.
(p. 142) logically possible for someone to bring it about that Jones will some day be in Chicago, it is logically impossible that anyone ever bring it about that Jones has already been in Chicago. Again, however, an account of maximal power will not by itself decide whether such a claim is true10.
(A) S is omnipotent if and only if for any state of affairs p, if there is a world W such that in W someone actualizes p, then S has the power to actualize p.
However, philosophers at least as far back as Aristotle have realized that, if the past is in some sense necessary, then there are further, purely temporal restrictions on the power of any agent. The medievals, in fact, had a moderately well-articulated theory of temporal (per accidens) modality, from which it follows that at any given time there are states of affairs which meet the condition specified in (A) and yet are such that they cannot be within the power of any agent to actualize. Interestingly, even those like Aquinas, who held that God is not ‘in time', recognized this sort of restriction on God's power.
(I) Its being the case that it will be true at some time that Jones has never played basketball.
For it is a minimal and non-controversial constraint on any agent's having the power at a time t to actualize a state of affairs p that there be a possible world W just like ours prior to t such that at t in W someone actualizes11 p. But, the argument continues, there is no such world in the case of (I). Nevertheless, (I) satisfies the condition laid down in (A), since it is easy enough to conceive of a possible world in which someone actualizes it. Such an agent might, for example, prevent Jones's coming into existence, or arrange for him not to play basketball for a long time after his birth. So it is logically possible for someone to have the power to actualize (I), even though it is logically impossible that both (a) the world should have the history it has had until now and (b) someone should now have the power to actualize (I). Furthermore, there are any number of states of affairs which are like (I) in these respects. So any adequate account of omnipotence must be relativized to a time. In addition, these purely temporal restrictions on power may vary not only from moment to moment but also from possible world to possible world. And so an account of omnipotence should also be relativized to a possible world. Hence, our analysandum should be ‘S is omnipotent at t in W', and we should incorporate into our analysis the purely temporal restrictions on any agent's power.
(p. 144) affairs of its being the case that Jones will play basketball may obtain now, but it will not obtain after Jones plays basketball for the last time. Further, some states of affairs may first obtain, and then not obtain, and still later obtain again. An example is the present-tense state of affairs of Jones's (now) playing basketball.
(p. 146) used in that analysis, especially when those concepts are tolerably clear on their own. Nevertheless, in this case we feel obliged to say something more, since the concept in question is open to seemingly acceptable construals which would undermine the adequacy of our account of maximal power.
(2) W shares the same history with W* at t if and only if for any state of affairs p and time t* earlier than t, p obtains at t* in W if and only if p obtains at t* in W*.
Since we are assuming that states of affairs are tensed, if we take (2) together with the analogue of the law of bivalence for states of affairs, the net effect is that W can share the same history with W* at t only if W also shares the same present and future with W* at t, i.e., only if W is identical with W*. For among the states of affairs that obtain at any time prior to t in W are future-tense states of affairs which specify exactly what will be true in W at and after t. Moreover, even if we deny that the law of bivalence holds for so-called ‘future contingent' states of affairs, so that no such state of affairs ever obtains, (2) will still be unacceptable. For on the most popular construal of the notion of a future contingent, a state of affairs is a future contingent at a given time only if it is future-tense and not causally necessary at that time. So even when we make an exception for future contingents, it still follows from (2) that W and W* share the same history at t only if they share at t what we might call their causally necessitated futures. Such a result is particularly unwelcome when one is trying to explicate maximal power, since it is generally conceded that an agent who is omnipotent at t has the power at t to bring about events whose occurrence is in some sense contrary to nature14.
(3) Jones's believing that Smith will arrive at 2 p.m.
(4) Jones's promising that Smith will receive a gift,
are immediate unless they entail the future-tense propositions which they involve16. On the other hand, if these entailments do hold, then such states of affairs are non-immediate and hence not members of any sub-moment. But now consider the following states of affairs:
(5) God's believing that Smith will be saved
(6) God's promising that Smith will be saved.
Since (5) and (6) both entail that Smith will be saved, each is on our account non-immediate, and hence not eligible for membership in a sub-moment. This is a welcome result in the case of (5), since it enables us to reconcile divine foreknowledge with human freedom. In short, even if (5) has already obtained, there may still be a world W such that (i) W shares the same history with our world at the present moment and yet (ii) Smith is never saved in W.
(p. 149) So even if it has already been true that God believes that Smith will he saved, Smith may still have it within his power to bring it about that he will never be saved. However, this same result is somewhat more troublesome in the case of (6)—for reasons that we will discuss in some detail at the end of this essay17.
(B) S is omnipotent at t in W if and only if for any state of affairs p, if there is a world W* such that (i) W* shares the same history with W at t, and (ii) at t in W* someone actualizes p, then S has the power at t in W to actualize p.
(7) Jones's freely deciding at t to write a letter to his wife,
(p. 150) and he also has the power at t to actualize
(8) Jones's freely deciding at t to refrain from writing a letter to his wife.
From this it follows that there is a world W, sharing the same history with our world at t, such that at t in W someone (viz., Jones) actualizes (7); and it also follows that there is a world W*, sharing the same history with our world at t, such that at t in W* someone (viz., Jones) actualizes (8). So given (B), any agent who is omnipotent at t in our world must have at t both the power to actualize (7) and the power to actualize (8).
(9) If Jones were in C at t, he would freely decide at t to refrain from writing a letter to his wife.
Like any proposition, (9) is either true or false. Furthermore, since (9) tells us what Jones would do if left free in a certain situation, no one other than Jones can simply decide to make (9) true or false, for no one other than Jones can determine how Jones would freely act. Therefore, not even an omnipotent being can decide by himself to make (9) true or false; its truth value is something he is powerless to affect.
(p. 151) cannot be actualized at t by any being other than Jones—even if that being is omnipotent at t. For suppose (9) is true. In that case, even that agent who is omnipotent at t does not have the power at t to actualise (7). He cannot, of course, strongly actualize (7), for he cannot causally determine Jones's acting freely in a certain way. But neither can he weakly actualize (7). He can, perhaps, arrange things so that Jones is in C at t. But if he does so arrange things, then (9) tells us that Jones will freely refrain from writing the letter and thereby actualize (8) rather than (7). On the other hand, if (9) is false, then our omnipotent agent cannot at t weakly actualize (8) The most he can do in an attempt to bring about (8) is to bring it about that Jones is in C at t. But if (9) is false, then it is not the case that if Jones were in C at t, he would strongly actualize (8). And no one weakly actualizes (8) unless Jones strongly actualizes it. So if (9) is in fact false, then not even an omnipotent agent has the power at t to actualize19 (8).
(p. 152) analysis of omnipotence must recognize the importance of counter-factuals of freedom regarding not only actual beings but possible beings as well. If we believe that, strictly speaking, there are no possible but non-actual beings, we can make this last point by saying that the relevant counterfactuals relate not to individuals but to individual essences, where P is an individual essence if and only if P is a property which is such that (i) in some possible world there is an individual x who has P essentially and (ii) there is no possible world in which there exists an individual distinct from x who has P20. An individual x will thus be said to be an instantiation of individual essence P just in case x has P.
(p. 153) definition of a world type which does not presuppose the truth of this law. Let us say, then, that a world type is a set which is such that any counterfactual of freedom—i.e., any proposition that can be expressed by a sentence of the form ‘If individual essence P were instantiated in circumstances C at time t and its instantiation were left free with respect to action A, the instantiation of P would freely do A' – either that counter-factual or its negation is a member of the set. (To obviate certain esoteric technical problems, we might also stipulate that for any two members of the set, the conjunction of those two members is a member of the set as well.) Let us also say that a world type is true just in case every proposition which is a member of it is true. (Since we are assuming an exact isomorphism between propositions and states of affairs, we may take a world type to be, alternatively, a set of counter-factual states of affairs.)
(p. 154) powerless to control. That is, for any agent x the world-type-for-x will remain true regardless of what x does. So it is logically impossible for x to bring about any state of affairs which is inconsistent with the truth of the world-type-for-x with which he happens to be confronted. That is, it is logically impossible for him to bring about any state of affairs which does not obtain in any world in which that world-type-for-x is true. And since it is also logically impossible for any agent to escape this type of limitation, we cannot allow such a limitation of power to disqualify a being from ranking as omnipotent. Hence, if we allow ‘Lx' to stand for the true world-type-for-x, then x should not be required, in order to rank as omnipotent, to possess the power to actualize any state of affairs that does not obtain in any world in which Lx is true. We can consider this as our fourth condition for an adequate analysis of omnipotence.
(p. 155) lacks the kind of power which it is clear an omnipotent agent ought to possess. Such a requirement might appear redundant at this point. However, it is actually needed to rule out an analysis like the following, which satisfies our first four conditions:
(C) S is omnipotent at t in W if and only if for any state of affairs p and world-type-for-S Ls such that p is not a member of Ls, if there is a world W* such that
… (i) Ls is true in both W and W*, and
… (ii) W* shares the same history with W at t, and
… (iii) at t in W* S actualizes p,
then S has the power at t in W to actualize24 p.
Instead of furnishing us with an analysis of absolute maximal power, the right-hand side of (C) merely provides an analysis of the maximal amount of power that can be had at t in W by any being with S's nature. As such, it may be satisfied by a being obviously lacking omnipotence, for example, the infamous Mr McEar. To avoid this result we will satisfy our fifth condition by insisting that, to count as omnipotent, a being should have the maximal amount of power consistent with our first four conditions25.
Comment: For reasons of MS Access database record-size problems, this abstract is split to include the comment.
(p. 156) acceptable analysis of omnipotence can be formulated. For consider:
(D) S is omnipotent at t in W if and only if for any state of affairs p and world-type-for-S Ls such that p is not a member of Ls, if there is a world W* such that
... (i) Ls is true in both W and W*, and
... (ii) W* shares the same history with W at t and
... (iii) at t in W* someone actualizes p,
then S has the power at t in W to actualize p.
(D) appears to satisfy each of our desiderata. It is stated in terms of actualizing states of affairs, and does not presuppose that an omnipotent being would have strongly to actualize every state of affairs he brings about; in other words, it leaves a place for actualization. The inability of even an omnipotent being to actualize necessarily unactualizable states of affairs is acknowledged by (iii), while his inability to change the past is recognized by (ii) and (iii) together. Furthermore, by employing the notion of a world-type-for-S, (D) satisfies our fourth condition. And, finally, (D) requires that an agent who is omnipotent at t in W should have power to actualize any state of affairs (other than a member of Ls) which any agent actualizes at t in any world satisfying conditions (i) and (ii). Consequently, it seems to us that (D) does provide a philosophically adequate analysis of maximal power.
(10) Its being the case that there will be a stone which Sam, though he exists, cannot move?
The answer depends upon what further properties Sam has. If Sam is essentially omnipotent, then he cannot at t actualize (10). But (D) does not require that he have this power, since in that case (10) is a logically impossible state of affairs and thus not possibly such that anyone actualizes it. On the other hand, if Sam is only contingently omnipotent, then (D) might well require that he have
(p. 157) the power at t to actualize (10). But there is no paradox here. By actualizing (10) Sam would merely bring it about that at some future time he will be non-omnipotent26.
(11) Its being the case that a completely uncaused event will occur.
Does (D) require that Sam have the power at t to actualize (11)? If one can actualize (11) only by causing the event in question, then (D) does not require that Sam be able to actualize (11). For in that case it is logically impossible for anyone to actualize (11), even if (11) is a logically contingent state of affairs. On the other hand, if (11) is possibly actualized by someone, then Sam must have the power at t to actualize it. In neither case is there a paradoxical result.
(12) Someone is actualizing p, and Sam, though omnipotent, is not actualizing p,
where p is a state of affairs which even non-omnipotent agents can normally actualize? Must Sam have the power at t to bring it about that (12) will obtain? One might have doubts about whether it is logically possible for any agent to actualize (12). However, anyone who holds a fairly liberal position with respect to the diffusiveness of power might plausibly contend that it is logically possible. For instance, a non-omnipotent being could bring it about at t that (12) will obtain at t* by bringing it about that he will be actualizing p at t*, when in fact it is true that Sam will not be actualizing p at t*. But then, by the same token, it appears that Sam too may have the power at t to bring it about that (12) will obtain at t*. Sam would do this by bringing it about that he will not be actualizing p at t*, when in fact it is true that someone else will be actualizing p at t*.
(p. 158) state of affairs (other than a member of the true world-type-for-Sam) which anyone actualizes at t. In that case Sam would never have the power to bring it about that (12) will obtain. But neither would any other agent ever have this power in any world containing an essentially divine being. So (D) would not in this case require that Sam have the power at t to bring it about that (12) will obtain. In short, (12) seems to present no serious problem for our analysis of omnipotence. Perhaps there are other states of affairs which would present a problem, but we have not been able to think of any.
(p. 159) omnipotence, there is no conceptual problem with an omnipotent agent's being impeccable. For though our analysis does apparently require that an omnipotent being have the power at a given time t to actualize many evil states of affairs, for example,
(13) An innocent child's being maliciously tortured,
it does not require that our omnipotent being also possess omniscience at t. Indeed, it does not require that he be very knowledgeable at all. He could conceivably be utterly ignorant of the consequences of his actions and hence bring about evil states of affairs such as (13) unintentionally. Provided that his own ignorance is not a state for which he is himself culpable, it would seem to follow that he could not be held morally blameworthy for those evil states of affairs which he might unintentionally actualize at t. Hence, the ability to actualize such states of affairs at t does not entail the ability to act in a morally reprehensible fashion at t. The possibility of an omnipotent but impeccable being is thus left open by our analysis.
(p. 160) greater good than would have occurred had (13) not obtained; perhaps it leads to less evil. In any event, it is surely conceivable that God should recognize that his allowing one of his creatures freely to torture an innocent child would as a matter of fact result in a world so good that this allowance was morally acceptable—and this despite the fact that the actual torturing would remain an evil state of affairs and the torturer would remain blameworthy. Hence, since even an impeccable God could have the power weakly to actualize worlds such as W which contain moral evil, and since in actualizing such worlds he must weakly actualize the evil states of affairs such as (13) which they contain, it follows that God can indeed remain impeccable even though he has the power to actualize evil states of affairs.
(p. 161) affairs might be conceivable, but they are not, according to the Anselmian, logically possible27.
(14) Its being the case that Israel will never be saved.
Can we conclude, given (D), that God is not now omnipotent? A close look at (D) reveals that the answer to this question is negative. For in any possible world which shares the same past with our world at t, an essentially divine being who is essentially incapable of breaking his promises has promised prior to t that Israel will be saved. So in every such world Israel is saved. Hence, no one actualizes (14) at t in any such world. So (D) does not
(p. 162) require that, in order to be omnipotent now, God must now have the power to actualize (14).
(15) God's promising that Israel will be saved
is non-immediate, since it entails the future-tense proposition that Israel will be saved. Hence, (15) is not a member of any sub-moment, i.e., it does not count as part of what is temporally independent at the time at which it obtains. And from this it follows that a world W might share the same history (in our sense) with our world now at t even if (15) has already obtained in our world but never obtains prior to t in W. So, given our official interpretation of condition (ii) in (D), it may very well be the case that, in order to be omnipotent, God must now have the power to actualize (14). But this seems to entail the theologically odious conclusion that God now has the power to break a promise and so is not impeccable.
(16) God's believing (the future-contingent proposition) that Israel will be saved
now obtains, then it is now no longer within the power of the children of Israel to lead, without exception, lives heavily laden with moral turpitude. Rather, we can say that God's present belief that Israel will be saved is temporally dependent on the fact that the children of Israel will freely accept his grace and live accordingly29. So it is conceivable that (16) never obtains in a
(p. 163) world which shares the same history with our world at the present moment t, since in that world God believes at t that the children of Israel will freely reject his grace and choose to separate themselves from him.
(p. 164) is difficult to see how an orthodox Christian can accept this emasculation of the notion of divine providence. Like the promise to save Israel, many of God's promises seem to presuppose foreknowledge of exactly how his creatures will freely act. Once we deny such foreknowledge, as Geach does, then we open up the possibility that God makes promises which he will not and cannot fulfil. For even Geach insists that God cannot cause his creatures to act freely in the way he desires them to act. And suppose that they all freely reject his grace. Will he then save them? Will his kingdom then come? The answer, it is clear, is no. But if God does not have foreknowledge, then he cannot discount this possibility when deciding what to promise. The grand chess master cannot accomplish his purpose if, unbeknown to him, his opponent will refuse to move according to the rules or will simply decline his invitation to play. So, given Geach's view, either God cannot in good conscience, as it were, promise that Israel will be saved—which is false according to faith—or it is logically possible that God's promise to save Israel go unfulfilled—which is also false according to faith.
(17) God's promising that Jones will be offered divine forgiveness
is non-immediate, it is still the case that there is no possible world W sharing the same history with our world at the present moment t such that at t in W someone brings it about that Jones will never be offered divine forgiveness. For in any such world Jones is a sinful free agent created by God, and so he is offered divine forgiveness. Let us call promises of this sort God's standing promises. It should be obvious that (D) does not require that God ever have, in order to be omnipotent, the power to break a standing promise.
Footnote 1: Originally from The Existence and Nature of God, edited by Alfred J. Freddoso, 1983 by University of Notre Dame Press.
Footnote 2: Peter Geach, Providence and Evil (Cambridge, 1977), p. 4. The chapter entitled ‘Omnipotence' first appeared as an article by the same name in Philosophy 48 (1973), pp. 7-20 ("Geach (Peter) - Omnipotence").
Footnote 3: Nelson Pike, ‘Omnipotence and God's Ability to Sin', American Philosophical Quarterly 6 (1969), pp. 208-16. In fairness to Pike, we should point out that he distinguishes three senses of the claim that God cannot sin: viz. (a) that it is logically impossible that someone both is God and sins; (b) that the person who is God is incapable of sinning; and (c) that the person who is God ‘cannot bring himself to sin even though he is capable of sinning’. Pike accepts (a) and (c), but rejects (b) as incompatible with the claim that the person who is God is omnipotent. Our response is that (b) expresses the correct understanding of the claim in question—and it is (b) which we hope to show, pace Pike, to be compatible with the claim that the person who is God is omnipotent. Later we will endorse the stronger, Anselmian thesis that the person who is God is essentially incapable of sinning, which again, given our analysis of omnipotence, is compatible with that person's being omnipotent. Hence, we admit Pike's contention that God is not morally praiseworthy for not sinning. But we hasten to add that God is still morally praiseworthy, since he performs many supererogatory acts, such as sending us his only begotten son.
Footnote 4: Jerome Gellman contends that omnipotence should be explicated in this way, so that an omnipotent agent is one who has all the power that an essentially perfect being can have. See Jerome Gellman, ‘Omnipotence and Impeccability', New Scholasticism 51 (1977), pp. 21-37. In support of this analysis, Gellman argues for the dubious thesis that omnipotence is conceptually inextricable from the other properties (e.g., impeccability) a perfect being must have. In effect, then, he assimilates omnipotence to almightiness. By contrast, in The Coherence of Theism (Oxford, 1977), pp. 158-61, Richard Swinburne admits that God cannot be omnipotent in the strongest sense, but he goes on to claim, pace Geach, that it is perfectly appropriate to use the term ‘omnipotent' in a weaker sense in which omnipotence is compatible with impeccability. We believe that these moves made by Gellman and Swinburne are undesirable and, as we will argue, unnecessary.
Footnote 5: To the best of our knowledge, McEar makes his first contemporary appearance in Alvin Plantinga's God and Other Minds (Ithaca, 1967), pp. 168-73. But a similar difficulty was recognized at least as early as the later Middle Ages. For instance, the following note was added by an anonymous writer to one of the manuscripts of Ockham's Ordinatio I, distinction 42: ‘Nor is a being said to be omnipotent because he can do all things which are possible for him to do. . . since it would follow that a minimally powerful being is omnipotent. For suppose that Socrates performs one action and is not capable of performing any others. Then one argues as follows: "He is performing every action which it is possible for him to perform, therefore he is omnipotent." See Gerald Etzkorn and Francis Kelly (eds.) Ockham: Opera Theologica, vol. iv (St Bonaventure, NY, 1979), p. 611.
Footnote 6: See Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford, 1974), pp. 172-3
Footnote 7: Plantinga's discussion of weak actualization is in the place cited in note 5. Chisholm's discussion occurs in Person and Object (LaSalle, 1976), pp. 67-9. (Chisholm takes as basic the concept of causally contributing to a state of affairs rather than the notion of actualizing a state of affairs.) It is no mean feat to formulate an exact analysis of weak actualization, but an intuitive grasp of this notion will suffice for our purposes in this paper.
Footnote 8: For some analyses of omnipotence not stated in teams of actualizing states of affairs, see Richard Francks, ‘Omniscience, Omnipotence and Pantheism', Philosophy 54 (1979), pp. 395-9; Jerome Gellman, ‘The Paradox of Omnipotence, and Perfection', Sophia 14 (1975), pp. 31-9; and (though less explicitly) J. L. Mackie, ‘Evil and Omnipotence', Mind, 64 (1955), pp. 200-12.
Footnote 9: We say 'at least some', since those who espouse an Ockhamistic response to the problem of future contingents might want to insist that we can have the power to actualize certain ‘future-infected' past-tense states of affairs. See Alfred J. Freddoso, ‘Accidental Necessity and Power over the Past', Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 63 (1982), pp. 54-68.
Footnote 10: Despite what we have said, it may be the case that Descartes is an offender rather than just a trivializer of our second condition. See Harry Frankfurt, ‘Descartes on the Creation of the Eternal Truths', Philosophical Review, 86 (1977), pp. 36-57.
Footnote 11: This condition on power, despite first appearances, is consistent even with compatibilism. The compatibilist would, however, deny the libertarian claim that we can add the further condition that W and our world continue to share the same laws of nature (with no violations) at t itself.
Footnote 12: See, for instance, Jack W. Meiland, ‘A Two-Dimensional Passage Model of Time for Time Travel', Philosophical Studies 26 (1974), pp. 153-73; and David Lewis, ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel', American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (1976), pp. 145-52.
Footnote 14: For a dissenting view cf. Dennis M. Ahern, ‘Miracles and Physical Impossibility', Canadian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1977), pp. 71-9. Our own inclination, on the other hand, is to believe that laws of nature specify the causal powers or dispositions of natural substances. Hence, such a law, e.g., that potassium has by nature a disposition to ignite when exposed to oxygen, might remain true even when the manifestation of the disposition in question is prevented solely by the action of a supernatural agent.
Footnote 15: See Alfred J. Freddoso, ‘Accidental Necessity and Logical Determinism', Journal of Philosophy 80 (1983), pp. 257-78. This paper argues for our account of sharing the same history on purely philosophical grounds rather than on the theological grounds suggested below.
Footnote 16: A state of affairs p may be said to entail a proposition q just in case it is logically impossible that p obtains and q does not. And p may be said to involve q just in case p is necessarily such that whoever conceives it conceives q.
Footnote 17: Many recent philosophers have failed to recognize explicitly that any being's power is necessarily limited to states of affairs which are ‘temporally contingent'. In addition to Francks, Gellman, and Mackie, see George Mavrodes, ‘Defining Omnipotence', Philosophical Studies 32 (1977), pp. 191-202; Pike, ‘Omnipotence and God's Ability to Sin'; and Richard Purtill, Thinking about Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1978), p. 31.
Footnote 18: Throughout this essay we shall follow David Lewis's practice of not presupposing that the term ‘counter-factual' is to be applied only to conditionals with false antecedents. See David Lewis, Counterfactuals (Cambridge, Mass., 1973), p. 3.
Footnote 19: The argument here is little more than a variant of Alvin Plantinga's argument against the thesis that God must have the ability to actualize any possible world. See Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity, pp. 180-84.
Footnote 20: The definition of an individual essence is taken from Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity, p. 72.
Footnote 21: For a discussion of conditional excluded middle, see Lewis, Counterfactuals, pp. 79-82. We wish to note in passing, however, that even if the law of conditional excluded middle is false, there may be a weaker analogue of that law which is true, and which would be sufficient for our present purposes if we chose to invoke it. For the antecedents of the counter-factual conditionals which concern us here are all of the form 'Individual essence P is instantiated in circumstances C at time t, and P's instantiation is left free with respect to action A.' Now suppose we stipulate that the substituend for 'C' must be a complete description of the past at t along with a clause specifying that the same laws of nature continue to hold at t. In that case there seems to be good reason to believe that where p is a proposition expressed by a sentence of this form, then for any proposition q, either p counter-factually implies q or p counter-factually implies the negation of q. However, a complete defence of this position is impossible here, and so we will proceed on the assumption that there is no acceptable version of the law of conditional excluded middle.
Footnote 22: The relationship between the world-type-for-God and divine freedom is discussed at length in Thomas P. Flint, ‘The Problem of Divine Freedom', American Philosophical Quarterly 20 (1983), pp. 255-64. One terminological point suggested there might also be noted in passing here: God's knowledge of the world-type-for-God is identical with what is generally referred to as God's middle knowledge. The Molinist thesis that God has middle knowledge of contingent propositions whose truth values he cannot control is hotly contested in traditional theological discussions of grace, providence, and predestination. We cannot pursue the matter here, but simply wish to note our belief that it is only by adopting some version of Molinism that one can preserve a suitably strong understanding of both (a) the doctrine of divine providence and (b) the thesis that human beings are free.
Footnote 23: Among authors discussed previously, Franks, Gellman, Mackie, Pike, and Purtill all fail to satisfy this fourth condition. In addition, see Gary Rosenkrantz and Joshua Hoffman, ‘What an Omnipotent Agent Can Do', International Journal for Philosophy of Religion II (1980), pp. 1—19; James Ross, Philosophical Theology (Indianapolis, 1969), p. 221; and Douglas Walton, ‘Some Theorems of Fitch on Omnipotence', Sophia 15 (1976), pp. 20-7.
Footnote 24: The stipulation that p not be a member of Ls is required if we assume that by their free actions agents actualize the corresponding counter-factuals of freedom. In the example used above, this assumption would amount to the claim that by actualizing (8) Jones also actualizes (9). If, on the other hand, we deny that a counter-factual of freedom can properly be said to be actualized by anyone, then the stipulation in question is, though superfluous, completely harmless. So we have added it just to be safe.
Footnote 25: Despite Richard Swinburne's protestations to the contrary, the conceivability of McEar disqualifies his analysis. See Richard Swinburne, ‘Omnipotence', American Philosophical Quarterly vol. 10 (1973), pp. 231-7. For much the same reason, an analysis offered tentatively by Plantinga must also be deemed unacceptable. On this analysis, a being S is viewed as omnipotent at time t in world W if and only if (i) there are states of affairs S can strongly actualize at t, and (2) for any state of affairs p such that there is a possible world which shares the initial world segment prior to t with W and in which S at t strongly actualizes p, S can at t strongly actualize p.
Footnote 26: This response to the stone paradox conforms to that given by Rosenkrantz and Hoffman in ‘What an Omnipotent Agent Can Do'.
Footnote 27: The Anselmian response to Pike was first formulated by Joshua Hoffman in ‘Can God Do Evil?' Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol. 17 (1979), pp. 213-20.
Footnote 28: In his comments on this essay, William Wainwright argued that, if our account of freedom is correct, then God cannot make promises like the alleged promise to save Israel. For a ‘promise' of this sort would be such that God could not fulfil it on his own, as it were, since he does not have the power to determine causally the free actions of his creatures. At best, Wainwright contends, God could (in virtue of his foreknowledge) ‘assure' some creatures that they would be saved. But he could not ‘promise' this. We are not completely convinced by this argument, since it may be that God, in virtue of his knowledge of the future free acts of his creatures, can make promises where non-omniscient beings can only give assurances. But even if Wainwright is correct, it seems that an orthodox believer could comfortably construe talk of God's promises as talk about God's assurances, at least in those cases where free human actions are involved. Indeed, as Wainwright himself notes, we often give assurances by using the expression ‘I promise you that ...'. One who is sympathetic to Wainwright's argument should simply construe our talk below of ‘conditioned promises' as talk about assurances.
Footnote 29: We acknowledge that this way of speaking is infected with (some might say ‘infested' with) Molinist assumptions about the relation between grace and freedom. See note 20 above.
Footnote 30: See A. N. Prior, ‘The Formalities of Omniscience', in Papers on Time and Tense (Oxford, 1968), pp. 26-44.
Footnote 31: Geach, Providence and Evil, ch. 2, esp. pp. 44-54.
Footnote 32: The image of God as a grand chess master, first popularized by William James in his essay ‘The Dilemma of Determinism', is in many ways reminiscent of Jacques Maritain's image of God as an almighty stage manager who incorporates our improvisations into his providential play. See Maritain's God and the Permission of Evil (Milwaukee, 1966), p. 79. ‘The Dilemma of Determinism' is found in William James, The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (New York, 1897, reprinted 1956), pp. 145-83.
Footnote 33: We wish to thank William Wainwright, our commentator at the conference at Notre Dame at which this paper was first presented, along with Nelson Pike and Philip Quinn, for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this essay.
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