Since this argument has come up in some recent posts, I thought it might be worthwhile to take another look at it.
For anyone with the stomach for the whole discussion, you can find it here:
Some key corollaries of the argument can be seen in bbarr's posts on these pages:
Now, to return to the argument:
God (def.): An entity that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
Omnipotent (def.): An entity G is omnipotent if and only if G can do anything that is logically possible.
Omniscient (def.): An entity G is omniscient if and only if G knows every true proposition.
Morally Perfect (def): An entity G is morally perfect if and only if for two states of affairs A and B, where A and B are specified as fully as G’s cognitive faculties allow, if A is morally preferable to B then G prefers that A obtain rather than B, and G acts accordingly.
What if it is logically impossible that A obtain, even though God prefers A to B? Then, there is nothing God can do so that A obtains. With respect to A and B
, therefore, the only action available to God is inaction. I'll call this Type-1 Inaction (TI1)
: This does not violate the omnipotence of God because omnipotence only requires that God be able to do that which is logically possible. So, if (for whatever reason) God preferred that a state of affairs come to pass such that squares are circles, it will be impossible for him to act in any way that makes such a state of affairs obtain. Hence, this would be an instance of TI1.
Another case - what if, in order that A obtain, God must refrain from acting? i.e. if God acts in the situation in any manner, a state of affair B would result that is less morally preferable to A. I'll call this Type-2 Inaction (TI2)
Any instance of inaction on God's part must fall under one of these two types. If God does not act to bring about a particular state of affairs, it is either because he cannot or will not.
1) God exists.
2' There has obtained at least one fully specified state of affairs S such that S included as a constituent suffering logically unnecessary for the bringing about of greater good.
What is logical necessity
The concept of logical necessity is this:
X is logically necessary for Y if and only if it is logically impossible for Y to obtain without X also obtaining. In other words, the supposition that ~X conjoined with the supposition that Y leads to a contradiction of the form (P & ~P).
I actually agree
with bbarr on this statement;i.e. there has obtained at least one state of affairs S such that the greater good could have been brought about had some constituent U of S (such that U is an instance of "unnecessary suffering" ) not occurred. Or, in other words, there exists a state of affairs R such that R was morally preferable to S and R does not have U as a constituent. (This is how I choose to define "greater good" in this scenario.)
(The remaining steps in the argument have been suitably modified to reflect the revised definition of Morally Perfect
3) Since God is omnipotent, God could have prevented S from obtaining.
But it is not necessary that any action of God's could cause R to obtain (refer TI1 above). We will return to this when we examine step (5) below.
4) Since God is omniscient, God would have known that S was going to obtain.
5) Since God is morally perfect God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.
There is actually a hidden assumption in this step - that any other state of affairs without U (the instance of unnecessary suffering in question) as a constituent is morally preferable to S. Hence, this step should be broken down as:
5.1) All states of affairs S' such that S' does not have U as a constituent are morally preferable to S.
5.2) From (5.1) and the definition of Morally Perfect, God would have preferred that S not obtain, and acted accordingly.
We already know that R is an instance of S'. However, is every instance of S' morally preferable to S?
I argue that this is not necessary; i.e. there could exist a state of affairs T such that U is not a constituent of T but S is morally preferable to T (perhaps T has some other instance V of unnecessary suffering - but that is not essential to my argument).
We can also express (5.1) thus:
5.1' There exists no state of affairs T such that U is not a constituent of T and S is morally preferable to T.
So, in terms of moral preferability, we have R > S > T.
: In rejecting (5.1) I have neither assented to the Callousness of God (COG)
, nor disputed the Badness of Unnecessary Suffering (BUS)
: If T exists, then this is an instance of TI2.
: If T does not exist and God's choice between R and S is an instance of TI1, then God could not have prevented S from obtaining. Hence we have a contradiction with (3). Hence, bbarr is committed (at this moment) to the non-existence of TI1 choice between R and S.
: If T exists, then the theist is free to say that God's choice between R and S is an instance of TI1.
: If the theist says that God's choice between R and S is an instance of TI1, then he is committed to the existence of T from (N4).
6) If (3), (4), and (5.2), then S could not have obtained.
7) Hence, S did not obtain.
8) But, by (2), S did obtain.
9) Hence, either one or more premises (1) through (5) are false.
10) Premises (2) through (5) are true.
11) Hence, premise (1) is false; God does not exist.
To sum up:
A theist can commit to the truth of (2) by rejecting either of (3) or (5.1/5.1'