Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gale, Adams, and universal salvation

This is Gale's critique of Adams' response to the problem of evil.

Gale writes:

With this concept of middle knowledge in mind, a dilemma argument can be constructed to show that that God cannot bestow salvific grace in advance.

Either God has middle knowledge or he does not.
If God does not have middle knowledge, then God cannot grant salvific grace in advance. first horn
If God does have middle knowledge, then God cannot bestow salvific grace in advance. second horn
God cannot bestow salvific grace in advance. From 1-3
On either horn, Adams's theodicy of grace does not work. Each horn will now be argued for separately.

Argument for the First Horn

In "Middle Knowledge and the Problem of Evil," Adams argued at length that it is impossible that God create free persons and also have middle knowledge of what they will freely do. Thus, Adams is personally committed to attacking the first horn of the dilemma argument. This, of course, is only of ad hominem interest since it concerns internal consistency within Adams's philosophy. Unfortunately, it looks very much like God must have middle knowledge in order to be able to bestow salvific grace in advance upon the free people he creates. For God cannot bestow salvific grace in advance unless he knows at the time of his creative act that he is doing so. But he cannot know that he is doing so unless he knows that the free persons he creates will prove themselves morally unmeritorius by their subsequent free actions. This requires that God have middle knowledge prior to his act of actualizing a possible free person, that is, he must know that if he were to actualize this possible free person's diminished possible free person, the instantiator would freely perform at least one morally wrong action. In other words, he must know the relevant F-conditionals predicting how the instantiator of this diminished possible free person would freely act if it were to be created. Without the requisite middle knowledge, God's creation of free persons is a gamble, since he cannot have any prior assurance that these persons will come through for him and freely do the morally right thing. This makes availble (sic) to God the morally exonerating excuse for permitting moral evil of unavoidable ignorance. But whatever merit this might have in providing a theodicy for God's permitting moral evil, it precludes his granting salvific grace in his very act of creating free persons.

VR: But since Adams is a card-carrying universalist, it looks like he can dodge this objection. Everyone gets saving grace.

6 comments:

Jason said...

Question: are both Gale and Adams committed to the notion of 'in advance'? (e.g. is Gale saying God knows 'in advance' with Adams instead saying God doesn't know 'in advance'?) I can't quite tell from the report here.

Jason said...

Okay, I read through Gale’s argument more thoroughly. It’s quite good! {admirant bow!}

The essay is needlessly (?) complicated, though, by confution of two positions, either of which Gale might have been arguing for.

a.) God cannot provide salvific grace, whether or not He has any possible kind of middle knowledge.

b.) God would be acting in a non-omnibenevolent manner to create a person who sins, whether or not He has any possible kind of middle knowledge.

I qualify my ‘needlessly’ with a question mark, since I can’t quite tell whether Gale’s attempt at doing either one of these things necessarily requires (for better or for worse) that he also be trying to do the other.

Adams’ universalism might dodge the bullet of (a), but doesn’t seem topically capable (in itself) of dodging (b).


I was going to write up a reply to Gale’s essay (dating back to 1998, btw), though not specifically a defense of Adams’ position (which I’m not sure I can reconstruct enough from Gale’s essay to even decide whether I would defend it or not); but I realized I was going to have to ping-pong back and forth bewteen (a) and (b) in Gale’s essay, which to me seem like two distinctly different contentions not necessarily needing to be addressed at the same time.

Alternately, I could choose one of them to address, and then having done so (insofar as I can, however far that may be) turn to address the other. But aside from the fact I can’t decide which one would be best to address first, it seems to me that Gale shifts topics between (a) and (b) too frequently in the course of shared paragraphs, as though one was essentially identical with the other. Since I think they aren’t identical (though certainly topically related), this leaves me in some confusion as to how to proceed; even for purposes of analysing and critiquing whether Gale is salting the scales a bit in regard to omnitemporality (much less whether correcting this would harm his argument any.)


That being said, I though the essay was written with real skill and an eye for detail and implications, including self-critically so.

Jason said...

Urg. For (b) above, replace 'whether or not' with 'if'.

Steven Carr said...

Isn't middle knowledge obviously true?

As far as I understand it, middle knowledge means that , if you make a complete description of all the logically possible circumstances in which a person has a free choice, God will know what that person would do.

Of course, it has to be a *complete* description of *all* the logically possible circumstances in which a person could find himself.

But if you make a *complete* description of *all* the logically possible circumstances, you will quickly come to see that middle knowledge is available to God.

Take these two different sets of circumstances that I could logically be in :-

1) I am sitting down to breakfast in an hotel at 8:30 am on Thu. 21/09/2006, and a waiter is asking me ‘Tea or Coffee’, and God has infallible knowledge that I will choose tea.

2) I am sitting down to breakfast in an hotel at 8:30 am on Thu. 21/09/2006, and a waiter is asking me ‘Tea or Coffee’, and God has infallible knowledge that I will choose coffee.

None of these circumstances were actual, but if they were actual, then God would have middle knowledge of how I would choose in each of the two, different , sets of circumstances.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Please see, "Non-Exclusivism, Universalism, Evil, and, Philosophy As One Big 'IF'"

Jason said...

I agree middle knowledge must be a divine property, _if_ by middle knowledge we really mean omniscience. (I'm a bit fuzzy on this, because the omniscience I recognize doesn't seem to fit the category of _middle_ knowledge per se. And though Gale acknowledges this kind of omniscience, he still seems to address it in terms of _middle_ knowledge anyway. This _might_ be a serious weakness for his argument; I can't quite tell yet, though.)

As far as I can tell, Gale agrees that middle knowledge must be a divine property (if God exists--he stresses as much at least once anyway), but he also structures his argument (in the case of (a)) so that he can argue against God providing salvific grace _whether or not_ God has any possible kind of middle knowledge.

Put shortly, the portions of his paper (which portions I have said are rather mixed up with each other, possibly to the detriment of his paper--I can't quite tell yet), are:

1.) If God does _not_ have middle knowledge, He cannot provide salvific grace. (i.e. He must have middle knowledge in order to provide salvific grace.)

2.) If God _does_ have middle knowledge, He still cannot provide salvific grace. (This element seems a bit shakier than the rest, to me.)

3.) God, to be God, must have middle knowledge. (This is more-or-less asserted, I think; but is not usually in contention except by open theists in some ways.)

4.) If God _didn't_ have middle knowledge, He might be exonerated from creating agents who will sin (or otherwise cause unwanted suffering generally.) This is a frequent position of open theists, but Gale doesn't seem to think Adams holds this position.

5.) If God _does_ have middle knowledge, then He cannot be exonerated from creating agents who will sin (or otherwise cause unwanted suffering generally.) Gale spends some time considering various proposals for and defenses against this position.


Gale's presentation is pretty sophisticated; enough so that I can't quite tell whether disentangling his topical strings would be detrimental. I can intuit a couple of ways that that it might even _help_ his argument more. {shrug} In any case, it still looks like a respectable and admirable attempt to me.