bookmark_borderGod, Multi-verses, and Modal Realism

(redated post originally published on 16 November 2011)
I have heard in various quarters recently the claim that Lewis’ version of modal realism is (a) just a kind of multi-verse theory; and (b) intrinsically incompatible with theism. A partial discussion of this issue may be found in the pages of Philosophia Christi:
Richard Davis ‘God and Modal Concretism’ Philosophia Christi 10, 1, 2008, 57-74
Graham Oppy ‘Reply to Richard Davis’ Philosophia Christi 11, 2, 2009, 423-36
Richard Davis ‘Oppy and Modal Theistic Proofs’ Philosophia Christi 11, 2, 2009, 437-44
I think that (a) and (b) are both mistaken. But, in order to explain why, we need to have some details of the relevant theories before us.
A. Lewis’ Plurality of Worlds
Here are some of the salient features of the Lewisian view:
1. Individuals are world-bound: no individual exists in more than one world.
2. Worlds have no external relations to one another.
3. (Consequence of 1.) There are no ‘extra worldly’ individuals who are externally related to more than one world.
4. (Consequence of 1.) If there are gods, then gods are world-bound individuals related to exactly one world.
5. There are no ‘island universes’: in each world, there is but one connected spatio-temporal manifold.
6. If there are gods, then spatio-temporal relations are not the sole external relations (since gods are then externally related to spatio-temporal manifolds and yet that external relation is not spatio-temporal). If there are island-universes, then spatio-temporal relations are not the sole external relation (since island universes are externally related to one another, and yet that external relation is not spatio-temporal).
7. The worlds–and their ‘contents’–are truth-makers for (de re) modal claims. ‘I might have Fd’ is true just in case there is a world in which a counterpart of mine Fs.
8. Standard theism receives the following formulation on Lewis view: In every world, there is exactly one all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good being that creates the single connected spatio-temporal manifold of that world (if there is one), and these beings are all counterparts of one another. On Lewis’s account of (de re) modal claims, this state of affairs would make-true the sentence ‘Necessarily, God creates whatever spatio-temporal manifold there is’. (Of course, Lewis does not accept standard theism. The point here is just that this is what the view would look like in a Lewisian framework.)
B. Multi-verses
1. Possible worlds may ‘contain’ many universes, i.e. many maximally connected spatio-temporal domains. If the actual world is a multi-verse, then it ‘contains’ many universes. (There is a question about whether to allow connections involving wormholes, or singularities, or the like. I think that this is simply a verbal question about the definitions of ‘maximal connectedness’ and ‘universe’.)
2. Individuals are universe-bound: no individual exists in more than one universe.
3. Universes have no ‘regular’ external relations to one another. (No information can pass through a wormhole or a singularity, if wormholes or singularities are held to ‘connect’ universes. Etc.)
4. Standard theism receives the following formulation: There is an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good being that exists in every world and that creates all of the universes in every one of the worlds (whether there are many, one, or none). (‘Necessarily, God creates whatever universes there are.’)
5. The multi-verse hypothesis is neutral on the logic, semantics, and metaphysics of modality. Defenders of this hypothesis could be: ersatzists, or primitivists, or fictionalists, or (I say) even (modified) Lewisian realists.
C. What modifications are needed?
1. We need to give up the idea that there is just one connected spatio-temporal manifold in each world.
2. On grounds of simplicity, Lewis prefers a view on which there is just one external relation: worlds just are universes, i.e., maximally spatio-temporally related entities. But, he recognises that his view can accommodate further external relations (and would need to do so, if, for example, it was to allow that it is possible that there are gods or island universes).
3. On grounds of simplicity, Lewis is opposed to island universes. However, as just noted, provided that he admits further external relations, his view can perfectly well accommodate island universes.
D. What might be controversial about the fore-going?
It goes without saying that Lewis’s account of (de re) modality is controversial. Famously, Kripke thought that invoking counterparts as truth-makers does not do justice to the thought that (de re) modal claims are about the very individuals to which they refer. But this is not an issue that has anything particularly to do with theism; if it succeeds, it’s equally an objection to the proposition that Lewis theory can accommodate (de re) modal claims about any other individuals (e.g. you or me). When we ask whether we can accommodate standard theism in a Lewisian framework, we only have an interesting question if we set aside global worries about the adequacy of the Lewisian account of (de re) modality.
I imagine some theists might say: no view can be acceptable if it allows that there are universes that are not made by God (where ‘God’ is taken to refer to a being that exists in the actual world). Now, it is true that this claim would be true on the above version of Lewis’ view. But it is also true, on the above version of Lewis’s view, that it is impossible that there is a universe that is not made by God. Does this mean that the above version of Lewis’ view is contradictory? No.
On the version of Lewis’ view in question, there are no ACTUAL universes that are not made by the ACTUAL God — even though there are non-ACTUAL universes that are not made by the ACTUAL God. Our objecting theist should be happy to accept that there are MERELY POSSIBLE universes that are not made by the ACTUAL God — but, by Lewis’s lights, that’s all that you are required to commit yourself to when you accept that there ARE universes that are not made by God.

bookmark_borderMoreland on Consciousness

(redated post originally published on 14 November 2011)
Re: http://www.jpmoreland.com/2010/11/18/critique-of-graham-oppys-objection/
There have been some further developments in this discussion. See:
Graham Oppy “Critical Notice of J. P. Moreland’s Consciousness and the Existence of God” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3, 1, 2011, 193-212
J. P. Moreland “Oppy on the Argument from Consciousness: A Rejoinder” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3, 1, 2011, 213-226
Graham Oppy “Consciousness in not Evidence for Theism” in C. Meister, J. P. Moreland, and K. Sweis (eds.) Oxford Contemporary Dialogues Oxford: OUP, forthcoming. (Should be out early in the new year. Also contains a chapter by Moreland, defending his argument from consciousness, which I haven’t yet seen.)
Re the above link to Moreland’s blog: In Arguing about Gods, I discuss two arguments from consciousness. First, I (briefly) consider the argument in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding that is critiqued by Mackie in The Miracle of Theism. Second, I provide a fairly lengthy discussion of the argument in Swinburne’s The Existence of God. I do not think that the main criticism that I make of these argument in Arguing about Gods is that “the theist’s use of personal explanation regarding consciousness is a bogus form of explanation” (cf. the claim in Moreland’s blog). (See p.401 of Arguing about Gods for a summary of five of the criticisms that I make of Swinburne’s argument. The claim that Moreland attributes to me is not among these five criticisms ….)
The most important point to note — vis a vis this discussion — I think, is this: The worst case for the naturalist is one in which ‘conscious state’ is an ideological primitive, with an ideologically primitive connection to ‘neural state’ (or the like). But, for theists like Moreland, ‘conscious state’ is evidently an ideological primitive — for, of course, Moreland thinks that God is conscious, and does not suppose that God’s consciousness is explained in terms of something else — and the connection between consciousness and the rest of God’s ‘state’ is also ideologically primitive. So, on a proper accounting of theoretical costs, the worst case for the naturalist is no worse than par with the view that Moreland defends. (And, of course, if the naturalist can provide a ‘reduction’ of consciousness, then the naturalist has a theoretically more virtuous position.) But, if this is right, the considerations about consciousness cannot possibly favour theism (regardless of the outcome of attempts to provide a naturalistic ‘reduction’ of consciousness).

bookmark_border“The Argument from Reason” (2)

(redating post originally published on 14 December 2011)
At 349, Reppert says: “We ought to draw the conclusion if we accept the premises of a valid argument”.
This is obviously wrong. Suppose, to take the worst case, that my beliefs contradict one another. If we are supposing classical logic — as Reppert clearly is — then, from my contradictory beliefs, using Reppert’s principle, I ought to infer that every claim is true. But, even though there IS a valid argument from premises I accept to an absurd conclusion, I ought NOT to “draw” the absurd conclusion. Rather, what I ought to do is to go back and examine my premises (my set of beliefs). Of course, this point is perfectly general: it is not just a point about the special case in which my beliefs are contradictory. Whenever I notice that my beliefs entail some further belief, it is an open question whether I ought to accept the further belief (“draw” the conclusion), or whether I should re-examine my premises (my set of already held beliefs).
This is not a minor quibble. Reppert throughout writes in a way that conflates logic and inference. It is one question what is entailed by beliefs that I already hold (this is a question of logic); it is quite another what I ought to infer — how I ought to change the beliefs that I hold — given the beliefs that I already hold. (In *Change in View*, Gil Harman notes other good reasons for not conflating logic and inference. For insistence, there is clearly a principle of “clutter avoidance” that applies to inference: you should only make the effort to draw inferences from given beliefs that you hold if there is some point to your so doing. “p” entails “p or q”; but, typically, there is no point in trying to enlarge your stock of beliefs by drawing inferences that conform to this logical principle. On the other hand, there is no principle of “clutter avoidance” that applies to logic: that one proposition entails another is utterly independent of our interests, cognitive economy, and so forth.)
In his discussion of “the argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws”, Reppert writes (380): “… laws of logic pick out ways of thinking that are correct regardless of place, time, or even possible world”. Not so. Laws of logic do NOT pick out “ways of thinking”. Laws of logic concern logical relations between propositions (entailment, inconsistency, etc.) Ways of thinking concern the revision of belief (possibly under the impact of new information). Connections between these topics are indirect. True enough, a collection of beliefs can be criticised because of the logical relations that hold between the contents of the beliefs: for instance, a collection of beliefs can be logically inconsistent. But this observation has nothing to say about the revision of belief: it cannot tell us, for example, which beliefs ought to be given up in order to return the system of beliefs to consistency. (Perhaps it tells us that we ought to revise our beliefs. But even this advice is not unconditional. If the inconsistency can be quarantined, and if it doesn’t have significant behavioural consequences, then it may fall so low on the list of cognitive imperatives as never to receive attention.)
Some of these difficulties can be avoided if, instead of talking about beliefs, we talk about theories. Since theories are identified by their non-logical axioms, they are not dynamic–and so we don’t get into the kinds of difficulties that emerge if we talk about beliefs.

bookmark_border“The Argument from Reason”

(Redating post originally published on 8 December 2011)
A couple of comments on Reppert “The Argument from Reason” in Craig and Moreland (ed.) Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, 344-90. (I have a long list; I may post further comments later.)
1. At 368, Reppert argues: If the reference of our terms is indeterminate, then this has the disastrous consequence that we cannot reason to conclusions.
This is surely wrong. Reasoning can be purely formal. (If all flombs are bloops, and all bloops are shimbs, then all flombs are shimbs. The reasoning is impeccable. We can reason even if our terms have no meanings!) Moreover — and perhaps partly in consequence — so long as we restrict ourselves to a single context, and use the same word throughout, we can reason perfectly well even if our meanings are indeterminate. (If this is a rabbit, and that is a distinct rabbit, then there are at least two rabbits. Fine, regardless of Quinean indeterminacy in the meaning of “rabbit”!)
2. At 374, Reppert endorses an argument by Menuge, for the conclusion that our intentionality is the product of prior intentionality. This argument begins as follows:
1. If something has a purpose, then it is designed.
2. Intentionality has the purpose of guiding behaviour.
3. (So) Intentionality is designed.
This argument cannot be good … and, in particular, Reppert cannot think that it is good. After all, he does NOT think that God’s intentionality is designed.

Further Comments on http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/reply-to-professor-graham-oppys.html

I shall restrict myself to one small comment on what is a very long post that covers a great deal of ground very quickly.
In my previous post, I wrote this: “Question: Is there a first cause in causal reality? If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause. Moreover, it might seem right to say that causal reality begins to exist with that first cause. (Of course, “begins” here is not temporal; it is simply causal.)
This elicited the following commentary: “I think Oppy’s question is pretty confused. He asks whether a first cause exists “in” the causal reality, when actually the question is whether there is a first cause OF the causal reality. Only in latter case, it follows that “If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause“.”

I am thinking of causal reality as the collection of all causal relata. If causal relata are all events, then causal reality is the collection of all causal events (together with the causal relations that hold between them). If causal relata are all states, then causal reality is the collection of all causal states (together with the causal relations that hold between them). If causal relata are diverse — including, say, events, states, objects, agents, and so forth — then causal reality is the collection of all of these events, states, objects, agents, and so forth (together with the causal relations that hold between them).
Let us introduce the neutral term ‘ (causal) thing’ to cover all of the events, states, objects, agents, or whatever that belong to causal reality. The causal relation — the relation of cause and effect — at least partially orders these (causal) things: for any two things, either one is causally prior to the second, or casually posterior to the second, or causally unrelated to the second. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the causal relation is a total order, so that there are no two (causal) things that are causally unrelated. (Note that this is a controversial assumption. I make it here because it is irrelevant for the main point at issue, not because I think that there is no further discussion to be had about it.)
Given that causal reality is totally ordered, there are two possibilities: either there is an infinite regress under the causal relation, or there is a first cause. So there is a genuine question about whether there is a first cause (so long as there is a genuine question about whether there is an infinite regress under the causal relation.) However, IF there is a first cause, then — a fortiori — it belongs to causal reality (it belongs to the collection of causal things).
In short: there is no confusion in my question, or in the comments that come after. Causal reality is a collection of (causal) things. If there is a first cause, then it is the first element IN causal reality. You might think — as theists do — that God is the first cause IN causal reality. However you CANNOT sensibly suppose that God is the cause OF causal reality: it is obvious from the accepted definitions of terms that causal reality CANNOT have a cause.
It is worth noting that, if, for example, you think that only events can be causal relata, then the first cause will be something like God’s making natural reality. In this case, God somehow “participates” in the first cause, but is not identical to it. (God is not an event, so  — if only events can be causal relata — then God cannot be the first cause.) Of course, I have taken no stance in the above discussion on what the terms of the causal relation actually are.
I guess it goes without saying that the “charitable reinterpretation” of the rest of my remarks turns out to be nothing of the sort …

Part of a response to: http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/graham-oppy-on-successful-arguments.html 

The argument we have been given — the kalam cosmological syllogism — is this:

1-Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist)

2-The universe began to exist

3-Therefore, the universe has a cause (of its beginning to exist)

Two immediate questions to ask when we come to assess it: (a) What lies in the scope of the quantifier in (1)? (b) What exactly do we mean by “the universe”?

Let “causal reality” be the complete network of actual causes. If God exists, then God is part of causal reality; if not, not.

Let “natural reality” be the entire domain of natural causes. If God exists, God is not part of natural reality; rather, if God exists, God is the cause of natural reality. However, if there is nothing supernatural, then natural reality just is causal reality.

Causal reality is structured by the causal relation. Under the causal relation, causes are prior to their effects. Note that this has nothing to do with temporal priority: if there are non-temporal causes and effects, the causal relation still imposes a priority / posteriority relation on them.

Question: Is there a first cause in causal reality? If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause. Moreover, it might seem right to say that causal reality begins to exist with that first cause. (Of course, “begins” here is not temporal; it is simply causal.)

Consider this argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist).
2. Causal reality began to exist.
3. Therefore, causal reality has a cause (of its beginning to exist).

The conclusion of this argument is necessarily false. (Causes are distinct from their effects. A cause of causal reality would be distinct from causal reality. But all causes belong entirely to causal reality.)

So, one of the premises of this argument is false.

Now, consider this argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist)
2. Natural reality began to exist.
3. Therefore, natural reality has a cause (of its beginning to exist).

If you are a naturalist, you think that causal reality just is natural reality. So, of course, if you are a naturalist, you think that the conclusion of this argument is false. (If you think that it is necessary that causal reality is natural reality, then you think that this conclusion is necessarily false.)

By the lights of naturalists, then, at least one of the premises of this argument is false.

Moreover, what naturalists say about the falsity of the premises in this latter argument is dictated by what is said about the falsity of the premises in the former argument. If we avoid the conclusion that causal reality has a cause by rejecting the claim that *Whatever begins to exist has a cause (of its beginning to exist)*, then we avoid the conclusion that natural reality has a cause by the very same move. However, if we avoid the conclusion that causal reality has a cause by rejecting the claim that causal reality began to exist, then we avoid the conclusion that natural reality has a cause by denying that natural reality began to exist. Moreover, if we nonetheless maintain that there is a first cause in causal reality, then we also nonetheless maintain that there is a first cause in natural reality!!

So, here’s the response. Tell me whether you think that there is a first cause in causal reality, and tell me whether you think that causal reality began to exist with that first cause. If you accept both of these claims, then you must reject that claim that whatever begins to exist has a a cause of its beginning to exist. However, if you reject the claim that there is a first cause in causal reality, then you are not a theist!; and if you reject the claim that causal reality began to exist even though there is a first cause, then surely you have to allow that I can deny that natural reality (the universe) began to exist even though there is a first natural cause!

What if you suppose that “the universe” is a proper part of natural reality? Well, in that case, on any view, the universe can have a natural cause. But most working cosmologists do think that what they call “the universe” is a proper part of natural reality. So we lose nothing by identifying “the universe” with what I have called “natural reality”.

What if you insist that “begins” in the argument must be read temporally. “Whatever comes into existence in time has a cause of its coming into existence in time. The universe comes into existence in time. So the universe has a cause of its coming into existence in time.” Well, now we ask: what about those things that exist at the first moment of time (assuming that there is one). Do they come into existence in time at that time? If God exists, does God come into existence in time at that first moment of time? If not, why should we say that the universe comes into existence in time at that first moment of time? (Note, by the way, that many working cosmologists think that there is a part of the history of the universe that is not temporal. Time may not be fundamental!)

bookmark_borderDistrust & Anti-Atheist Prejudice

Interesting new paper from Gervais, Shariff and Norenzayan:

Gervais-et-al-Atheist-Distrust.pdf

The experiments performed by Gervais et al. provide pretty convincing support for the thesis that anti-atheist prejudice manifests as distrust (rather than dislike, or disgust), and that it surfaces most strongly when the need for trust — as opposed to say, likeability, or pleasantness — is particularly salient. So, for example, prejudiced religious believers are inclined to suppose that, while it is fine for atheists to be waiters, it’s not fine for them to be teachers.

Note the claim (1203) that societal-level existential security –as guaranteed by many modern social institutions — is a robust predictor of reduced religious belief. Anti-atheist prejudice might be ‘rationalisable’ in circumstances in which religion has a signficant role as “social glue” — but those circumstances diminish if strong secular institutions that support societal-level existential security are established.