Free Will Defense Insufficient?
Kevin Kim has objected to my argument concerning a refutation of the so-called "logical problem of evil." Briefly put, I argued that there is no obvious logical contradiction between the fact of evil and God's omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence because of the possibility that God has a good reason for allowing evil even if we are unaware of this reason.
Kevin raises an objection to my refutation with respect to God's omnibenevolence, arguing that "If the term has any meaning at all, it has to mean that God desires maximal fulfillment for all his creatures . . . . [and that it] cannot mean anything less than this, for anything less would entail less-than-maximal fulfillment for at least one creature."
Kevin goes on to object that Alvin Plantinga's free will defense offers no way past this objection. We therefore ought to look at the free will defense to consider Kevin's objection, so let's borrow Tim O'Keefe's convenient version of Plantinga's free will defense:
1. Creatures who are significantly free cannot be causally determined to do only what is right.This is a strong argument, I believe, if one accepts the premise that to be "significantly free" is a great good, great enough to justify the possibility of evil arising through such significant freedom.
2. Thus, if God creates creatures who are significantly free, He cannot causally determine them to do only what is right. (from 1)
3. Thus, if God creates creatures who are significantly free, he must create creatures who are capable of moral evil. (from 2)
4. Thus, if God creates a world containing creatures who are significantly free, it will contain creatures who are capable of moral evil. (from 3)
5. If God creates a world containing creatures who are capable of moral evil, He cannot guarantee that there will not be evil in that world.
6. Thus, if God creates a world containing creatures who are significantly free, He cannot guarantee that there will not be evil in that world. (from 4 and 5)
7. A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more morally good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.
8. Thus, God has good reason to create a world containing creatures who are significantly free. (from 7)
9. Thus, God has good reason to create a world, which He cannot guarantee will not contain evil. (from 6 and 8)
Presumably, Kevin would object that such freedom is not justified because this would violate the principle of omnibenevolence since this significant freedom would leave open the possibility that free creatures might have less-than-maximal fulfillment.
But what does Kevin mean by "maximal fulfillment"? I don't find a definition of this expression in his post. Does it entail that God create creatures that are His equal in every way? Surely not, since God must be greater than every other being. How 'maximal', then, is sufficient for maximal fulfillment? But perhaps Kevin is not speaking of a maximal degree of being but of maximal fulfillment of the potential intrinsic to each finite being created by God. This still seems to require too much, for based upon this interpretation, if even a single finite being lacks maximal fulfillment of its potential, this lack would violate God's omnibenevolence. But perhaps Kevin is also not speaking of a maximal degree of potential either.
In fact, what Kevin seems to mean in his post is not that God's omnibenevolence entails "maximal fulfillment" for each creature created but that God's omnibenevolence entails that there be no "creaturely suffering" at all among the various creatures created. But is this really entailed? What if a world in which creaturely suffering can occur offers greater fulfillment than a world in which no creaturely suffering can occur? Perhaps "significant freedom" offers the possibility of greater fulfillment than the lack of such freedom.
The difficult issue would thus be not the fact of suffering per se but an amount of suffering beyond what is necessary for the fulfillment offered by creating finite creatures with significant freedom.