Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Video: Challenge Response- The Best Possible World Wouldn't Have Non-God Objects by Brett Kunkle

The argument from the "Problem of Non-God Objects" is as follows:



Below, Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason critiques the argument:



Further, you can checkout the comments section here for a great discussion of the argument!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

29 comments:

Roger Adlon said...

Gee, I wonder why this has been posted? Thanks Chad!

When I read this syllogism, the first things that came to my mind were “what is meant by ‘best possible world’ and what does it mean that God is a perfect being?” Let’s take a look at the argument in a slightly different context.

(1) There is a possible home ‘H’ that is my wife and I existing in marriage and nothing else.
(2) Our marriage is perfect.
(3) Therefore, ‘H’ is the ‘best possible home’.
(4) My wife and I always desire the best possible home over all others.
(5) Therefore, we always desire ‘H’ over all other possible homes.
(6) If any Non-marriage objects (i.e. children) were to exist in the actual home, then we desire some other home over ‘H’.
(7) Non-marriage objects (our children: Elena and Josiah) exist in our actual home.
(8) Therefore, we desired some possible world over ‘H’.
(9) It is impossible for us to always desire ‘H’ over all possible homes and to desire any possible homes over ‘P’. – Really?

When we replace a ‘best possible world’ with a ‘best possible home’, the argument takes on a different light.

When my wife and I decided to have children, we did not do it because there was something absent from our relationship, because we needed anything or because we did not have the best possible home. We did it because, out of our love, we simply wanted to. And in so doing, we took the risk that our children might recognize and acknowledge our love for them as their parents, or they could reject us, our love for them and the values we hold dear.

Therefore, the ideas of a best possible world and God being a perfect being make assumptions that do not account for the loving nature of God’s character and the risk He was willing to take to express His love by creating human beings made in his image with the capacity to enter into a loving relationship with Him because He simply wanted to.

So God not only created us, but, despite our rebellion and refusal to recognize and acknowledge Him, He also provided for the restoration of our relationship with Him. This is demonstrated in the value He places on us through His willingness to pay the highest possible cost for our redemption, His Son, Jesus. Thus, a best possible world becomes an infinitely better possible world with the addition of creatures who have freely chosen to accept His gracious gift of forgiveness and enter into loving relationship with Him.

May your hearts be open to receiving His offer of grace. He is real and He is true to His word. (Heb 11:6)

Andrew Ryan said...

"we did not do it because there was something absent from our relationship, because we needed anything or because we did not have the best possible home. We did it because, out of our love, we simply wanted to."

This doesn't answer the problem. If you wanted to, it infers a desire. You wanted something you didn't currently have. It very much infers that your current situation wasn't 'perfect', that you thought it could be improved.

A God that desires to create us couldn't have been a 'perfect being', as a perfect being has no desires or wants.

"Thus, a best possible world becomes an infinitely better possible world "

That doesn't work either. A best possible world, by definition, can't be improved.

Chase said...

Premise 3 states that the best possible world is 'P'; only God existing alone because God is a perfect being. I do not understand why any other world that contains God and Non-God objects is not still a perfect world. God, a perfect being still exists in this other world. The introduction of Non-God objects reduces God's perfection? How so? How can a perfect being lose it's perfection? If it can, it was not perfect to begin with. This is where I see the argument not working.

Roger Adlon said...

Hi Andrew, it is good to hear from you. I’m so glad you chose to respond to my comment.

This is a very interesting problem. I feel as though there are problems with the meanings of our terms and the possibilities that follow from them, similar to our previous discussion (For which I hoped you would have provided a closing thought). I’m trying to understand what presuppositions are tied into the terms “best possible world” and “perfect being”.

Perhaps a visit to Hilbert’s Hotel can shed some light on these presuppositions. Hilbert’s Hotel has an infinite number of rooms. Every room is occupied, there is NO vacancy, the hotel is a “best possible” hotel and the manager is “perfect”. He does not need or desire any additional customers. But, along comes a new customer who does not have a room. The manager checks the new customers into room 1, the guests in room 1 are moved to room 2, the guests in room 2 are moved to room 3 and so on until every room is occupied and every guest has a room. The manager, who had no need or desire for any more customers, could give a new customer something they do not have – a room. His desire is not for something he currently did not have or that his situation could be improved. His desire was to give, out of his infinite resources, a room to a new customer.

My wife and I, in our “perfect” marriage, in our “best possible home”, can desire to have children. We can create them in order to give to them something they do not have, i.e. the life and love we share with each other. It is not a matter that we desire something we are lacking, it is the desire to give out of what we have and to give it with our children who can freely enjoy it.

So desire does not necessarily mean that there is something I am currently lacking, it can mean that I want to give to others out of what I already have and giving what I have to others does not add or subtract anything to me. Therefore it is quite possible for a “perfect” being in a “best possible world” to have the desire to create something and that what is created does not add or take away from the beings perfection and the best possible world becomes a better possible world.

In conclusion, I invite you to consider that this is all perfectly consistent and coherent with the nature of God (that He is love) and His existence as a triune being in Christian theism. Love is relational and giving. One does not love in order fill any need or lack in oneself, one loves in order to give of oneself to another. Without another to whom one gives, there is no love. If God is a monad and loving, then He must create something to which He can give His love, but if He is 3 persons in 1 God, then love exists in that nature and He is free to create out of that love.
I pray that your heart and mind would be open to receiving His love,
Roger
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.” – Annie Johnston Flint

Andrew Ryan said...

Chase, it doesn't reduce the perfection of the God, it reduces the optimility of the universe, in Justin's argument. If you email Justin on this he is always happy to discuss the argument.

Roger: Desire does mean lacking, even if it is a desire to give to someone else. If I want to go to the shop to buy my brother a soda, it's still something I want to do. Saying it's for someone else doesn't change this. It's a personal desire - this applies to you wanting to have kids, Hilbert's hotelier, and to God wanting to create us.

Chase said...

Hi Andrew,

it doesn't reduce the perfection of the God, it reduces the optimility of the universe, in Justin's argument.

In premises 1 through 3, God existing alone for eternity is defined as a world (P). God existing together with non-god objects is defined as a world as well in premises 6 through 8 (Not P). To me Justin is saying that Not P is a reduction in optimility of P. But if Not P contains God, how can it be a reduction in optimility?

Perhaps I will pose this question to Justin. However, if this argument is a stumbling block that is keeping you from considering theism, I would hope that you are able to explain it and defend it as I, like you, desire to know truth.

Respectfully.

Andrew Ryan said...

"But if Not P contains God, how can it be a reduction in optimility?"

It reduces the purity of P. We no longer have a perfect universe – P. It now contains less than perfect things. Optimility has therefore been reduced.

Chase said...

It reduces the purity of P. We no longer have a perfect universe – P. It now contains less than perfect things. Optimility has therefore been reduced.

I do not think you answered the question. So, I will try to clarify my understanding of the argument and your previous comments.

Premises 1 through 3 of the argument equate God existing alone as a world/universe (P). So, P is a world/universe that consists of only 1 part; God. It seems to me from premises 6 though 8 that God is still considered a part of the world/universe with non-god objects as well(-P). -P is not as pure/optimal/perfect as P. I truly do not see why. God is part of -P. To say that -P is a reduction is to say that God is being reduced.

You stated in your first comment to me that it is not a reduction in the purity/optimility/perfection of God, but of the world/universe, so my understanding of God being a part of -P may be mistaken, but why is it that in premises 6 through 8 God is not considered part of -P and yet God is considered a part of P in premises 1 through 3? In fact considered P!? God is P!

I hope this helps to clarify my understanding and question. Again, I may pose this question to Justin, however, any help you can provide in answering my question so that I may better understand the argument is appreciated.

Chad said...

Hello Gentlemen,

Thanks for the great discussion!

I wanted to let you guys know that Justin debated Max Andrews of Sententias and actually used this argument in the debate.

You can find the transcript here.

Godspeed

Andrew Ryan said...

Take a nice dinner - a perfect dinner in fact. Then add a dollop of dog food to the plate. All the original nice food is there, but the dinner overall isn't going to get a Michelin Star.

Chase said...

Andrew,

You just affirmed the point I was trying to make with your analogy. Your analogy states the following:

A Perfect Dinner (Dinner) = A Perfect Being (God)

Dog Food = Non-god Objects

Dinner + Dog Food = a reduction in the quality of Dinner

This is the same as:

God + Non-god Objects = a reduction in the quality of God

This makes no sense. How can the quality of God be reduced? If it can be He was not the perfect being described in premise 1.

Andrew Ryan said...

Justin argued the 'Best possible world would only have God'. Note again, the best possible WORLD. I don't think he argues that the quality of God would be reduced.

The equivalent here would be "The best possible meal would only have 'The Perfect Dinner', rather than The Perfect Dinner with a dollop of dog food".

Chase said...

Justin argued the 'Best possible world would only have God'. Note again, the best possible WORLD. I don't think he argues that the quality of God would be reduced.

All quotations of Justin are from the transcript provided by Chad. All bold text are added by me.

This is from Justin's opening statement:

"If God exists, and if he is truly the maximal great being that the philosophical theologians hold him to be, then he would surely be aware of the fact that himself existing alone for eternity as ‘GodWorld’ is the best possible world that could ever exist, and because God is essentially morally perfect, he couldn’t have a motivating reason to intentionally alter the overall quality of that maximally great state of affairs – because any alteration in OVERALL quality by the introduction of a universe, would, by necessity , be a degradation of overall quality. A maximally great being such as God would sustain that beautiful, eternal tone of perfection. God wouldn’t introduce limited entities each with their own unimpressive set of degraded great-making properties like the creation myth of Genesis records. Ignorant, weak and morally gullible creatures like Adam and his after-thought helpmeat Eve sure have great-making properties but they have them to a an unimpressive degree. This can’t be seen as anything other than a degredation of what could have been."

What "could have been" is God existing alone. He is arguing that God would be degraded by the addition of non-god objects. So, my question stands. How can God, as defined in premise 1, be degraded?

Justin goes on to state the following which I think even calls into question his definition of God:

"Any plausible conception of what it means to be a maximally great being has us thinking that God would maintain and preserve Godworld because to suggest God is in the degrading business is to suggest he is wasn’t maximally great in the first place."

This is equivalent to stating that God, a maximally great being, cannot create, because for God to do so would demonstrate He is not a maximally great being. Is the ability to create not a great making property? I think so. So, really Justin is stating that God, who is not a maximally great being (because He cannot create), existing alone is the best possible world. This makes no sense.

Justin does state the following in his second rebuttal:

"The point is that, if God is the standard of moral and ontological perfection, any creation act, if it is not to clone himself, will degrade that overall world-purity."

God cannot create a clone of himself. Not because of a lack of power, but because it is illogical. Anything God creates is not God because of the fact that is was created. I would surely hope Justin agrees with this. If he does not I question his understanding of a God and non-god objects. If he does, I maintain that Justin is describing in premise 1 a being that is not truly maximally great and thus not even arguing against the Christian God. This of course you would not know and so I may contact Justin.
However, regardless of whether or not Justin agrees that God cannot create a clone of himself, any insight you can provide is welcomed.

Andrew Ryan said...

" He is arguing that God would be degraded by the addition of non-god objects"

No, he's not arguing that. You quoted him yourself:
"because any alteration in OVERALL quality by the introduction of a universe, would, by necessity , be a degradation of overall quality"

Overall quality, in other words everything, including non-God objects. I don't know how to say it any clearer, given that even the quotes you provide and emphasise do not - to my eyes - back up your point.

Chase said...

Andrew,

You did not address the end of the paragraph I quoted:

"A maximally great being such as God would sustain that beautiful, eternal tone of perfection. God wouldn’t introduce limited entities each with their own unimpressive set of degraded great-making properties like the creation myth of Genesis records. Ignorant, weak and morally gullible creatures like Adam and his after-thought helpmeat Eve sure have great-making properties but they have them to a an unimpressive degree. This can’t be seen as anything other than a degredation of what could have been."

What "could have been" is God existing alone. That seems clear to me from the entire paragraph. He is arguing that God would be degraded by the addition of non-god objects. So, my question still stands. How can God, as defined in premise 1, be degraded?

Do you have any thoughts on my other comments regarding Justin's understanding of God and non-god objects?

Finally, I did contact him requesting clarification on these matters. I will let our readers know what his response is.

Andrew Ryan said...

I contacted him too and he said he tried to submit a comment, but didn't think it cleared.

"You did not address the end of the paragraph I quoted"

I think my last comment actually answers it fine. Again, I don't see how to put it any simpler. Yes, what could have been was just God. Introducing other objects is a step down, but to doesn't mean God is degraded.

Roger Adlon said...

Hi Andrew,

“Desire does mean lacking.” Actually, it means to want something or to wish for something. Why must wanting or wishing imply or necessitate a lack? Does it necessarily follow that having a desire means there is a lack in the one having the desire. What are you lacking that buying a soda for your brother fulfills? How does giving to your brother degrade who you are? How does it add something that you are missing? How does the desire to have children make the quality of my marriage any less perfect? How does the provision of a room by the hotel manager make the quality of the manager any less? Likewise, how does the creation of beings with whom God can share His love and who can freely choose to reciprocate that love make the quality of God’s perfection any less?

Is it necessarily true that “P” is the “best possible world”? Is it necessarily true that a perfect being MUST desire “P”?

Ah, wait a minute…

“light bulb”

…(4) states that “God always desires…” Hmmmm, this seems to be a contradiction in the argument. You are arguing that having a desire means that there is a lack and that a perfect being cannot have any lack. Yet (4) concludes (from 1-3) that God “always desires”! How can a perfect being by definition not desire anything while at the same time always desire something? Do I hear a “truthbomb” exploding as a result of the law of non-contradiction?

Release the minions!
Roger

Andrew Ryan said...

" Does it necessarily follow that having a desire means there is a lack in the one having the desire?"

By definition, it does.

" What are you lacking that buying a soda for your brother fulfills?"

The ability to give him a soda, of course!

"How can a perfect being by definition not desire anything while at the same time always desire something?"

Exactly - therefore a perfect being could not create us. You got the problem.

Andrew Ryan said...

"Likewise, how does the creation of beings with whom God..."

There's a fuller discussion of the argument by Justin here, dealing with Randal Rauser's objections – and I'd say addressing your own:
http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2013/07/04/a-response-to-randal-rausers-criticisms-of-the-problem-of-non-god-objects/



Roger Adlon said...

Hey Andrew,

By stating that “by definition” the lack of something necessarily follows from a desire is not a valid argument. I have given 2 examples, the hotel manager and my “home” where there was a desire (a want or a wish) and absolutely NO LACK. Also, in your soda example, the desire to give your brother a soda does not mean you lack the ability to give your brother a soda. The lack of ability does not necessarily follow from your desire, because you can desire to give your brother a soda AND have every capacity to give him one. I have not yet seen any demonstration that lacking necessarily follows from desire. Therefore I still hold that lack does not follow from desire, not even “by definition”, and thus a perfect being can desire.

Next, you missed the point of the law of non-contradiction. The contradiction is not in the perfect being, the contradiction is in the logic of the argument. Step (2) states "God is a perfect being". Therefore by your definition God CANNOT desire anything. Yet step (4) of the argument states, "God ALWAYS desires". Step (4) cannot follow from step (2). This is a contradiction, a fallacy, IN THE ARGUMENT, NOT THE CONCLUSION. The argument does not PROVE a contradiction, it IS a contradiction. Therefore, because of this fallacy, the argument self-destructs and it fails to demonstrate the conclusion. Since the argument is not valid, well, I’m afraid you still got the problem.

So you need to give me good reasons why lacking MUST follow from desire and how a fallacious argument can stand.

Finally, I’d ask not to be referred somewhere else for a “fuller discussion”. I’d prefer to hear you address my objections just as I take the time to address yours. Otherwise we end up with my response saying “here, check this out” and you come back with “listen to this” and then I say “read this” and we end up not dialoging with each other, which I think would miss the point. I put much thought and consideration into my responses because I care about you and want to dialogue with you.

He is real and true to His word (Heb 11:6) and you can know Him,
Roger

Andrew Ryan said...

"Also, in your soda example, the desire to give your brother a soda does not mean you lack the ability to give your brother a soda"

No, you lack the soda. Then you get the soda. Obviously the desire is fulfilled, just like it was, supposedly, when God created us. But there is desire beforehand. And yes, desire is a wish to change the current state of affairs - it means the current state of affairs is less than the desired state.

The point stands Roger.

Andrew Ryan said...

Chase, I don't think I ever addressed this:

"You just affirmed the point I was trying to make with your analogy. Your analogy states the following:
A Perfect Dinner (Dinner) = A Perfect Being (God)
Dog Food = Non-god Objects
Dinner + Dog Food = a reduction in the quality of Dinner"

No. It's clearer if we use an actual name for a meal rather than using dinner to mean both the meal and the specific food involved.

So, God is a beautiful chicken korma (!). Non-God objects are a burned nan side dish.

If I just serve you up the korma, then it comprises the whole dinner – it's perfect. If I add the burned side dish, the whole dinner now includes the burned nan. Quality of the whole dinner has now been reduced. It's no longer perfect. The korma isn't compromised, but certainly the dinner overall isn't.

To translate the analogy to the actual situation being described, when God is the only object in the universe, the word 'universe' pretty much just refers to God (in the same way 'dinner' at first just refers to the korma).

But if other objects are introduced into the universe, the term 'universe' now includes those objects – it's no longer synonymous with 'God', just as 'dinner' no longer refers just to the korma once we've got our dodgy nan.

So, 'compromising the dinner' doesn't mean 'compromising the korma', just as 'compromising the universe' doesn't mean 'degrading God'.

Assume for the analogy to work that the korma is so perfect that one doesn't NEED a side-dish – so one cannot say "Even a burned nan is an improvement over no nan at all!". Assume also that one cannot simply say "I can still enjoy my perfect korma without touching the spoiled nan!", as that would NOT be analogous to a universe with God and non-God objects.

Andrew Ryan said...

Roger: "step (4) of the argument states, "God ALWAYS desires"

Roger, Justin's formulation of the argument as I've seen it doesn't include God 'desiring' something. Here it is:

P1: If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique best possible world.
P2: If Godworld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.
P3: GodWorld is false because the Universe (or any non-God object) exists.
-Therefore, the Christian God, as so defined, does not exist.
(
Note: The term ‘GodWorld’ refers to that possible world where God never actually creates anything. This argument takes for granted that God’s initial act of creating the universe (or any non-God object) was a free act and not born out of necessity.)

If you'd like me to address your two examples:

"My wife and I, in our “perfect” marriage, in our “best possible home”, can desire to have children. We can create them in order to give to them something they do not have"

This doesn't really make sense. The 'they' doesn't exist UNTIL you create them. You can't say 'Oh, our children have a need for a life, we should give it to them', because the children don't even exist at that point to HAVE that need.

With Hilbert's hotel, I'm not sure this is analogous to God creating the universe. The room that the manager gives to the guest already exists. It's not something that the manager has to create to give to the guest.

But I guess you're just making a general argument against the idea that 'desire' = 'lack'. And I think your counter-example is actually a good one. But there still exists a time, however brief, when there's a situation that the manager wants to change – the guest has no room, and the manager wants the guest to have a room. The situation for the manager isn't 'perfect'.

Chase said...

Hi Andrew,

Based on your most recent comment:

Perfect Chicken Korma = God
Burned Nan Side Dish = Non-god Object
The Whole Dinner = The Whole Universe

Perfect Chicken Korma + Burned Nan Side Dish = A reduction in the quality of The Whole Dinner

God + Non-god Object = A reduction in the quality of The Whole Universe

This is clearer. However, this analogy, like all analogies, is limited. The relationship between the korma and the nan is not at all like the relationship between God and the non-god object. The korma did not create the nan and the nan, while separate from the korma, is coupled with the korma to make a whole dinner.

God creates the non-god object and remains entirely separate from it. The introduction of a non-god object does not somehow make God part of a whole. This, along with the reasons noted in my September 24th comment at 1:31 pm, is why I think the argument has a misconception of God and non-god objects.

Andrew Ryan said...

" The introduction of a non-god object does not somehow make God part of a whole."

The whole is 'everything that exists'. If you believe God exists, the God is part of that whole, along with non-God objects.

Sure the korma didn't create the nan, but I don't see how this hurts the analogy.

Roger Adlon said...

Hey Andrew,

1) If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique best possible world.
2) If Godworld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.
3) GodWorld is false because the Universe (or any non-God object) exists.

This argument is logically sound, but we must remember that sound arguments are not necessarily valid. In order for an argument to be valid, the premises must be true.

This argument is not valid because it is begging the question. The conclusion is based on premises (1 and 2) that are as much in need of proof or demonstration as the conclusion itself. (That’s from the definition of begging the question) You must prove that GodWorld is necessarily the unique best possible world and that the Christian God must necessarily maintain GodWorld.

If God is infinite (which is considered one of His attributes) then the analogy of Hilbert’s Hotel demonstrates that the idea that there is some kind of limit to a unique best possible world is absurd. It is possible that GodWorld is not necessarily the best possible world.

Second, if God is love (which is considered another of His attributes) then the analogy of my perfect marriage/home demonstrates that it is not necessary that God maintain GodWorld. It is possible that God need not maintain GodWorld.

I continue to remember you in my prayers,
Roger

Andrew Ryan said...

"the analogy of my perfect marriage/home demonstrates"

I already addressed your perfect marriage analogy.

"It is possible that GodWorld is not necessarily the best possible world."

I don't see how. A GodWorld would only contain God, who is perfect. Any addition of non-perfect objects would make that world less perfect.

Roger Adlon said...

Hey Andrew,

So you “dealt” with my “perfect marriage” by saying, “The [children don’t] exist UNTIL you create them. You can't say 'Oh, our children have a need for a life, we should give it to them', because the children don't even exist at that point to HAVE that need.”

Of course non-beings don’t have any needs. We did not say 'Oh, our children have a need for a life, we should give it to them'. We did not create them because they needed life. We did not create them because they needed anything. We created them we wanted to because of our love. We wanted to create beings in our image with whom we could share our love and who are capable of loving us in return.

You state “A GodWorld would only contain God, who is perfect. Any addition of non-perfect objects would make that world less perfect.” So what. The argument still has to demonstrate why a perfect being must maintain a perfect world. You’ve got to dig deep and demonstrate necessity. I want to know why it is necessary that a perfect being must only exist in a perfect world. I want to know why it is necessary that a perfect world is equivalent to the best possible world? Isn’t it possible that the argument is equivocating “best possible” and “perfect”? What do you mean by best possible? Is this the same as perfect? Can you explain how the argument isn’t question begging?

I remain convinced that love and infinitude make the creation of the universe and you & I by a “perfect” being not only possible, but reasonably coherent.

With grace,
Roger

P.S. I also had another thought. Doesn’t the argument assume a linear temporal relation in that there is a “time” where only God exists before He creates those pesky, imperfect non-god objects? Isn’t time a part of the space-time universe and therefore began when the universe came into existence? It may be a good idea to forgo spending any “time” trying to sort that thought out! I surely don’t have the “time”! (Why did the universe come into existence anyways?)

Andrew Ryan said...

" Isn’t time a part of the space-time universe and therefore began when the universe came into existence?"

If He exists in any meaningful sense then time exists already. Without time he cannot create anything! One cannot talk of God creating anything at all if time doesn't already exist. Creation requires time.

"Isn’t it possible that the argument is equivocating “best possible” and “perfect”?"

What's the difference between the two? Something can be 'best possible' without being perfect, but it can't be perfect without being 'best possible'

"We wanted to create beings in our image with whom we could share our love and who are capable of loving us in return."

And I've already pointed out that this suggests a lacking before the kids arrived – you were short of those children with whom you could share your love. Talk to people going through IVF treatment – they can be desperately disappointed if it fails. It's very much something they feel they NEED; they may well talk of a 'child-shaped hole' in their lives.

"I remain convinced that love and infinitude make the creation of the universe and you & I by a “perfect” being not only possible, but reasonably coherent."

Fine. I'm happy for you to believe whatever you want. As you say, there's only so much time one can expend on any particular topic.