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The Free Will Defense

The primary difficulty with the problem of evil is resolving the apparent conflict between the reality of evil in the world and the claim that God is:

Omniscient -- All knowing Omnipotent &endash; All powerful and Wholly Good

One version of the free will defense is to compare the current state of the world with a world in which all actions were good and no evil was possible. It is important here to point out that the good that is being referred to is 'moral good.' That is, it is good that is a result of the conscious actions of people. This is distinct from 'natural good' or 'natural evil' which maybe result from non-human causes. The free will defense (FWD) theorist points out that in order for man to be in a position to do 'moral good' he must be 'significantly free.' That is, he must be in a position to make a choice between making a morally good or evil action. Given that in the current world (World-1) human agents are given this freedom, a certain level of moral evil is unavoidable. This world would still be more preferable to a possible World-2 in which there were no free actions (thus no freedom) but all actions performed were entirely good.

A critic of this defense will point out that if God is all-powerful (omnipotent) then it ought to be in His capacity to create a World-3 in which humans had freedom, yet all their actions turned out to be good. Thus their actions would be predetermined to be good, yet they would still have the free option of choosing between morally good or bad actions. The agent would have the freedom to chose any action they like, it would just be that whatever choice they made it would turn out to be good. This would entirely be within God's power since He is omnipotent and is only limited by logical impossibilities.

The challenge for the FWD theorist is to show that Freedom and Causal Determinism are both mutually inconsistent. It can't both be the case that humans are free agents, and that their actions are causally predetermined [Pojman, p. 203]. The crucial question is, can God can create any world?

Alvin Plantinga attempts to answer this question. First, he points out that Leibniz was mistaken in thinking that God would have to, and thus did, create the best possible world. Plantinga argues that there can be no such thing as the best possible world, since to any world one more unit of pleasure or goodness can be added to make it even better. Thus it seems implausible to think of the best possible world as existing. This then is one instance when God cannot create any world. Secondly, he argues that God cannot create a world in which Man is both significantly free, yet his actions are already determined. His proof on this premise has to do with a thought experiment.

We can imagine a case in the present world in which we know given certain conditions person A would hypothetically engage in a morally evil action. It would no be impossible for God to create a world that were almost identical the present world, except that the person would then not engage in the evil. Since, to do so would deny him the freedom of individuality and his personality. That is, for God to ensure that he not engage in the evil would deny his freedom. The only other solution is for God to not create the world at all. He argues that for any world God could create, which included freedom, there is at least one action on which Man would go wrong, or else he could not create any world at all. This phenomenon he calls transworld depravity. Therefore, for God to create a world in which humans had moral freedom, the existence of both Good and Evil is necessary [Platinga, p. 211].

Adapted from the book: "Groundwork in Islamic Philosophy"

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