Friday, December 03, 2010

Bodging Up

This is the tenth of 17 posts, which are collectively Eternity, etc.
......Mawson’s main argument had the following preamble [i]. Early in 1936 it was, according to Mawson, vastly improbable that that year’s Man of the Year in Time magazine would be widely regarded ten years later as the most evil man ever. Mawson’s point seemed to be that if a temporal God would have known, early in 1936, that such a change was very unlikely, and if to find something so unlikely is to believe it false, which follows from Swinburne’s definition of “belief” according to Mawson [ii], then such a God would have believed that such would not happen, incorrectly (that man being Adolf Hitler).
......However, while the man in the street of early 1936 may well have found such a change unthinkable, surely the perfectly aware sustainer of the whole world might have known better. And in any case, while we do—and often should—believe things that, upon reflection, we would only regard as highly probable, the beliefs held by the Open God are presumably held infallibly. That latter observation was acknowledged by Mawson [iii], so let us now look at his main argument, which revolved around the following scenario [iv].
......The Open God answers the prayers of Mrs. Hitler by saving her unborn baby from a likely miscarriage, doing so because He wants to increase the aggregate happiness of the world. He does not know that her baby, Adolf, will eventually cause that aggregate to decrease. On the contrary, that Adolf Hitler will eventually produce terrible harm is known by Him to be fantastically unlikely. Still, terrible harm is what happened, and so His intervention did not result in greater happiness. And even if it had, He would just have got lucky.
......Of course if, were God timeless, so evil a man would never have been born, then history would be some evidence that God is not timeless [v]. But the idea behind Mawson’s scenario was that something like it must be possible under Open Theism, because the Open “God cannot will Himself to do anything under a description the truth of which depends on future free actions[vi]. He can in the case of His own actions, however, via His constancy (see section IV), and in my next post I wonder why He would need to in our case.
......[i] Mawson, “Divine eternity,” p. 45.
......[ii] One’s belief that p amounts to a belief that p is more likely than q for some q, according to Richard Swinburne, Epistemic Justification (Clarendon Press, 2001), pp. 34–6. Swinburne was examining the justification of human beliefs (of that form) however, not describing God’s beliefs (as such). Mawson observed that we tend to believe that a tossed coin won’t land on its edge, even though it might. But the Lottery Paradox—I believe, of each ticket, that it won’t win, so (logically) I should believe that none will, whereas I know that one will—was addressed by Swinburne; ibid, pp. 37–8. And a natural resolution is to describe my belief that it probably won’t win at least that precisely. And in general, logical reasoning seems to involve natural language clarification procedures whose aim is an adequate bivalence. E.g. the ambiguity mentioned in note 31 might be clarified thus: Either something will definitely happen, or else it is, if not impossible, merely possible.
......[iii] Mawson, “Divine eternity,” p. 45.
......[iv] Ibid, p. 47.
......[v] Indeed, a world in which everyone always made good choices is a prima facie logical possibility, so one might wonder why a timeless God would not have created such a world, were He perfectly beneficent. For more on the atemporalist free will defense, see Mawson, Belief in God, pp. 198–271. For more discussion of theodicies, see Omniscience and the Odyssey Theodicy.
......[vi] Mawson, “Divine eternity,” p. 47.

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