March 13, 2004

Two Philosophy of Religion Links

(1) Ran across Nate Oman's discussion of the role of agency in LDS theology and political philosophy--two subjects about which I know nothing, though they have a pretty big impact on my life at the moment. In the original post, Nate Oman points out that a theodicy based on respect for agency doesn't support a Millian political philosophy based on respect for agency. Mill argues for the Harm Principle, that government can regulate activity when it harms others; but agency-based theodicy requires that God allow people to make choices even when they do harm others.

I've always favored soul-making theodicies over the free will-based theodicies; if (like me) you're a compatibilist, God could have given us free will while making us such that we won't harm others, and I've never been convinced by the various attempts to combine incompatibilism, a traditional account of God's powers, and theodicy. But it's an interesting discussion. (And it contains this great line: "[Theodicy] is the companion work of theiliad, right?")

(2) Greg Restall argues that the sense in which God is bound by logic need not be any different from the sense in which God is bound by any other modality. It is logically impossible for God to do anything that violates the laws of logic, but it is also physically impossible for God to do anything that violates the laws of physics--but there is a broader sense of possibility in which it is possible for God to violate the laws of physics.

As Greg says,

The interesting issue is whether thereís any reason to think that the modality of logical necessity is any different to the others, or whether we could consider yet broader senses of possibility. Thatís the place to look for something distinctive about the nature of the grip of logical necessity. [Italics wiped out in cut-and-paste]

One maybe possible response that I don't necessarily endorse is one like the one Cora Diamond might take, based on "What Nonsense Might Be." That is: To say that God cannot do something logically impossible is not to restrict God's power, because there's nothing there for God to do. So "If God can do anything, God can make a rock that's so heavy He can't lift it" is no more true than "If God can do anything, God can gabba gabba frazz potrzebie." I'd need to do a lot of philosophy of logic to back this up, though.

Posted by Matt Weiner at March 13, 2004 12:05 PM