1. The Principle of Plenitude
Later, Almeida chides Donald Turner, me, and Timothy O’Connor for developing models of theistic multiverses that fail to deliver all of the abundance promised by the Principle of Plenitude. Specifically, Almeida complains that our models do not include on-balance bad or otherwise unworthy universes (8).… not only the thesis that the universe is a plenum formarum in which the range of conceivable diversity of kinds of living things is exhaustively exemplified, but also any other deductions from the assumption that no genuine potentiality of being can remain unfulfilled, that the extent and abundance of the creation must be as great as the possibility of existence and commensurate with the productive capacity of a ‘perfect’ and inexhaustible Source, and that the world is better, the more things it contains
2. The Theistic Multiverse and the Problem of Evil
Defenders and critics of multiverse-theism can work together to find a mutually-agreeable threshold [at or] above which universes should be deemed worthy of inclusion in a theistic multiverse. They may well subsequently differ on the a posteriori question of whether our universe surpasses the agreed-upon threshold. Considerations about the existence, variety, magnitude, duration, scope, distribution, types, or intensity of evil in our universe could be appealed to in defending the claim that our universe is (probably) not worthy of inclusion. And defenders of multiverse-theism could either try to show that our universe (probably) is worthy of inclusion, or—more modestly—they could try to defeat or undermine arguments to the contrary. In short, the typical moves in the debate concerning the problem of evil can easily be reframed to apply to multiverse theism. But this, by itself, will not furnish an advantage to either side
3. Axiological Properties of Universes and of Worlds
And with respect to me, Almeida says:If God necessarily actualizes the theistic multiverse, then he actualizes the best possible world no matter how good or bad the universes happen to be that compose the theistic multiverse. If God necessarily actualizes the theistic multiverse, then God necessarily actualized the best possible world. The intrinsic value of universes composing the multiverse is irrelevant to the question of whether the multiverse is the best possible world (5).
Unsurprisingly, I disagree. Here are two arguments for my preferred way of seeing the matter. First, consider these four principles, which I have discussed elsewhere (Kraay 2010, 2011):4If God necessarily actualizes the theistic multiverse, then he actualizes the best possible world no matter how worthy or unworthy the universes happen to be that comprise the theistic multiverse. If God necessarily actualizes the theistic multiverse, then God necessarily actualizes the best possible world. The intrinsic value of the universes composing the multiverse is not relevant at all to the question of whether the multiverse is the best possible world (5).
Jointly, these principles suggest that that God will create and sustain all and only those universes that meet or surpass a certain axiological threshold. The result, I have argued, is the best possible world.5 But of course this means that, contra Almeida, the best possible world simply cannot feature any unworthy worlds.
- If a universe is creatable by an unsurpassable being, and worth creating (i.e., it has an axiological status that [meets or] surpasses some objective threshold t), that being will create that universe.
- If a universe is sustainable by an unsurpassable being, and worth sustaining (i.e., it has an axiological status that [meets or] surpasses some objective threshold t), that being will sustain that universe.
- If a universe is not worthy of creation (i.e., it has an axiological status that fails to [meet or] surpass some threshold t), an unsurpassable being will not create that universe.
- If a universe is not worthy of being sustained (i.e., it has an axiological status that fails to [meet or] surpass some threshold t), an unsurpassable being will not sustain that universe.
4. Almeida on O’Connor
So, Almeida is mistaken when he claims that O’Connor’s God will create every universe at or above threshold τ. But, Almeida is quite correct to say that there are some things that O’Connor’s God cannot do. In particular, O’Connor’s God cannot: (a) refrain from creating;8 (b) create any universe whose axiological status is below threshold τ; (c) actualize a possible world that contains only one universe—in other words, he cannot refrain from creating a multiverse; (d) create a multiverse comprised of merely finitely many universes; and he cannot (e) refrain from creating at least one universe from each kind or value-type.I have argued that all the possibilities deemed creation-worthy by a perfect creator would conform to a rich structure. Even so, an infinity of options satisfies these constraints, and there is no reason yet uncovered to suppose that any highly particular sort of universe will be deemed necessary. Hence, for all we’ve seen, the extent of alternatives open to a perfect creator will be wide indeed (120).
5. “It’s not a Bug; it’s a Feature!”9
It is nonetheless an important criticism of the theistic multiverse that it is not plenitudinous. It nominally satisfies the general principle of plenitude, but there are many ways things non-skeptically might have been that are not represented in the theistic multiverse. There are, for instance, no on balance bad [universes] in that multiverse ... And there are no [universes] in which the level of goodness falls just below the standard of goodness for universes in the theistic multiverse (8).10
- If God creates and sustains any universe that is below a plausible axiological threshold, God is not essentially unsurpassable.
- God is essentially unsurpassable.
- It’s not the case that God creates and sustains any universe that is below a plausible axiological threshold.
Alvin Plantinga, incidentally, holds a similar view:If there is a being who exists necessarily, and is necessarily omnipotent, omniscient, and good, then many states of affairs which otherwise would represent genuine possibilities, and which by all non-theistic tests of logic and semantics do represent possibilities, are strictly impossible in the strongest sense. In particular, worlds containing certain sorts of disvalue or evil are metaphysically ruled out by the nature of God, divinely precluded from the realm of real possibility
[A]ll possible worlds … are very good. For God is unlimited in goodness and holiness, as well as in power and knowledge; these properties, furthermore, are essential to him; and this means, I believe, that God not only has created [i.e., actualized] a world that is very good, but that there aren’t any conditions under which he would have created a world that is less than very good … The class of possible worlds God’s love and goodness prevents him from actualizing is empty. All possible worlds, we might say, are eligible worlds: worlds that God’s goodness, mercy, and love would permit him to actualize.
6. Modelling Possibility With and Within the Theistic Multiverse
In the theistic multiverse, every possible object, event, etc. exists at some time or other where the existence of these possible objects, events, etc. does not differ ontologically from the existence of actual objects, events, etc. There is no ontological difference between possible objects and actual objects, since the possible objects just are the actual objects. The theistic multiverse does not make the distinction between actual worlds, objects, events, states of affairs and possible worlds, objects, events, and states of affairs. The theistic multiverse is the only existing possible world, so God [trivially] actualizes every possible world (8).
If the only possible world is the theistic multiverse, the claim “nothing could possibly be other than it is” is ambiguous. Taken to mean that there could not possibly have been anything other than the array of universes worth creating and sustaining, this claim is true. But expressed from a vantage point within a universe, and taken to refer to that universe, it is false. From this perspective, to say that things could be otherwise is just to say that there is another spatiotemporally distinct universe in which things are otherwise. Universes … can vary in all sorts of ways. They may differ in their laws of nature and in their histories, and these variances can perhaps anchor many of the familiar modal claims whose intelligibility seemed threatened by the claim that there is only one possible world. In fact, this picture of modality—on which modal claims are understood to refer to concrete, spatiotemporally isolated universes—is strikingly similar to a well-known theory of modality: David Lewis’ modal realism. So while the claim that there is only one possible world on theism seemed an affront to our modal intuitions, once it is seen that this world is the theistic multiverse, it may be that familiar modal claims can be parsed in terms of universes instead of worlds. Modal collapse may not be so bad after all.
However the one big world is structured, it would include infinitely many world- like objects. Those world-like objects are parts of the vast, temporally infinite, universe. The defender of the theistic multiverse might argue that—contrary to what we might have thought—the one big world comprises all of metaphysical reality, and the totality of the world-like objects in the theistic multiverse represent[s] every way things non-skeptically might have been (9).
I welcome this idea as well, although I again want to underscore the constraint that theism places, in my view, on plenitude.The multiverse theorist might argue … that if you thought there was a possible world for every way things non-skeptically might have been, how do you know you are not thinking of world-like objects [within the multiverse]? How do you know that you are not thinking that there is a world-like object for every way things non-skeptically might have been? If the theistic multiverse includes an infinity of world-like objects, and if the theistic multiverse—the one big world—is all there is to metaphysical reality, then we might be moved to conclude that metaphysical reality is in fact plenitudinous or close enough (9–10).
Conflicts of Interest
- Almeida, Michael. 2008. The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings. New York: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Almeida, Michael. 2017. The Multiverse and Divine Creation. Religions 8: 258. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Draper, Paul. 2004. Cosmic Fine-Tuning and Terrestrial Suffering: Parallel Problems for Naturalism and Theism. American Philosophical Quarterly 41: 311–21. [Google Scholar]
- Guleserian, Theodore. 1983. God and Possible Worlds: The Modal Problem of Evil. Noûs 17: 221–38. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Hudson, Hud. 2005. The Metaphysics of Hyperspace. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [Google Scholar]
- Kraay, Klaas. 2010. Theism, Possible Worlds, and the Multiverse. Philosophical Studies 147: 355–68. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Kraay, Klaas. 2011. Theism and Modal Collapse. American Philosophical Quarterly 48: 361–72. [Google Scholar]
- Kraay, Klaas. 2012. The Theistic Multiverse: Problems and Prospects. In Scientific Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by Yujin Nagasawa. London: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 143–62. [Google Scholar]
- Kraay, Klaas. 2013. Can God Satisfice? American Philosophical Quarterly 50: 399–410. [Google Scholar]
- Leftow, Brian. 2005. The Ontological Argument. In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. Edited by William Wainwright. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 80–115. [Google Scholar]
- Leftow, Brian. 2010. Necessity. In The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Theology. Edited by Charles Taliaferro and Chad Meister. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–30. [Google Scholar]
- Lewis, David. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell. [Google Scholar]
- Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1932. The Great Chain of Being. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Mackie, J. L. 1955. Evil and Omnipotence. Mind 64: 200–12. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Megill, Jason. 2011. Evil and the Many Universes Response. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 70: 127–38. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Monton, Bradley. 2010. Against Multiverse Theodicies. Philo 13: 1–23. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Morris, Thomas. 1987. The Necessity of God’s Goodness. In Anselmian Explorations: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 42–69. [Google Scholar]
- O’Connor, Timothy. 2008. Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. [Google Scholar]
- Plantinga, Alvin. 1974. God, Freedom, and Evil. New York: Harper and Row. [Google Scholar]
- Plantinga, Alvin. 2004. Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa’. In Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil. Edited by Peter van Inwagen. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 1–25. [Google Scholar]
- Schrynemakers, Michael. 2015. Kraay’s Theistic Multiverse. In God and the Multiverse: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Perspectives. Edited by Klaas J. Kraay. New York: Routledge, pp. 129–48. [Google Scholar]
- Turner, Donald. 2003. The Many-Universes Solution to the Problem of Evil. In The Existence of God. Edited by Richard Gale and Alexander Pruss. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 1–17. [Google Scholar]
- Turner, Donald. 2015. Revising the Many-Universes Solution to the Problem of Evil. In God and the Multiverse: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Perspectives. Edited by Klaas Kraay. New York: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
Here is a related concern. Almeida states that “there might well be vast amounts of undeserved suffering, horrendous moral evil and terrible natural disasters in many universes” (1). But whether this is so also depends upon how these general criteria are fleshed out. On some precisifications of these criteria, universes in the theistic multiverse could not feature any such events.
To see the contrast, consider Plantinga’s own theodicy, which specifies the exact goods—Incarnation and Atonement—for the sake of which God permits evil (Plantinga 2004).
I rather doubt Almeida intends this, but the point is nevertheless worth clarifying.
I have added, in square brackets, an additional qualification to each principle. This both clarifies my proposal and makes it consistent with the way that O’Connor speaks about his favoured axiological threshold.
This claim will need some qualification, which will come in Section 6, below.
I here set aside distinctive Christian claims about the Incarnation, and I also set aside the attribute of omnipresence (which, I think, should be interpreted non-literally).
This quotation elides the following claim: “There are no [universes] in which there is pervasive suffering and injustice.” I leave it out for two reasons. First, the vagueness of ‘pervasive’ makes it unclear to me whether such universes would really be below the axiological threshold. On some precisifications, they would be; on others, they wouldn’t. Second, and relatedly, I take it that certain degrees or levels of suffering and injustice would bring a universe below the axiological threshold, but that others would not.
And here’s why. Suppose, first, that there are multiple unsurpassable worlds that feature all and only those universes worthy of being created and sustained, but that nevertheless differ with respect to their contingent-but-non-spatiotemporal features. In this scenario, I don’t think God could have a rational basis for choosing one over the other—and this is a problem for theism, which needs to hold that God is unsurpassably rational. (Almeida, incidentally, agrees.) Next, suppose that there is, instead, an infinite hierarchy of increasingly better theistic multiverses, each of which includes all and only the worthy universes, but which nevertheless differ with respect to their contingent-but-non-spatiotemporal features. This would make the theist vulnerable to William Rowe’s problem of no best world. I think this problem is a very serious worry for theism, given certain plausible assumptions. (Almeida, incidentally, does not.) So this inclines me to think that the theist should hold that there is one unique best of all possible worlds, where that world features all and only those universes that are worthy of being created and sustained, and all and only those contingent non-spatiotemporal entities that are worthy of being actualized.
© 2018 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).