Plantinga’s free will defense

Free-willThe previous post consisted of a brief outline on Alvin Plantinga and theistic personalism. In this post, I will examine Plantinga’s use of a “free will defense” against an opponents presentation of the logical problem of evil.

The logical problem of evil is nothing new – it dates back to Epicurus and probably beyond. However, I will credit the particular philosopher Plantinga was responding to, JL Mackie. The argument is set out in his 1955 paper, Evil and Omnipotence.

  1. God is omniscient (all-knowing)
  2. God is omnipotent (all-powerful)
  3. God is omnibenevolent (morally perfect)
  4. There is evil in the world

The thrust of the argument is that if 1-4 are all true, then there is a logical contradiction. Because if God knows of evil, has the power to stop it, and must stop it by His very nature, then whence evil?

Plantinga’s response is interesting in that it is not a traditional theodicy (where one attempts to justify the existence of evil) but rather a direct attack on the soundness of his opponents argument.

Plantinga asserts that there is no contradiction in 1-4 as presented. He gives the example that God, not being able to bring about a contradiction, cannot create beings with real free will that will not on occasion commit evil acts. Plantinga goes on to say that it is rather the implicit assumptions that one may bring to the logical problem of evil (as presented above) that will make it convincing.

So where does this leave us? Plantinga famously holds that his free will suppositions need not be true, but they are sufficient for defeating Mackie’s argument.

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