Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Notes on Boyd's Satan and the Problem of Evil Chapter 6

Like the previous chapter (reviewed here and here), chapter 6 of Boyd's book has a lot of interesting stuff in it. However, as usual, there's a lot of looseness, unclarity, confusedness, and so on in his exposition and argumentation. I'll give a few examples. To defend his theory against the charge that whether or not there's free will in the libertarian sense, God could just remove the bad guys from the world or do some other sort of intervention, Boyd postulates that God simply can't terminate the bad guys or interfere with them. He says that it is a "metaphysical implication" of creating free beings that they have their free power to influence over a certain amount of time. So the fifth part of his theory is (TWT5) "The power to influence is irrevocable". At first, this is a bit hard to swallow. It doesn't seem all that hard to remove people's power to influence things. Knock them over the head and you've disabled them for a time, kill them and you have removed that power permanently (that is, putting aside complications relating to any sort of afterlife). So to say that God can't in the sense that he literally isn't able to interfere with bad people's bad free actions seems preposterous.

Often, though, it isn't quite clear what exactly Boyd really wants to say. Sometimes he wants to make this a metaphysical thing as if creating a free person at a given time made it metaphysically impossible to take away that freedom or that person, other times he seems to interpret this "can't" that applies to God in a moral way - that is, God can't interfere in the sense that he has obligated himself not to and must, in virtue of his moral character, stand by his commitment. In these times, Boyd sounds pretty much like he's saying something like what I said here. As usual, though, Boyd doesn't seem to really know exactly what he's trying to say or argue and runs together these two different ideas.

One thing he may mean is simply that in order to count as free one must be freely and uncoercedly self-determining up to the very end of one's self-formation. But then it's not clear what to make of people who have been taken out of the world prior to this point. Or why, if we are justified in interfering with people using their freedom to hurt others, God isn't also. Or why, if God isn't, how we could be in any sense. Boyd never really answers this question, though he does mention it - but I take this to be the hardest point of his theodicy to really address.

Or at least one of them. What about Satan and his angels? Boyd seems to think that they are past the point of redemption - their time of self-making is up and they've made themselves irredeemably bad. So why does God tolerate their continuing influence? Boyd here just uses his TWT5, but on Boyd's own view, Satan's time of freedom being over, there's nothing in interfering with Satan that conflict with TWT5. After all, it is also a part of Boyd's theory that (TWT6) The power to influence is finite. That is, one only has a finite time span to be free to make oneself. And Satan's is up, so that pretty much ruins Boyd's main argument regarding Satan's current continuing and active influence.

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