Schieber, God and Non-God Objects Yet Again
Justin Schieber has now provided a response to my criticisms of the Problem of Non-God Objects. He calls it “A response to Randal Rauser’s criticisms of the Problem of Non-God Objects.” (What the title lacks in creativity it makes up in good old fashioned communicative efficacy.) Justin takes on my two points in turn. (If you haven’t read my original article and the two points, click here.)
Here’s his first response:
Randal’s first objection is to perform a kind of Moorean shift. Randal argues that because people believe that God is the creator of the universe (Perhaps by philosophical arguments or revelation etc.), they will be more likely to think that something must be wrong with the argument rather than simply accepting its conclusion.
Essentially, Randal rewrites the argument. But, because of the deductive nature of the argument, Randal still has work to do. If the argument is valid, then clearly I must be misunderstanding Randal’s particular nuanced version of God in some important way. Perhaps P2 or P1 is in error? The entire point of the argument is that, given this particular way of thinking about God and creation, God can not exist. I hope I can be forgiven for not finding the “But God does exist!” response to be one deserving of more attention.
Justin is dismissive of this first response. He doesn’t think it is “deserving of more attention.” That’s too bad, because I take it he is not just preaching to the choir with this argument. I take it he’d like to try and convince a few theists along the way. Alas, the claim that an omnipotent, perfectly good being can’t exist because if he did then he’d be unable to create anything is, from the perspective of the theist, about as plausible as epiphenomenal theories of mind. (Incidentally, it is no slight to be paired up with G.E. Moore, not least given that I am a Reidean common sense realist.)
But this first rebuttal was, as I said initially, indirect. And it was never intended to bear the weight of a full-on critique. That was reserved for the second rebuttal.
In Justin’s argument “The term ‘GodWorld’ refers to that possible world where God never actually creates anything.” With that in mind, here’s the argument:
P1: If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique best possible world.
P2: If Godworld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.
P3: GodWorld is false because the Universe (or any non-God object) exists.
I have several problems with this formulation. I was going to go into them but it will delay us unnecessarily. Instead, I’ll simply restate the argument in terms I find clearer:
P1: If God exists then GodWorld exists.
P2: GodWorld doesn’t exist.
P3: Therefore, God doesn’t exist.
Now why does Justin Schieber think P1 is true? Because in his view GodWorld is greater than any possible world that included God plus some created thing. Schieber explains why in the closing paragraph to his brief rejoinder essay. I’ve taken the liberty of numbering his sentences for ease of reference:
“(1) If we take God to be the ONLY instance of essential and absolute moral perfection, moral grounding and the standard of all possible value, then a world where there exists something ontologically distinct from God is a world where there exists something that isn’t morally or ontologically perfect. (2) A world containing just one non-god object is a world whose overall quality can now be improved as it has been degraded. (3) In GodWorld however, it simply makes no sense to talk about the improvement of absolute ontological perfection.”
I agree with (1). But there are significant problems with (2) and (3).
Let me note some problems. To begin with, Schieber completely begs the question against the theist by assuming that the concept of ontological perfection is incompatible with the property of being creator. Not surprisingly, I know of no theist who would think such a thing.
So what reason does Schieber offer to think this? He assumes two things:
(a) any ontologically perfect being would be obliged by necessity of his nature to actualize an ontologically perfect possible world
(b) any ontologically perfect world would contain only ontologically perfect beings
But I don’t accept either of these claims. Nor do I see any reason to accept them. Both strike me as implausible at best and incoherent at worst. So what Schieber offers is a chain of tendentious claims that no theist should find at all compelling.
What Schieber’s argument illustrates quite handily is that mere logical validity is cheap. Where Schieber should instead focus his efforts is on validity plus premises that are compelling, or at least moderately plausible, to those who do not already accept the conclusion.