keskiviikko 25. maaliskuuta 2015

Christian Wolff: Natural theology, prior part – Good and powerful

Wolffian God is not satisfied with mere contemplation of possibilities, but decides to actualise one of the possible worlds. In order to do this, he needs to have the capacity to actualise anyone of them. Indeed, God could make anything happen that is possible and only impossibilities are limits to his capacities – in effect, God is omnipotent, Wolff says.

What God requires for this use of his capacity is mere act of will. This is of course completely different from what human beings do – in us, decision and actualisation of a plan are two completely distinct events. In fact, there is an even further difference, Wolff says. Human beings usually start by contemplating all the possibilities and only after careful consideration make their choice. With God, these two events are connected in one act – God chooses even in contemplating possibilities.

Now, when God chose to actualise this world, he knew exactly what would happen in this world, because he knows everything that would happen in any possible world. This appears to lead to the famous problem of divine prescience – how could our choices be completely free, if God already knows what we are going to choose beforehand. The answer to this problem is also quite traditional – knowing something does not cause it, thus, even if God knows what Obama will do tomorrow, he did not choose it for Obama's sake. Of course, this line of reasoning has the striking weakness that God does choose the world that is to be actualised and seems so responsible of everything that happens in the world.

What is more important is that God must have had some reason for picking this particular world – as we know already, Wolff thinks it is because the actual world is the most perfect of all worlds. The Leibnizian story of a necessary evil which all worlds must have and which God doesn't cause, but only allows should be familiar by now. Wolff also emphasises God's wisdom and goodness. God is wise or he knows the best means for actualising his ends, thus, the world and its laws are the most efficient there can be and allow, for instance, human beings to actualise their ends. Indeed, God has given humans liberty, because he is good and hopes they will of their own choice make good decisions – and even if they don't and end up doing evil things, in the end, even this serves the final good.

God's wisdom is then for the most part incomprehensible to human beings – we simply cannot see all the strings that should turn evil actions into good effects. Yet, God can reveal us information that goes over what we can directly know through experience – Wolff's take on the idea of divine revelation. This is also a good place to stop, because in next post I will finally think of the ways God effects other things, that is, nature and spirits.

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