A Predator of Information

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

A Necessary Parliament

28 March 2017 5:25 PM (musing | religion)

William Lane Craig (who is a bad man) likes Divine Command Theory. He attempts to escape the Euthyphro dilemma and arbitrariness (“But what if God commanded us to eat children?”) by saying that it is not the commandments but the character of God that constitute goodness. He tries to dodge the question of “But what if God had possessed a character that delighted in the eating of children?” by claiming that God is a necessary being (a being that couldn't not exist) and that God's character is similarly necessary. In his view, it is incoherent to ask about a world where God's character differs.

I'm not keen on the notion of a ‘necessary being’ (or divine command theory or any of the rest), but! the notion of a necessary being comes out of two arguments. The Cosmological Argument purports to prove the existence of a necessary being able to serve as a metaphysical or explanatory First Cause. There isn't much moral character implied there.

The Ontological Argument aims higher and asks for a being that is maximally knowing, powerful, good and possessed of all perfections and tries to show why such a being must necessarily exist. Alvin Plantinga's ‘Victorious’ Ontological Argument is the current favorite, so! For the sake of argument let's assume old Alvin has magicked us up a Necessary Being. What do we get?

If your notion of 'Goodness' derives from God then you can't really appeal to being Maximally Good as part of your specification for your necessary being. The character is unspecified and your necessary being is under-determined: There are lots and lots! of necessary beings that fit the bill.

So! What if worlds had all possible Gods? And not in the limited squabbling Greek sort, but a parliament of Supreme Beings. What would it look like?

All our Gods are omnipotent; we will say that one is omnipotent if the world conforms to one's will. Thus, in any possible world, the wills of all existing Gods must be in concord. In any world with multiple Gods, no God has a strong, willed preference about every facet of the world. There could be some possible worlds that happen to have the degenerate case of only one God who wills preferences concerning every aspect of the world. (Alternatively a Maximally Willing God could be accompanied by any number of completely apathetic Gods who don't will anything.) Also if Gods are omniscient, then a God must either be the only one existing in a world, or no Gods want to keep secrets.

You could have a Science Fiction like scenario where every God has some number of planets or sectors of space about which it wills things. You could have slightly different laws of physics as you move around. Gods could be on friendly terms. They might be on Unfriendly terms. Perhaps each God wills events in its sector of space in the attempt to draw people to move their from other Gods' areas. (This would require an appeal to the nonsensical claptrap of free will to make this not a violation of omnipotence.)

Gods with an artistic bent might have wills that mostly overlap. Imagine a world where all Gods want a functioning ecosystem, but one wants the most beautiful clouds and takes over making each one. Another wants the waves to crest just so. Another wants beautiful lava flows.

The God of Paperclips may want to maximize the number of paperclips in the universe. That isn't necessarily a catastrophe, when the omnipotent God of Sapience builds a beautiful Paperclip Ecosystem filled with shiny, tinkly Paperclip People famed throughout the cosmoi for their philosophical insight and paperclip poetry.

Could Gods change their will? It's not obvious that they couldn't so long as the new will doesn't conflict with some other God's will. Perhaps every time such a conflict happens the world bifurcates with each disagreeing God having his own worldclone. That seems unfair to OTHER Gods in the world who were getting along well with each other. Can Gods be in more than one world? Otherwise you could have Gods harm each other by changing their minds.

You could instead have Ranked Will. Where any Omnipotent God can enact a Level 1 Will so long as no Level 0 Will opposes it. This increases possible sets of Gods that could share worlds. One God with a Level 0 Will to do so could flood the world even if all Gods are opposed to it, just so long as it's not the thing they care about most.

That isn't as narratively appealing as the Concordant Will. Gods could have 'spheres', things about which they happen to Will things. They could be very small Spheres. It's unlikely the Divine Parliament would answer prayer given the potentially catastrophic consequences of changing one's will, but they might explain things. Since each God has a distinct Moral Nature (and all moral natures of the Gods in any world just happen to produce concordant Wills) each might write a different theodicy. The religions in this world might all believe in the same Gods, but they might side with different ones on ethical debates.

3 responses

  1. Digital says:

    Skipping over the first bits since, as you know, I'm still pondering them for an email reply...

    From what I understand, by possible worlds you're referring to only one theoretical world exists at any time, but by possible Gods you're referring to one theoretical set of all Gods existing at once.

    If accounting for all possible Gods within one possible world, is that set an infinite (countable or uncountable) set?

    Given a parliament of Supreme Beings, presumably without election (unless you want to include that), would there be a god-God as a Prime Minster of sorts? It almost sounds like there's not much difference between a multi-faceted singular God and a parliament of Supreme Beings.. which might be the point - having fun thinking :)

  2. Azure says:

    ‘At once’ and ‘at one time’ are the wrong way to think about it. As an Eternalist I view time as geometry and history as a shape. The Arrow of time arises from the statistical processes of entropy. It then doesn't make sense to talk about whether multiple, non-interacting cosmoi exist at the same time.

    There is no broad agreement on what a ‘possible world’ is in this case. It's an abstraction used in the modal logic of Plantinga's proof. You can think of them as a science-fiction ‘parallel universe’ type of arrangement as does modal realism. You can also just imagine it as a logically and metaphysically consistent state of affairs which, I think, is the most popular interpretation.

    It is unclear whether the set of all possible Gods is countable or not, you would have to decide on a more concrete definition of God. If we had a countably infinite set of worlds say and decided that for every subset of the set of worlds there would exist a God whose will would be compatible with that world, then we would have uncountably many Gods. (The power set of a set is always of greater cardinality. Alternatively imagine the set of worlds a God's will is compatible with as an infinite binary string. Then the set of all Gods would be uncountable for the same logic as the real numbers.)

    Alternatively, we could decide that a God's will is computable (that is, for every God there exists some Turing machine such that for any input tape describing a state of affairs it would return a binary value saying that the world is or is not compatible with the God's will), then the set of Gods must be countable (which follows naturally from Gödel numbering.)

    I wouldn't expect a prime minister. If you like to imagine Gods playing party games they might take turns at holding Prime Minister's Questions just for fun.

  3. Digital says:

    That note on Eternalism, along with reading through some of the Wikipedia page, offers a surface level of understanding. Enough that I think I grasp what you mean, but not enough to accept or reject it myself. I'll try studying it more in the future...

    Your arguments on "possible world" and countability make sense to me. Thank you for elaborating! In hindsight, those should've been obvious.

    I've not heard of defining computability regarding a Turing machine; I think that's included in some of the reading you've assigned me in the past. To verify, the rough idea is that if it's possible to compute the will's compatibility, it can be encoded in some countably-finite form, similar to rational numbers being encoded as fractions of integers in a 2D table..?

    Noted on Prime Minister, which brings to mind the intriguing puzzle of what 'supernatural party games' might be :) (Ignoring the squabbling Greek gods sort, as you do in the original post.)

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