- Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Clarendon Press; Revised ed. edition (March 15, 1979)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198244142
- ISBN-13: 978-0198244141
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.5 x 5.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Nature of Necessity (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy) Revised ed. Edition
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A philosophical masterpiece that excels in modal logic.
Plantinga does a great job with his version of the Ontological Argument. In perfect being theology, God is defined as "A Maximally Great Being" which means that God possesses all great-making, properties such as love, knowledge, and power, and possesses each in a maximal way.
Alvin Plantinga swings around Kant's object by showing how necessity is a property, and that Existence is not. Necessity does not entail existence. Necessity just means that if something exists, it exists in all possible worlds. Numbers have this property.
It is perfectly within the laws of modal logic for a property (which is not a perfection) to entail its negation.
While the Ontological Argument from Anselm has been restored by the likes of Stephen T Davis, now it clearly shows that the Ontological Argument is indeed the most powerful argument for God's existence. While the layman will have a lot of trouble understanding why, this does nothing to the argument itself.
Robert Maydole speaks about this book a lot in his writings of the Modal Perfection Argument, and rightly so. This book should is NECESSARY for everyone who is into philosophical theology.
Plantinga begins his survey of modal ontology with a discussion of de re and de dicto statements.
de dicto: predicates a modal property of another dictum or proposition (Plantinga 9).
de re: x has a certain property essentially.
The problem: “suppose we are given the object x and a property P. Is it possible to state general directions for picking out some proposition--call it the kernel proposition with respect to x and P--whose de dicto modal properties determine whether x has P essentially” (30)?
While such a question seems arcane, it does allow Plantinga to furnish the theist with a number of highly useful concepts and tools, like possible worlds. A possible world is the way things could have been, a possible state of affairs (44). But not every possible world is a possible state of affairs. “A state of affairs must be maximal or complete.”
From this Plantinga gives a fine, if not always lucid, presentation of essence and nature. An essence could also be a set of properties (76). An essence is a set of world-indexed properties (i.e., that is those which exist in every possible world; 77). Essential properties: the properties Socrates has in every world he exists. Essence: the instantiation of the above properties.
Plantinga uses these tools to deal with the atheologian’s problem of evil. First of all, what is freedom? Freedom: no causal laws and antecedent conditions determine whether I will or will not act.
The initial defense: a world containing creatures who are sometimes significantly free is more valuable, all things considered, than a world with no freedom (166). Therefore, creatures that are capable of moral good are also capable of moral evil.
The problem: if God is omnipotent, then how come he couldn’t create a world where all the creatures freely do what is good? Plantinga takes a brief detour and clarifies what we mean by creation. God does not create everything (e.g., he does not create his own properties, for example). Rather, God creates some things and God actualizes states of affairs (169).
Plantinga gives a rather dizzying survey of the Ontological Argument. While I have my doubts on its psychological efficacy in debates, the Ontological Argument, especially Plantinga’s retelling of it, serves a crucial role in defining what we mean by God and what it means for God to have properties.
This allows Plantinga to utilize the concept of Transworld Depravity: Every world that God actualizes, given person P’s freedom, P takes at least one wrong action (185). It is possibly true (not necessarily) that any world God actualizes has P doing wrongly.
Plantinga concludes his discussion with the Ontological Argument. The crux of the matter is this: a) is existence a predicate? b) is existence a great-making property?
Kant denies (a). I am not sufficient to judge whether he is right or not. In any case, (b) is more interesting. Can (b) be proven adequately to the unbeliever? Maybe, maybe not. However, for the believer for whom the existence of God is already a settled issue (whether rightly or wrongly) (b) certainly follows (and thus informs one’s systematic theology).
Further, given Plantinga’s possible worlds semantics, a maximally great being will exist in every possible world.
This is the hardest book I’ve ever read. The above is a fourth grade summary of what I think Plantinga said. The appendix on symbolic logic is like what math would look like if it were designed by Satan.
I found a lot of useful logical tools. I am not sure all of Plantinga’s arguments are fully developed. For example, I like the idea of transworld depravity. I am just not sure why the atheologian will not object in the following way: “Why could God not create a world in which transworld depravity doesn’t obtain? Must freedom then entail transworld depravity?” Indeed, this is problematic for the doctrine of creation.
I don’t think it is a full defeater, but it does give one pause. This book can benefit the advanced reader, but reader be warned--it is hard.
Modal logic may seem like a fairly arcane subject to outsiders, but this book exhibits both its intrinsic interest and its general importance. If you think there are good and bad arguments, conclusions that follow from some premises but not others, then you ought to be concerned with modal logic. If you're interested in the problem of evil and the ontological argument for the existence of God, you should read this book.
The Nature of Necessity has the added virtue that it maps most peoples' modal intuitions quite well (unlike some modal theories). Perhaps it is for this reason that certain philosophers treat the book a bit snippishly. I've read the book a half a dozen times; and I'll probably read it a few more times before it's all said and done.
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Thank you very much!