David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 59 (1):49-68 (2006)
Many theists hold that for any world x that God has the power to actualize, there is a better world, y, that God had the power to actualize instead of x. Recently, however, it has been suggested that this scenario is incompatible with traditional theism: roughly, it is claimed that no being can be essentially unsurpassable on this view, since no matter what God does in actualizing a world, it is possible for God (or some other being) to do better, and hence it is possible for God (or some other being) to be better. In reply to an argument of this sort, Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder offer the surprising claim that an essentially unsurpassable being could – consistently with his goodness and rationality – select a world for actualization at random. In what follows, I respond to the most recent contributions to this discussion. I criticize William Rowe’s new reply to the Howard-Snyders (but I endorse the spirit of one of his arguments), and I claim that Edward Wierenga’s new defence of the Howard-Snyders fails. I conclude that the Howard-Snyders’ argument fails to show that an essentially unsurpassable being could randomly choose a world for actualization. Accordingly, it fails to block an important argument for atheism.
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