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Best feasible worlds: divine freedom and Leibniz’s Lapse


William L. Rowe’s argument against divine freedom has drawn considerable attention from theist philosophers. One reply to Rowe’s argument that has emerged in the recent literature appeals to modified accounts of libertarian freedom which have the result that God may be free even if he necessarily actualizes the best possible world. Though in many ways attractive, this approach appears to lead to the damning consequence of modal collapse i.e., that the actual world is the only possible world. But appearances can be deceiving, and in this paper I argue that the threat of modal collapse dissolves when we consider Alvin Plantinga’s critique of the purportedly Leibnizian notion that God can actualize any possible world, and incorporate the implications of this critique into the divine freedom debate. Developing a suggestion by Edward R. Wierenga, I argue first that the modal collapse objection fails within a Molinist context, and then I extend the discussion beyond that context to show that the objection also fails on the assumption that Molinism is false.

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  1. See also Rowe’s critique of Adams in (Rowe (2004), pp. 74–87).

  2. Rowe points out that this no-best-world thesis has a long history in philosophical theology, and he devotes a chapter to Aquinas’ defense of this claim. Among contemporary philosophers we see the no-best-world thesis as far back as Plantinga (1974a).

  3. For example, consider Stump (1999) and Stump (2001).

  4. The idea appears in Morriston (2006), Rowe (2007), Senor (2008) and Wierenga (2007).

  5. Here we are bracketing considerations of God’s character that might incline him toward only best worlds.

  6. Even if one were agnostic about whether the best possible world contains free creatures, the modal collapse objection turns out to be inconclusive, since the modal collapse objection must hold that the best possible world contains no free creatures. A brief defense of the value of a complex world including free agents appears in Hasker (2011). The value of a world of free creatures is also defended by Swinburne (2004), who holds that God’s creating some humanly free agents and his not creating humanly free agents (not knowing if creatures will abuse their freedom) are equal-best acts. (Even on that assumption, a world in which creatures use their freedom for good would seem to be a candidate for a best possible world.)


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Thanks to Joel Chopp, Dan Dake, Harold Netland, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier versions of this essay. Special thanks are owed to Dan Dake, whose unpublished work on divine freedom inspired this paper.

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Correspondence to Justin Mooney.

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Mooney, J. Best feasible worlds: divine freedom and Leibniz’s Lapse. Int J Philos Relig 77, 219–229 (2015).

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  • Divine freedom
  • Best possible world
  • Libertarianism
  • Leibniz’s Lapse
  • Molinism