Consider another case that people who dismiss intuitions would have to dismiss: Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity. Naming and Necessity is seen as a classic in philosophy circles, so dismissing it outright is a pretty heft price. Here’s why they would have to dismiss it: Kripke’s arguments generally rely on intuition.
For instance, Kripke talks about what we would think if such and such were the case. Kripke obviously knows what he thinks about the situation, and he wants (and expects) us to think it too. However, this thinking we are supposed to do is really intuition.
More specifically, take his example of Feynman. Most people cannot give a description that uniquely identifies him (the position held by those he is arguing against). At most, they could say that he is a famous physicist, but that applies to other people too. However, those people are clearly referring to a person, namely, Feynman. But how do we know this last claim that they really are referring to a person and that person is Feynman? The answer is that we know it through intuition. Hence, to dismiss intuition is to dismiss Kripke.
Given my previous post on the relationship between remembering and truth, there are some interesting offshoots. Let’s look at an example. Suppose we have a duplicator machine that, well, makes duplicates of anything you want. Let’s say we have Saul Kripke stand in the place where the model is supposed to be and the duplicator machine duplicates Kripke. Call the model Kripke(1) and the duplicate Kripke(2). Suppose Kripke(1) and Kripke(2) wander off and we lose track of them. Later on, we find them both and put them in an interrogation room. Assume that they have not forgotten anything in the meantime. Is there anyway to tell which one is Kripke(1) and which one is Kripke(2)? In fact, a simple way is related to remembering things. So we administer truth serum to them that makes them tell the truth 100% of the time. Now, since a necessary condition of remembering something is that the thing is true, we can ask the following question: do you remember being the model for the duplicator machine? Only Kripke(1) can answer in the affirmative and so we have discovered which person is Kripke(1) and which person is Kripke(2).
Alexander Pruss recently posted an interesting modal argument against divine command theory. First, I want to make some observations of modal arguments. Then, I will discuss his specific argument.
I believe it was Inwagen in his article on modal skepticism that says he doesn’t know of a single person who has been convinced by a modal argument. Part of the reason, I surmise, is that they often seem like a trick. I think people often react to modal arguments in general as they do to the ontological argument, it’s simply a neat trick. However, there are some good grounds for reacting in this way to modal arguments. First, if you can construct a modal argument against the position the person is arguing for, then the arguments just cancel (assuming they have the same plausibility behind them, this is because it acts as a successful parody argument). Second, it’s pretty well known that conceivability does not entail possibility. Thus, if one is simply working from conceivability, then the argument faces more challenges.
However, Pruss is a modal skeptic himself and so his argument is all the more interesting. The reason is this: certain modal arguments actually give an argument for the possibility premise. As another example, Kripke gives his argument against physicalism by showing (i) that we can conceive of the situation in mind and (ii) that conceivability is the same as possibility in that case. So if both of those portions are true, then Kripke’s argument for the possibility premise is air tight. Pruss’ argument is in a similar vein in that he gives an argument for the possibility premise by saying, “[p]remise (3) seems to follow from divine freedom and the fact that God is under no obligation to command creatures.”
Nonetheless, this is no denial of divine freedom if God’s choice arises from His character. To quote Pearce and Pruss (p.9) on an agreed upon point in free will studies, “a limitation on the will is not a constraint if that limitation arises from the agent’s character and/or choices in the right way.” This seems easy enough as more recent divine command theorists like Adams have said that God’s commands flow from His loving nature. If that is the case, this His commands flow from His character and thus they would be consistent throughout worlds without being a constraint on divine freedom. We have now provided a premise that seems true on divine command theory, is consistent with the other premises in Pruss’ argument, and undercuts his support for the possibility premise. Given that, divine command theory seems untouched by this argument.