Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-xg4rj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-05T18:12:32.023Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

The essential divine-perfection objection to the free-will defence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 November 2008

Department of Philosophy, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97273, Waco, TX 76798-7273


The free-will defence (FWD) holds that the value of significant free will is so great that God is justified in creating significantly free creatures even if there is a risk or certainty that these creatures will sin. A difficulty for the FWD, developed carefully by Quentin Smith, is that God is unable to do evil, and yet surely lacks no genuinely valuable kind of freedom. Smith argues that the kind of freedom that God has can be had by creatures, without a risk of creatures doing evil. I shall show that Smith's argument fails – the case of God is disanalogous to the case of creatures precisely because creatures are creatures.

Copyright © 2008 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



1.  For the two best-known versions, see Alvin Plantinga The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974), ch. 9, and Robert M. Adams ‘Middle knowledge and the problem of evil’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 14 (1977), 109–117. For one version agnostic of middle-knowledge considerations, see Alexander R. Pruss ‘A new free-will defence’, Religious Studies, 39, (2003), 211–223.

2.  Quentin Smith Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 148–157. Subsequent references to this will be by page number in parentheses.

3.  Ibid.

4.  See Robert C. Koons ‘A new look at the cosmological argument’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 34 (1997), 193–212, Section 8.11.

5.  Richard Swinburne The Coherence of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 146.

6.  Pruss ‘A new free-will defence’, 217–218.

7.  Richard M. Gale On the Nature and Existence of God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 152–168.

8.  Cf. Pruss ‘A new free-will defence’, 217–218.

9.  I am grateful to Tedla G. Woldeyohannes for pointing out that divine simplicity might be relevant to Smith's argument (

10.  I am grateful to Vlastimil Vohánka for comments on a draft of this paper as well as to other participants in online discussions on my blog, I would like to thank an anonymous referee for this journal for a careful reading and a number of helpful comments.