The fruitful death of modal collapse arguments

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 91 (1):3-22 (2021)
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Modal collapse arguments are all the rage in certain philosophical circles as of late. The arguments purport to show that classical theism entails the absurdly fatalistic conclusion that everything exists necessarily. My first aim in this paper is bold: to put an end to action-based modal collapse arguments against classical theism. To accomplish this, I first articulate the ‘Simple Modal Collapse Argument’ and then characterize and defend Tomaszewski’s criticism thereof. Second, I critically examine Mullins’ new modal collapse argument formulated in response to the aforementioned criticism. I argue that Mullins’ new argument does not succeed. Third, I critically examine a powers-based modal collapse argument against classical theism that has received much less attention in the literature. Fourth, I show why God’s being purely actual, as well God’s being identical to each of God’s acts, simply cannot entail modal collapse given indeterministic causation. This, I take it, signals the death of modal collapse arguments. But not all hope is lost for proponents of modal collapse arguments—for the death is a fruitful one insofar as it paves the way for new inquiry into at least two new potential problems for classical theism. Showing this is my paper’s second aim.

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Joseph Schmid
Princeton University


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