2

In God, Freedom and Evil Alvin Plantinga offers a challenge: (page 48)

(I leave as homework the problem of comparing transworld depravity with what Calvinists call "total depravity.")

He defines "transworld depravity" as follows:

A person P suffers from transworJd depravity if and only if the following holds: for every world W such that P is significantly free in W and P does only what is right in W, there is an action A and a maximal world segment S' such that

  1. S' includes A's being morally significant for P
  2. S' includes P's being free with respect to A
  3. S' is included in W and includes neither P's performing A nor P's refraining from performing A
  4. If S' were actual, P would go wrong with respect to A.

The word "would" in part 4 bothers me unless it refers to a past wrong choice. If it were "could", I would have no problem with this definition. This makes me think there is more going on here than I might realize.

Here is Wikipedia's account of "total depravity":

Total depravity (also called radical corruption or pervasive depravity) is a Christian theological doctrine derived from the concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin as a result of their fallen nature and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.

I am not seeing the connection between these two concepts. Hence the question: How does Plantinga's "transworld depravity" compare with what Calvinists call "total depravity"?

Perhaps Plantinga has explained this in more detail elsewhere so I added the reference-request tag.


Plantinga, A. (1977). God, freedom, and evil. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 5). Total depravity. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:19, May 30, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Total_depravity&oldid=895572174

  • I do not think they are linked, "total" is just a superlative, and sin refers to actual humans, transworld depravity is supposed to be something much more general, (possibly) a logical or metaphysical consequence of having free will. The "would" does not refer to the past, it is the Molina's infamous "counterfactual of freedom": God knows what P will "freely choose" in any given circumstances, see IEP. There is no "could" about it. – Conifold May 31 at 18:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.