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My personal take on this question is that it would follow that we are living in "the best of all possible worlds" if God were a utilitarian, that is, if we viewed God as an agent making decisions based on a Utility or Goodness function. This would allow God to assess possible worlds and make comparisons of the form:

  • Goodness (possible_world1) > Goodness (possible_world2)
  • Goodness (possible_world1) < Goodness (possible_world2)
  • Goodness (possible_world1) = Goodness (possible_world2)

Thus, upon creation God essentially solved an optimization problem, by actualizing one specific world (the one we are living in right now) among all possible worlds that maximize the Goodness function. However, at least in Christianity, viewing God as utilitarian is debatable (see Can the Christian God be a Utilitarian?). That makes me think that perhaps you don't need a utilitarian God to still believe that this is the best of all possible worlds that could have been created.

Under what conceptions of God does it follow that we necessarily live in "the best of all possible worlds"? Are there more options besides a Utilitarian God?

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  • Utilitarian moral philosophy implies a certain kind of utility such as maximum happiness. You seem to be using it in a generic sense that robs it of all non-analytical meaning--namely that the most moral world is just the most moral world. Jun 10, 2023 at 20:04
  • This question is about religion, not philosophy, as it asks about a specific notion of god which created the universe for the benefit of humanity, as opposed to neural concepts of gods.
    – tkruse
    Jun 10, 2023 at 20:23
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    It does not follow even if God were a utilitarian. Not every optimization problem has a solution, so the "best possible world" may simply not exist. However, typical optimization problems are constrained. In addition to the utility function, there are constraints on what's 'acceptable'. Having moral constraints (free will, for example, other creatures' 'rights') would blend utilitarianism with deontology, and God, being omnibenevolent, would respect them. So one can believe that he solved a constrained optimization problem, as Leibniz, the inventor of the "best possible world", did.
    – Conifold
    Jun 10, 2023 at 23:47
  • Surely the most likely conception of an all-powerful god which correlates with our living in the best of all possible worlds would simply be a god who wanted us to live in the best of all possible worlds. Hence the problem of 'evil'. Why won't god create a better world than the current one? Jun 11, 2023 at 15:38
  • Tanquam ex ungue leonem ~ Johann Bernoulli. Deus Magnus Est Nuff said! Jun 11, 2023 at 15:41

2 Answers 2

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The assumption is just that of agency tied to an omni-God.

If God has a goal, then God as an actor will work to execute that goal.

Whether the goal is beauty, complexity, perfection, or a moral training ground for souls, an agent who creates a world would do so to achieve their goal most effectively. And an Omni-God would accomplish optimizing that goal.

A "less than omni-God" would also be able, in the lack of any opposing forces, to gradually approach optimization over time -- so this is not just a conclusion about Omni-Gods, but about any form of monotheism.

The Problem of Evil is a falsification test based on the omni-God property of omnibenevolence, and this inference of agency.

One can do multiple other falsification tests on assumptions of Beauty, complexity, effectiveness as a moral or intellectual training ground, clarity of communication, etc. which all also assume agency by a creator to achieve goals.

Most arguments FOR God's existence -- such as the fine tuning argument or several of Aquinas' "proofs", also rely upon this assumption of agency.

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  • When you say "optimizing that goal", are you agreeing with me that there is an underlying evaluation function being optimized? If so, how is that significantly different from utilitarianism?
    – Mark
    Jun 10, 2023 at 19:28
  • @Mark -- Utilitarianism is a particular moral philosophy, and is only applicable to a God with a moral goal, AND the assumption that morality is fully captured by utilitarianism. A utilitarian moral God would design this world as morally the best of all possible worlds, but then it might not be the most complex, beautiful, best training ground, etc. And the optimized morality this world would exhibit would be that of epicureanism, not, say, virtue ethics. so utilitarian thinking may have brought you here, but the conclusion of your thinking should be broader.
    – Dcleve
    Jun 10, 2023 at 19:35
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If we're aiming for a (relatively) nontrivial derivation, the main general requirement would be that the set or class of possible worlds be somehow limited, or that "better than" be sufficiently relativized. A generalized, irrelative standard quickly runs into the problem that there does not seem to be an axiologically best possible world; if there are a limited number of actual worlds, perhaps one might itself be best in its immediate set, but all in the set have been made already anyway. And trivially, we could stipulate that almost all possible worlds are maximally good in the needed additive way.

For example, I don't remember which article it's in, but somewhere in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy there's mention made of a theory according to which God has (absolutely) infinite moral value on Its own, so "as soon as" God exists in some world, that world is also infinitely valuable. (This does require that we can mereologically compose God and some world, which is historically tendentious to claim.) But this is perhaps a trivial rejoinder to the question. But perhaps there are only trivial (or empty) such rejoinders available.

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