If it is possible to have libertarian freedom and never sin, then there are logically possible circumstances or “worlds” where people have libertarian freedom and yet never sin. More strongly, it is logically impossible for agents in some world to sin who also have libertarian freedom. Because this is so, appeals to libertarian freedom are not going to be enough to exculpate God from guilt with respect to actual evils or even the possibility of evil. Those logically possible worlds in which it is impossible for libertarianly free agents ever to sin seem accessible to God. By accessible I mean that God could have brought those circumstances about or created them. On the whole, those worlds where agents with libertarian freedom are impeccable seem morally superior to worlds in which agents have libertarian freedom but lack impeccability.
There is a separate question as to whether God always creates the best or if there is a best possible world or even if there are better possible worlds. I do not wish to tangle with that mess at the moment. But there seems to be something right about Aquinas’ insistence for example that some worlds will contain more evil than others but on the whole will be better than those worlds with less evil because the former will be better ordered. Even granting that though it seems to me that you can get as much of “better ordering” as you like with a combination of libertarian freedom with moral impeccability. That is, given worlds where both are equally ordered well but one has evil and free will, while the other has free will but impeccable agents, it seems obvious to me that the latter is on the whole the better world.
So adding free will to the mix doesn’t explain the possibility of evil since you can have free will and impeccable agents. Also, free will doesn’t explain why God creates this world where we have freedom and the possibility of evil as opposed to some other world because it seems as if you can have equally well ordered worlds with or without evil. In this way the possibility of evil is severed from free will and creation in general. The reason why evil is possible in God’s creation is not that creation is composite and therefore capable of dissolution. If that were true the only way to eliminate the possibility of evil would be to mitigate or eliminate creation’s creatureliness in some way, specifically their free will. Nor is the reason why evil is possible in creation because there are agents with free will. Why then does God create this world which has the possibility of evil and has free will since there seem to be other possible worlds that are much much better to select from?
The answer I think lies in the notion of virtue. Here I am following roughly Plato and Aristotle’s notion of a virtue as an excellence or arête of a thing. The excellence of a knife is its sharpness. The excellence of a human being is justice. Following Aristotle a virtue is a natural capacity which is guided by reason as a mean between two extremes attained by habit. The reason why one wants to be virtuous as opposed to akratic or weak willed is so that one doesn’t have to deliberate about what the good act is to perform on a specific occasion. A virtuous person just does out of habit the good act. Mother Theresa didn’t have to reflect about helping poor or sick people on her doorstep-she just did it. The goal of habituation is to become so fixed in virtue, in the Good as to just naturally do the good act. But more precisely to be fixed in virtue doesn’t imply that deliberation per se is the problem. The reason why deliberation is problematic is because we deliberate between real and apparent goods. We suffer from a kind of ignorance about the Good. If an agent were to only deliberate between real goods and not apparent goods deliberation per se would be harmless.
As something of a tangent it is important to notice that deliberation seems to imply alternative possibilities and to see this imagine the following “Frankfurt” like case. Imagine unbeknownst to me some malign agent seeks to control my actions by means of some scientific widget or some supernatural power. This widget or power permits the covert agent to monitor my mental states and acts and to manipulate them by means of manipulating my brain states. If the malign agent sees that I am going to choose X, he does nothing since that is the choice he wants me to make. If he sees that I am going to do Y then he intervenes in some way to neutralize that neurological state in my brain. And he sees this by virtue of viewing the decisions I have made. Prior to making a decision though all he sees is my deliberating between two options.
But notice that when I am deliberating I am deciding between two options, specifically to continue to deliberate or to make a decision. My power to deliberate between options is itself an instance of having alternative possibilities. It does not matter if my decision, should I decide on Y is nullified by this malign agent. By deliberating I am choosing between alternative possibilities. And these alternative possibilities will be as robust as anyone would like for ascriptions of moral responsibility. The only way to eliminate these alternative possibilities is for this malign agent to take away my power of deliberation. But given that deliberation seems plausibly necessarily tied to being free taking away my power to deliberate is just to take away my freedom. Deliberation then is a necessary condition for libertarian free will.
Now back to virtue. How is virtue going to help us explain why God created this world with freedom and evil as opposed to some other world with freedom and the impossibility of evil? One of the funny things about virtue is that it cannot be had by thinking about it. Being moral isn’t a matter of propositional knowledge alone.
Virtue requires praxis or action. Virtue is an attained state and so one cannot be created virtuous. One can be created good and innocent but not virtuous since virtue requires action. To become morally impeccable is to become immune to vice or sin. Moral impeccability then seems to be a kind of state in which an agent is so virtuous as to be immune from evil. To be virtuous in this way would to be like God because God is unmoved or affected by evil. It is not possible for God to do evil because just is the Good.
With a rough notion of virtue in hand we can connect it to the insights concerning free will set out earlier. Free will doesn’t require alternative possibilities of differing moral value just a plurality of options. But virtue does require the possibility of failure and here is why. Because virtue is a mean or proportion between two extremes and is attained by habit it takes practice to become virtuous. One has to have the “knack” for doing the good act in the appropriate way for the appropriate reasons and on the appropriate occasion. It is possible for some agent starting out on the trek of virtue to become so without failure but failure is still a possibility nonetheless because the acquisition of virtue takes practice. Moreover agents starting out on the road to virtue are ignorant concerning real and apparent goods which is why they have to deliberate between them.
Because virtue is attained by habit or action there is a kind of division in an agent who begins their trek on the road to virtue. Because they lack the requisite experience their employment of their faculties, their will specifically isn’t yet fixed in the Good. So suppose that God creates out first parents innocent and without blame. It will still be the case that they do not have any practice at being virtuous. It will also be the case that for them they are ignorant concerning real and apparent goods. God creates their faculties good in and of themselves. As faculties they are naturally directed towards that which is presented to them or taken to be good. But the person’s employment or use of these faculties is not yet fixed in the good.
So the nature is fixed in the Good so that human nature qua human nature is still good, even after the Fall. This is why evil is a possibility because on the road to the acquisition of virtue vice is a possibility. Vice or sin is not therefore tied to the composition of creation but to the distance between the natural faculties and the personal employment of them. Once this gulf is bridged through virtue then the possibility of evil is eliminated. When the real good that our faculty of will is naturally directed towards is “fused” with our personal employment of our will our willing or volitions are fixed in the Good. Our first parents then are given a very simply command to obey as they begin their journey to becoming virtuous. Through continued obedience they would have reached a state of moral impeccability and hence been “as gods.”
So it is virtue and free will together that explain why God selects this world to create as opposed to some other. Morally impeccable agents only come about through the acquisition of virtue and the acquisition of virtue requires the possibility of failure. Compared to other worlds where there is no virtue, a world with freedom and the possibility of virtue seems the better choice by far. This is why this world is the best way to the best possible world.
But what has all of this to do with divine simplicity? Well putting it all together we can revisit Origen and Augustine. Origen wished to preserve the doctrine of the Imagio Dei where humans have libertarian freedom. As a consequence it was impossible for Origen to conceive of humans (or angels for that matter) as completely fixed in the Good or morally impeccable. Augustine wished to preserve moral impeccability and the way to do that he thought was to eliminate libertarian freedom. Absolute simplicity motivated Augustine’s elimination of libertarian freedom in the eschaton because there was only one good option to select, namely God. Absolute simplicity motivated Origen’s view since for him being fixed in the Good would imply a annihilation of something essential to us as rational agents, specifically libertarian free will. Since God was absolute simple for Origen free will was essentially characterized as selecting between good and evil options, instead of good options. The only way to stave off the annihilation of human personhood was to have a series of falls and redemptions because sin is a clear individuating principle between good and evil.
But if we reject absolute simplicity then there is no motivation to eliminate libertarian freedom in the eschaton. If God is metaphysically “complex” so that there are infinite number of Goods in the Good that is God then there can be libertarian freedom in the eschaton without the possibility of evil. We can bring together Augustine’s wish to preserve the moral impeccability of the redeemed while also preserving Origen’s desire to preserve the libertarian freedom that goes along with the Imagio Dei. The possibility of sin isn’t tied to plurality but to the possibility of virtue. Once virtue is attained for an agent the possibility of evil is removed. This means that for the morally impeccable agents in heaven there are an infinite number of goods to choose from so that they are always active in the eschaton in their enjoyment of God.