Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Argument for Freedom

1) We are only morally responsible for our actions if we have freedom in the libertarian sense.

2) God says we are morally responsible for what we do.

3) God is inerrant and infallible.
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4) ∴ we have freedom in the libertarian sense.

I rely on Peter Van Inwagen's consequence argument to show that premise 1 is correct. It states:
If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.1
I think premises 2 and 3 are uncontroversial for Christian theists. Therefore, the conclusion follows deductively.


1 Peter van Inwagen, An Essay on Free Will, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 56.

20 comments:

Steven said...

What does "up to us" mean?

Marcus McElhaney said...

Steven, great question. I have a response with more questions. Thanks Brennon.

http://mmcelhaney.blogspot.com/2010/04/brennons-thoughts-argument-for-freedom.html

drwayman said...

It does all hinge on Inwagen, doesn't it?

Couldn't one use the inverse: 1) We are not morally responsible for our actions if we don't have freedom in the libertarian sense?

To me it seems one cannot have it both ways: either we are responsible because of our freedom or we are exempt from responsiblity because God exhaustively determines all actions.

Mike Felker said...

Just a few things to observe. The syllogism seems to work fine only IF libertarian freedom is true.

But foreknowledge raises a problem. If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really "free" to do other than what God has foreknown.

My thing has always been that unless you're an open theist, both sides have their "problems" to work out with the issue of freedom.

Robert said...

Hello Mike,

Mike wrote:

“Just a few things to observe. The syllogism seems to work fine only IF libertarian freedom is true. “

Right and the argument presented involves LFW. The argument is predicated upon LFW and so if LFW is valid then the argument stands? Do you concede that Mike?

“But foreknowledge raises a problem. If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really "free" to do other than what God has foreknown.”

I don’t see this as a problem unless you involve yourself in the confusion that LFW means that we can do otherwise than we actually in fact do. Say that in fact I am going to go see the movie Alice in Wonderland next Saturday. If that is in fact what I end up choosing to do, then that is what I will in fact do. I cannot both end up going to that movie and not end up seeing that movie at the same time (which is what it would mean if I did otherwise than I will in fact do: it would also be affirming a contradiction, like raising your left hand and not raising your left hand at the same time).

Doing otherwise than you will in fact do is not what the proponent of LFW means by “doing otherwise” (that is fact is a common caricature or misrepresentation made by theological determinists/calvinists)

Stay with the movie example. Either I am going to that movie (call this “A”) next Saturday or I am not (call this “NOT-A”): I cannot both “A” and “NOT-A” at the same time. I am either going to choose to do “A” or choose to do “NOT-A” (or possibly even choose to do something else like stay home and read the newest N.T. Wright book, :-) but let’s keep to two possibilities to keep it clear and simple). Now God foreknows all future actual outcomes, so If I will in fact choose “A” then God foreknows that I will in fact choose “A”. On the other hand, if I in fact will choose “NOT-A” then God would have foreknown that. God’s foreknowledge of future events is of what I will in fact choose to do. God does not foreknow that I will both choose “A” and choose “NOT-A” at the same time (I will in fact either do “A” or “NOT-A”).

Now the proponent of LFW means by “ability to do otherwise” (not that I can do otherwise than I will in fact choose to do, again that makes no sense and would involve affirming a contradiction) but that prior to the actual outcome, the decision or choice is up to me. I will decide which possibility (either “A” or ‘NOT-A”) will be actualized as the actual outcome and which possibility will be excluded or not chosen. And prior to the actual outcome I could choose to actualize either one (if I choose “A” then that is the actual outcome, if I choose “NOT-A” then that is the actual outcome, whichever way I in fact choose is going to be the actual outcome). So LFW exists prior to the actual outcome.

Now if God foreknows all future actual outcomes, and the ability to do otherwise or libertarian free will exists prior to the actual outcome, then where is the conflict? God in fact know what I will freely choose to do.

“My thing has always been that unless you're an open theist, both sides have their "problems" to work out with the issue of freedom.”

It should be noted that it is calvinists/theological determinists and open theists that claim that divine foreknowledge and free will as ordinarily understood (technically referred to as libertarian free will) are incompatible. But aside from these two mistaken groups, every bible believing Christian has affirmed both foreknowledge and free will as ordinarily understood (this has been held by the early church Fathers, the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and most Protestants, Independents with the only exceptions being calvinists, open theists and Socinians.

Robert

bossmanham said...

The syllogism seems to work fine only IF libertarian freedom is true.

Well I don't think that's accurate, because I would be begging the question if that were the case. The syllogism works only if the consequence argument is true. That would show that libertarian freedom exists based on the premises. I think it's pretty obvious that if we have no control over events in the remote past and those events make necessary our present actions then we also have no control over our present actions. That would mean we aren't responsible for them.

So the argument rests on the consequence argument being true and shows that libertarian freedom is true since God says we are morally responsible for our actions.

Robert said...

Mike wrote:

"But foreknowledge raises a problem. If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really "free" to do other than what God has foreknown."

I took the time to directly address this supposed problem. I showed that it is not a problem that we can show how foreknowledge and free will in the ordinary understanding (technically called libertarian free will) **are** compatible.

So what is your response Mike?

Robert

Steven said...

(i) It isn't obvious that our "ordinary understanding of free will" is libertarian. There are studies that show ordinary folk are compatibilists.

(ii) I wouldn't blame him for not responding to your post, Robert, because it doesn't reconcile anything; it's just a lot of question begging.

bossmanham said...

Steven,

Explaining one's position is not question begging. It would only be question begging if Robert had said something like "LFW is correct because of this explanation of LFW."

There are studies that show ordinary folk are compatibilists.

Actually these studies show some people hold to a mixed view, and hasn't favored one side over another. You go ask people if they should be held morally responsible for something when they couldn't not do it, I bet you most would say no.

However, since the only worldview that would consistently be able to hold to LFW is Christianity, and most people in the world aren't Christians, then you do the math. If LFW were the road less traveled, then that's fine with me.

Robert said...

Hello Brennon, (part 1)

I want to make a few comments starting with Brennon first.

Brennon wrote:

“Explaining one's position is not question begging.”

Exactly.

“It would only be question begging if Robert had said something like "LFW is correct because of this explanation of LFW."”

Right again.

And further I did not beg the question. The challenge from Atheists, Open theists and calvinists is to demonstrate the compatibility of divine foreknowledge (I took and operated from the ordinary understanding of foreknowledge as God knowing future actual outcomes) and not just any conception of free will but specifically libertarian free will (I took and operated from the ordinary understanding of free will, that prior to making the choice when we have a choice we can choose either possibility and so we determine which alternative possibility gets actualized).

I operated from these two understandings and I did in fact show how they are compatible.

Now just because Steven does not want to accept it does not mean that I begged the question. And Steven has not shown how I begged the question, he has merely asserted that.

I was talking to a calvinist friend of mine recently who read my paper and agreed that I had in fact demonstrated the compatibility of divine foreknowledge with LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL. He then tried to bring up other arguments including his own compatibilist definition of free will. But that misses the point, the claim again by atheists, open theists and calvinists is that foreknowledge and LFW are incompatible. I demonstrated this claim to be false.

“Actually these studies show some people hold to a mixed view, and hasn't favored one side over another. You go ask people if they should be held morally responsible for something when they couldn't not do it, I bet you most would say no.

However, since the only worldview that would consistently be able to hold to LFW is Christianity, and most people in the world aren't Christians, then you do the math. If LFW were the road less traveled, then that's fine with me.”

This is an important observation. If we allow nonbelieving academicians to determine our philosophical positions, then most of them, hold to some form of compatibilism. Most of them argue against the ordinary understanding of free will (claiming that our actions are determined by our brains, the laws of nature, our environment, our genes, etc. etc.). Most of them argue against substance dualism and claim that we are only a physical body with no immaterial soul or spirit. And this effectively precludes the Christian understanding which is that our choices come from us and we are in fact immaterial souls.

Now if we switch and look at Christians then it is reversed, most Christians have always held the ordinary understanding of free will. Look at most Christian philosophers and they hold to LFW. If you look at church history it is overwhelmingly people holding to LFW. And Steven you need to check out church history prior to Augustine when the church unanimously held to LFW. For the first four hundred years of church history no one espoused calvinism, no one espoused compatibilism, everyone held to LFW. Even today most Christians across all theological traditions including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants and Independents hold to LFW. The exceptions are the theological determinists.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Brennon (part 2)

Steven wrote:

“(i) It isn't obvious that our "ordinary understanding of free will" is libertarian. There are studies that show ordinary folk are compatibilists.”

I have seen studies showing “ordinary folk” hold to LFW. And regarding what is “obvious” it seems that most academicians, those who speak of ordinary people with disdain and condescension, especially atheists speak with disdain about how “ordinary folk” believe in free will. Behaviorists want us to believe it is all just stimulus response. Evolutionists want us to believe it is just our genes. Neurologists want us to believe that our brains are machines that determine our behavior. So all these intellectuals deny the existence of the soul, deny the reality of God and our accountability to him. And all who imbibe their ideas simply bring in false and non-believing notions into the church.

“(ii) I wouldn't blame him for not responding to your post, Robert, because it doesn't reconcile anything; it's just a lot of question begging.”

Steven this is the fallacy of cavalier dismissal, you simply wave your hand and make a completely unsubstantiated claim. Show me where I begged the question. In operating from the ordinary understanding of foreknowledge did I do so? No, and the challenge from atheists, open theists and calvinists is to operate from this understanding of foreknowledge. Did I beg the question operating from the ordinary understanding of free will? Again No, as the challenge from atheists, open theists and calvinists is to show compatibility operating from the ordinary understanding of free will.

The fact is Steven you make a completely unsubstantiated assertion. Anyone can do that and from a perspective of argument it says nothing. I think you just don’t like that I showed simply and clearly how they are in fact compatible. And you don’t like it because you prefer to hold to determinism. But your subjective preference, your preference for determinism, says nothing about my argument. It is ironic that what it seems to come down to for you, is you merely support your subjective preference with a cavalier dismissal of an argument, with your freely made choice to reject it. You can engage in this kind of thing all day and it does not change a thing. You also sound just like those non-believing academicians who similarly engage in cavalier dismissals of Christian beliefs without any supporting arguments. That kind of thing is quite fashionable on the college campus.

Robert

bossmanham said...

Bob,

The challenge from Atheists, Open theists and calvinists is to demonstrate the compatibility of divine foreknowledge...

Yes I was just thinking about this at work today. The challenge so often from the groups mentioned is to show how foreknowledge can be consistent with LFW. In fact, that is precisely what Mike asked for when he said, "But foreknowledge raises a problem. If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really 'free' to do other than what God has foreknown."

So, since you provided him with a working model of how LFW and infallible foreknowledge could consistently work together you were not question begging at all, but rather you were answering his contention.

It turns out that Steven is the one throwing around logical fallacies by charging people who aren't using a fallacy with using a fallacy.

Robert said...

Hello Brennon,

“Yes I was just thinking about this at work today. The challenge so often from the groups mentioned is to show how foreknowledge can be consistent with LFW.”

Which is why I always bring up all three of these strange bedfellows at the same time! :-)

“In fact, that is precisely what Mike asked for when he said, "But foreknowledge raises a problem. If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really 'free' to do other than what God has foreknown."

Well I took it as a challenge by one of these three bedfellows, I was guessing it was a calvinist. It was kinda a “drive by challenge”, I’ll just take a shot and drive away quickly, leaving my victim with the results of the shot while I high tail it outta there!

“So, since you provided him with a working model of how LFW and infallible foreknowledge could consistently work together you were not question begging at all, but rather you were answering his contention.”

I directly answered his challenge and wrote again directly challenging him to deal with my answer.

I don’t like it when people just try to stir things up and then leave with out dealing with what they have caused.


“It turns out that Steven is the one throwing around logical fallacies by charging people who aren't using a fallacy with using a fallacy.”

Steven just made a cavalier dismissal, just a declaration with nothing behind it or in support of it. So we have one calvinist starting it with his drive by post and another just making a declaration with nothing backing up his claim. In both cases we have calvinists who want to present a problem without discussing it further. I don’t think that’s right.

Here is what D. A. Carson says about this fallacy cavalier dismissal:

“The fallacy in this instance lies in thinking that an opponent’s argument has actually been handled when in fact it has merely been written off. To cite but one of many examples, Hans Conzelmann raises a possible interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:4-6 only to banish it by adding the words. “This is fantastic.”
Often what is meant by such cavalier dismissal is that the opposing opinion emerges from a matrix of thought so different from a scholar’s own that he finds it strange, weird, and unacceptable (unless he changes his entire framework). If so, something like that should be said, rather than resorting to the hasty dismissal which is simultaneously worthless as an argument and gratingly condescending.” (pg. 118 EXEGETICAL FALLACIES)

That is exactly how Steven’s words came across, his words were simultaneously worthless as an argument and gratingly condescending.

Robert

Steven said...

I was not dismissing anything cavalierly. Any treatment of the foreknowledge/freedom dilemma which doesn't even though upon accidental necessity and the like is inept from the start. I wouldn't blame you for not seeing that, Brennon, because I've never noticed anything like a real appreciation for the strength of the argument coming from you. And Robert says he's read Fischer and Hasker's books on the topic, but it doesn't show; maybe he should give them another go.

Now if God foreknows all future actual outcomes, and the ability to do otherwise or libertarian free will exists prior to the actual outcome, then where is the conflict? God in fact know what I will freely choose to do.

If that is not question begging, or something like it, I don't know what to tell you. Robert's whole post was a "clarification" or a "caricature" of libertarian free will (one which I have never seen any Calvinists or incompatibilists give) and then a bare assertion that despite the fact that God foreknows what he will choose, he can still do otherwise.

bossmanham said...

I see a lot of bare assertions and hand waving, but no actual reasoning from you here, Steven. Again, when asked to show how foreknowledge and freedom are compatible, for one to provide a model of compatibility is not question begging. Robert and I and many others are satisfied that this account adequately explains the relation. What I've never heard a good explanation of is how the propositional knowledge of God could cause anything to happen. You keep asserting that and asking "well how could it not be necessary to do something if God knows it's going to happen??!!!??!!!!111" We explain that God knows propositionally what we will enact causally and freely, but it's never good enough for you and all we get is hand waving and nasty ridicule from you and Hays, which isn't an argument at all.

Maybe you need to work on identifying fallacies before you go throwing accusations of them around.

Steven said...

(i) It is one thing to give a model of compatibility. It is another to respond to a straw man argument that no one has been giving this whole. Robert does the latter.

(ii) It is plainly question begging to say that God knows the outcome, but the agent can still do otherwise. That is the whole question being debated.

(iii) No one argues that the propositional knowledge of God is causative, anyway, so it isn't any wonder why you've never seen an explanation of how that could be.

(iv) But the whole point of the argument is foreknowledge leaves no room for AP. I don't understand how you could have never seen that this whole time.

(v) Maybe if Robert and you and other Arminians put up an actual response to a strong formulation of the argument, rather than question-begging "replies" to a straw man that no one is giving, then you wouldn't get the "nasty ridicule" from the Calvinists.

bossmanham said...

(i) It is one thing to give a model of compatibility. It is another to respond to a straw man argument that no one has been giving this whole. Robert does the latter.

Wrong, as I said, Robert was responding to Mike who said, "If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really "free" to do other than what God has foreknown." Robert simply explained the simple reconciliation of this issue.

(ii) It is plainly question begging to say that God knows the outcome, but the agent can still do otherwise. That is the whole question being debated.

Wrong, the issue being debated is the incompatibility of foreknowledge and free will. If one shows a working model, that is not question begging. Again, study up on that concept.

(iii) No one argues that the propositional knowledge of God is causative, anyway, so it isn't any wonder why you've never seen an explanation of how that could be.

Then your argument carries no weight and theistic determinism is false, since you're not willing to say God actively causes all things in a first hand manner.

(v) Maybe if Robert and you and other Arminians put up an actual response to a strong formulation of the argument, rather than question-begging "replies" to a straw man that no one is giving, then you wouldn't get the "nasty ridicule" from the Calvinists.

As has been shown, again, we aren't. And even if we did, is it right for you to act so poorly?

Steven said...

Wrong, as I said, Robert was responding to Mike who said, "If God has foreknowledge of all future actions, then no one is really "free" to do other than what God has foreknown." Robert simply explained the simple reconciliation of this issue.

Again, Robert's post just amounted to assertion that the agent is free to do otherwise, even if God foreknows the actions. Where does Robert give anything like an explanation of the way in which the agent is free?

Wrong, the issue being debated is the incompatibility of foreknowledge and free will. If one shows a working model, that is not question begging. Again, study up on that concept.

(i) In the first place, how is there any real distinction between what I said was the topic at hand, and what you said the topic at hand was? I said the whole question of whether or not God's foreknowing you would X is compatible with your being able to do otherwise; you say the topic is the incompatibility of foreknowledge and freedom. How are these two substantially distinct?

(ii) It's not very nice of you to tell me to study up on a concept when I clearly gave an example of it. Robert didn't show a working model of how foreknowledge is compatible with free will; he asserted that it is. Any unbiased and impartial observer would agree that it is so.

Then your argument carries no weight and theistic determinism is false, since you're not willing to say God actively causes all things in a first hand manner.

(i) It still carries a lot of weight. If you can't ever do otherwise, then even if determinism is false, that is a blow to libertarian freedom of the will as most libertarians conceive of it, and as almost all Arminians conceive of it.

(ii) The truth of theological determinism is irrelevant to the goal of the foreknowledge argument.

As has been shown, again, we aren't. And even if we did, is it right for you to act so poorly?

(i) Nothing has been shown, not from you anyway.

(ii) Who is acting poorly? All I've said is that you don't get the argument and Robert begged the question. Is that acting poorly?

Robert said...

Wow Steven you just keep committing the fallacy of cavalier dismissal over and over again.

“I was not dismissing anything cavalierly.”

Yes you were, you made no comments whatsoever about me being wrong anywhere. That is precisely what Carson was talking about when he referred to cavalier dismissal.

“Any treatment of the foreknowledge/freedom dilemma which doesn't even though [touch?] upon accidental necessity and the like is inept from the start.”

And here you engage in cavalier dismissal yet again. Who says that in every presentation showing the compatibility of foreknowledge and free will that you have to address every point that some determinist like you may bring up? I wrote a response to the first determinist/Mike that posted here not to you. In my response to him I provided a simple way of showing compatibility between foreknowledge and free will.

To dismiss my comments simply because I did not deal with YOUR OWN HOBBY HORSE ON THIS SUBJECT is a paradigm example of cavalier dismissal. Note your comment that to not discuss your hobby horse: “is inept from the start.” That is a perfect example of cavalier dismissal.

Robert

Steven said...

Yes you were, you made no comments whatsoever about me being wrong anywhere. That is precisely what Carson was talking about when he referred to cavalier dismissal.

Yes, I did--I pointed out exactly where you begged the question.

And here you engage in cavalier dismissal yet again. Who says that in every presentation showing the compatibility of foreknowledge and free will that you have to address every point that some determinist like you may bring up? I wrote a response to the first determinist/Mike that posted here not to you. In my response to him I provided a simple way of showing compatibility between foreknowledge and free will.

You begged the question anyway, so even if he didn't bring up stuff about accidental necessity, your reply wasn't any good, anyway.