Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Divine causality and human freedom


Is the conception of divine causality defended by classical theists like Aquinas (and which I defend in Five Proofs of the Existence of God) compatible with our having free will?  The reason they might seem not to be compatible is that for Aquinas and those of like mind, nothing exists or operates even for an instant without God sustaining it in being and cooperating with its activity.  The flame of a stove burner heats the water above it only insofar as God sustains the flame in being and imparts causal efficacy to it.  And you scroll down to read the rest of this article only insofar as God sustains you in being and imparts causal efficacy to your will.  But doesn’t this mean that you are not free to do otherwise?  For isn’t it really God who is doing everything and you are doing nothing?

No, that doesn’t follow at all.  Keep in mind, first of all, that Aquinas’s position is concurrentist rather than occasionalist.  The flame really does heat the water, even if it cannot do so without God’s cooperation.  You might say that God is in this way like the battery that keeps a toy car moving.  The car’s motor really does move the wheels even if it cannot do so without the battery continually imparting power to it.  It’s not that the battery alone moves the wheels and the motor does nothing.  Similarly, it is not God alone heating the water.  The flame, like the motor, makes a real contribution.  Now, in voluntary action, the human will also makes a real contribution.  It is not that God causes our actions and we do nothing.  We really are the cause of them just as the flame really causes the water to boil, even if in both cases the causes act only insofar as God imparts efficacy to them.

A critic might respond that that is all well and good, but while Aquinas’s position avoids occasionalism, that does not suffice to save free will.  The flame really does heat the water, but it does not do so freely.  So if divine cooperation with the will is like divine cooperation with the flame, how is the will any more free than the flame is?

The answer is that God’s cooperation with a thing’s action does not change the nature of that action.  Impersonal causes act without freedom because they are not rational.  Human beings act freely because they are rational.  That God cooperates with each sort of action is irrelevant.  Suppose, per impossibile, that you and the flame could exist and operate without God’s conserving action.  Then there would be no question that whereas the flame does not act freely, you do, because you are rational.  There would in this scenario be no additional divine causal factor that might seem to detract from your freedom.

Of course, this scenario is impossible.  Again, for the Thomist, neither the flame nor your will could exist or operate for an instant without divine conservation and concurrence.  But the point of the per impossibile scenario is to emphasize that God is not some additional causal factor within the universe the presence or absence of which might affect the specific causal situation in the way that the presence or absence of oxygen would affect the flame’s causal efficacy, or the presence or absence of temptations and other distractions would affect your will’s causal efficacy.  Rather, God is the metaphysical precondition of there being any causality at all, whether causality of the unfree kind or of the voluntary kind. 

Here’s an analogy.  Consider a triangle you’ve drawn with a ruler on notebook paper.  What you’ve drawn has straight sides.  Why?  One answer is: because you used a ruler to draw it.  Another answer is: because it instantiates triangularity.  These answers are, of course, in no way in competition.  Indeed, both answers are true.  Each explains a different aspect of the situation.

Now, the relation of our actions to the will’s causality and to divine causality, respectively, is somewhat like that.  Why did you scroll down the page to read the rest of this article?  One answer is: because you freely chose to do so.  Another answer is: because God has created a world in which that happens.  These answers too are in no way in competition.  Both are true, and both explain a different aspect of the situation.

In Five Proofs, I deploy another analogy, between God and the world on the one hand and an author and the story he has written on the other.  Suppose you finish a detective novel, find out that the butler did it, and then complain to a friend that you were troubled that the butler was punished at the end of the book, because he didn’t act of his own free will.  Your friend responds: “Oh, was the butler acting under threat from someone else in the story?  Was he acting under the influence of hypnosis or some other kind of mind control?  Did he go temporarily insane?  Did he squeeze the trigger only because of a muscle spasm?”  You respond: “No, nothing like that.  It’s just that I found out after reading it that the novel had an author!  That means that the butler didn’t act freely after all, since he only did it because the author wrote the story that way.” 

That would be a silly comment, of course.  The author’s causal relation to the butler’s actions is simply not like the causal relation that a threat, or hypnosis, or insanity, or a muscle spasm might have to the butler’s actions.  The author is not one causal element of the story among others, but rather the precondition of there being any story, and any causality within it, at all.  Similarly, God is not one causal factor among others within the universe, but rather the precondition of there being any universe, and any causality within it, at all. 

Of course, like any analogy, this one is imperfect.  But a critic might claim that it nevertheless fails to illuminate the compatibility of free will and divine causality, even given the limitations facing any analogy.  For the bottom line, the critic might say, is that absolutely nothing happens in the story that doesn’t happen because the author wrote it that way.  And for the Thomist, absolutely nothing happens in the world that doesn’t happen because God simply created a world where it happens.  So (the critic concludes) neither the characters in the story nor the human beings who exist in reality (at least as the Thomist conceives of reality) ever really act freely.  The story analogy, the critic might claim, really exacerbates the problem for the Thomist rather than solves it.  For it shows that human beings are really no more free than characters in a story are.

But on careful analysis this objection can be seen to have no force, for it doesn’t treat the different elements of the story analogy in a consistent way.  If such a critic were consistent, then he would also have to say that the gun that the butler used didn’t really fire any bullets, that the bullets are not really what killed the victim, that the judge and jury didn’t really punish the butler, etc. – all on the grounds that it was really the author who did all these things, since, after all, he was the one who wrote the story that way. 

Of course, this too would be silly.  To understand and describe a story at all, we have to treat it as if it were real.  For example, we have to speak of the characters and events in the story as if they really existed and occurred.  But if we are going to do that much, then to be consistent, we also have to speak of the characters and physical objects in the story (e.g. the gun, bullets, etc.) as if they had real efficacy.  That is to say, we have to speak of the gun as if it really fired bullets, of the bullets as if they really tore into the victim’s body, of the judge and jury as if they really punished the butler, and so on.  

But by the same token, to be consistent, we also have to speak of the butler and other characters as if they acted freely.  We can’t have it both ways.  If we are correctly to understand and describe the story at all, we have to treat every part of it, including the free will of the characters, as if it were real.  It is silly to pretend that the fact that the story had an author gives us special reason to think that the free will of the characters, specifically, is unreal.  Of course the free will of the characters is unreal.  Everything in the story is unreal, because it’s only a story.  There’s nothing special about the characters’ free will in this regard.  If a critic were to claim that the story analogy shows that Thomism undermines free will, he might as well claim that the story analogy shows that Thomism leads to occasionalism, on the grounds that it is really the author and not the butler who fired the gun, etc.

The story analogy shows no such thing, of course.  But then, neither does it in any way undermine free will.  It can seem to do so only given a selective treatment of the different elements of the analogy.

The critic might at this point try a different tack.   He may say that the Thomist account of free will is problematic.  Again, Aquinas takes the will to be free because it is a rational appetite.  Human beings, unlike lower animals, act in light of what their intellects take to be good.  But, the critic might ask, why does this matter?  Suppose your intellect judges that it would be good to read the rest of this article, and so you choose to do so and scroll down to keep reading.  How would this make your action free?  Indeed, wouldn’t this act of the intellect simply be one further member of the series of causes that led to your action, in no relevant respect different from the neural firing patterns and muscular contractions that play a role in it?

There are two main points to be made in response to this.  The first is that it is hard to see why any critic would think this a serious objection to the Thomist unless he conceived of causality entirely in terms of efficient causal relations.  In particular, such a critic would be supposing that the way to understand the role of the intellect is to think in terms of some specific mental event (identified either with a neural event or with something going on in a Cartesian res cogitans) functioning as the efficient cause of some chain of bodily events, where said mental event was itself in turn the effect of some preceding series of efficient causes.  The critic’s objection would be that such a mental event seems to be merely one further member of the series of events that led to the action, each of which might for all Aquinas has shown be as causally determined as any other. 

The problem with such an objection, of course, is that it simply takes for granted a view of causality that no Thomist would accept.  For the Thomist, there are four irreducible modes of causal explanation – formal, material, efficient, and final – and the role of the intellect is primarily to be understood in terms of formal and final causality rather than in terms of efficient causality.  Furthermore, the Thomist would, for that matter, also reject the reductionist and physicalist assumptions about efficient causality that inform much contemporary discussion of causality and free will.  Objections like the one I have put into the mouth of my imagined critic simply read into Aquinas assumptions that he would not accept, and thus beg the question.

The second thing to be said in response to this imagined objection is that it changes the subject.  For if the critic’s problem is with Aquinas’s account of free will as a consequence of intellect, then it isn’t any longer divine causality that is at issue. 

Much more could be said, but for now I’ll end with this: Misgivings about Aquinas’s account of divine causality and free will seem largely to derive from two errors.  The first involves reading into Aquinas modern philosophical assumptions about free will and causality that he would not accept, the result of which is a travesty of what he actually thinks about the nature of free will.  (Hence all the heavy going about whether Aquinas was a compatibilist, a libertarian, etc.  I don’t think he is properly understood in terms of any of the categories that have now become standard, any more than his views on the mind-body problem are properly classified as Cartesian, materialist, functionalist, etc.)  The second error involves treating God as if he were simply one further efficient cause alongside all the others in the universe, only more powerful and further back in the line of efficient causes.

263 comments:

  1. Great post Dr. Feser! I would love to see more blogs by you on free will since it is such an important topic. I have read on the link between PSR and free will, and would love to read your take, since many people think the two are incompatible. My thoughts are that it makes no sense to say that an unintelligible choice is more free than an intelligible one. It seems that there is a false dichotomy in the literature where a choice either must have no cause or must be completely caused by external factors. Whereas the Thomistic position seems to suggest that any choice is due to a variety of factors (formal, final, efficient, and material, that are both internal and external to the free agent. It's certainly the commonsensical position, but some elaboration from an expert would be great for us "intellectuals" who can make ourselves believe anything we want.

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    1. I agree. If some action is free, it seems it is aimed at some (at least perceived) good that makes it intelligible. Without that, what is it a choice for? And if it is not a choice, how can it be free? (Wouldn't such an 'action' just be like a seizure - it just happens.)

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    2. Indeed there is a false dichotomy involved in randomness objections. As Alexander Pruss has shown, an explanans need not entail its explanandum in order to be an explanation, and also there would be the option of contingent self-explanatory free acts. Those who peddle the tired randomness objection beg the question by assuming that (1) an explanans can only explain its explanandum by entailment, and (2) free actions can't be contingent and self-explanatory. Either one of the two is sufficient to block objections against free will.

      And when it comes to human action, it seems it can't be determined at all, not by any finite goods, thus implying we have libertarian free will. This is because a finite good can never determinately move a rational will, since even though good qua good is always desirable, a finite good will simultaneously repel the rational will inasmuch as it is *finite* and therefore lacking in desirability. What is lacking in desirability could never be sufficient to forcefully move a rational will; there will be repulsion as well as attraction and action is ultimately up to us. It would be unintelligible for a finite good to determinately move the will. See Maritain. Also Yves Simon's work "freedom of choice".

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    3. The problem is that a factor that is internal to the agent is another way of saying that the agent's character is a factor in a free choice.
      But the agent's character is not caused by the agent, it is caused by God.
      That is exactly what the story analogy is meant to show. The author of the story is not only responsible for the outcome of the novel, he is also responsible for each and every player in the story, including their "characters".
      The butler acts the way he does because the author created the butler's character as well as a world where it happens in such a way.
      And that is, IMHO, what Dr Feser fails to take into account. The claim that nothing exists or operates even for an instant without God sustaining it in being and cooperating with its activity does not merely say that God created an external world W in which person P does X, it also entails that God created the character of the person P in such a way that he does X if he finds himself in external world W.
      The purpose of a story is to be treated as if it were real and for that purpose the author is irrelevant, but the Thomist claim is that the story isreal and that the author (God) is actively involved in the story.
      So it is not silly in this case to say that the freewill of the characters is unreal, in fact that is simply a consistent application of the Thomist position.

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    4. 1. In part true, but incomplete. God **also** causes and sustains the Willful Seat of the Agent, as in the Volitional Seat of the Self, in addition to “the rest” of all that sums to “Self”.

      2. Proportionate Causality gets us there — to what is in part the Imago Dei.

      3. With that irreducible seat well in hand, it is not only logically possible but also theologically lucid that God *can* and *does* create that Seat — that little i-am — first outside of Eden and, then placing him in Eden, he (man) awakes to find himself between actual (Ontic) possible worlds (...Tree/Privation... Tree/Eternal Idea... etc...).

      4. But that is nothing more than movement amid Self/Other (...Man/God...).

      5. From that “locus” forward, then, the critic of free will must blindly foist (...and redefine God...) that whatever the Self there chose was determined not by the seat of the Volitional Seat — not by the i-am — but by the array of rationally perceived X’s within which said Self swims.

      6. That is unjustifiable short of redefining the Imago Dei — that i-am — and thereby *God* as well.

      ~

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    5. "As Alexander Pruss has shown, an explanans need not entail its explanandum in order to be an explanation"

      I've dabbled in some of Pruss's work, but don't recall this claim specifically being discussed.

      What, in your view or the view of the readership, is his most thorough and convincing presentation of this argument? (Online or academic)

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    6. @meta Christianity, I wouldn't necessarily argue that external influences to the "volitional seat" you mention are entirely the cause if said external influences were simply elements of the world. The point is that God creates the volitional seat and its characteristics (which include its decisions) so God would still be the creator of the actions that the agent undertakes. He might perhaps be compared to someone throwing a ball to hit a switch: technically the ball causes the switch to flick, but it could not have done anything else if God was in complete control. You might answer that the ball isn't conscious but The fact that a ball isn't conscious isnt the point, its that the conscious decision could not have been made otherwise by the agent if God has set it in stone.

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    7. Staircaseghost,

      That position has been defended at least since Elizabeth Anscombe, when she first defended it in her discussions of causality.

      Pruss specifically talks about it in his discussion of the Van Inwagen objection to PSR, both in his book on PSR (the principle of sufficient reason: a reassessment) and in his article "leibnizian cosmological arguments" for the blackwell companion to natural theology. Van Inwagen's (and, in fact, randomness objections) objection requires two assumptions, both of which are dubious: 1) that an explanans must entail its explanandum; 2) that there can be no contingent self-explanatory facts (which would be possible in the context of free actions). Pruss also discusses them in relation to libertarian free will in both works.

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    8. "an explanans can only explain its explanandum by entailment"

      That means that in one possible world, the explanation leads to a result, and in another world it doesn't, given the same state of affairs? What is the difference-maker?

      P-reasons (a term from Galen Strawson) include the reasons for X and Y, {X} and {Y}.

      In one world, the agent adopted {X} from P and so chose X. P+{X}=X
      In world 2, the agent adopted {Y} from P and so chose Y. P+{Y}=Y

      Why, in world 1, did the agent adopt {X}? Did he assent to {Y} being overshadowed? If not, then it's out of control which reasons are assented to. If yes, then that leads to an infinite regress. We can ask, from what outside of P-reasons did the agent come to assent to the overshadowing? Either it will be a different set of reasons, Q, or it will have to be partly independent of the reasons (partly spontaneous and random). In either case, a choice is made (an assent to sidestepping an element of P) before the choice to do X or Y is made.

      In light of {X} being present whether or not X is chosen, why does {X} explain X in one world and not in the other? What was the difference-maker? It can't be anything in P, since nothing in P overshadows either set of reasons, since they're both included in P. It seems the only response is the "the agent chose X," but he did so because of the overshadowing of {Y}, and then {Y} was overshadowed because the agent assented to its being overshadowed, and it was overshadowed because the agent chose X--it's a vicious circle.

      Jonathan Edwards also saw the problem: "Something that isn’t sufficient to produce x at one time can’t be sufficient to produce it at another time when the causally relevant circumstances are exactly the same. So even in a case where x does follow y, it doesn’t do so because of y as its cause. ... If mere difference of time has no causal influence, then obviously the statement 'y was sufficient to produce x at T1 and not sufficient to produce it at T2' is as absurd as the statement 'y was sufficient to produce x at T1 and not sufficient to produce it at T1' (Freedom of the Will).

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    9. "free actions can't be contingent and self-explanatory"

      It seems that this amounts to saying the explanation for the agent's free choice is the agent's free choice, which is circular. Edwards again -- "It is clear that no acts of the will are contingent in the sense of being entirely without necessity ... because every act of the will is connected in some way with the understanding. How? Well, each act of the will is shaped by the greatest apparent good in a way that I have already explained, namely: the soul always wills or chooses whatever appears most agreeable to it, given the mind’s present view of the whole situation" (Freedom of the Will).

      If the agent's "choice" doesn't follow necessarily from the agent's character, then in what sense is it *his* choice? (It would be like putting a randomizer mechanism in a sentient robot, and then holding him morally responsible for what it does. We could even say that randomizer only acts after certain theoretical choices are considered, and placed in the programming. So any potential choice could be "explained" by the consideration (i.e. reasons) for the theoretical choice. But even with reasons for the action, it was still random. There was an explanation, but it includes randomness in it.) The choice is unhinged from the agent's character. If the agent has no control (whether it be through choice or determining the outcome) over what his choice will be, then he can't be the source of it. He can only be the source of the alternate possibilities, but the actual, particular one chosen will be partly random.

      I would also point out that free will is incompatible with foreknowledge. If I have libertarian free will, then I can choose X or ~X--both have to be possible, or else I'm not free. But if God knows in advance that I will do X, that entails that I will do X. Doing ~X is only a perceived possibility, not an actual one. Otherwise, it would be possible to change God's foreknowledge, which is absurd.

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    10. "That means that in one possible world, the explanation leads to a result, and in another world it doesn't, given the same state of affairs? What is the difference-maker?"

      You could've asked "where is this thing I assume must be the case but that you've just called into question? Your position doesn't make sense because it doesn't include an explanation in the terms of the assumption you just denied!!!". And then he goes on to beg the question again with randomness objections which assume exactly what has been called into question: that an explanans must entail its explanandum. Great.

      Anyway, I'm not gonna waste my time replying to Mr. Contraception this time, maybe Red can do it anyway. For those interested in actual discussion, check out Pruss's writings either in his book or in his article.

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    11. We must take into account the different ideas of agent causation and not pretend as though one token theory exhausts all types. Take this point by O'Connor "It will perhaps be helpful to clarify what I have and have not just said. I am at this
      point taking it as provisionally given that we have a decent grasp on the very idea of
      agent causal power. I argued in the penultimate paragraph that we cannot
      coherently suppose reasons to constrain agent-causal power in one familiar way,
      that of tending to produce agent-causal events. I then tried to explicate another
      (albeit less familiar) way, that of structuring a propensity of an agent to produce an
      event without thereby tending toward the production of the agent’s producing said
      event. However, I have in no way suggested that one could not coherently jettison
      the idea of agent causation in favor of an event-causal theory of action on which
      the having of reasons does indeed tend directly towards the production of one’s
      executive intentions to act. This is the guiding idea of causal theories of action and,
      unlike some agent causationists such as Richard Taylor, I do not maintain that it is
      impossible to give a satisfactory theory of action along these lines. I would only
      insist that such a theory cannot capture the more ambitious notion of freedom of
      action. Here, I maintain, purely event-causal theories (whether deterministic or
      not) will inevitably fail. Thus, I am committed to supposing that there is more than
      one broad sort of way that the having of reasons might influence an intentional
      action. As with other propensities, the effect of events constituted by the having of
      reasons to act depends on surrounding circumstances. The agent-causal account I
      am advancing suggests that the presence of agent-causal power is one very important determinant on such effects. In the presence of such a power, the causal
      contribution of the having of reasons is exhausted by the alteration of the
      probability of a corresponding agent-causal event."

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    12. @ Miguel-

      Thank you. So there is no thing that accounts for why part of the P-reasons were set aside. That is randomness. Without something that brings about the actualization of only one possible world, when the explanations for both were present ({X} and {Y}), then both would have been actualized, but of course only one is, and so you're just evading the obvious problem. Again, did the agent choose to assent to only part of P-reasons before the choice was made, or did it just happen on its own? That leads to a regress, as I explained. And the agent has no control over what his choice will be.

      Nothing in P-reasons itself entails that part of P-reasons will be overshadowed, so this requires that the agent acts partly independent of P for the overshadowing to take place. In this state of detachment from P, the overshadowing will be due to Q-reasons, or, guess what: randomness.

      So, Miguel, please tell me {X} was overlooked IN A WAY different from the randomizer in a sentient robot.

      As my example with the randomizer inside a sentient robot shows, I'm not assuming that an explanation must entail the explanandum. The explanation could, after all, include randomness. And that's the case with libertarian free will, which you refuse to make different from randomness.

      For those interested in how free will is the worst idea ever, check out Galen Strawson's "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility." Also Freedom and Belief. Free will is a poison that makes people feel guilty for things they had no ultimate control over.

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    13. Free will is a poison that makes people feel guilty for things they had no ultimate control over.

      And thank you SO much for adding to our guilt by showing that we are making people feel guilty without need.

      But it is a guilt that they have no power to evade as they have no ultimate control over it. And we had no power to avoid claiming even if it IS empty. And, supposedly, you had no power to NOT point it out, fruitless and pointless as it is because regardless of want, you had to do it. In fact, I should recognize that you had no power to avoid saying those words REGARDLESS of what you think is the truth, and I should consider them as of no more moment than the barking of a dog, because they issue not from free will but from necessary causes.

      Like that?

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    14. I would like to see Dr. Feser address an argument similar to Walter's. I do think it is largely based on a weak causal system (God being a cause rather than ultimate sustainer; God being ), but the argument from condition does seem particularly powerful—that is, that being created in a certain way, it can't really be that we had freedom to act in any other way. Ultimately, I think this goes back to original sin and the creation of a true free will (God creating a being analogous to himself in autonomy; God giving the first humans a situation of true choice between good and evil; humans choosing evil and corrupting following humans' ability to have such a truly free choice), but it would be nice to have it cleared up from a more rigorous perspective, given that it does seem to pose a bit of a challenge.

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    15. "And, supposedly, you had no power to NOT point it out, fruitless and pointless as it is because REGARDLESS OF WANT, you had to do it." (emphasis added)

      It isn't regardless of want. That would be fatalism. An act of the will is determined by the strongest desire presented to it. So desires are part of the chain, that, if changed, changes the later links in the chain.

      "you had no power to avoid saying those words REGARDLESS of what you think is the truth,"

      In theory, if I had wanted to say different words, then I would have said different words. It is because (1) I think determinism is true (2) I care about people and don't want them to suffer irrational guilt -- that I reveal the truth that free will is incoherent. My beliefs are part of the causal chain, so if I didn't believe the two things I just pointed out, it's likely I wouldn't argue for determinism. So it's not "regardless."

      "I should consider them as of no more moment than the barking of a dog, because they issue not from free will but from necessary causes. "

      I don't know what your point is here, but I'm guessing it has something to do with rationality somehow being undermined by determinism. But this doesn't follow. Patricia Churchland pointed out that reasons can be part of the deterministic chain.

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    16. In theory, if I had wanted to say different words, then I would have said different words.

      There goes your entire case against.If not, then you have no answer to above charge.See why No one takes you seriously here?

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    17. @ “AnonymousMarch 14, 2018 at 1:50 PM
      @meta Christianity, I wouldn't necessarily argue that external influences to the "volitional seat" ....”

      That approach redefines both God & the Imago Dei. One must redine and then assert:

      [1] ...the Capacity for actual (ontic) choice is illusory in God — and therefore in that i-am described earlier with respect to the Imago Dei...

      [2] ...something other than the actually (ontic) rational constitutes God — and therefore perception both in and of the nature of said i-am described earlier with respect to the Imago Dei...

      [3] ...something other than the actually (ontic) rational constitutes all which said i-am swims within — and therefore perception both in and of the nature of said i-am described earlier with respect to the Imago Dei...

      The Hard Stop is not I-Feel nor I-See nor I-Want (...and etc...) but in fact the express and irreducible Seat that *is* (ontic) the i-am.

      As briefly described earlier the principal of Proportionate Causality gets us “there”. Further, that such proportion is metaphysically necessary (...on pains of circularity & illusory &...) we find that it is God and God alone Who both creates and sustains our very Self.

      All syntax must survive all references to “the Edenic” and what comes after (...outside of...) Eden is necessarily distinct, but those distinctions cannot redefine “the Edenic / the Adamic” as if those more distal, downstream facts somehow expunge the Metanarrative’s more proximal, upstream facts.

      As per http://disq.us/p/1n9rf6h we find that if In Fact as per Ontic-Fact the Edenic Adamic is free to do *otherwise* then in fact that *otherwise* cannot sum to Ontic Non-Entity nor can it sum to a kind of Ontic Noble Lie told by the Necessary Being. In fact God / Omnipotence cannot create a being that is in fact free to do Non-Entity or free to do Non-Being. Any epistemic which cannot contain Eden and Eden's possible worlds has, from the start, a suspicious ontic already in jeopardy (... http://disq.us/p/1n166pv ...).

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    18. Counter rebel, you keep citing randomness as an objection against free-will, but how could that be the case? To be random means that something is, to some extent at least, unpredictable. A libertarian can happily concede that our choices can be unpredictable. Does it concern you that games of chance involve randomness?

      Perhaps by randomness or arbitrariness you mean something else like being uncaused. Again, it’s not clear what the objection here is:

      1-Most libertarians see the will as self-determining, they sometimes use the misleading term “uncaused” to refer to the fact that there are no other causes fully determining the will outside the will. There’s no cause prior to the will, the will is self-determining and thus its own cause for choosing.
      2- Can there be uncaused things to begin with? I’ve yet to see any good reason to see that there can be uncaused things in the absolute sense of the word (Came into existence from nothing or has always been ‘there’, exists continually on its own for no reason, etc.). On the other hand, it is odd that atheists cannot believe in something being partially ‘uncaused’ like the will being self-determining, but are happy to admit radical forms of arbitrariness for the universe.

      But things being partially 'uncaused' is not so strange. Triangles are triangular, heat heats, contingent things are contingent. What causes these things to be what they are? There are no further causes: it is in the *nature* of heat to heat, triangles to be triangular and contingent things to be contingent. So why can’t be the nature of the will be self-determining?

      3- Libertarians have never claimed that free-will is wholly uncaused, full stop. They usually see the will as self-determining, in other words, the nature of the will is to choose. Reason presents a variety of ends; the will can choose to focus on some reasons over others and one can choose an end freely based on those considerations. Where is the error here?

      As for fatalism, how does infallible propositional knowledge of X entail (logically? necessarily? causally?) X? Where’s the connection between knowing and the physical world?

      You say there’s some contradiction in God knowing X infallibly and that we being able to choose otherwise would mean God COULD POSSIBLY be wrong, which is absurd. But where is the absurdity? God could possibly be wrong, but he’s actually right, I could be possibly a billionaire right now, but I am actually not, Hillary could possibly be president of the United States, but she’s not.
      Why should bare logical possibility be a problem for free-will?

      Delete
    19. “...An act of the will is determined by the strongest desire presented to it. So desires are part of the chain, that, if changed, changes the later links in the chain...”

      There is no chain there.

      Only Desire Full Stop.

      You are doing nothing more (...there at least...) than attempting to cram the metaphysic of the Divine Mind into cascading reverberations of nature’s four fundamental forces. That’s why you keep floating those sorts of muddied premises.


      Delete
    20. @Anonymous: "There goes your entire case against." Not at all. Determinism is not the same as fatalism.

      Determinism: A-->B-->C--...

      Fatalism: xxxxxxxCxxxxxx

      According to fatalism, C will happen regardless of what comes before it, e.g. regardless of what I want. Now on determinism, C will happen necessarily, but it will be the result of what came before. If what came before C was different (in theory), e.g. if what I wanted was different, then something other than C will happen.

      @Mr. Duran: "Counter rebel, you keep citing randomness as an objection against free-will, but how could that be the case?"

      Well if you have two choices, A and B, and the desire/reasons for them rA and rB (which make up P-reasons), then even if rA explains why you chose A, that still begs the question of why rA took priority over rB, since nothing in P-reasons entails that an element of P will be overshadowed. The agent is presented as being detached from P, and assenting for only some of it. In this state of independence from P, the assenting will be due to some other set of reasons (Q-reasons, you could say) or for no reasons. The first means the choice is determined, and the second means the choice is random.

      "Most libertarians see the will as self-determining" Yes, but this leads to a regress. If a choice is based on a movement of the will, then a movement of the will (which is a choice) would be based on a choice, which in turn, is based off a movement of the will, ad infinitum.

      "thus its own cause for choosing." The will moves itself. See above.

      "Can there be uncaused things to begin with?" I see no absurdity in the idea that the universe popped into existence out of absolutely nothing. Yes, people might laugh at that, but that doesn't prove it's impossible. (Although, I neither believe nor disbelieve that the universe came out of nothing. Perhaps there was never a state of nothingness, whether or not the universe goes back forever.)

      "the will can choose to focus on some reasons over others and one can choose an end freely based on those considerations. Where is the error here?" The choice to focus on some reason over another for a choice, is a choice in itself, so this leads to a regress again. And that prior choice to assent to one reason over another will be due to another reason, or just be random.

      "As for fatalism, how does infallible propositional knowledge of X entail (logically? necessarily? causally?) X?"

      If someone knows a future decision, that logically entails that X will occur (I'm not saying the foreknowledge itself causes it to occur). (Logical determinism is one form of determinism, in addition to causal determinism.)

      "You say there’s some contradiction in God knowing X infallibly and that we being able to choose otherwise would mean God COULD POSSIBLY be wrong, which is absurd. But where is the absurdity?"

      The absurdity comes when you say you have free will to do X or ~X if God already knows you will do X. As it is impossible to change what God knows, it is impossible to choose ~X.

      "God could possibly be wrong, but he’s actually right" God can't be wrong, since His knowledge is infallible and He's omniscient. The only way to believe in libertarian free will is to affirm open theism. As James White has said, "The only consistent Arminian is an open theist."

      Delete
    21. (continued) "I could be possibly a billionaire right now, but I am actually not, Hillary could possibly be president of the United States, but she’s not." When you say you could possibly be a billionaire, you're already presupposing free will, which is what's under dispute in the first place. If God knew all along that you would not be a billionaire right, that means you can't possibly be a billionaire, for God would be wrong if you were.

      I'm not committing a modal fallacy. I'm not saying God's knowledge of you choosing X means X is necessary in the sense that you choose X in all possible worlds. Obviously, if God's foreknowledge was different, then you would unavoidably choose ~X. But in all possible worlds where God does know you choose X, you have to choose X, and vice versa. Saying something like "God's foreknowledge would have been different if you chose differently" isn't saying anything, because the world where you choose differently is a different world, in which case it would be impossible to not-choose differently. Plus God's foreknowledge is not different from what it already is.

      @Meta -- Desires are part of the chain, actions are another part of the chain, car crashes, the Enlightenment, smallpox, and everything else are part of the inevitable, including your comment, which was destined to be written since the dawn of time.

      Delete
    22. @Metachristianity, "It is God and God alone who creates and sustains our very self". Exactly. Of that proposition is correct, then we don't have free will, and God creates our actions, just like he creates everything else. You seem to be saying (correct me if I'm wrong) that if I say that we don't have free will, I must imply that niether does God, but I dont think that follows, or is relevant. God is still prior, and because he creates being, he is the cause of all that happens. Suppose for the sake of argument that God doesn't have free will. He would still have a desire for all to worship him (I assume) and, if we don't have free will, he could obviously achieve this.

      Delete
    23. Why, in world 1, did the agent adopt {X}? Did he assent to {Y} being overshadowed? If not, then it's out of control which reasons are assented to. If yes, then that leads to an infinite regress. We can ask, from what outside of P-reasons did the agent come to assent to the overshadowing? Either it will be a different set of reasons, Q, or it will have to be partly independent of the reasons (partly spontaneous and random). In either case, a choice is made (an assent to sidestepping an element of P) before the choice to do X or Y is made.

      This simply makes no improvement over already implausible claims you've made in previous threads, If asked why {X} is adopted? it is explained by choice to bring about the outcome tied to it (the X), as for {Y} being overshadowed, it is explained by the fact that outcome tied to it is mutually exclusive with the other one and all the reasons that favor that choice over this one, so there is no regress problem here, no need for a different set of reasons Q on top of P.

      In light of {X} being present whether or not X is chosen, why does {X} explain X in one world and not in the other? What was the difference-maker? It can't be anything in P, since nothing in P overshadows either set of reasons, since they're both included in P. It seems the only response is the "the agent chose X," but he did so because of the overshadowing of {Y}, and then {Y} was overshadowed because the agent assented to its being overshadowed, and it was overshadowed because the agent chose X--it's a vicious circle.

      But there is again no viscous circularity here see above again on it, You're basically simply asking why wasn't Y( the outcome tied to {Y}) chosen? But that again is explained by it being mutually exclusive with the chosen option X and reasons in {X}.

      Delete
    24. So I don't think there is any serious problem here, the biggest difficulty with your argument is that most of it is simply muddled , It either begs the question or it is simply irrelevant to the conclusions you draw. Take this for example.

      If the agent's "choice" doesn't follow necessarily from the agent's character, then in what sense is it *his* choice? (It would be like putting a randomizer mechanism in a sentient robot, and then holding him morally responsible for what it does. We could even say that randomizer only acts after certain theoretical choices are considered, and placed in the programming. So any potential choice could be "explained" by the consideration (i.e. reasons) for the theoretical choice. But even with reasons for the action, it was still random. There was an explanation, but it includes randomness in it.) The choice is unhinged from the agent's character. If the agent has no control (whether it be through choice or determining the outcome) over what his choice will be, then he can't be the source of it. He can only be the source of the alternate possibilities, but the actual, particular one chosen will be partly random.

      But this comparison,simply doesn't get anywhere in the end. Just because there are some similarities here doesn't mean there isn't any disparity between this case and an agent making choice.Part of the problem is that either this gets too far or it doesn't get anywhere, First for this whole thought experiment we have postulated an artifact which lacks necessary faculties to be considered "agent" in the relevant sense we're considering here in the first place(on the other hand if it did then it would simply be responsible). Secondly there is this obscure line here here "We could even say that randomizer only acts after certain theoretical choices are considered, and placed in the programming." What do you mean here? If those action are already programmed then his actions are determined so not random, if on the other hand you're really suggesting that the robot really makes "choices" based on reasons then what you're describing is really just an inorganic agent, in which case ,of course we would hold it morally responsible.

      Delete
    25. "But there is again no viscous circularity here see above again on it"

      This statement is very icky.

      (runs for cover)

      Delete
    26. @Red: "If asked why {X} is adopted? it is explained by choice to bring about the outcome tied to it (the X), as for {Y} being overshadowed"

      {X} is the reasons for choosing X, not the other way around. This would amount to saying, the agent chose X because {X}, and {X} was adopted because X was chosen, which is circular.

      "it is explained by the fact that outcome tied to it is mutually exclusive with the other one and all the reasons that favor that choice over this one"

      Both outcomes are mutually inexclusive with each other, so this still begs the question of why one outcome came about over another, when the explanations for both were present in the agent's mind. Why did one explanation take precedent over the other one, in a non-random way? X being chosen entails that Y wasn't chosen, but an entailment is not the same as an explanation. Drinking water entails I'm not drinking orange juice, but that's not the reason I'm not drinking orange juice over water.

      "lacks necessary faculties to be considered "agent" in the relevant sense we're considering here in the first place(on the other hand if it did then it would simply be responsible)."

      Well it be circular if you're simply defining an agent as one who has morally significant free will.

      "What do you mean here? If those action are already programmed then his actions are determined so not random, if on the other hand you're really suggesting that the robot really makes "choices" based on reasons then what you're describing is really just an inorganic agent, in which case ,of course we would hold it morally responsible. "

      I'm saying this robot has different lines of action, each with is own reasons that explain it. The randomizer then chooses one line of action over the other ones. So no matter what line of action it chooses, it still has an explanation, but that doesn't change the fact that it was random which one came about. This is indistinguishable from libertarian free will, since it shows that merely having an explanation doesn't mean the outcome wasn't ultimately random. No libertarian has shown how libertarian free choice isn't the same as a random choice. And one can't be morally accountable for how they interact with randomness.

      Delete
    27. This statement is very icky.

      (runs for cover


      LOL. Typo.

      the agent chose X because {X}, and {X} was adopted because X was chosen, which is circular.
      Yes, that is what I am suggesting but there is no vicious circularity here, rather those two propositions mutually explain each other. This is typically a teleological explanation would go.

      Both outcomes are mutually inexclusive with each other, so this still begs the question of why one outcome came about over another, when the explanations for both were present in the agent's mind. Why did one explanation take precedent over the other one, in a non-random way? X being chosen entails that Y wasn't chosen, but an entailment is not the same as an explanation. Drinking water entails I'm not drinking orange juice, but that's not the reason I'm not drinking orange juice over water.

      But that is contestable, Usually what makes an explanation "explanatory" is that it in some sense entails or make probable the outcome which is explained in the first place.What makes you being thirsty explanatorily relevant to your drinking water is the fact that if you're thirsty you'll probably go drinking water, So again in the above, The fact that drinking water is mutually exclusive with juice along with all the reasons you have for drinking water and against juice would explained why you freely choose to drink water.

      Well it be circular if you're simply defining an agent as one who has morally significant free will.
      But that isn't what I am doing, I am simply pointing out vast metaphysical difference between an artifact like a robot and a Person, before talking about whether something has free will ,we would need to decide whether some thing has will in the first place.So its vacuous to draw any real conclusion of seemingly similar behavior of those two things.

      I'm saying this robot has different lines of action, each with is own reasons that explain it. The randomizer then chooses one line of action over the other ones. So no matter what line of action it chooses, it still has an explanation, but that doesn't change the fact that it was random which one came about. This is indistinguishable from libertarian free will, since it shows that merely having an explanation doesn't mean the outcome wasn't ultimately random. No libertarian has shown how libertarian free choice isn't the same as a random choice. And one can't be morally accountable for how they interact with randomness.

      But again this might simply take you too far if you're suggesting that that mechanism really considers its option then chooses to actualize one then you're once again simply describing a libertarian free agent , of course we would hold such a thing responsible, if such a thing has usual moral choices among its counterfactual of freedom like accepting or refusing bribe, drinking or praying etc of course we would hold it morally responsible.
      So I think its the other way around, no critic of libertarianism has formulated a clear and sound randomness objection which simply doesn't ultimately beg the question or don't simply shows failure to coming to grips with commitments of libertarianism, or aren't based on odd intuition pumps regarding "randomness".

      Delete
    28. So it isn't even clear how the "randomness" they are arguing for even entails the loss of responsibility, all you get are these odd comparisons which ultimately show nothing.

      Delete
    29. "Well if you have two choices, A and B, and the desire/reasons for them rA and rB (which make up P-reasons), then even if rA explains why you chose A, that still begs the question of why rA took priority over rB, since nothing in P-reasons entails that an element of P will be overshadowed. The agent is presented as being detached from P, and assenting for only some of it. In this state of independence from P, the assenting will be due to some other set of reasons (Q-reasons, you could say) or for no reasons. The first means the choice is determined, and the second means the choice is random."

      Counter rebel, “Why did Bob choose to steal money? To enrich himself.” The libertarian can say that all explanations have to end somewhere and the ultimate cause for stealing was Bob’s will. If this is what you mean by arbitrary, it doesn’t follow that Bob’s acting is incoherent or random like quantum indeterminacy. The ultimate determination belongs to Bob, before the act and during the act Bob *knew* what he wanted, *why* he wanted it and the *immorality* of stealing and went and did it anyway and is thus blameworthy for his action. There’s no irrationality in this common example or clear need for contrastive explanations of why A rather B.

      All explanations have to end somewhere and you freely admit that the universe can come from nothing. So, why does agent causality bother you and not the arbitrariness of the universe? Likewise, if a naturalistic cause was able to explain the existence of the world, would you reject it because there are no causes for the cause?

      “If someone knows a future decision, that logically entails that X will occur (I'm not saying the foreknowledge itself causes it to occur).

      If foreknowledge itself does not cause X, then what else is missing to cause X?

      But, then you go on to say this:
      “The absurdity comes when you say you have free will to do X or ~X if God already knows you will do X. As it is impossible to change what God knows, it is impossible to choose ~X.”

      Basically, God’s knows X then only X will happen. Which is it? Is God’s foreknowledge enough or not for things to happen? If not what is missing?

      “When you say you could possibly be a billionaire, you're already presupposing free will, which is what's under dispute in the first place.”
      I was speaking of mere logical possibility here and when speaking of God possibly being wrong.

      Delete
    30. Agent causation maintains control, even if some element of randomness is involved (I.e not determined) in that the agent assents to the option that the 'random' process produces. Control is an important aspect of responsibility.

      Delete
    31. Imagine an agent deliberately making a random-ish choice. Doesn't have to be about anything that serious. So we aren't talking "morally responsible" here.

      If the agent acts to settle the question, where genuine alternatives exist in the indeterministic sense, then it seems to me that they can be "responsible" and "in control" of the decision, regardless of the fact that it's a kind of randomness.

      Of course you would want more from free will than just this. (Although I at least think that random-ish settling of questions would be an important kind of freedom in itself.)

      But anyway, my point, is that an agent making a decision to settle things *even in a random-ish way*, seems different than a mechanical randomizer.


      Greg

      Delete
    32. A Counter Rebel said:

      "It is because (1) I think determinism is true (2) I care about people and don't want them to suffer irrational guilt -- that I reveal the truth that free will is incoherent. My beliefs are part of the causal chain, so if I didn't believe the two things I just pointed out, it's likely I wouldn't argue for determinism. So it's not "regardless.""



      Are you just giving this as a hypothetical example that determinism could include human reasoning?

      Or are you really saying that's your motive here?

      Because if you are saying that's your real motive, I'm not sure it makes sense. You are trying to persuade people to give up their worldview using a heavily disputed line of argument.

      But assuming you could even change someone's worldview, for the sake of argument: you think you would--on balance--do them more good by removing their guilt (if that even worked properly, or was even that big a problem for someone in the first place), than the downsides of turning someone into a moral nihilist atheist? You think people would be happy to lose their religious worldview and replace it with moral nihilism and atheism?

      I don't think you have thought this through very well.

      Or maybe, you were just throwing out an example, and you don't really claim to care about anyone else at all...



      Greg

      Delete
    33. @ “...AnonymousMarch 17, 2018 at 1:13 AM
      @Metachristianity, "It is God and God alone who creates and sustains our very self". Exactly. Of that proposition is correct....”

      And the Self which He he creates and sustains is (...as described...and which you did not address...) “In Fact” free to do otherwise.... (...as per the earlier comment...).

      All of which you left out.

      But perhaps one must leave out — in order to redefine — the Imago Dei.

      You’re in the unfortunate position of having to defend an untenable premise: The irreducibly Intentional, the wellspring of all ontic possibility —God — cannot Himself ground the ontic of the Intentional Imago Dei and, also, that same Ground — irreducible substratum — of Intentionality cannot Himself ground that category of said Seat, that rational i-am amid actual (ontic) options.

      The Ground of X can ground X. As with Carrier, so too here: to claim that Man is not free in the same sense as the Necessary Being is fine. Welcome to Christianity. But to *equate* that distinction to the reductio of the aforementioned “cannot’s” is a false identity claim easily and rationally rejected.

      The “cannot” lurking beneath the surface must be retained in order to defeat the aforementioned “In Fact” in the earlier comment, and that then — to push through to a coherent metaphysical terminus — must redefine God.

      ~~~



      Delete
    34. C. Rebel,

      “....It seems that this amounts to saying the explanation for the agent's free choice is the agent's free choice, which is circular....”

      Not when irreducible intentionality (...God...) begins and ends the means and ends of Imago Dei. It is circular **without** that A and that Z. See my reply to Anon from a few minutes ago.

      Also, conflating Forknowing with Causing is that **same** error all over again — but dressed up in a different set of clothes. Worse, within all of that there is a layer where you again equate the Divine Mind (...Foreknowing...) to some sort of Time & Tensed chain of events / parts.

      Repeating the same re-definitions of X doesn’t make X more “Christian”.

      ~~

      Delete
    35. @Red: "those two propositions mutually explain each other."

      That's unintelligible, since it doesn't give a reason why {Y} wasn't adopted given the same state of affairs. Also, the agent chooses X because it adopted {X}. The adoption of {X} is prior to the choice. The intellect's assenting of a desire is what leads to the will
      s movement, since the choice is based off the desire, not the other way around.

      And it is obviously circular: A happened via B, and B happened via A. That doesn't tell me why C didn't happen via D, "and D via C." (I'm drinking water because I'm thirsty, and I'm thirsty because I'm drinking water. Doesn't make sense.) There has to be a reason. Neither B nor D entail their respective choices, so why did B happen?

      "So again in the above, The fact that drinking water is mutually exclusive with juice along with all the reasons you have for drinking water and against juice would explained why you freely choose to drink water."

      Something being incompatible with something else is just an obvious description, not an explanation. X is not Y--we all know that, but that doesn't tell us why one came about rather than another. Playing video games is not murdering someone. That doesn't explain why I'm playing video games. I'm playing video games because I have the desire to play them, and any desire to murder is outweighed by the higher-order desire to not go to jail and to not cause harm. Saying that X is not ~X doesn't explain anything. It's a red herring.

      "we would need to decide whether some thing has will in the first place."

      An agent that makes decisions has a will--the faculty of making a decision. The question is whether the will is free, determined, or random.

      "But again this might simply take you too far if you're suggesting that that mechanism really considers its option then chooses to actualize one then you're once again simply describing a libertarian free agent"

      The robot's intellect considers the options (each backed by some desire or reason), and then the mechanism randomly selects one. The robot is aware of the consideration and of what happens, but that doesn't mean he's in control of what happens, since the outcome is decided randomly. If that's a libertarian agent, then it's identical to a sentient robot whose choices are random. So you're just giving me an agent and labelling his random choices as being "free choices." If the randomizer lands on X with its reasons {X}, then {X} "explains" X, yet it's still random since there's no reason why it happened rather than another one. It was just a matter of chance.

      "no critic of libertarianism has formulated a clear and sound randomness objection" Galen Strawson, to name just one.

      "So it isn't even clear how the "randomness" they are arguing for even entails the loss of responsibility" Because you can't be responsible for a choice made for no reason. You can't choose your desires, and choosing one desire over another in the absence of a higher-order desire/reason is just acting randomly.

      Delete
    36. @Mr. Duran

      "The libertarian can say that all explanations have to end somewhere and the ultimate cause for stealing was Bob’s will."

      Determinists and indeterminists both agree that cause of the stealing of Bob's will. The question is whether his will could have done otherwise and in a non-random way.

      "The ultimate determination belongs to Bob, before the act and during the act Bob *knew* what he wanted, *why* he wanted it and the *immorality* of stealing and went and did it anyway and is thus blameworthy for his action."

      You're saying Bob has the choice; you're just re-stating the libertarian position, which is in dispute. Knowing what you want is irrelevant, since you can't choose your own desires. Why you want is irrelevant. He did do it, but it was either determined and he's not responsible, or he randomly did it and he's still not responsible. Merely being aware of what you're doing doesn't make you morally responsible for it.

      "clear need for contrastive explanations of why A rather B."

      If there's no contrastive explanation, then by definition, the outcome is random. There's no reason why one happened over the other, and it's out of the agent's control.

      "So, why does agent causality bother you and not the arbitrariness of the universe? "

      Because people use libertarianism as an excuse to keep defending orthodox western religion and making people fearful of Hell when they don't truly deserve it, for one does what one desires to do, and you can't ultimately control what you desire.

      "If foreknowledge itself does not cause X, then what else is missing to cause X?"

      It's a red herring. Anything could be the cause of X, but the point is: the causes will necessarily (or inescapably) come to pass, since ~X happening is incompatible with X being foreknown. If ~X can't happen in the light of X already being known, then you don't have the free will to choose ~X.

      "I was speaking of mere logical possibility here and when speaking of God possibly being wrong." It's logically impossible for God to be wrong about anything.

      Delete
    37. @DJ: "Agent causation maintains control." Only if you re-define control to mean non-causal, which goes against control being understood to mean determining what happens. If the desire that's adopted is random, then by definition, it's random since you didn't cause it to occur. It was just a matter of chance that it happened to be the one that took precedent...

      "the agent assents to the option that the 'random' process produces."

      Right, but it's inevitable that he will assent to whichever desire takes priority, so it's not his fault. The will is always moved by the desires before it. So he didn't choose the desires that were in the cards, and the card that faces up was out of his control...so whence cometh responsibility?

      @Anonymous: "You are trying to persuade people to give up their worldview using a heavily disputed line of argument."

      It doesn't matter if it's heavily disputed. It's still very clear that libertarianism is indistinguishable from randomness, since libertarians refuse to give a reason why an agent chooses one way rather than another. Similarly, a lot of people think they have free will even though God has foreknowledge, despite the clear contradiction. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do otherwise than what God knows you're going to. Sadly, the obviousness flies over people's heads because they're wed to their religion because of tradition or whatever it may be.

      "than the downsides of turning someone into a moral nihilist atheist? You think people would be happy to lose their religious worldview and replace it with moral nihilism and atheism? "

      Being a moral nihilist doesn't mean you're a monster who goes around raping and pillaging. I still care about people and don't want them to suffer. No morality required. I have an alternative to the despair and suffering caused by a religion that tells people (especially poor people) they can't use birth control and will burn forever just for having sexual pleasure outside marriage. And a church that shuffles predator priests around. I believe in Brahman, and that He will evolve in a loving G-d who won't torture a single soul for eternity. This is a much greater hope than Catholicism, which implies that a third of angels and most of humanity will spend eternity in Hell. And always having the fear that before your head hits the pillow, you could commit a mortal sin and then die before making it to Confession. Thank G-d for determinism and Galen Strawson!

      If people are happy worshipping a sadistic god who tortures people forever and tells women to endlessly pump out babies, then the heck with their happiness. They need to find a different source of happiness: a better religion with a god who actually cares. Reform Judaism is always an option. No need for Catholicism.

      Also, once we give up free will, than we can be more sympathetic towards others because they know they're not really responsible. The focus could be on compassion and rehabilitation instead of vengeance and stupid retribution. Long-held feuds could end between family members. Tramautized Catholics afraid of Hell could finally enjoy life, because they know it's not their fault if God gave Adam a flawed nature. We could have reasonable redistribution of wealth instead of being prideful and blaming the poor for their being poor. We could legalize euthanasia instead of torturing old people because of what the Church says, as if it matters what the Church says about anything.

      Delete
    38. @Metachristianity: you seem to be saying that God cannot be other than what he is. I agree. You also seem to say that humans may not have as much power as God, but such a fact doesn't necessarily mean that humans don't have power in other respects. The problem is this: if God has foreknowledge of what humans will do, they cannot act otherwise. If they could, God would have limited knowledge. It doesn't matter if his perspective is atemporal, he still knows the exact details of what he creates. An analogy i used in another thread on this blog post was that of creating music: the musician creates music by playing it, which is more simultaneous than throwing a ball to hit a switch (there are more temporal gaps between the throwing of the ball and the switch turning on.) But the fact remains that God has knowledge of everything he is creating.

      Delete
    39. Rebel,

      1. So much anger.

      2. So little logic beyond the initial premise.

      3. So much re-defining X into Non-X.

      4. So much arguing as if X = Non-X.

      5. Cosmic Fairness? Cosmic Kindness? **IS** (ontic) that a Truth-Metric?

      If “No” then see 1, 2, 3, and 4.

      If “Yes” then see https://www.metachristianity.com/heaven-hell-cosmic-fairness-ethic-love/

      ~~~

      Delete
    40. That's unintelligible, since it doesn't give a reason why {Y} wasn't adopted given the same state of affairs. Also, the agent chooses X because it adopted {X}. The adoption of {X} is prior to the choice. The intellect's assenting of a desire is what leads to the will
      s movement, since the choice is based off the desire, not the other way around.


      I don't see how it follows that its unintelligible, since all the reasons in {X} also contains all the reasons one has against Y, its adoption does explain overshadowing of {Y}. Similarly it makes no difference that The adoption of {X} is prior to the choice as it still explains why it is adopted, like I said that is how teleological explanations work.

      And it is obviously circular: A happened via B, and B happened via A. That doesn't tell me why C didn't happen via D, "and D via C." (I'm drinking water because I'm thirsty, and I'm thirsty because I'm drinking water. Doesn't make sense.) There has to be a reason. Neither B nor D entail their respective choices, so why did B happen?

      No its not, You're missing the point, if by B here you mean reasons for A then obviously like I said they are reasons against C, so they do explain why C didn't happen via D. And the example you gave here is way of target because being thirsty isn't your choice, its the drinking water or orange juice (the options which are available) would be your choice. choosing any one of them would explain why reasons for that choice were adopted.

      Something being incompatible with something else is just an obvious description, not an explanation. X is not Y--we all know that, but that doesn't tell us why one came about rather than another. Playing video games is not murdering someone. That doesn't explain why I'm playing video games. I'm playing video games because I have the desire to play them, and any desire to murder is outweighed by the higher-order desire to not go to jail and to not cause harm. Saying that X is not ~X doesn't explain anything. It's a red herring.

      No its not, again You're missing the point, you've ignored what I said about explanations and entailment and reasons above. So the fact that X is not Y along with reasons for them does explain why one came about rather than the other.So if you have option of playing video games and murdering someone then them being mutually exclusive does explain along with reasons for and against them does explain why one came about.

      Delete
    41. An agent that makes decisions has a will--the faculty of making a decision. The question is whether the will is free, determined, or random.

      But if only way of showing that somehow there is some problematic sort of randomness, is by making comparison with something then that better be similar in all relevant ways to the agent, which I am arguing an artifact like robot is not, that makes all the difference in the world about which thing we are attributing the causal power that produces the outcome we are considering, to which thing we hold the source ..etc. That is why I think this whole comparison is wrongheaded from the start.

      The robot's intellect considers the options (each backed by some desire or reason), and then the mechanism randomly selects one. The robot is aware of the consideration and of what happens, but that doesn't mean he's in control of what happens, since the outcome is decided randomly. If that's a libertarian agent, then it's identical to a sentient robot whose choices are random. So you're just giving me an agent and labeling his random choices as being "free choices." If the randomizer lands on X with its reasons {X}, then {X} "explains" X, yet it's still random since there's no reason why it happened rather than another one. It was just a matter of chance.

      This again doesn't make much sense, its like in your example the selection mechanism and the robot are two different objects influencing each other, with robot only somehow being consciously aware of what happens to it. of course the reasons why robot would not be held responsible is because it is being pushed by something else, but whatever this mechanism is would be responsible. That is not how a libertarian agent is to be conceived of rather it is a structured whole containing all those relevant faculties so he has the authorship and control over what is selected that is why we would hold it responsible so I don't find this whole thought experiment plausible.

      Galen Strawson, to name just one.

      But I don't they are sound because of what I said above and as they are addressed by libertarians already in the literature.

      Because you can't be responsible for a choice made for no reason. You can't choose your desires, and choosing one desire over another in the absence of a higher-order desire/reason is just acting randomly.

      But this is simply not true that these choices are made for no reason. similarly like I said there isn't any need to go to some higher order reasons. In which ever wold what ever choice the agent actualized it would be true that he could have chosen otherwise and its also true that had he not chosen it then the relevant outcome would not have happened, so the authorship of his decisions always lies with him.

      Delete
    42. "Also, once we give up free will, than we can be more sympathetic towards others because they know they're not really responsible. The focus could be on compassion and rehabilitation instead of vengeance and stupid retribution. Long-held feuds could end between family members. Tramautized Catholics afraid of Hell could finally enjoy life, because they know it's not their fault if God gave Adam a flawed nature. We could have reasonable redistribution of wealth instead of being prideful and blaming the poor for their being poor. We could legalize euthanasia instead of torturing old people because of what the Church says, as if it matters what the Church says about anything."


      Oh Boy.
      The naivety and ignorance of this guys worldview is simply cringe-worthy.
      Yes, by all means be a mere bystander next time you witness street crime, don't you dare intervene or you'll just be crushing the innocent criminal's desire just like the monstrous church you despise.

      Delete
    43. A Counter Rebel said:

      "If there's no contrastive explanation, then by definition, the outcome is random. There's no reason why one happened over the other, and it's out of the agent's control."



      Argument for that?

      There may well be a type of "across worlds" randomness, or "across replays" randomness, however you want to put it. But that's the same thing as a type of randomness that would destroy free will?

      As I see it, if people are truly in control of their decisions, that may fit perfectly with "across replays" randomness.

      Quoting Mark Balaguer again:

      "Just because Ralph’s decision was arbitrary or random (or if you like, chancy or lucky) in some senses of these terms, it doesn’t follow that it was arbitrary or random in the sense that’s relevant here. The sense of nonrandomness that’s relevant here is the one that’s
      required for free will, that is, the one that involves authorship and control (and possibly other things as well, such as rationality). But it could be that this sort of nonrandomness is compatible with various kinds of randomness. And, indeed, it seems to me that it clearly is...."



      Greg

      Delete
    44. A Counter Rebel said:

      "Similarly, a lot of people think they have free will even though God has foreknowledge, despite the clear contradiction. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do otherwise than what God knows you're going to."


      From:

      "If God knows you will do X, (rather than Y), then certainly you will do X"

      It doesn't follow that "certainly you will do X". Because perhaps you had a choice, and if you made a different choice, then God would have a different item of knowledge in the first place. (Which would still fit with God's knowledge being accurate.)

      If God is outside of time, and gets his knowledge from seeing what you actually did, then it's difficult to see that this knowledge could harm your freedom at all.

      That's not to say there couldn't be any problem between divine foreknowledge and human freedom. That depends on the system in question and how it's supposed to work. e.g. if you want the future to have an impact on the past, then perhaps that's a problem.


      Greg

      Delete
    45. A Counter Rebel said:


      "I have an alternative to the despair and suffering caused by a religion that tells people (especially poor people) they can't use birth control"


      You know theism has very little connection to birth control right? You may have some issue with a particular type or types of theistic religion; but theism itself isn't logically connected to anti-birth control or "eternal punishment" as a doctrine.

      Your own approach, is actually compatible with the *worst kind* of religion like Calvinism. They don't need free will. They will just say it's all been predestined and their "god" can do whatever he likes and still be perfectly "good".

      So you're attacking all the better forms of religion, even if *some* types are still objectionable.


      "I believe in Brahman, and that He will evolve in a loving G-d"

      You said previously:

      "Contra Feser, the debate is between atheists of different stripes"

      So you have a funny idea of Brahman? Or you are lying?


      "And always having the fear that before your head hits the pillow, you could commit a mortal sin and then die before making it to Confession. Thank G-d for determinism and Galen Strawson!"


      It kind of seems like you may have non-rational psychological reasons for liking his argument. But that couldn't possibly sway your judgement I'm sure...


      "They need to find a different source of happiness: a better religion with a god who actually cares. Reform Judaism is always an option."


      Is Reform Judaism a kind of theism? Because if so, it's going to need free will and you deny that. Does Reform Judaism collapse into atheism?-- Then it's not really a religion and it will only have a fringe support, of people that want to hold on to certain aspects of Jewish culture. That can't really replace religion for people.


      "Also, once we give up free will, than we can be more sympathetic towards others because they know they're not really responsible."


      Or you can just do what you like and not really care because *you* will not be responsible. Sure you can argue for advantages of taking away free will. But it's the supposed advantages that come from replacing a real world with a fake shadow of a world. No one is really bad anymore. But no one is really good anymore either. And it's all just a machine, spewing out whatever for no purpose.

      "The focus could be on compassion and rehabilitation"


      You will still need to punish people I think. The difference being, you will have to punish people that you believe are ultimately innocent and don't deserve to suffer. You will have to use them as innocent victims for the "greater good".


      Greg

      Delete
    46. C. Rebel,

      X's are "...part of the chain..."

      And one link "determines" all of them, per your premise. That link being "the strongest desire". So there is only one link with one outcome, and it is [A] Strongest Desire and [B] Determines and [C] Action.

      That's fine for a Non-Christian Metaphysic laced with your own re-definitions of what the term "Divine Mind" and "Proportionate Causality" in fact referent.

      Perhaps you've read, but you have not addressed, both of these in this thread.... well... let's say that nothing you've said so far has addressed ANY of it:

      [1] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521217582713#c5042351310418274272 and also

      [2] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521423322095#c1198496849158473909

      Delete
    47. "since all the reasons in {X} also contains all the reasons one has against Y, its adoption does explain overshadowing of {Y}."

      But {X} doesn't entail that X will happen, even if contains reasons against Y. The reasons for Y are also against X. {X} and {Y} are BOTH present in the mind, and so the agent-self must adopt one in a position of independence from P-reasons. This will either happen randomly, or for a set of Q-reasons.

      "then obviously like I said they are reasons against C, so they do explain why C didn't happen via D. "

      But all the reasons against C are still compatible with A not happening, since they don't entail that A will happen. So there was to be a reason why one reason took precedent over another. Let's not waste time pointing out obvious things like {X} contains reasons for not doing Y...duh, since {X} is for X, not Y.

      "choosing any one of them would explain why reasons for that choice were adopted. "

      Again, you have it backwards. The reasons for the choice is what gives rise to the choice, but it still doesn't outrule the other choice, so it still begs the question of how it took priority. Assenting to desire-A (rA) is what leads to the choice of A--the desire is a necessary condition, but then in circular fashion you're saying that the choice is what leads to rA's adoption, which doesn't make any sense. This tells me THAT rA took priority, but it still begs the question of WHY it took priority, given the presence of both rA and rB no matter what is chosen. For one to magically overshadow the other, the agent must ascend both and act in indifference (randomly) or for Q-reasons.

      "So the fact that X is not Y along with reasons for them does explain why one came about rather than the other."

      X not being Y only tells me THAT one came about rather than another, not why.

      "along with reasons for and against them does explain why one came about. "

      But why did the reasons (which don't entail anything) for one lead to its result, rather than the other. It has to be something outside the reasons, since rA and rB are both part of P-reasons, and pointing to anything in P doesn't reveal what in P will be overshadowed. So it's random or due to other reasons. Those are really the only two options.

      Delete
    48. "then that better be similar in all relevant ways to the agent,"

      It is. It has reasons for doing what it does, but the reason selected is random, i.e. not arising out of any higher-reason, but after the act of a randomizing mechanism. This is exactly what takes place in libertarian "freedom."

      "its like in your example the selection mechanism and the robot are two different objects influencing each other,"

      No, I could just say the randomizer is an aspect of the robot, the same way libertarians say the indetermistic processes are an aspect of the free agent. In both, the agent has no control over what his choice will be, since no matter how much the agent deliberates prior the choice, the deliberation toward A is still compatible with B being ultimately chosen instead.

      "so he has the authorship and control over what is selected that is why we would hold it responsible so I don't find this whole thought experiment plausible."

      No, he has no control over what is selected. To control what happens means determining which desire takes precendent, which leads to back to determinism or a regress. In any free choice, the choice is based of what desire is acted on, and so for the agent to have control, he'd have to make a prior choice of which desire takes priority, but then that choice itself will be based off a prior desire, either fixed or selected amongst other desires, ad infinitum. Does the agent have control over his actions? Does he have control over the controlling of his actions? Does he have control over the controlling of the control over his actions? At some point, there has to be a commandering thought, itself uncommanded, and so it's out ultimately out of the person's control. As soon as you say the commandering thought is under the agent's control, then that leads to other thought-command(s) that lead to it...

      "they are addressed by libertarians already in the literature." They're not adequately addressed. Libertarians are strongly motivated, and so it's no surprise that they're always going be butchering words to obscure to obvious randomness employed in their models. Also, Seth Shabo from the University of Delaware recently came out with "The Two-Stage Luck Objection," so it's not like the nonsense of libertarians isn't being dealt with in the literature.

      @Anonymous:

      "be a mere bystander next time you witness street crime, don't you dare intervene or you'll just be crushing the innocent criminal's desire"

      No. If you care about suffering and have the desire to stop it, that could necessitate interfering with it and helping with the victim's desire to not-be victimized. So the criminal's desire is not the only factor, even though he is ultimately innocent.

      Delete
    49. "Argument for that?"

      I shouldn't have to give an argument for the obvious. That's what random means. That something has no reason. In this case, the something is the phenomenon of A happening *rather than* B. By definition, then, saying there's no contrastive explanation necessarily means the outcome is randomized.

      "if people are truly in control of their decisions,"

      There not in control over the actions on indeterminism, since prior to the choice, even if they have all the reasons in the world for going with A and not B, that fact is still compatible with B happening anyway. There's no way for the agent to make sure he will choose A. Unless you're simply re-defining control as some non-causal power, which is misleading.

      "It doesn't follow that "certainly you will do X"."

      Yes, it does. It is impossible for God to be wrong.

      "if you made a different choice, then God would have a different item of knowledge in the first place."

      That isn't saying anything. The world where you choose ~X is a different world, in which case doing X would be impossible, for in that world too, you can't do other than what God knows; you can't prove Him wrong. God's foreknowledge is in place before the choice is made. So in either world, you're not free to do otherwise than what God *already* knows you're going to do.

      "If God is outside of time, and gets his knowledge from seeing what you actually did,"

      If God is outside of time and knows the future, that means the future already exists and the choices are made. So regardless of whether God is temporal or timeless, if He knows what I will do in the future, then that's what will be done in the future, and it can't be changed, since He has "declared the end from the beginning." Even if you say the future doesn't exist from my perspective, from God's eyes it does already exist and already sees what happens, so the future is closed and its contents will not be different from what the Divine eyes already see. Basically, all of time is depicted as a static space-time block that God sees in an instant.

      "So you have a funny idea of Brahman? Or you are lying?"

      The existence of Brahman is compatible with atheism, since Brahman is not morally perfect. So I am technically an atheist. I'm also a future-theist, for I believe that Brahman (comprised of all of us) is slowly evolving until He realizes that happiness is all that matters, and at the point, the Messianic Age will have begun.

      "Is Reform Judaism a kind of theism?"

      Yes, for the most part. As I've said elsewhere, I'm not against theism; I'm against theisms with a doctrine of Hell. So if people need theism to be happy, I'm okay with that, but I want them to adopt a theism that isn't harmful. I want them to be Reform Jews instead of Christian or Muslim.

      Delete
    50. "choosing any one of them would explain why reasons for that choice were adopted. "

      Again, you have it backwards. The reasons for the choice is what gives rise to the choice, but it still doesn't outrule the other choice, so it still begs the question of how it took priority. Assenting to desire-A (rA) is what leads to the choice of A--the desire is a necessary condition, but then in circular fashion you're saying that the choice is what leads to rA's adoption, which doesn't make any sense. This tells me THAT rA took priority, but it still begs the question of WHY it took priority, given the presence of both rA and rB no matter what is chosen. For one to magically overshadow the other, the agent must ascend both and act in indifference (randomly) or for Q-reasons.


      Like I said that makes no difference, they are only prior in the sense that they are antecedent conditions, they are present before making of choice. but they don't take priority before the choice is made, the fact that it takes the "priority" is nothing more than the fact that it explains what is actualized in the actual world, So whatever reason is there for actualization of relevant outcome does explain why it took priority.

      But {X} doesn't entail that X will happen, even if contains reasons against Y. The reasons for Y are also against X. {X} and {Y} are BOTH present in the mind, and so the agent-self must adopt one in a position of independence from P-reasons. This will either happen randomly, or for a set of Q-reasons.
      But that is false again, {X} doesn't entail that X will happen but it still explains why it happens, in case it happens, similarly reasons against Y also explain why Y doesn't happen, same goes other
      way around, so Ultimately which ever choice is made , it is explained by those reasons and reasons against other one.

      But all the reasons against C are still compatible with A not happening, since they don't entail that A will happen. So there was to be a reason why one reason took precedent over another. Let's not waste time pointing out obvious things like {X} contains reasons for not doing Y...duh, since {X} is for X, not Y.

      Here again I don't see what sort of problem you are trying to really raise, once again they still explain even if they don't entail. the fact that one reason took precedent reports nothing more than that outcome tied to that reason is actualized, so again whatever is the reason for that explains such precedence, its like you're assuming that unless the reason is deterministic it doesn't genuinely explain anything at all.

      X not being Y only tells me THAT one came about rather than another, not why.

      But it does tell why the other one Didn't came about. this is more obvious if causation by omission as some philosophers talk about is real explanation.

      But why did the reasons (which don't entail anything) for one lead to its result, rather than the other. It has to be something outside the reasons, since rA and rB are both part of P-reasons, and pointing to anything in P doesn't reveal what in P will be overshadowed. So it's random or due to other reasons. Those are really the only two options.

      If by "why does leads to its result" you mean something like Why does the reasons explain the outcome tied to it? then I don't find this question intelligible , otherwise I have no idea what such locution means here,

      Delete
    51. It is. It has reasons for doing what it does, but the reason selected is random, i.e. not arising out of any higher-reason, but after the act of a randomizing mechanism. This is exactly what takes place in libertarian "freedom."

      But this hardly shows any relevance, since the libertarian denies the above results in loss of responsibility, the whole point of the thought experiment is to establish that the robot just the way we don't hold robot responsible we shouldn't libertarian agents either. i.e the above is problematic for libertarians account, but simply asserting the above hardly establishes that robot is relevantly similar that whatever goes in case of robot should in case of a person.

      No, I could just say the randomizer is an aspect of the robot, the same way libertarians say the indetermistic processes are an aspect of the free agent.

      But then whatever such mechanism would choose can be directly ascribed the choice of the robot, of course such a thing would be held responsible for making morally relevant choices.

      In both, the agent has no control over what his choice will be, since no matter how much the agent deliberates prior the choice, the deliberation toward A is still compatible with B being ultimately chosen instead.

      How does that follow? what is this supposed to show? This only tells us that deliberation is not identical to some further choice, which is hardly surprising.

      No, he has no control over what is selected. To control what happens means determining which desire takes precendent, which leads to back to determinism or a regress.

      Again if by "determining" you simply mean being the actualizer of particular outcome them then this hardly shows anything, why does this lead to regress or back to determinism?

      In any free choice, the choice is based of what desire is acted on, and so for the agent to have control, he'd have to make a prior choice of which desire takes priority, but then that choice itself will be based off a prior desire, either fixed or selected amongst other desires, ad infinitum. Does the agent have control over his actions? Does he have control over the controlling of his actions? Does he have control over the controlling of the control over his actions? At some point, there has to be a commandering thought, itself uncommanded, and so it's out ultimately out of the person's control. As soon as you say the commandering thought is under the agent's control, then that leads to other thought-command(s) that lead to it...

      Again I don't think any higher order reasons are needed to be postulated, I have explained above, here you were supposed to be showing how the randomness that supposedly results from that results in loss of responsibility,
      Heck its not even clear how the regress that you are talking about here is even vicious in the first place, if the agent controls the infinite chain then he controls every single act of his.

      They're not adequately addressed. Libertarians are strongly motivated, and so it's no surprise that they're always going be butchering words to obscure to obvious randomness employed in their models.

      I would say the same about Free will skeptics, evidence is the many terribly cliched and patently absurd motivations you've mentioned in this very thread. Any view that denies free will simply do not avoid being totally damaging to practical reasoning and ultimately self defeating.

      Also, Seth Shabo from the University of Delaware recently came out with "The Two-Stage Luck Objection," so it's not like the nonsense of libertarians isn't being dealt with in the literature.

      Well that is fairly new publication, I am sure it would be dealt with in near future. My point is that the kind of objection you've formulated here isn't ignored by libertarians , they aren't impressed.

      Delete
    52. "No. If you care about suffering and have the desire to stop it, that could necessitate interfering with it and helping with the victim's desire to not-be victimized. So the criminal's desire is not the only factor, even though he is ultimately innocent."

      But why should you care about victims suffering rather than the criminals desire? Why should you prioritize desire of one party over the other? What if suddenly your "cares" decide to change sides?
      then you would happily let murders happen? and not to mention all this makes you no different from the church you despise so much, this even entails they should totally continue what they are doing?.

      Delete
    53. Rebel,

      “...if he chose X instead... then that world would be a different world...”

      Worlds with options bother you. We get that. Because God with options bothers you too.

      All you achieve in denying actual (ontic) options and the irreducibly intentional Seat of the rational Self is achieved by 1. expunging the half of reality which fails to comport with your unjustified metaphysic, 2. redefining God, 3. jettisoning proportionate causality, and 4. removing the A and the Z which coherently ground all which you’re forever trying to redefine.

      Your redefining is also a bit lopsided when it comes to https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521477716890&m=1#c7549848012944119511

      ~~~

      Delete
    54. A Counter Rebel said:


      "So I am technically an atheist. I'm also a future-theist, for I believe that Brahman (comprised of all of us) is slowly evolving until He realizes that happiness is all that matters, and at the point, the Messianic Age will have begun."



      So your "Brahman" belief isn't actually much of a "hope", compared to genuine theism; even if you want to object to particular doctrines that exist in particular theistic religions. (Of course it's better if people don't suffer for all eternity -- there is no clear need in theism that it would have to be one-life-on-earth and then eternity in either heaven or hell as some versions of theism may claim.)





      "Yes, for the most part. As I've said elsewhere, I'm not against theism; I'm against theisms with a doctrine of Hell. So if people need theism to be happy, I'm okay with that, but I want them to adopt a theism that isn't harmful. I want them to be Reform Jews instead of Christian or Muslim."


      But that's not what your approach actually does. Your approach attacks theism generally, including what you say is a better form of theism in Reform Judaism. You are saying it's "OK" at the same time as you attack it.

      On the other hand, as I said, your position is actually compatible with the *worst kind* of religion like Calvinism. They don't need free will. They will just say that their "god" predestined everything and can do what he likes with humanity.



      Greg

      Delete
    55. A Counter Rebel said:

      "I shouldn't have to give an argument for the obvious. That's what random means. That something has no reason."


      The very thing I'm disputing is that all kinds of randomness would be equivalent; or that all kinds would undermine free will.

      If people genuinely did have freedom, and real control over their decisions, then it seems to me that this would fit fine with their behaviour being unpredictable and inexplicable in a way. You could speak of it being "random" in a certain sort of way, without that meaning that people weren't in control.


      "By definition, then, saying there's no contrastive explanation necessarily means the outcome is randomized."


      In a way that threatens free will? Yes you need to give an argument for that. It's not something "obvious" at all.





      "There not in control over the actions on indeterminism, since prior to the choice, even if they have all the reasons in the world for going with A and not B, that fact is still compatible with B happening anyway. There's no way for the agent to make sure he will choose A. Unless you're simply re-defining control as some non-causal power, which is misleading."


      I don't know where you are getting this from? I don't see that free will would require that you can do/will do completely random things against your reasons.

      Imagine that someone loves and adores their wife. They kiss their wife on the forehead. If you could replay that minute of time over and over again, they aren't ever going to take out a kitchen knife and decapitate their wife instead, *against all of their reasons*.

      There may be many things that *could play out differently* in the course of just a minute; but you don't need to say that people would make utterly wild and insane decisions unconnected to their reasoning and attitudes and values.



      Greg

      Delete
    56. A Counter Rebel said:

      "God's foreknowledge is in place before the choice is made."


      "If God is outside of time and knows the future, that means the future already exists"



      You are assuming that you can't have a real temporal process where events follow each other in succession; and where God is outside of that process and has an instantaneous knowledge of the whole series. The "future" would exist for God. Everything would exist for God. But it wouldn't exist before the person makes their own decision.


      We can say for sure that a deity couldn't be outside of time in that sort of way? We know enough to just dismiss it as a contradiction in whatever way?



      Greg

      Delete
    57. @ Anonymous March 18, 2018 at 11:30 PM @Metachristianity: “….you seem to be saying that God cannot be other than what he is. I agree. You also seem to say that humans may not have as much power as God, but such a fact doesn't necessarily mean that humans don't have power in other respects. The problem is this: if God has foreknowledge of what humans will do, they cannot act otherwise….”

      That raises an interesting point IMO. To play this safe I’m going to put this into four comments as one never quite knows where the character count thing-y may get a bit fussy :-}

      Part 1: with respect to “@ Anonymous March 18, 2018 at 11:30 PM”

      The point of contact is not about this or that X being “as-much-as” and/or “not-as-much-as”, but, rather, it is the fact that it is …just as irreducible as…. With respect to The Good there is in the Imago Dei (…and so on…) that which is (ontic) in fact Good. Recall the A and the Z where all vectors start, and, recall that we are talking about Ontic Freedom amid Ontic Options. One must "carry through" to the *actual* terminus, whether such be, say, Reason Itself and/or, say, Irreducible Intentionality and/or, say, the Good – and so on all the way downstream/upstream to that which some reference as The Always and The Already (...and so on...) as in "God".

      The ground of all such contingent rock-bottoms is that Necessary Rock Bottom (...also, in addition, it is the case that Proportionate Causality is concurrent with all such interfaces of Contingent/Necessary...).

      To grant the A.T-Meta arena "that grounding" (...and etc...) as "work-able", so to speak, when it comes to the term "Good" both in God and in the Contingent Being, but then try to hold something back when it comes to any OTHER contour of Divine Simplicity, well that just won't do.

      Why? Because that “withholding all X’s other than ‘Good’”, so to speak, breaks down into a body of premises claiming that the Irreducible Ground of X cannot create and sustain X, and, then, from there, we keep going and follow through → → as that amounts to a blind foist ending in a reductio along the lines of, say, that because Man is not Free in the same sense as God then in fact Man is *Determined*. And, then, again, we → → keep going as that is in turn a reductio along the lines of the referent of Good and asserting that in fact Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good. The problem becomes all too obvious:

      [A] [ Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good]
      [B] [ Man is ontologically void of (ontic) freedom & (ontic) options]

      But, given the Christian metaphysic and given the A.T-Meta vectors in play here, that “unpacking-from-A-to-Z”, so to speak, about “Good” ends up as a crisp logical impossibility. As with Good, so too with Any Contour of the Divine vis-à-vis the A and the Z and, also, vis-à-vis the terms Create, Sustain, Imago Dei, Proportionate Causality, Seat, Substratum, Ontic, and so on down (or up) the proverbial ontic line.

      Continued in the next comment…. → →

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    58. Part 2: with respect to “@ Anonymous March 18, 2018 at 11:30 PM”

      “….It doesn't matter if his perspective is atemporal, he still knows the exact details of what he creates….”

      That only shows that God foreknew what the rationally free Seat of the Self would choose, not that He caused said choice. In other words, that fact does not (…because it cannot…) somehow dissolve the aforementioned crisp logical impossibility.

      As stated by another in this thread, “If God is outside of time, and gets his knowledge from seeing what you actually did, then it's difficult to see that this knowledge could harm your freedom at all.” That is too kind as it does not demand a full accounting and can therefore be modified to this: God is outside of time and gets his knowledge from seeing what that Seat of the Self that is the created i-am (…see http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521049171664#c9124817410769450797 …) actually did/do/will do, and that knowledge forces no harm to freedom at all.

      Another inroad:

      It is the case that “the Adamic” is rationally free in Eden, yet can sin, and, also, it is the case that should he freely choose to eat of, enter into, be one with, Eternal Life, then in fact Man either 1. Can but does not sin (…think of the Luciferian Heaven for similarities and differences…) or else 2. Man cannot sin (…again reference the Luciferian Heaven for similarities and differences…).

      Now, that seems to bother some folks on the “degree-of-freedom” in Eden vs. Heaven vs. Privation. And there it is. Three different metaphysical topographies, or, three different contents, and what do we find? Well we find that none of them somehow dissolve the aforementioned crisp logical impossibility. The rational Seat of the Self stands in Heaven or in Eden and it cannot change that, and that holds whether we speak of the Luciferian Heaven or of the Adamic Heaven, as they are not the same – the former not created in and by and of the syntax of Wedding, Bride, Groom (…and so on…) – yet the later of course is created via just such a Blueprint (…more on that in a bit…).

      As in:

      Continued in the next comment…. → →

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    59. Part 3: with respect to “@ Anonymous March 18, 2018 at 11:30 PM”

      As in:

      [1] It would be a metaphysical absurdity for God to desire a logical impossibility. God desires that all things Adamic be redeemed. Clearly that is necessarily possible. Enter the syntax of Bride and Groom, of Proposal, of Wedding: The key is the *difference* in [A] the metaphysical content of Love's Proposal as compared to [B] the metaphysical content of Love's Wedding. The means and ends of all things Edenic and also of Privation (...both constitute Proposal...) are a radically different category than we find in Wedding. That is unpacked a bit at http://disq.us/p/1hbm03p (..or else at https://randalrauser.com/2017/03/god-exploit-individuals-benefit-others/#comment-3224209669 …).

      [2] The Syntax of Bride & Groom:

      D. B. Hart and many other theologians in various ways allude to the Trinitarian Life with referents such as the “...eternal one-another...” in mapping reality’s concrete furniture in and by Being Itself / God. We arrive necessarily in a discussion of nothing less than Ontology, Heavy Meta(physics), Knowledge, and Divine Communique as all Necessary Transcendentals stream from the metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility – from the Trinitarian Life vis-à-vis reality’s only Blueprint for love's timeless reciprocity vis-à-vis Self/Other – termed Imago Dei.

      Given the Blueprint of Imago Dei we cannot equate the necessary landscape of Eden (...love's Proposal...) to the necessary landscape of God's Eternal Ideal for the Adamic (...love's Wedding...). Given the arena of Community, of Trinity, that “…eternal one-another…”, of love’s self-giving, of Self/Other (…and so on….), it is the case that “IF” God should Decree and fashion the Imago Dei, “THEN” there can be no such reality as the creation of the “freely-already-married” and, therein, we begin to discover the (…excuse the syntax…), well, let’s call it the unavoidable-ness-of-the-Edenic given said Decree, said Blueprint, and, we also begin to discover that love’s Proposals are not the same as Weddings, and, just as important, we also discover that the content and yield which is circumscribed by Eden (...love's Proposal...) is fundamentally different and distinct than the content and yield which is circumscribed by God's Eternal Ideal for the Adamic (...love's Wedding...), and, for all the same reasons, Weddings are not the same as Gestations, neither in content nor in yield, and, also, Gestations are not the same as Birth as such relates to the Door into God’s Eternal Ideal, a Door which faces outward from *both* within Eden *and* from within Privation.

      It is unavoidable: Should God decree the Imago Dei then…..

      Continued in the next comment…. → →

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    60. Part 4: with respect to “@ Anonymous March 18, 2018 at 11:30 PM”

      It is unavoidable: Should God decree the Imago Dei then:

      [A] “Creating Man In Heaven From The Get Go” is a logical impossibility

      …and…

      [B] It necessarily the case that the Freedom of the Edenic is “In Fact” free. That bolded “in fact” is a specific reference to that aforementioned crisp logical impossibility and, also, it references that same phrase in http://disq.us/p/1n9rf6h where we (briefly) discuss that if In Fact as per Ontic-Fact the Edenic Adamic is free to do *otherwise* (…and we find that he is given the A and Z in play…) then in fact that *otherwise* cannot sum to Ontic Non-Entity nor can it sum to a kind of Ontic Noble Lie told by the Necessary Being. In fact God / Omnipotence cannot create a being that is in fact free to do Non-Entity or free to do Non-Being. Any epistemic which cannot contain Eden and Eden's possible worlds has, from the start, a suspicious ontic already in jeopardy (... http://disq.us/p/1n166pv ...).

      It is the Christian metaphysic alone which solves the riddle of Freedom, Proposal, Wedding, and Irreducibility as the necessary transcendentals retain lucidity “through and through from A to Z” (…we rationally reject the reductio of that “crisp logical impossibility” mentioned earlier…).

      How is it the Christian metaphysic? The Trinitarian Life alone provides the metaphysic whereby what is impossible for all other paradigms is in fact possible: The irreducible Ontic Options amid the irreducible Self/Other give us the only Blueprint which supplies the necessary transcendentals as we find that, given 1. the ontic of the Necessary and 2. the ontic of the Contingent and 3. the Decree of said Blueprint, it is necessarily the case that there be that ontic-seam where Proposal actualizes and also that there be that ontic-seam where Proposal gives way to Wedding → →

      In all of this we come upon the A and Z of reason and upon love's timeless reciprocity and upon the moral landscape as the eternal Processions of the Trinitarian Life, of the triune God and no other, provides us with the following ontology:

      The irreducibly rational just is seamless with the irreducibly moral even as the moral just is seamless with love’s indestructible self-giving — which is itself seamless with the Divine Mind — which is itself seamless with infinite consciousness – which compels us into an Adamic landscape wherein the perfection of reason just is the perfection of consciousness, which just is the perfection of love, which just is the perfection of being.

      The Trinitarian Life alone provides the metaphysic whereby the riddle which no other paradigm can solve is in fact carried through to lucidity: Should such Living Water (freely) pour – quench – fill – incarnate – then whether in Eden or in Privation a mutable and contingent being termed “Man” finds (….having (freely) drank from such a Cup…having (freely) married…) that wherever he shall then look, that is to say, wherever he shall motion, whether beneath his feet, or above his head, or into his own chest, he will find that beautiful Freedom called Permanence.

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    61. @ Greg:in regards to calvinism, I don't think they necessarily think humans don't initially have free will, as they believe that the fall initiated a slope into "total depravity" as they call it. Even if they did believe God predestined some and not others, such a position would be inconsistent in my view. Why would God allow himself to suffer the atonement if he caused the sins in the first place? Moreover, if he was omniscient, wouldn't he know what extreme suffering was like, and therefore realise it was bad?

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    62. @Metachristianity. In regards to God being outside time, you seem to say that he knows in advance the choice you freely make, that he knows what the irreducible volitional seat will choose. The problem is that he himself creates said human being, and as a result, said "volitional seat". I'm not talking about the metaphysical contours of being (the fact that you can't square a circle, for example) I'm talking about the combination of experiences and opinions formed within the mind of the creature he creates. He creates the experience of the human and therefore knows what the human will be thinking and how it will respond. The irreducibility of certain factors of being doesn't detract from my point. God still puts in place the circumstances that make humans respond a certain way. You also seem to say that God can't make us love him without free will. I would say that if he is goodness itself, we should be drawn through compulsion (not coercion) to God. You would be right in saying that God cannot use coercive force to make us love him. But he CAN beget his essential nature in a way that would make us all want to be with him.

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    63. “…I'm not talking about the metaphysical contours of being (the fact that you can't square a circle, for example)…”

      Then the premises which your argument employs grant the rational Seat of the Edenic and you are left with an epistemic which cannot contain it (…you seem to allow only some sort of “part” of that which is ‘post-Edenic’ in your metaphysic …or what you take to be such…). Things seem to get worse from there in that your premises – when pushed through – in fact argue that said Seat of that i-am in fact *is* (irreducible / ontic) found experiencing a kind of Ontic Noble Lie told by the Necessary Being. It is “The Edenic” and it is “The Adamic” therein, which, so far, your epistemic jettisons and it is that which, if we push through to the end, in fact redefines God (…recall that Adam is not deceived…). Ontic Noble Lies told by the Necessary Being just won't do.

      “….I'm talking about the combination of experiences and opinions formed within the mind of the creature he creates. He creates the experience of the human and therefore knows what the human will be thinking and how it will respond…”

      See above and also see another comment in this thread which addresses that as well at – http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521217582713#c5042351310418274272

      “…You also seem to say that God can't make us love him without free will. I would say that if he is goodness itself, we should be drawn through compulsion (not coercion) to God….”

      If compulsion permits can-be-otherwise (actual / ontic) then it is not coercion, and, if it does not, then, at the end of the line it sums to (actual / ontic) coercion.

      “….You would be right in saying that God cannot use coercive force to make us love him. But he CAN beget his essential nature in a way that would make us all want to be with him….”

      That is half right and half mistaken in that it bypasses what cannot be bypassed IF the Decree, or Will, is the Imago Dei. Why? Well because of Freedom in the Blueprint – and therein we come upon the topic of the metaphysical landscape (…and content / yield…) of “Proposal” there amid that topography of Self and Other (…in this case God and Man, etc…). That content is necessarily actualized and, also, it is only half of the Blueprint, the other half being the topic of the metaphysical landscape (…and content / yield…) of “Wedding” there amid that topography of Self and Other.

      In short, the last locus of “…beget His essential nature in a way that….” is a half-narrative as per the brief discussion above in “Part 3” and “Part 4” in those four replies. All syntax must survive all references to “the Edenic” and “the Adamic” and what comes after (...outside of...) Eden is necessarily distinct, but those distinctions cannot redefine “the Edenic / the Adamic” as if those more distal, downstream facts somehow expunge the Metanarrative’s more proximal, upstream facts.

      It is the entire Metanarrative which does the heavy lifting. So far the premises behind your argument are in part misguided in that they are being informed by a half-narrative.

      ~~~

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    65. You seem to be saying that God cannot (or will not) set in stone every detail of the character of the volitional seat, that he cannot create it as a whole without creating everything that occurs in this world, since it is irreducible as a metaphysical entity. (a little like monads, perhaps) This implies that he has limits in what he can create, to an extent where the world which he creates is the only one he can create. How then are we free to do otherwise if our nature is set in this way? Also, his foreknowledge invalidates free will. It doesn't matter if it is simultaneous with our act, it is still causally prior, and, since his knowledge is absolute, it leads to the conclusion that we cannot do otherwise.

      Another interpretation is that he wills that we have free will and so we must be irreducible in some sense. The problem of his knowledge of our nature remains however, even if he creates an irreducible volitional seat that cannot be reduced to individual thoughts and sensations. He still creates the seat. He still makes its sinful nature occur.

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  2. Funny enough, I was just reading an article on Stanford Philosophy about Occasionalism and Concurrentism. Basically, the conclusion was that for people like Thomists, it is (supposedly) hard to explain how their position doesn't ultimately collapse into occasionalism.

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    1. It's actually easy to explain. One simply must "carry through" to the the **actual** terminus, whether such be, say, Reason Itself and/or, say, Irreducible Intentionality and/or, say, that which some reference as The Always and The Already (...and so on...) as in "God".

      The ground of all such contingent rock-bottoms is that Necessary Rock Bottom (...also, in addition, it is the case that Proportionate Causality is concurrent with all such interfaces of Contingent/Necessary...).

      To grant the A.T-Meta arena "that grounding" (...and etc...) as "work-able", so to speak, when it comes to the term "Good" but then try to hold something back when it comes to any OTHER contour of Divine Simplicity, well that just won't do, and that leads to the collapse of A into B.

      In short, the collapse comes because one is not addressing the **Christian** Metaphysic.

      ~~~

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  3. This was kind of timely. Does Ed read the comment section?!

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  4. Ed, how did you develop such a clever writing style?

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  5. Suppose we agree with the above account of the compatibility between the divine will and human free will.
    But there is a further problem: how is divine knowledge compatible with human free will?
    If a man's choice is free, then God doesn't know what the man will choose. If He doesn't know, then His knowledge is not unlimited. If He knows, then how can the man's choice be free?

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    1. God does not know what the man will choose. He sees the man choosing. The moment you involve verb tenses in an argument about someone who stands right outside of time, you have lost the thread.

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    2. @Tom Simon I don't think that would solve the issue. God still knows the characteristics of what he is creating, and therefore has prior knowledge, even if it's not "temporally prior" so to speak. It would still be causally prior as he is the cause of all. His "seeing of the man choosing" is still put in place by him, (like looking at a character in a book, perhaps) otherwise, how can he be said to be the creator?

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    3. Maybe but... does God know *now* what happens in the future? Because to me that makes it seem like there is already a block of existing future stuff before you get there, for God to be able to know that. But if it already exists, before you get there, it seems like you can only act one way.


      Greg

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    4. Anonymous and Greg see the problem clearly. God causes and man's act, knows what the man will do, and yet the man's act remains free. It seems like a contradiction. Jesuits solved it by saying that God created the world in such a way that the man would freely choose what he chooses. Dominicans argued for 'physical premotion', maintaining that although God causes the man to act, He merely actualized his creature's freedom without violating it. I'd love to read Ed Feser's explanation.

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    5. A lot of this presupposes that the creation of free will is theoretically impossible—that the efficient causes surrounding the creation of something essentially "doom" it to a following condition. Metaphysically speaking, there's no reason why this should be the case. It's entirely possible that God could create a person with true free will, and in that case God "seeing" what the person does with it in no way inhibits its reality. I think this is kind of where the story analogy fails—story characters really can't have free will in the way that humans can, even if they have the illusion thereof. A worse analogy, but one that better illustrates this point, is watching a wind-up toy move around "on its own accord" (though obviously that's not really what's happening when we watch it). The power to move is derived from whomever wound it up, the person can stop the toy from moving, and the person knows where the toy's going to go, but the toy does in fact move on its own will. Again, this is a thoroughly inept analogy, but I think it answers some of the confusion surrounding this. Someone might rebut this by arguing that free will is impossible from what we know about causality, but this isn't really true—even if the universe were shown to be thoroughly deterministic (which it isn't), it wouldn't mean that external "metaphysical" causes couldn't somehow have resulted in free choice of actions, logically ordered according to the principles of physics. And if free will is truly possible, it doesn't matter whether or not God knows what people are going to do—they have free will, and that's that.

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    6. Patrick

      The claim is not that God knows what people are going to do, the point is that, on classical theism, nothing exists or operates even for an instant without God sustaining it in being and cooperating with its activity.
      So, if I decide to do something, every part of my decision process is controlled by God My original thought would not be there if it wasn't for God sutaining it in being. This original thought would have to develop until a decision is reached, and , again, this is under God's control. So, the "end product" (my decison) is completely under god's control.
      Suppose I decide to kill somebody. I have some thought about killing someone, but this thought would not exist or operate even for an instant without God sustaining it in being and cooperating with its activity.

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    7. "They have free will, and that's that". Asserting it doesn't make it any more true.
      "Even if the universe is shown to be thoroughly deterministic (which it isn't)" Yes it is if God has omniscient knowledge of what happens within it. If there is any degree of potential for the human to act otherwise, this implies ontological uncertainty, which detracts from God's omniscience, as ontological uncertainty would imply epistemic uncertainty on God's part.
      "It wouldn't mean that external metaphysical causes couldn't somehow have resulted in free choice of actions, logically ordered according to the principles of physics." Could you expand? How could this "somehow" be so? More importantly, what is this "somehow" in the first place?

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    8. Hi,
      In retrospect I don't think I delineated my point very clearly. My point is, if God is as he is described in classical theism, could he create beings with true free will if he wanted to? And the answer to that is yes. If one argues that the story analogy discounts this, in that God still creates characters with characteristics that lead them to do certain things, this is begging the question against free will—the story analogy is inadequate because authors really can't create characters with perfect free will, even if they can get close in certain respects. My determinism point is that you can't use principles "within the universe" to argue that we really don't have free will. If it's metaphysically/logically possible that God can create beings with free will, it doesn't matter if the laws of physics appear deterministic (which they aren't, at least as far as humans can measure—quantum mechanics, etc.), or that our actions within the universe appear determined by other factors. What I meant by "ordering according to the principles of physics" is that evidence of PHYSICAL determinism isn't necessarily evidence against free will—that is, God may in his continuous, internally consistent creation of the universe order efficient causes such that the final causes according to our free will are realized. To make again a thoroughly inept analogy, if our freely chosen actions are points in the x-y plane, then God can create a function to pass through all of them—the fact that the function MUST pass through those points doesn't mean the points weren't chosen.
      Responding to Walter, I think this assumes that God can't give us true free will. It doesn't matter if God sustains our every action—if he wanted to give us free will, then he will "cooperate" with whatever we choose. To argue that he can just not give us the power to do things is to argue he didn't have to give us free will (which is obviously true, but not what's at stake). And again, to simply what ended up again being an overly long and confusing post, my argument is as such: There's nothing metaphysically preventing God from creating free will, and all our arguments against our having it are either non sequiturs (God knowing what we're going to do doesn't imply our not having free will), begging the question (if God wants to create free will, it doesn't matter if he could decide to not sustain our every choice—he IS sustaining it, because he created free will), or using physical evidence that doesn't directly imply anything (physical characteristics of the universe don't imply limitations on God in his creation of it).

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    9. Patrick


      No, it doesn't assume that God can't give us free will, it argues why the God of classical theism can't give us free will.
      The reason is that on classical theism, God cannot create self-sustaining entities because self-sustaining entities (apart from God) are impossible. If God chose to not sustain my initial thoughts, I wouldn't have any initial thoughts, not even for an instant. It's not a matter of cooperating with whatever we choose, it's a matter of creating and sustaining each tiny element of the thought-process that leads to our choice. That means libertarian free will is impossible.

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    10. Walter,
      "If God chose to not sustain my initial thoughts, I wouldn't have any initial thoughts, not even for an instant. It's not a matter of cooperating with whatever we choose, it's a matter of creating and sustaining each tiny element of the thought-process that leads to our choice."
      If God wants us to have free will, he will create and sustain each of our actions. God wants us to have free will, so he does.

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    11. @ Patrick Magee: "if God wats us to have free will, he will create and sustain each of our actions God wants us to have free will, so he does." These two sentences are contradictory. If HE sustains each of our actions, HE is the creator of them.
      In regards to quantum indeterminacy, supposing God created this universe in which quantum indeterminacy exists. The fact is that the universe is still deterministic from God's perspective: otherwise he would not be omniscient. William Lane Craig (himself not a thomist, I am aware, but his point is worth considering) says that quantum uncertainty is epistemic uncertainty, not ontological. God would still know the outcomes of quantum fluctuations. You may respond by saying that God knowing doesn't cause the action itself, with an analogy like "seeing someone jumping off a building and therefore knowing they will die doesn't mean you caused it." I don't think such an analogy would be apt however. The observer of the suicide jumper is not in the same position as God, who creates the occurence of the suicide jumper jumping in the first place. If the Jumper was free to do otherwise, such a situation would, I believe, imply ontological (not just epistemological) uncertainty, and thus detracting from God's omniscience.

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    12. Patrick

      You seem to beg the question here. I fail to see any argument in this.

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    13. The issue is that there are multiple objections that seem like the same one—each needs to be dealt with in isolation and assumes the other ones.
      The first objection presupposes that we have autonomy but argues that the autonomy is false since God sustains our every action. This objection fails, since if God WANTS us to have free will, he will sustain our every action—the possibility of him deciding not to is irrelevant.
      The second objection also presupposes autonomy but argues that it's false since God created you with all the characteristics that lead you to choose things. This again begs the question against free will—first, because it assumes the characteristics you have wholly interfere with your autonomy; second, because it assumes your characteristics are prior to your autonomy, rather thanks stemming from it (I'm thinking here in a vacuum; let's deal with the first human rather than some arbitrary human, where the situation is significantly more complicated). That is, the situation assumes that God's creation of your characteristics affects your autonomy (which we're presupposing) so much that your will basically isn't autonomous anymore. This misunderstands what kind of autonomy we're talking about.
      The third objection once again presupposes autonomy but argues that God's foreknowledge of everything means that our will isn't really free—we could only have chosen our actions in one way. This is a non sequitur, and it seems plausible only from muddling temporal perspective with an atemporal one. From a purely logical perspective, God's knowledge of what our autonomy will choose doesn't have anything to do with the autonomy of our choice.
      The final objection is that creation of autonomy is impossible. As I argued earlier, there's no reason this should be the case.
      The distinctions in all of these cases are very subtle—if it seems like I'm begging the question, it's because I'm ignoring one objection to deal with another (to deal with all of them at once would really take a book). If you'd like to debate further, I'd appreciate it if you'd make really clear which specific point you're arguing, and what we're accepting for the sake of argument. Otherwise things just get way too muddled

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    14. @ Patrick Magee : Ok, lets just deal with foreknowledge for now. I don't think its necessary to think in temporal terms to define God's perspective. If he wills and creates anything at all (say for the sake of argument he creates the universe in the same manner as a musician makes music, as I seem to remember Feser himself using as an analogy) he will still have knowledge of what he is creating if he has any conscious volition of creating the universe. I'm not muddling atemporal perspective with a temporal one here. I could sustain the creation of music in a similar manner. This would be more "simultaneous" on my part than, say, throwing a ball towards a switch to turn on a device; such an action would have more temporal gaps between each action than playing music, yet with the music I play every action is still sustained by me. What I'm arguing is that God creates not only every characterstic (i.e. Character, experience etc) but also every action, and thus every choice made. In order for him to create autonomy, he would, in my opinion, need to have some limit of knowledge over what the human might do in order for them to be truly free in making their choice. If this limit in knowledge were real, then such a situation would be distinguishable from a clockwork toy analogy. As it is, we are talking about an omniscient God, so I don't know how it can be different.

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    15. Patrick

      Let's focus on the second objection.
      You say "I'm thinking here in a vacuum; let's deal with the first human rather than some arbitrary human, where the situation is significantly more complicated). That is, the situation assumes that God's creation of your characteristics affects your autonomy (which we're presupposing) so much that your will basically isn't autonomous anymore. This misunderstands what kind of autonomy we're talking about."

      The Thomist's claim is not that God created an autonomous being that only needs God as a kind of battery. I know Feser claims it is, but that is an overly simplistic view on things, as I have already shown.
      If God 's relation to his creation were like that, libertarian free will would still be problematic, but I am not using that scenario here.
      Human decisions are the result of a complex process of which all elements,as well as the interaction between them, per classical theism, are created and actively sustained by God.
      It is not that God's creation of my characteristics affects my autonomy, it is that, per classical theism, God's creation and sustaining of my characteristics is what it means to be me, and God's creation and sustaining of your characteristics is what it means to be you.

      So, no, under these conditions, I cannot be autonomous, if by that you mean that I could have chosen otherwise under the exact same circumstances. My choice is the result of what it means to be me (which is God's responsiblity) and some external factors (which are God's responsibility).

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    16. @Anonymous I think the question here is not of knowledge, but of volition. God may limit his WILL to allow creation to freely choose—that doesn't mean he doesn't know what they will do. And even if you argue that knowledge must be limited too, I don't see this as a problem with omniscience, in the same way that the universe not containing literally every possible object is a limitation on God's omnipotence. Just because he has the power to know something doesn't mean he won't necessarily limit that knowledge for some higher purpose. Again, I think that knowledge is irrelevant, and I think that God does know our every action, but either way this doesn't pose a problem.

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    17. @Walter To clarify, are you arguing that God could create a "will," but that the will would be deterministically controlled by prior circumstances? Or that creation of a "will" at all is entirely impossible.

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    18. @Walter,

      Isn't your objection an argument against free will under any circumstances, and not just classical theism.

      For certainly there is some principle or cause that keeps people in existence from moment to moment whether one considers that cause God or not.

      It could just as easily be said that the cause's "creation and sustaining of my characteristics is what it means to be me, and [it's ] creation and sustaining of your characteristics is what it means to be you."

      In that case, do you think you *do* have free will?

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    19. Patrick magee: I'm not saying that omnipotence amounts to every possible object. I'm saying that omniscience amounts to knowledge of every actual element of what is created. Even if God limits his knowledge (i think such a conception is unlikely for a number of reasons, one being that said "limiting" of knowledge makes God temporal in the way you yourself seem to be skeptical of, as well as the fact that he would know beforehand the outcome even if he afterwards limited his knowledge when creating it) if he did, he would be creating blindly, which would call into question his omnibenevolence and his volition itself. It would also, in my opinion, call into question whether he really is the creator at all, or whether the universe and God grow together and thus define each other (a little like Spinoza's depiction, perhaps)

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    20. Patrick

      The will would, assuming classical theism and especially Feser's version of it, be deterministically controlled by God.

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    21. bmiller

      No, my objection is not against libertarian free will under any circumstances. I am convinced that LFW is incoherent, but I am not arguing that here. My point is that, because God is actively creating and sustaining every element of a decision process al well as the intercation between those elements, God determines the outcome of evey decision. Hence, the only free will possible in that case is a compatibilist version.

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    22. Walter,
      God himself has a will. It's not incoherent to suppose that he could create in the imago Dei a will analogous to himself—that is, entirely free to choose (we ignore all external characteristics; I argue only about the nature of the will, and the possibility of one being created, here). In this case, I want to consider a sort of free-floating will—devoid of initial characteristics and such

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    23. Anonymous, I was using omnipotence as an analogy. I also agree that the previous supposition of "limited omniscience" is also incoherent, again because it implies a temporal God. All I am arguing is that from the fact that God knows what you will do, it does not follow that you do not freely choose what to do. That's a non sequitur. You may argue that "well that shows there is really only one possible choice," but this only follows from the fact that at any given moment we can't choose two outcomes from the same event—not that two outcomes weren't possible to be chosen. Again, we can debate the specifics, but I believe if you think about it you will see that your supposition is a non sequitur.

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    24. Patrick

      If God has free will, it's because He is truly autonomous. To create in the imago Dei a will analogous to himself would mean that he creates a will that sustains itself. There may be nothing incoherent about that except that it is contrary to the classical theist's claim that God sustains everything in being an that nothing would exist for even an instant without God actively sustaining it.
      By the way, God himself actually has no free will, but that's another debate.

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    25. My "supposition" is not a non sequitur. I'm not saying there are no other LOGICALLY possible outcomes from that which occur, I am arguing that God in this scenario (as far as we have a shared conception of what kind of God we debate the existence of) ACTUALISES a particular outcome, and thus no other outcomes can in fact occur. Obviously you can't decide upon logically contradictory courses of action. I'm not arguing against that. I'm not even arguing that this fact of not being able to choose logically conflicting outcomes proves free will does not exist. I'm saying that ontological uncertainty (which would include a degree of uncertainty from God's part) would be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for free will. If God is certain of what will happen, we cannot choose otherwise than the way we do. In another logically possible world, outcomes would be different, but in this actualized world, they are not, and, I believe, cannot.

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    26. Walter,

      No, my objection is not against libertarian free will under any circumstances.

      As bmiller points out, since any human action, not being necessary, involves causal conditions all the way across the line, your argument in fact does not depend on anything unique to the divine case, and thus does indeed seem to be an argument against libertarian free will under any circumstances.

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    27. Walter,
      The will would not be self-sustaining, as any causal efficacy it had would be derived from God. The choices would be its own, and the ability to choose is in turn derived from God. There's no contradiction with classical theism.
      And that is another debate, but to clarify I'm not at all implying that human "free will" is anything analogous to God's, and in many respects speaking of God's "will" is necessarily imprecise.

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    28. Anonymous, please explain in what way ontological certainty invalidates free will. This is the part I see as a non sequitur—it seems obviously true in hand-wavey terms, but upon closer analysis it really doesn't follow.

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    29. @Patrick Magee, "upon closer analysis it really doesn't follow". Expand please

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    30. Anonymous, please explain how it invalidates free will and I will expand.

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    31. On second thought, that came across as a bit more curt than I intended. What I meant to say is that while arguments from ontological certainty seem to invalidate free will, on close inspection they don't. They APPEAR to, but the premises (of certainty) only "visually" lead to lack of free will. I realize this is vague, but I think it will help if you give a close analysis of why ontological certainty invalidates free will—step by step, connecting it directly to autonomy, will, and choice (and not just God's perspective on the matter).

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    32. Patrick

      "The will would not be self-sustaining, as any causal efficacy it had would be derived from God.The choices would be its own"

      If the will's choices are its own, the will is self-sustaining. A choice is a change, so, per classical theism, it nneds God as a creator and sustainer.

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    33. Brandon

      "As bmiller points out, since any human action, not being necessary, involves causal conditions all the way across the line"

      If every human action involves deterministic causal conditions all the way across the line, then LFW is indeed inpossible. But LFW choices are claimed not to involve deterministic causal conditions all the way across the line.

      The point is that classical theism does involve deterministic causal conditions all the way across the line. There may be other views, including theistic ones, that don't involve this, but i am not dealing with those here.

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    34. @Patrick Magee: "The premises of certainty only visually lead to a lack of free will" in what ways does certainty not lead to this lack? The fact is that God knows what you will choose prior to you choosing it. His omniscient knowledge is dependent on there being no outcome which differs frpm what he knows will happen. If any of us choose otherwise to what he knows (or thinks he knows) will occur, this would imply incorrect knowledge on his part. Some people use an analogy of an observer of a plane going down to attempt a rebuttal to my point. The analogy does not apply however, as the observer does not create the plane crash or the situation leading up to it. So I make the following proposition:

      1.) If an omniscient God creates the universe he will know everything that occurs within it.


      2.) If he knows everything that occurs within it (the universe), no living thing he creates can act otherwise than how he knows they will act, since such actions would conflict with his omniscience.


      3.) Therefore we do not have free will if God has perfect knowledge.

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    35. Walter,
      No, because its causal efficacy is derived from its created ability to be able to choose. This is where you're begging the question—you need to show that the creation of such a will in which causal efficacy is derived is impossible. Currently, you're arguing that God creates and sustains every aspect of the will in a way analogous to the rest of creation. The classical theist argues that the will is PRECISELY the issue where this is not the case—this is what makes the imago Dei utterly distinct from the rest of creation.

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    36. Walter,
      To reply to your reply to Brandon (and to somewhat clarify my previous post), here's the linchpin of the argument. God creates a being with the ability to actualize its potentials per autonomy. Its causal efficacy is derived from God. It is not self-sustaining, because this efficacy is not self-derived and in fact (to use a temporary analogy) can be "taken away" at any moment. In this sense, we have an instance of actualizing potentials in a derived sense wholly different from that of the rest of creation. The issue of not being self-sustaining here is a false dichotomy, since it ignores the case of derived autonomy. The issue of God needing to actualize every potential similarly ignores the possibility of derived potentiality/actuality. You need to show that such a creation is entirely impossible. You cannot use the argument of God directly controlling every actualization of a potential, since this is the issue at stake. You cannot argue that any of this puts a limit on God's omnipotence/omniscience, since every activity is derived and thus has its root in God. And you cannot argue that this is special pleading (in the sense that it's the only time we appeal to such an argument of creation/actualization of potentials), since the classical theist agrees that the will is precisely the only case in which such a process occurs. Determinism is something of an equivocal term, since it normally applies to a sequence of efficient causes that must result in one outcome (and is tied to knowledge), while here we argue that God has knowledge of outcomes, imparts power to the outcomes, but does not control the outcomes in the same way as other outcomes (though he does control it in a secondary way). Hence, it is "deterministic" in the knowledge sense, but this does not inhibit free will.

      My apologies for somewhat rambling posts.

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    37. If every human action involves deterministic causal conditions all the way across the line, then LFW is indeed inpossible. But LFW choices are claimed not to involve deterministic causal conditions all the way across the line.

      The point is that classical theism does involve deterministic causal conditions all the way across the line.


      No, this is muddled. As bmiller pointed out, there is no account of human action at all in which human actions existing does not, throughout, depend on causes; and the particular causal structure you are claiming is not unique to the God case. As you put it, "on classical theism, nothing exists or operates even for an instant without God sustaining it in being and cooperating with its activity." But this is in fact going to be true whether God is doing it or not; in any account, human action only exists and operates because some cause or set of causes is sustaining it in being (because it does, in fact, continue to exist) and acting in such a way as is consistent with its existence's being possible, and thus cooperating with it. There is no difference between the cases; the 'in classical theism' part literally does no work in the argument that would not have to be done regardless of one's account of human action. Thus, again, as bmiller said, the attempt to make this about classical theism in particular, rather than about free will in general, is poorly motivated; the point the argument considers is a point that is consistent with every account of human action.

      Nor does your contrast make any sense here. LFW advocates, of course, hold that there are nondeterministic causes of something's being or operating; thus classical theists who are LFW advocates hold that there are nondeterministic causes. LFW advocates do not hold, as you seem to imply, that human wills exist and operate as causes that are wholly independent of causes for their existence and operations. Obviously whether you can make a choice on even the strongest LFW position is not independent of things like whether you yourself are continuing to exist (which depends on causes), or whether you are conscious (which depends on causes), or whether you are thinking of this or that (which depends on causes), etc.; they just take the whole set not to be deterministic. Classical theists who are LFW advocates will simply take God to be in the causal explanation that is already necessary anyway. Contrary to what you imply, there is no difference whatsoever on this point. Your argument does not depend on any point unique to classical theism; it in fact turns on a point common to all major accounts of human action. As bmiller correctly said, your argument is in fact an argument that all LFW accounts are incoherent. Anyone who accepts your argument has already ipso facto accepted a principle inconsistent with LFW, namely, that an action's being caused to exist and to continue to exist can only be deterministic.

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  6. I would love to ask what your view on narcissistic personality disorder (or to a lesser extent even antisocial or borderline disorders)is? Since they act freely, and very often with knowledge that what they are doing is wrong, are they not still culpable unlike schizophrenia or being under the influence of alcohol say? I am aware of the Irish celebrities mentioned on other posts. They are the kind of people who organize large public prayer events to get attention from communication, but knowing them close up in person they are a moral monster.

    If you know you are doing wrong, you act freely and never repent are you not culpable on some level? They act with deliberation etc.

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    1. Would this help?
      A
      B
      C
      D

      Who are these people? Presumably they are still active and free to damage the Catholic community there?

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    2. I don't think any Thomist has touched on the area of freewill, morality and personality disorders.

      I really wish someone would do a blog post or something so we could discuss this.

      I really think they have reason, so it is hard to claim they have no moral culpability.
      https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cfd8/1bbe99bdc521143dba5fc96bac3d767b3af6.pdf

      https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=philosophy_articles

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16643116

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  7. In writing a story, it is bad art to force a character to act in a particular way for the sake of the plot. His actions must emerge from his character and his motives, even if these are obscure to the reader or indeed to the character himself. Perceptive readers (who, alas, include many Late Moderns who want only "content" in their reading) can tell when an action is "forced" rather than "natural."

    So if, on the story analogy, we read that God looked on all that he created and saw that it was Good, we cannot in good faith accuse Him of bad art.

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    1. Indeed. And the argument against occasionalism is easier to understand when using this analogy.

      If the butler killed the chauffeur because he was a hot-tempered man, and jealous over the upstairs maid, we may fairly say that his actions were motivated on the terms of the story itself. The ultimate cause, of course, is that Rex Gunplay, mystery writer, wrote the story that way; but to that extent the event is over-determined – you can explain it within the story, and need not appeal to the author for an explanation.

      If the butler killed the chauffeur because Rex Gunplay wrote the story that way, and for no other reason, that is a failure of art. The job of a storyteller is to make every plot event be seen to have its causes within the system of the story, without any miracle or deus ex machina abruptly introduced along the way. And this is the case because the story is an imitation of life, and in life, too, every event (with the rare exception of miracles) is seen to have causes within the system of the world. The analogy works precisely because stories themselves are an analogical art.

      Occasionalism would make every event a miracle, and an utterly arbitrary one; and we should have no reason to assume that apparently natural events should observe a regularity derived from their own predictable natures, because they are only apparently natural and nothing is derived from their natures, but only from the capricious will of God. But this is not what we do in fact see, and the hypothesis is falsified.

      By the way, the best and fullest exploration of the analogy between storytelling and Divine creativity, so far as I know, can be found in The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I recommend that book to anyone who has difficulty with the analogy, as I find that the objections are very well answered there.

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    2. I recommend Dorothy Sayers's Mind of the Maker for discussion of free will in fictional characters and relation to the author from a trinitarian perspective.

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  8. Hence all the heavy going about whether Aquinas was a compatibilist, a libertarian, etc. I don’t think he is properly understood in terms of any of the categories that have now become standard, any more than his views on the mind-body problem are properly classified as Cartesian, materialist, functionalist, etc.

    Tantalizing. I can't wait to hear more.

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    1. I also would love to hear more about this from Dr. Feser!

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  9. I never liked the whole example of fiction. The whole question of whether the fictional butler acted of his own free will depends on the context. Are we talking inside or outside our suspension of disbelief?

    When we suspend our disbelief, we are pretending there is no author, and therefore the characters are real and have free choices. The statement that the gun fired and had bullets also requires this suspension of disbelief, which requires us to forget that the story has an author.

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  10. Prof. Feser, this criticism of your argument and your use of PPC has been circulating around lately:

    https://hughjidiette.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/edward-fesers-aristotelian-proof-for-god/

    It is my understanding that a reply would revolve around the need for forms to exist qua universals in the First Cause, more than as a power, and that simplicity could solve the "third man" objection.

    Nevertheless, I think it would be a good opportunity for you to write a reply and clarify your arguments from PPC to the intellect of the First Cause. As it can be seen in Richard Carrier, a common strategy atheists are now using is to accept a first cause but deny it is divine or personal (as Carrier wrote of "string theory"). You provide arguments against that (from PPC; from the will; the abstract objects X physical objects X mental content X mind argument, etc), and it would be useful to write a blogpost defending them and answering critiques such as the one in the link above; at least to clarify how PPC leads to a first cause with intellect as opposed to just power.

    Just a suggestion.

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  11. Dr. Feser,

    I think the major objection to the Thomistic account of divine causality and human freedom is not based off of a misunderstanding, and it is actually a fair criticism:

    If Aquinas thinks God's causal act determines what an individual chooses, then Aquinas is, plain and simple, a compatibilist. Now compatibilism is difficult for many to swallow, and there are an array of such arguments which illustrate this (e.g. versions of the consequence argument).

    Does Aquinas teach that God's causal act determines what individuals choose? I am not sure, but certainly many of his Dominican commentators (e.g. Fr. RGL) would speak that way especially because of the theory of physical premotion. That said, I am wondering what you think of Matthews Grant's solution to the problem in his "Can a Libertarian hold our free acts are caused by God" ? Grant's view is immune to the charge of compatibilism and would rescue Aquinas in this way.

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    1. If Aquinas thinks God's causal act determines what an individual chooses, then Aquinas is, plain and simple, a compatibilist.

      Not exactly. This depends on how determinism is defined. If one defines it as van Inwagen does, as the claim that from the laws of nature and a complete description of the universe at some time one can infer a complete description of the universe at every later time, then concurrentism does not imply determinism.

      (God's causal act does not "determine" what an individual chooses in this sense, even if God's concurring with an agent's φ-ing entails that he φs.)

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    2. I would define determinism in the following way:

      An event is determined iff there is some factor both (i) prior to the event (if not in time, in nature) and (ii) that if it obtains, it necessitates the event.

      As for condition (ii), I think "logically necessitates" the event is a suitable condition, however, if you'd like, you can change this to "causally necessitates." Regardless, God concurring with an agent φ-ing certainly necessitates that the agent φs logically and on Thomism, causally. Therefore, according to my definition of determinism, God's act determines the agent's act as long as God's act is prior to the agent's φ-ing. Classical theists do not believe God's act is prior in time, but still, many would argue that God's act is prior in nature. This is what I take to be the traditional Dominican position on physical PRE-motion. Physical premotion is prior in nature to the agent's act.

      This however is determinism as I have defined it and I would argue it is susceptible to the same kinds of criticisms that other forms of determinism are susceptible to.

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    3. I am not so sure that it is susceptible to the same kinds of criticisms. Van Inwagen's objection to compatibilism, for instance, is that an act is free only if it was possible for the agent to do otherwise, but if an act is determined in his sense, then agents can never do otherwise than they do. But an act's being determined in your sense doesn't preclude the agent's having been able to have done otherwise.

      (Whether the Thomist would accept van Inwagen's argument is another matter.)

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    4. It depends what you mean by 'could do otherwise.' It is logically and metaphysically possible that we choose otherwise. But if determinism is true, it is not possible given those factors prior to our choice. This is the case if the factors prior to our choice are the laws of nature in conjunction with the past history of the universe (as with the version of determinism van Inwagen is considering), or if the prior factor is divine premotion.

      If God's causal action, A, necessitates that I attend Mass this Sunday, then it is not possible that I skip Mass on the supposition that God performed A. So given the fact that God performs A, I could not have done otherwise.

      For van Inwagen's original consequence argument, and subsequent variations of it, this is problematic since we cannot control whether or not God performs A. But we are not responsible for those factors outside of our control.

      Now, perhaps we ARE in fact in control over whether or not God does A. But in that case, God's action would not be prior to our action which goes against the standard Thomistic position, at least as the Dominicans classically presented it with physical premotion since divine premotion is prior to human action and as such it is outside of my control whether or not God premoves me to attend Mass, or whatever.

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    5. An event is determined iff there is some factor both (i) prior to the event (if not in time, in nature) and (ii) that if it obtains, it necessitates the event.

      I cannot buy that as a definition of determinism. Among such factors would be beliefs. It would then follow that the fact that we come to some belief, and act rationally upon it, entails we do not act freely.

      Surely this isn't so. E.g., if while playing bridge, I reason out (from the bidding and play so far) that the player to my right holds the Queen of Spades, and therefore I finesse against him, this would be a compelled - unfree - act, but if I finesse for no reason whatsoever, then THAT might have been freely chosen. Absurd.

      However, I will grant this much: many defenders of libertarian free will, and many of their determinist opponents, seem to demand of "free will" that it be essentially inexplicable. In doing so, of course they cannot accept classical accounts of freedom and the will. But so what?

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    6. You say "I cannot buy that as a definition of determinism. Among such factors would be beliefs. It would then follow that the fact that we come to some belief, and act rationally upon it, entails we do not act freely."

      This does not follow from my definition of determinsim without further assumptions. First of all, unless we assume incompatibilism, an event being determined does not preclude it from being free.

      Second, if we act rationally upon some belief, it does not follow that the belief necessitates the action.

      I would add that the vast majority of libertarians would not hold that free acts are essentially inexplicable. There are a variety of ways libertarians attempt to explain libertarian actions, and you may think they fail, but I know of very few serious libertarians today who would throw their hands up and say free will is inexplicable. Even van Inwagen who admits he does not have a good answer to this problem (as he terms it, the 'mind argument'), does not think that libertarian acts are inexplicable, only that he does not know of a good way to explain them.

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  12. Anon, I sympathize that RGL does tend in that direction. But there is a solution, which was outlined by Fr. Most in "Grace, Predestination, and the Salvific Will of God". I have a half suspicion that your Matthew Grant's solution is the same as Fr. Most's, but I can't find the article except behind a firewall. Is there a source we can get at without paying?

    Briefly, as I understand Fr. Most and Aquinas: God is the cause of the activity insofar as it is being, and he is not the cause of the defect which is the sin. The simple example: God wills that a man punish an evildoer, but the man carries out the punishment with hatred for the evildoer. God is the cause of the man doing the act of punishment, but not the cause of the hatred by which the punisher sins. More generally, God is the cause of EVERY motion toward a good, but man is the cause of every defect by which we turn away from the good toward an evil.

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    1. @Tony,

      Exactly what do you mean by good here? And God being the cause of it? Is this only about moral goods, or all goods in particular?

      If it's about all goods in particular, doesn't this imply that God is also the cause of me choosing, say, chocolate ice cream over vanilla such that it wasn't a free choice on my part?

      And if it's only moral goods, then doesn't this imply that we ourselves don't actually make a deliberate choice to, say, help someone but rather it is God who overrides our will to do it?

      This is also relevant for those who experience the Beatific Vision. They cannot sin because their wills are fixed to desire the Good, but isn't it still true that they desire the good of their own volition even though they cannot desire otherwise?

      In other words, the blessed cannot help but voluntarily desire the Good, but if God is the cause of them choosing a good thing, then this means that they aren't in fact voluntarily desiring the good by themselves.

      And what about liberum arbitrium? Aquinas himself says that though the blessed can only desire the good, they can still choose amongst a variety of goods. So if God is the cause of us choosing a good, doesn't this imply that he's also the cause of our choosing one particular good over another, which the blessed in Heaven certainly can choose since they have liberum arbitrium?

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    2. Joe, I am not the expert you want on this. But until an expert comes along, my answer is: imagine a power company that supplies power to a dentist's office. The power is "for" the good of machines that clean and fix teeth: drills that drill, rotors that abrade, etc. Imagine that God is like the power the company provides: nothing "works" without his action. Imagine, also, that God is the maker of the drills and other machines: he designs them so that they don't "do" anything until power is powering them.

      God designs the will, like the maker who designs the machines. He designs into the will that it is are crafted "for" goods like loving and obeying, but it cannot operate without his providing the power - an actual push (this conforms to the "physical pre-motion" approach). But a dentist can use the tool, the machine, not for fixing teeth, but for some other purpose, like torture. It is still true that the took is designed for drilling, and the power it provided in order for it to drill IS actually accomplishing "drilling", but it is due to the defect of the dentist to reject the good end and impose an evil on the good (drilling) that the machine is "for".

      As an analogy, it is not perfect, of course: the dentist appears as a different agent than the tool, which renders the image inaccurate. Still, the point is that the dentist is free to REJECT doing what the tool and the supplied power are for. I would suggest (getting away from the analogy) that God sets up all the conditions of the will's acting for a specific good that is morally good, and then either the will flows into choosing that good by its own natural inclination (which is also caused by God), or it departs from that and chooses some other good as a defection from the morally good option. The "power" supplied was never specifically for the morally bad choice, but the capacity to act could always be turned to a bad choice.

      I suspect that the answer to the meaning of "freedom to choose a variety of goods" is that the morally unspecified "variety" is always taken to mean "unspecified" because in a variety of different circumstances, A might be good, but in other circumstances, B might be good, and so on: we are not talking about lack of moral specificity in THIS particular circumstance here and now. Sometimes it is good to play cards, sometimes good to play basketball, and I am free to choose between them. When my sister is ill and bored, choosing to play basketball with her is a BAD choice, and while I am "free" (i.e. able) to choose that bad choice, it is not a morally unspecified choice I make. But when my brother has been waiting 2 hours for me to get home to play basketball like I promised, my choosing to play cards is a bad choice. When you leave prudence out of the picture, there is no definitively "the good" choice between one game and another. But when you apply prudence to ALL of the facts and circumstances, it usually narrows down the truly good options to one, or (at most) a very small range, and the variety turns out not to be that extensive after all.

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    3. I think that part of Aquinas's response, though, is that when the will is adhering to the Beatific Vision, this is the premier instance of the "free" act, because the will is operating (more than in any other operation) in JUST EXACTLY the manner it was designed to operate, in flowing toward what is fulfilling to the nature, and doing so from the desire of its own nature, not by external force.

      It is nonsensical to suggest that the design feature that the will is geared only to desiring what appears as "good" is somehow a kind of "force" that makes its act towards a good "not free" because it was "unable" to act toward evil for evil's sake! It's act by its nature of inclining toward the good just is its free act in operation.

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  13. Dr. Feser, you may have already commented on this (and if so, please know that I'm not asking for a refutation), but I thought this video was worth wrestling with:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUScILYNykc

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    1. Guy talking in front of a camera with DEBUNKED in the title is really never worth wrestling.

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    2. That dude doesn’t have the slightest clue of what he’s talking about. He’s even worse than Dawkins. Sad really...

      Thankfully though, it looks like the classical theistic message is spreading, and so several YouTube users have stepped in to point out the absolutely atrocious straw man portrayed in this video. (And even Bishop Barron himself posted a comment!)

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    3. BTW, that video was posted on April Fools 2017... which I guess makes it a deliciously ironic coincidence :D

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  14. Hi Ed,

    You write beautifully, but I'm afraid your analogy is fatally flawed, as it fails to answer the central question that it was meant to answer. That question is not "How can we be free if God is causing our actions?" but rather, "How can God hold us morally accountable for our misdeeds if He is causing our actions?"

    The characters in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series can justly find fault with Voldemort for his bad actions, because in relation to them, his actions are perfectly free. But in relation to J.K. Rowling, they are nothing of the sort: she writes the plot, and she makes him do what he does. If J.K. Rowling were to blame Voldemort for what he did, or scold him for the terrible things he did ("You wicked, wicked person! How could you be so evil?"), we would (a) think she was crazy and (b) point out to her that she made him do what he did, so she's in no position to find fault with him.

    In the Bible, God berates the servant in the Parable of the Talents who buried his talent in a hole in the ground as a “wicked, lazy servant” (Matthew 25:26), and on Judgment Day, he says to the wicked, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). No author would ever address his/her characters in that way.

    You write in your latest book that God "knows everything – including the present and the future – precisely by virtue of being its cause” (2017, p. 214) and you also compare God’s knowledge to “an author’s knowledge of the characters and events of the story he has come up with” (2017, p. 212). There's only one name for this viewpoint: predestinationism. And as the Catholic Encyclopedia points out in its article on Predestination, it is impossible to reconcile with God's desire that everyone should be saved. (On the author scenario, that makes no more sense than J.K. Rowling wanting Voldemort to be saved.)

    Let me close with a quote from St. Ambrose: "He did not predestine before He foreknew, but for those whose merits He foresaw, He predestined the reward." (De fide, V, vi, 83)

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    1. Vince,
      The Bible is an unusual type of book because God is a character in the book. You are confusing the character God with God the author of not only the Bible but the entire cosmos. Suppose my fellow late 1980s Exeter University student, J. K. Rowling, had put herself as a character in the book--perhaps as a Hufflepuff teacher. If the Hufflepuff teacher J. K. Rowling had said in the book, "You wicked wizard, Voldemort," there would have been nothing incongruous in that. God the author of everything is greater than how the character God is presented in the Bible (which is often with limitations).

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    2. Contrary to your belief, authors can and do condemn the villains in their stories, despite the fact that said villains, as fictional beings, have no real agency at all - and see no absurdity in doing so. That God allows the sinful actions of His rational creations to take effect doesn't in the least imply that He must approve of the sins.

      Indeed, a universe in which no rational being could ever sin, because God would not allow the sinful act to happen, would be a universe in which no rational being other than God could exist. The supposedly rational creations would be no more than automata, acting at every moment as the will of God required them to do.

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    3. Sir, hold on: God isn't causing our actions in the *morally relevant* sense. Rather, God is conserving us in existence and, having gifted us with free will, allows us to make free decisions. God doesn't cause a man to cheat on his wife; he does give rise to and uphold the man in existence.

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    4. "That God allows the sinful actions of His rational creations to take effect doesn't in the least imply that He must approve of the sins."

      God is omnipotent. That means what He wants, He gets. Whatever He wills must come to pass. That means if a little girl is tortured, God approves of it. In Five Proofs, Feser says "We can agree with [J.L.] Mackie that God could have created a world with free will and no evil." The fact that he didn't, means he wanted evil to take place (including starvation and abuse of children), even though God and everyone else would have been perfectly happy if we all started in the beatific vision right away. (Feser tries to exonerate God by saying evil is needed for certain "goods," but those goods serve no real function since all would be perfectly happy in the world without those so-called goods. I go more in depth on this in my book. What kind of God would allow a Holocaust for goods that aren't even necessary?)

      "The supposedly rational creations would be no more than automata"

      So is God an automata because He can't sin? There is nothing about determinism that excludes the possibility of reasoning. As Patricia Churchland said, "...[given determinism] our reasoning and our reasoned behaviour is causally produced. So far from denying that humans are purposeful and reasonable, determinism is the thesis that there is a causal network which produces such behaviour."[Is Determinism Self-refuting?
      Patricia Smith Churchland
      Mind, New Series, Vol. 90, No. 357. (Jan., 1981), pp. 99-101.]

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    5. Hi Timothy,

      You write: "The Bible is an unusual type of book because God is a character in the book. You are confusing the character God with God the author of not only the Bible but the entire cosmos."

      That's an interesting point. I hadn't thought of it quite that way before. But now I would ask you: is God the author the same individual as God the character?

      If you say yes, then the fundamental distinction posited by Ed between God and creatures breaks down. We can no longer say that God is on a different plane of existence because He is out of the book, whereas we are in it. If God's in the book too, then He's on our plane.

      But if you say no, then you are positing two Gods: one God who never talks to His characters, but just writes the story, and another God Who is part of the story and condemns the wicked characters in the story.

      In any case, the key point I wish to make is that a character is entirely at the whim of his/her author, and cannot do anything other than what the author intends. If I cannot do anything other than what God intends, then I am not free, vis-a-vis God, and He cannot justly find fault with me. That point holds true, no matter how "willing" or rational I might happen to be when performing my acts - for if God wrote that into the story, then my very ratiocinations are at the mercy of His whims.

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    6. "God is omnipotent. That means what He wants, He gets. Whatever He wills must come to pass. That means if a little girl is tortured, God approves of it."

      No, it doesn't. It means only that God assents to it. Think of any fiction you know in which a child is tortured - do you suppose for a moment that its author thinks it right to torture children, merely because that incident is part of the story? Of course not.

      "a character is entirely at the whim of his/her author, and cannot do anything other than what the author intends."

      That, of course, is where the analogy falls short - God's creations, unlike a human author's, have real agency and can do things their maker doesn't want them to do.

      Though even there, many authors have said that some of their characters "refuse" to do what the author's plot requires of them, with the result that the story can't be finished, or the reader loses interest if the author pushes on regardless. Such "refusals" stand for sins, as they occur when the act the author proposes for a character isn't consistent with what the character is, as shown in other parts of the story. If that can happen in fiction, where only the author is a true agent, what stops it from happening in fact when the creatures are agents also?

      Really, Mr. Torley, have you never talked to a novelist about their craft, or read a novelist's description of how it's done? Tom Simon already mentioned Dorothy Sayers' The Mind of the Maker - go read that, if you can find it.

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    7. "No, it doesn't. It means only that God assents to it."

      What's your definition of "assent"? If God assents to children starving (when He could easily prevent it), that's synonymous with saying he concedes to it; He yields to it; agrees with it; or as Webster's Dictionary says "to agree to or approve of something." So for an omnipotent being to assent to something means He wants it.

      "Think of any fiction you know in which a child is tortured - do you suppose for a moment that its author thinks it right to torture children, merely because that incident is part of the story?"

      No one in the fictional story is actually being tortured. In this world, children actually do suffer. Now if I played a Sims game with sentient Sims in it, and I authored it such that some of the Sims suffer, then I am malevolent.

      ----

      A problem with Feser's author analogy is that just because the author says the characters in the book have free will, doesn't mean they actually do, even within the story. If the characters have free will, then they could do otherwise, but if the author writes (or if God knows) that a character will do X, then that entails that the character will do X. Otherwise, the author didn't write what he or she wrote (a self-contradiction) or God was wrong, which are both absurd. If an author writes that a character proved 2+2=5, that doesn't mean he did (even within the story*)--same thing with free will. *Unless the fictional story is so absurd it couldn't ever happen, like a book where characters draw 5-sided triangles. Perhaps in the story, they actually do draw 5-sided triangles, but then it's a poor analogy for anything to do with the real world.

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  15. Well if you're not free, how could you know that fact itself?

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    1. Reasons can be part of the determinism. As Patricia Churchland said, "If determinism is correct, it does not in the least follow that we do not reason... On the contrary, what follows is that our reasoning and our reasoned behaviour is causally produced. So far from denying that humans are purposeful and reasonable, determinism is the thesis that there is a causal network which produces such behaviour." (Is Determinism Self-refuting?
      Patricia Smith Churchland
      Mind, New Series, Vol. 90, No. 357. (Jan., 1981), pp. 99-101.)

      Just as you can know 2+2=4 deterministically, you can know that free will is incoherent deterministically. After all, if I give you sufficient reasons for thinking 2+2=4, are you free to not-believe it?

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    2. What does it mean to say that I can know 2+2 deterministically?

      What does the qualifier "deterministically" add to just knowing 2+2=4?

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    3. ""If determinism is correct, it does not in the least follow that we do not reason..."

      But it makes it very very very unlikely that we reason effectively. Extraordinary even. If determinism is true, then our reasoning process will go in whatever direction is determined to causally occur. There is only one way to reason effectively, but you can reason badly in any number of ways. Even if you get to the correct conclusion, the reasoning isn't necessarily right.

      Also, we could reason badly and not even realise it if it is determined to be the case, which is the bigger problem.

      It would be wiser to assume we are reasoning badly if determinism is true, since its so unlikely that we are reasoning well and that we also can confirm that we are. But that becomes self-defeating.

      "Just as you can know 2+2=4 deterministically, you can know that free will is incoherent deterministically."

      But the problem is that you are assuming you are reasoning well in the first place. What reason, given that you have no control over whether you do so or not (you are at the whim of whatever is causally determined), do you have for thinking that you are reasoning well? It is self-evident that we can reason effective, but then that puts determinism in to question.

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    4. @Billy: "If determinism is true, then our reasoning process will go in whatever direction is determined to causally occur." Yes, and the direction will either be correct or incorrect, just like with indeterminism.

      "There is only one way to reason effectively, but you can reason badly in any number of ways. Even if you get to the correct conclusion, the reasoning isn't necessarily right."

      The same would be true on indeterminism. If this is sound: (P1) All men are mortal (P2) Donald Trump is a man (C) Trump is mortal -- and we know what the reasons are, that the conclusion follows from the premises, and that it's valid and sound, then it's irrelevant whether the reasoning process was (in)deterministic.

      "What reason, given that you have no control over whether you do so or not (you are at the whim of whatever is causally determined), do you have for thinking that you are reasoning well?"

      (I would add the qualifier "ultimate" to control. I have some level of control over myself in the sense that my character/psychology (me) is in control of my actions, even though I have no ultimate control in the sense that I can't do any differently from what my character-with-circumstances drives me to do.)

      I can test my reasoning by thinking about it -- weighing evidence, seeing if the premises lead to the conclusion, seeing if there's evidence for the premises, watching William Lane Craig, reading The Last Superstition by Edward Feser, Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, listening to Ontologistics on youtube, or any number of things. Same with indeterminism.

      "we could reason badly and not even realise it if it is determined to be the case" Even if we have free will, one could still reason badly and not be aware of it. Don't Catholics think Orthodox Jews are reasoning badly when they reject Yeshua as the Messiah? And yet many of those Jews are unaware that they are "reasoning badly" even though they have free will, on your view. Unless you think they're all liars.

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    5. To adjudicate following or not following, correct or incorrect direction, etc. are already included in what is at issue. How does one tell what is merely a causal eventuation and what is supervisorily decided in spite of any determining factors? Ditto for that adjudication itself. I can say that we *can* do this and we *can* do that, but that just bypasses the exact same question.

      Is belief in the theory of determinism itself merely the consequence of the theory’s specified determining factors? And would the notion of truth itself then be merely the non-cognitive causal eventuation of the wider context of causal conditions and relations?

      As Moreland and Craig said in their philosophical foundations, and as Copan and Yandell said in the Moreland-Craig edited book, Naturalism:

      If my mental processes are epistemically determined, then I'm determined either to accept or to reject determinism. But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing a claim or theory is that I am causally determined to believe it, then there can be no actual reflective or deliberative reason that the claim or theory is true or false.

      If our thought life is merely the byproduct of our material make-up and external stimuli, then the decision to believe that determinism is true can’t be any more rational than having a toothache.

      And there’s no way that causally impotent mental states merely riding along on top of physical states, can confer any advantage in the struggle for survival. In fact, there’s no way anything we believe can be true, if the bodily states on which our beliefs supervene have evolved *only* under the pressure of survival---or any other specified determining factor for that matter.

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    6. "Yes, and the direction will either be correct or incorrect, just like with indeterminism."

      In-determined does not mean random. I am speaking of the possibility of correction. Determinism precludes that. In-determinsim does not.

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    7. Please don't feed the troll. This SP wannabe is banned.

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    8. "Is belief in the theory of determinism itself merely the consequence of the theory’s specified determining factors?"

      Those factors could be reasons, which could be good ones.

      "But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing a claim or theory is that I am causally determined to believe it,"

      Part of the determinism may include sound reasons for believing in determinism or anything else. You believe in determinism because you're determined to, but to say this precludes reasons as taking part in the chain of events is question-begging.

      "then there can be no actual reflective or deliberative reason that the claim or theory is true or false."

      Why not?

      "If our thought life is merely the byproduct of our material make-up and external stimuli..."

      Determinism does not depend on reductive physicalism or epiphenomalism. (I'm an idealist, but even if I were a materialist, part of that byproduct of stimuli could be sound reasoning.)

      "And there’s no way that causally impotent mental states merely riding along on top of physical states, can confer any advantage in the struggle for survival."

      One may not be interested in survival. Just because a belief is conducive to survival does not make it true. Catholicism has survived so long despite its falsehood, given its structure , sense of community, power, heavy breeding, conquest and evangelizing, motivational elements ("be good or go to Hell"), etc. It's very conducive for long-term survival (at least until now), but false nonetheless. Though nowadays, it's (finally!) losing its relevance given the Enlightenment and the rise of secularism, and the near-universal embrace of birth control (including NFP) amongst even Catholics.

      "In fact, there’s no way anything we believe can be true, if the bodily states on which our beliefs supervene have evolved *only* under the pressure of survival---or any other specified determining factor for that matter."

      I deny that survival is the main factor. "Survival" is a misnomer. No one survives; they just live longer or shorter periods of time. The motivation is comfort, not survival. It just so happens that the drive for comfort almost always results in continued existence.

      But why does that preclude truth? Even if my motivation for figuring out the truth is tied with my desire for comfort, so what? My reasoning could still be sound, and we can test the soundness through debate, re-examination, thinking--just as with indeterminism. I don't see why sprinking randomness in our mental life confers any advantage on truth.

      "In-determined does not mean random."

      If an outcome is not determined by anything, then it will partly be due to factors of chance, i.e. randomness. LFW is supposed to be different from randomness, but it reduces to randomness since there's reason for the assenting to only one desire rather than another, and you can't choose your desires or which desire takes priority (that latter one would lead to a regress, since each choice would require a choice of what desire takes priority, but then that prior choice...).

      "I am speaking of the possibility of correction. Determinism precludes that." Why does it preclude correction? Going back over the argument and re-evaluating it might be part of the determinism.

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  16. Reb, let's assume all is deterministic. The causal basis behind our reasoning from Premise 1 and Premise 2 to Conclusion 3 is either (A) deterministically correct reasoning, or (B) the correctness of the reasoning in that instance has NOTHING TO DO with the deterministic causes of the reasoning. If (B), then there is no reason to think that "I got to Conclusion 3 because the premises lead to Conclusion 3". I would have thought Conclusion 3 after thinking Premise 1 and Premise 2 regardless of whether Conclusion 3 ACTUALLY follows from them reasonably, because I was deterministically caused to think Conclusion 3 after thinking 1 and 2 regardless of how they are related to 3. Thus there would no longer be any reason to have any confidence in reasoning processes at all.

    On the other hand, if (A) is correct, then would it not be true that reasoning correctly is deterministically (i.e. necessarily) driven, and then it would be impossible to reason incorrectly? If the cause of thinking Conclusion 3 correctly is driven by necessary causes then the correctness is part of the necessity. Mistake in logical reasoning is precluded.

    Which SHOULD sound like a reductio, because the final point there is certainly absurd.

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    1. @Tony - I didn't say anyone else named Reb, so I'm guessing that's my second new nickname. (My other one is Mr. Contraception, given to me from someone else.)

      "On the other hand, if (A) is correct, then would it not be true that reasoning correctly is deterministically (i.e. necessarily) driven, and then it would be impossible to reason incorrectly? If the cause of thinking Conclusion 3 correctly is driven by necessary causes then the correctness is part of the necessity. Mistake in logical reasoning is precluded."

      True, but one can reason correctly on one deductive argument and then reason incorrectly with different arguments. I think this is the case with a lot of my fellow atheists. They reason correctly to conclude there's no free will, but then they reason quite badly when they conclude that a brain is necessary for sentience. (A brain is sufficient for sentience, but that doesn't prove it's necessary. A piano is sufficient for making music, but there's also other instruments. Similarly, there could be other "instruments" of sentience besides brains.) I lean strongly towards panpsychist idealism, given the hard problem of consciousness.

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    2. Truth is on ontological par with Non-Truth. The reductio you allude to.

      But Counter Rebel only means to claim he has thrown down his gauntlet. That does not require that he actually follows through to his own explanatory terminus.

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    3. If the UM is first cause of every act of will, then acts of will do not initiate in the creature and are not "free" with respect to the creature.

      I don't see it. Can you clarify?

      If the "correctly" is built into the necessity, then "reasoning" would always be correct. I suppose then that one might say "they aren't doing 'reasoning' when they go off the rails and make a mistake", but that's just a semantic game, because nobody can TELL THE DIFFERENCE between the acts without reference to the correctness of the logic.

      What one cannot say is that THIS instance of reasoning is correct by necessity but THAT instance of reasoning is incorrect by necessity, if the correctness is built into the very nature of the process of reasoning by necessity.

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    4. The problem is how to judge whether any instances of thinking are or are not deterministically correct reasoning.

      There's also the problem of one or more statements implying a conclusion, in the face of determining factors, not to mention the question of inferential causation of deliberated considerations about truth value.

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    5. Maybe the question is when does one get to add the true/correct label on top of a claim's already being merely the product of the specified determining factors.

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    6. @Tony

      "If the "correctly" is built into the necessity, then "reasoning" would always be correct."

      No. A person might be well-informed with regards to one issue and stupid on another issue. Think of a scientist (*cough* Dawkins) who is very good in his own field, but makes ridiculous statements about religion.

      @machinephilosophy

      "The problem is how to judge whether any instances of thinking are or are not deterministically correct reasoning."

      By examining arguments. This doesn't require randomness. You can be deterministically inclined to examine an argument to see whether it's sound or not. You can see the premises, the evidence (or lack of evidence) for them, the conclusion, etc.

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    7. As far as I can tell, Rebel here just repudiates my breakdown into cases (A) and (B). Is that it? Rebel, are you saying that there is some third option besides (A) the correctness of accepting Conclusion is from the necessary causes, or (B) the correctness of accepting the Conclusion is NOT from the necessary causes?

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  17. Willed actions of creatures are motions. An act of will is a motion.

    Either the Unmoved Mover is the first cause of every motion or the UM is not the first cause of every motion.

    If the UM is the first cause of every motion, the UM is the first cause of every act of will of a creature.

    On the other hand, if the creature's act of will initiates with/in the creature -- if the creature is the first cause of the motion of its will -- then the UM is not the first cause of the motion.

    Thus there appears to arise a dilemma.

    If the UM is first cause of every act of will, then acts of will do not initiate in the creature and are not "free" with respect to the creature.

    If the UM is not the first cause of every act of will, but rather the creature is the first cause of its own acts of will, then the First and Second Ways do not go through.

    Can a distinction be drawn that undoes the above dilemma? Since God is not in an ordo of creatures, but creatures are ordered toward God, then can we affirm without equivocation both that God/the UM is first cause of every motion AND that the creature is first cause of some of its motions?

    It seems not so, since the UM is in an ordo of movers, and all the other movers are creatures. E.g. God is in an ordine motuum as the first mover, SCG II.6.3; first in order of agents, ST 1a q. 19, art. 4; etc.

    One might posit more than one UM, but then other parts of Thomism come undone. Or, one can posit that "mover" is predicated not univocally but analogously of the UM and the creature, so that the UM and the creature can after all be first movers at the same time with respect to the same act of will. The doctrine of analogical predication then would have to bear an enormous weight. I am not sure why one is compelled to assent to it, esp. in this application.

    It seems to me, then, that the consequences for Aquinas' doctrine of God as Unmoved Mover, as first cause of every series of causes, whose "intentio" structures every order of causes ordered per se, does not harmonize readily with the demands of a doctrine that rational creatures freely will their actions.

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    1. I think the solution to the dilemma may be to distinguish between causation and determination. The said motion has God as its first cause, that is, the cause of its being and energy/potentiality, but the "direction" of the motion is self-determined by the agent. An analogy is found in QM, where a later state is entirely dependent on an earlier state of the Schrodinger equation, but state reduction itself is not uniquely determined by the prior state.

      That still leaves the problem of divine foreknowledge and predestination up in the air, but more and more I think that the solution may be to accept that our choices are genuinely free in act, such that there is a real ramification of reality (tree-like multiverse) as to potentiality, and that God predestines not by interfering with or internally determining the act, but by granting being to one of the possible universes, one of the possible sets of creaturely free choices.

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    2. Matthew, I don't see anything in Aquinas that accords the UM causal agency of the being and potentiality of rationa creatures' wills but not of their singular acts/motions of will. Do you have passages in mind?

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    3. Matthew, adding: Edward Feser in his book, Aquinas, quotes ST 1a 83.1 and Quaestiones de Malo 6. Feser distills those passages into the doctrine that God is the ultimate cause of human free choices. By "free" is meant "independently of what happens in the world around you." It does not mean "first cause of itself... God is the first cause." This is consistent with Feser's OP of the present article.

      I don't see why one should accept what seems to be a forced and restricted sense of "free" in this connexion, except in order to try to save doctrines that would be incompatible on what I think is a more standard construal of "free". But maybe it's the best one can do while affirming the Thomist system as a whole.

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    4. @ficino4ml --

      If all "free" means is "independently of what happens in the world around you," then that's compatible with both libertarianism and compatibilism. So I think it's not very helpful. If a person is free, but their actions are determined by their nature, then they still aren't responsible for them since they couldn't have done otherwise. They would have to be responsible for their nature that brought the choice, which in turn, would be based off a choice emerging from their past nature, which you can see leads to a regress. Compatibilist (or "creaturely") free will is really just determinism in disguise. If "free will" is compatible with determinism, then God is the ultimate cause of Adam eating the fruit, children starving, and Jews being thrown in gas chambers.

      The only free will that could give us morality is LIBERTARIAN free will, but this has problems too, as I've shown in other comments. But it also seems to not fit very well with God being the ultimate cause of human supposedly-free choices.

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    5. You've shown no such thing. Now go away, troll.

      Everyone, please stop feeding him!

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    6. ficino4ml,

      I am not saying God is not the First Cause of the individual acts of will, I am saying that causing the motion to occur does not necessitate determining its "direction" from within it. Instead I posit that determination by the First Cause in this case is logically external and post facto, though eternally foreknown, according to what I think Aquinas calls foreknowledge of approbation. God's sovereignty would thus operate not by determining the choices from within the system, but by choosing to actualise that system that included the persons who freely chose that which conformed to divine providence. He does not make the choices for us, he chooses which versions of the choosers to actualise.

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    7. @Anonymous --

      Yes, I have. If I have two desires and have to select one, then without a higher-order desire/reason governing the selection, the selection is made without reason, i.e. randomly.

      I'm not going away. I'm here to defend atheism in a comments section overrun by theists.

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    8. You're a troll. You comments make atheism look bad. Hopefully other posters will heed Feser's advise and stop feeding you, and others like you. And hopefully he will start deleting your comments again.

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    9. My comments explain how free will is incoherent and why God is impossible. They're not "bad." If someone deletes my comments, that will be a sign of victory for atheism, since it will further prove that libertarians refuse to answer why A chosen rather than B.

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    10. Rebel,

      Your comments merely redefine God and then argue against your redefined (non)Christian topography.

      You’re claiming that the Irreducible Ground of X cannot create and sustain X. That amounts to a blind foist ending in a reductio along the lines of, say, that because Man is not Free in the same sense as God then in fact Man is Determined.

      That is a reductio along the lines of the referent of Good and asserting that in fact Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good.

      You’ve redefined.

      Redefining the Christian metaphysic and then repeating it over and over does not make the redefinition more “Christian”.

      The reductio alluded to there unpacks along the lines of these:

      1. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521477716890&m=1#c7549848012944119511

      2. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521423322095&m=1#c1198496849158473909

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    11. @ Rebel,

      "...why A and not B was chosen..."

      "...but then infinite regress..."

      Okay. If in Man: Tell us, in that regress, does it land within the Time and Tensed? Within the Contingent? If so then the Contingent stands On-Its-Own in Midair.

      If in God: Recall in the other thread,

      "Apparently Divine Simplicity, void of Parts, has an infinite (...Time? ...Tensed?...) regress. And in 7 Days Counter Rebel is going to show us why and how that is the case." (... http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/carrier-carries-on.html?showComment=1520713400882#c2948821343992655379 ...).

      Still waiting.

      So far, with respect to the Contingent Being, you've invented a body of logical impossibilities as you hit your Full-Stop there within the Contingent being. With respect to God you foist some sort of "cloud" full of "parts" and full of "chain reactions" apparently Timed and Tensed as well.

      The ground of all such contingent rock-bottoms is that Necessary Rock Bottom (...also, in addition, it is the case that Proportionate Causality is concurrent with all such interfaces of Contingent/Necessary...).

      To grant the A.T-Meta arena "that grounding" (...and etc...) as "work-able", so to speak, when it comes to the term "Good" both in God and in the Contingent Being, but then try to hold something back when it comes to any OTHER contour of Divine Simplicity, well that just won't do.

      Why? Because that “withholding all X’s other than ‘Good’”, so to speak, breaks down into a body of premises claiming that the Irreducible Ground of X cannot create and sustain X, and, then, from there, we keep going and follow through → → as that amounts to a blind foist ending in a reductio along the lines of, say, that because Man is not Free in the same sense as God then in fact Man is *Determined*. And, then, again, we → → keep going as that is in turn a reductio along the lines of the referent of Good and asserting that in fact Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good. The problem becomes all too obvious:

      [A] [ Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good]
      [B] [ Man is ontologically void of (ontic) freedom & (ontic) options]

      But, given the Christian metaphysic and given the A.T-Meta vectors in play here, that “unpacking-from-A-to-Z”, so to speak, about “Good” ends up as a crisp logical impossibility. As with Good, so too with Any Contour of the Divine vis-à-vis the A and the Z and, also, vis-à-vis the terms Create, Sustain, Imago Dei, Proportionate Causality, Seat, Substratum, Ontic, and so on down (or up) the proverbial ontic line.

      Your Re-Defined & Non-Christian premises don't magically become more "Christian" just because you repeat them over and over in various forms. See Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 up-thread from here, beginning at 1 @ http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521563514113#c6285788121969199622

      ~~

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  18. If the UM is first cause of every act of will, then acts of will do not initiate in the creature and are not "free" with respect to the creature.

    This does not follow. If what the UM causes is "the will to move freely" then it moves freely. The nature of the free will is not that of a thing that is a first mover absolutely, for there is only one such. It is a moved mover. But what is free about it is that upon being moved (interiorly) by the UM, it can defect away from that movement and resist it. No non-free moved mover can do so.

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    1. Tony, I don't think this cuts the dilemma. Either the UM is the first cause of the motion/act of will, or it is not. I understand this argument - it's in Feser's OP. You acknowledge that the agent is moved interiorly by the UM.

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    2. The only thing the moved mover "does" which does not come from the act of the UM is NOT ACT. To defect from the good is, per se, privation of act, not act. The UM is the source of all act, creatures are only the "source" of privation. Non-being.

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    3. Tony, your position seems to entail that there are lots of events in the universe, of which the First Cause is not the first cause. The First Cause is not the first cause, say, of an eclipse? There is a whole sphere of stuff happening in causal series that DON'T have the UM/FM as their ἀρχή|principium? If you mean this, I don't see how this is not a problem. Aquinas does not present a finite god to his readership.

      As far as I can see, the commentator above who said that Aquinas really is a compatibilist seems to be right. Maybe that's the best anyone can do.

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    4. ficino, I am not sure what you are getting at. To the extent that "eclipse" is "actuality" rather than non-being, the First Mover is responsible for it. To the extent that it is non-being (e.g. "no light") then there is no "cause" that is causing it to be actual, for it is not actual.

      All "events" are caused, insofar as they are being. Sin is, ALWAYS, privation of being, and it is "caused" not by actuality, but but by a a "deficient cause", that is to say, it is "not-caused" by one who detracts from actuality. This is an equivocal sense of "to cause" the event. The UM causes the event as to its being, the deficient cause "causes" the privation.

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    5. @ Tony: I replied yesterday, but somehow the system ate my reply.

      Maybe it will help if I pose these two questions about Thomistic doctrine.

      1. Do you think that God qua Unmoved Mover is the first efficient cause of every motion? Y / N?

      2. Do you think that humans' acts of intellect and will are motions of a certain kind? Y / N [I say "of a certain kind" because obviously they are not local motions of divisible bodies, since intellect and will in Thomism do not act via any bodily organ etc.]

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  19. @aficino4ml,

    Willed actions of creatures are motions. An act of will is a motion.

    Either the Unmoved Mover is the first cause of every motion or the UM is not the first cause of every motion.


    This is a misunderstanding of the First Way and it's definition of motion which refers to divisible bodies.

    This from SCG Chapter 13.

    [10] It is to be noted, however, that Plato, who held that every mover is moved [Phaedrus], understood the name motion in a wider sense than did Aristotle. For Aristotle understood motion strictly, according as it is the act of what exists in potency inasmuch as it is such. So understood, motion belongs only to divisible bodies, as it is proved in the Physics [VI, 4]. According to Plato, however, that which moves itself is not a body. Plato understood by motion any given operation, so that to understand and to judge are a kind of motion. Aristotle likewise touches upon this manner of speaking in the De anima [III, 7]. Plato accordingly said that the first mover moves himself because he knows himself and wills or loves himself. In a way, this is not opposed to the reasons of Aristotle. There is no difference between reaching a first being that moves himself, as understood by Plato, and reaching a first being that is absolutely unmoved, as understood by Aristotle.

    So no dilemma.

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    1. The First Way, as you know, defines motion as "to bring something from potency into act." The passage you quote above concerns local motion. But that is one species of change, κίνησις. Intellect and will are moved, both in humans and in the separate substances, which have no divisible bodies; cf. SCG III.88-89. Ch. 89 argues that "the motion of [our] will," motum voluntatis, is caused by God. "It is necessasry therefore that in spiritual substances, every motion (omnis motus) of will is caused by the first will, which is the will of God," 89.6. Ch. 90 goes on to argue that "the choices and motions (electiones et motus) of the wills of intellectual substances" pertain to God's providence, 90.3; cf. same phrase, "voluntatis motus," in same context, 90.7.

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    2. The First Way, as you know, defines motion as "to bring something from potency into act." The passage you quote above concerns local motion.

      Yes, and the First Way is a demonstration of the existence of an Unmoved Mover (God) from the change/motion of divisible beings which are a mixture of act and potency.

      So your charge of a dilemma wrt UM if false unless one equivocates on the term "motion".

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    3. THAT INTELLECTUAL SUBSTANCES HAVE FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN ACTING

      SCG Chapter 48:
      [3] Also, “the free is that which is its own cause.” Hence, that which is not the cause of its own acting is not free in acting. But things that do not move nor act unless they are moved by other things are not the cause of their own acting. So, only things that move themselves act freely. And these alone act by judgment. For the thing that moves itself is divided into mover and moved; and the mover is the appetite moved by intellect, imagination, or sense, to which faculties judgment belongs. Among these things, therefore, those alone judge freely which in judging move themselves. But no judging power moves itself to judge unless it reflects on its own action; for, if it moves itself to judge, it must know its own judgment; and this only an intellect can do. Thus, irrational animals have in a certain way freedom of movement or action, but not of judgment, whereas inanimate things, which are moved only by other things, have not even free action or movement. Intellectual beings, on the other hand, enjoy freedom not only of action, but also of judgment; and this is to have free choice.

      [5] Movement and action, moreover, issue from a universal conception only through the intermediation of a particular apprehension. For movement and action have to do with particular things, whereas it is the nature of the intellect to grasp universals. Hence, for movement and action of any kind to result from the intellect’s grasp of something, the universal conception formed by it must be applied to particulars. But the universal contains many particulars potentially; so that the universal conception can be applied to many and diverse things. For this reason the judgment of the intellect concerning things to be done is not determined to one thing only. It follows, in short, that all intellectual beings have freedom of choice.

      For the intellect apprehends not only this or that good, but good itself, as common to all things. Now, the intellect, through the form apprehended, moves the will; and in all things mover and moved must be proportionate to one another. It follows that the will of an intellectual substance will not be determined by nature to anything except the good as common to all things. So it is possible for the will to be inclined toward anything whatever that is presented to it under the aspect of good, there being no natural determination to the contrary to prevent it. Therefore, all intellectual beings have a free will, resulting from the judgment of the intellect. And this means that they have freedom of choice, which is defined as the free judgment of reason.

      So all things move according to their nature. The nature of inanimate objects is to move according to the "laws if physics" making no judgement. The nature of animals is according to their nature also but again they make no judgement. It is only creatures with an intellect that make judgments and it is the making of judgments that is considered freedom of choice.

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    4. You fail to show that acts of will are not motions in Aquinas. You fail to show that "free" is not unduly restricted.

      In any case, your quotations from SCG -- which need book number as well as chapter number -- are not directly relevant to the First Way, which appears in a different work. In that work, Aquinas does not restrict the scope of the "moved" to divisible bodies.

      Your second long quotation from SCG -- which needs book number -- does not establish that God is NOT the first cause of willed actions/motions of will. What you quote is consistent at least with compatibilism.

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    5. "So, only things that move themselves act freely."

      So the will causes its own movement, which leads to a regress. If a movement of the will is moved by itself, that means a movement of the will (a "choice) is based off the movement of the will...and so forth.

      "But the universal contains many particulars potentially; so that the universal conception can be applied to many and diverse things. For this reason the judgment of the intellect concerning things to be done is not determined to one thing only. It follows, in short, that all intellectual beings have freedom of choice."

      The will acts based on the desires presented to the intellect, and the strongest desire is what moves the will. (In a deeper sense, your desire isn't based off your will; your strongest desire is your will.)

      But even if one grants that there are multiple possibilities, that doesn't mean an agent has freedom of choice. If one has multiple desires, then the choice of one over another will be made in a state of detachment from those desires. In this detached state, the choice to follow one particular desire will be based off a higher-order reason, or it will just be selected for no reason, i.e. randomly.

      "Now, the intellect, through the form apprehended, moves the will;"

      If the intellect is what moves the will, then the will is not free, since its movement is determined by the intellect. Earlier, the author wrote, "only things that move themselves act freely."

      "It follows that the will of an intellectual substance will not be determined by nature to anything except the good as common to all things."

      It will be determined to whatever the intellect apprehends as best satisfying the agent. Even if you decide to suffer for a loved one, that's because the intellect perceives that the idea of the loved one suffering is more painful than the suffering itself. But in the end, you're always acting for your own happiness.

      "Therefore, all intellectual beings have a free will, resulting from the judgment of the intellect. And this means that they have freedom of choice, which is defined as the free judgment of reason."

      So the will itself is not free, since it's moved by the intellect. In what sense is the intellect free? In order for the intellect to be free, it would have to be able to choose what to focus in on. But that requires a movement of the will (a choice), but it was already said that the will is determined by the intellect. Whence cometh freedom, then? The will chooses based on the free intellect, which chooses based on the "free" will based on the apprehension of the intellect...circle.

      "So all things move according to their nature."

      Yes. Adam ate the fruit because his will acted with a defect. He ate the fruit because he desired to eat it. One can't choose own's desires, lest that "choice" will be random or based on a prior desire, ad infinitum. So whence cometh the DEFECT? (If Adam chose to have the defect, then that choice would be random or would come from a pre-defect, which would be random or coming from a pre-pre-defect, ad infinitum.) Aquinas actually inadvertently proved that God is the cause of evil:

      "[T]he corruption of some things is reduced to God as the cause. And this regards both natural things and voluntary things."[Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 49, articles 1-3]

      "[I]t belongs to His providence to permit certain defects in particular effects, that the perfect good of the universe may not be hindered, for if all evil were prevented, much good would be absent from the universe. A lion would cease to live, if there were no slaying of animals."[Summa Theologiae > First Part > Question 22]

      "Whatever is received is received according to the nature of the recipient."

      It's not Adam's fault if he was created with a flawed nature. There is no free will. We are free from libertarianism.

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    6. @ficino4ml,

      Your argument started with the UM. The argument of the UM is the conclusion of First Way which deals with divisible bodies per the first quote I cited. You've conflated one specific argument (UM) with others in the works of Aquinas and that was what I pointed out. Much like you pointed out to me that my second set of quotes are not directly relevant to the First Way.

      The purpose of the second set of passages I quoted was merely to show how Aquinas defines "free will". The link gives the additional details I left out in my quote. It seems apt to me to actually read what he says on the subject of free will before reaching conclusions.

      Of course I am not arguing against God as a sustaining cause of all things. God is the sustaining cause of all things animate and inanimate and their natures. Their particular natures determine how they move while they exist and they move differently according to their natures. If they make judgements they have free will.

      Now it has been argued that if God sustains the existence of rational beings and everything about them, they can have no *real* free will. But certainly we observe that rational beings come into existence, remain in existence for a time and then cease to exist. So during the time they are in existence, there is *something* that keeps them in existence, whatever that *something* is.

      But if it is impossible for a being to have *real* free will if *something* keeps them in existence, then it is impossible for beings to have free will...full stop, regardless of whether that *something* is God or not. Most people think they can see the differences among rocks, Rover and Rodger (Rodger being the one that making judgements), so are those people fooling themselves?

      So it's merely a red herring to focus on classical theism in order to deny free will.

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    7. I'm not following your position about the Unmoved Mover. It sounds as though you construe the UM to be the first mover of divisible bodies only, and God to be the first mover of those plus additional things. If that's your view, then the UM is not God, since not all that is true of God (e.g. moving the will of rational creatures) will be true of the UM. But if you agree that the UM moves things in addition to divisible bodies, then we're not disagreeing.

      ??

      FWIW, as I said before, the First Way in the ST does not limit the scope of "moved" to divisible bodies.

      I also mentioned the Second Way.

      I am happy in any case to take the Ways out of my dilemma and put in doctrines. I still see a discontinuity between the doctrine that God (or UM on my construal) is the "principium" of every motion and the doctrine that the will of a rational creature is the principium of its own acts of will and their outcomes in action. And as Vincent Torley pointed out above, it seems counterintuitive that creatures should be judged and punished or rewarded for actions that, if we follow the causal trail back to its origin, originate in motions of which the UM is the unmoved mover. Aquinas' solution doesn't seem better than other attempted solutions I've read about. But I have much more to learn about the free will / determinism / moral responsibility debate, and probably cannot dive into it deeply without stopping other work.

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    8. @ficino4ml,

      I'm not following your position about the Unmoved Mover. It sounds as though you construe the UM to be the first mover of divisible bodies only, and God to be the first mover of those plus additional things.

      I merely don't understand why you don't refer to God as God. When you use the term Unmoved Mover (the conclusion of the First Way) for God it sounds like you are concerning yourself only with local motion since that is the premise for the First Way, and not the will of the mover.

      FWIW, as I said before, the First Way in the ST does not limit the scope of "moved" to divisible bodies.

      Then we will have to agree to disagree.
      The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.

      I think it's evident to our senses that things move, but not evident to our senses that things will to move.

      Now I think that part of the problem that some people have with free will is that they can only conceive of the universe being populated by inanimate objects that move only according to the "laws of physics". In that type of world (at least before quantum physics), one could imagine that they could determine all outcomes, past and present, by using math and physics.

      I still see a discontinuity between the doctrine that God (or UM on my construal) is the "principium" of every motion and the doctrine that the will of a rational creature is the principium of its own acts of will and their outcomes in action.

      But you haven't addressed what I've pointed out. It's not necessarily an argument against classical theism per se, but an argument against free will per se.

      But the other question is why should anyone accept hard determinism in the first place?

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    9. "But you haven't addressed what I've pointed out. It's not necessarily an argument against classical theism per se, but an argument against free will per se."

      Can you flesh this out? I'm not clear on the reference of "it's" in your second sentence.

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    10. Can you flesh this out? I'm not clear on the reference of "it's" in your second sentence.


      Sections 4,5 and 6 of my March 18, 2018 at 4:19 PM post.

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    11. @ bmiller: thank you for the specification.

      I'm not sure at this point precisely what we're disputing. I agree with your paragraphs 4-6 above that Aquinas has God as the sustaining cause of the existence of every creature. I agree that God is the source of the first principle of the motion in every instance of motion (though I'm not fully sure whether you think Aq holds this). And I agree that Aquinas often talks about humans' and the separated substances having free will.

      I think we part over how to specify what is the "free" component of free will. My understanding, along with what Feser says in his OP and in many of his publications, is that rational creatures' will are "free" in that they function under no violence or compulsion from outside. The willed decision of the creature is genuinely willed by the creature, not imposed from outside against some deeper level of its will. This is entailed in Feser's and the tradition's labeling of Thomas as a concurrentist about creatures' and God's acts.

      Where I think you and I may differ - though I'm not certain we do - is on the question, in Thomism, is God the first mover of human acts of will in an interior way that is congruent with the human's rational nature? I take the answer is "yes." In Thomism, God is the first cause of every human motion/act of will, in such a way that the human will is not overriden by anything: "God therefore is the first cause moving both natural and voluntary causes. And just as for natural causes, by moving them, He does not take away their acts' being natural, so by moving voluntary causes, He does not take away their actions' being voluntary, but rather, does/makes this in them: for He operates in each thing according to its properties (proprietatem)." ST 1a 83.1 ad 3. As Feser says, "If free choices were not caused by God, they couldn't exist at all" (Aquinas p. 151).

      other passages that show God as first efficient cause of "motions" of will include ST 1a2ae 6.4 ad 1, 9.6, 10.4. That God is the cause of the operations of all creatures, including every "motion of will," is laid out in SCG III.67.

      In SCG III.73, Aq goes on to argue that God's providence, by which He works out His efficient causality toward the ends that He wills, does not exclude free will. His arg for this, as I see it, boils down to deducing from the fact that God acts in things according to their natures, and rational beings can will P or ~P - thus being similar to God - they have "liberum arbitrium." To me this amounts to saying that the outcome is produced both by the creature and by God under God's providence, but that the creature's mode of willing is not constrained by anything external; it really chooses.

      Aquinas lists some costs of denying free will: we have to give up praise and blame, justice of reward and punishment, care in taking counsel.

      All this seems like compatibilism avant la lettre. And I think this form of compatibilism is incoherent, in ways that non-classical theistic forms may not be, when we try to be explicit about the locus of the first efficient cause, the "from where comes the beginning /ruling principle [ἀρχή] of the motion." And for that reason I think that the justice of eternal rewards and punishments is not sufficiently established. If "God moves the human to action not only by [lit: 'as'] putting something desirable before his senses, or by moving his body, but also by moving the will itself; because all motion, both voluntary and natural, proceeds from Him as from the first mover" (ST 1a2ae 6.1 ad 3), then I withhold assent from the proposition that the human is the first mover of his/her will and from the proposition that it is just for God to reward and punish those acts.

      So when Aquinas talks about free will, I don't see the "freedom" as unqualified.

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    12. @ficino4ml,

      This was your original proposed dilemma:

      If the UM is first cause of every act of will, then acts of will do not initiate in the creature and are not "free" with respect to the creature.

      If the UM is not the first cause of every act of will, but rather the creature is the first cause of its own acts of will, then the First and Second Ways do not go through.


      Let's forget my complaint that you prefer to use UM rather than God.

      Let's also remove God as the "cause of every act of will".

      So we have removed God, UM and the First Way from being part of the dilemma.

      Certainly humans do not cause their own existence nor their will. Neither are they solely responsible for sustaining both in being.
      There is something other than themselves that sustain them even if that something is the summation of various other things. So in one sense it could be said that every act of will is *really* due to something other than the human making a judgement. Could we say they are "free" in your sense? No, I would guess.

      If not, then for a creature to be "free", in your sense, they must be the "the first cause of its own acts of will". But certainly you don't think they can be their own first cause of their own will since they need prior conditions to perform an act of will....a brain, a body, air, etc. So it seems it is impossible for any creature to be "free" as you define the term regardless of God or Thomism. In this case, it is a red herring to focus on Thomism rather than what is really at issue, hard determinism.

      It seems to me that your definition of "free" smuggles in an assumption of hard determinism in which all things, both inanimate and animate must follow deterministic rules. Isn't apparent that animate things behave diffently than inanimate things?

      Of course there are limits on free choice also, so of course there are qualifications.

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    13. @ bmiller: I highlighted the following, so I'll just paste it and reply to yours above tomorrow. These are additional passages that are relevant:

      The will can be moved by two things: by the object; by that which inclines the will interiorly toward willing, which is either the will itself or God, as shown in ST 1a2ae 9.3 and 9.4. But God can’t be cause of sinning. ST 1a2ae 80.1 c.

      ST 1a 105.4 says that God moves the will both as final cause, as the good, and as efficient cause by inclining it: “to incline it however toward the universal good belongs to the first mover ... to move the will most of all in the second way [i.e. as efficient cause] by inclining it interiorly." He goes on in ad 1: “if it should be moved by something that gives it its proper inclination, it is not said to be forced ... Therefore in this way God, by moving the will, does not force it: because he gives it its proper inclination." Further in ad 2: “to be moved voluntarily is to be moved from itself, that is, by an intrinsic principle: but that intrinsic principle can be from another principle, extrinsic. And thus to be moved from itself is not incongruent with its being moved by another.” Then in ad 3: “if the will were moved by another in such a way that it were not moved at all from itself, the operation of the will would not be imputed to merit or demerit. But because of the fact that it is moved by another, it is not excluded that it is moved from itself, as was said ... and so as a consequence the meaning (ratio) of merit or demerit is not taken away."

      In ST 1a 106.2 c he says from the POV of efficient cause, the will can be moved only by God. “However He alone can change this inclination, [He] who conferred the power of willing on the creature..." This is repeated in 111.2 c.

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    14. @C. Rebel,

      "...but then infinite regress..."

      You're a one-melody tune. Tell us, in that regress, does it land within the Time and Tensed? Within the Contingent? If so then the Contingent stands On-Its-Own in Midair.

      What God/Religion is that again? Recall in the other thread,

      "Apparently Divine Simplicity, void of Parts, has an infinite (...Time? ...Tensed?...) regress. And in 7 Days Counter Rebel is going to show us why and how that is the case." (... http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/carrier-carries-on.html?showComment=1520713400882#c2948821343992655379 ...).

      Still waiting.

      The ground of all such contingent rock-bottoms is that Necessary Rock Bottom (...also, in addition, it is the case that Proportionate Causality is concurrent with all such interfaces of Contingent/Necessary...).

      To grant the A.T-Meta arena "that grounding" (...and etc...) as "work-able", so to speak, when it comes to the term "Good" both in God and in the Contingent Being, but then try to hold something back when it comes to any OTHER contour of Divine Simplicity, well that just won't do.

      Why? Because that “withholding all X’s other than ‘Good’”, so to speak, breaks down into a body of premises claiming that the Irreducible Ground of X cannot create and sustain X, and, then, from there, we keep going and follow through → → as that amounts to a blind foist ending in a reductio along the lines of, say, that because Man is not Free in the same sense as God then in fact Man is *Determined*. And, then, again, we → → keep going as that is in turn a reductio along the lines of the referent of Good and asserting that in fact Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good. The problem becomes all too obvious:

      [A] [ Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good]
      [B] [ Man is ontologically void of (ontic) freedom & (ontic) options]

      But, given the Christian metaphysic and given the A.T-Meta vectors in play here, that “unpacking-from-A-to-Z”, so to speak, about “Good” ends up as a crisp logical impossibility. As with Good, so too with Any Contour of the Divine vis-à-vis the A and the Z and, also, vis-à-vis the terms Create, Sustain, Imago Dei, Proportionate Causality, Seat, Substratum, Ontic, and so on down (or up) the proverbial ontic line.

      Your Re-Defined & Non-Christian premises don't magically become more "Christian" just because you repeat them over and over in various forms.

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  20. So what if there is a defect in a person? How can we determine how free it is. As the commenters mentioned under CINÁED what if someone has a moral disorder?
    How does freedom work, for a Thomist, in such a case?

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    1. Observer

      I think it all comes down to several key considerations:

      1) Self-reference errors in universals.

      2) What does it mean to reason truth-decisively about whether or not my reasoning itself is determined by necessary and sufficient causal conditions. Because if it doesn't matter and I simply go on reasoning as if I can derive authoritative conclusion about the validity, efficacy, and authority of my reasoning and the result of my reasoning with regard to whether or not it is determined, then determinism is an irrelevant and superfluous.

      3) The merely assumed truth-deciding authority status of both the criteria and the specific reasoning *for* determinism itself, which almost always gets a exemption from scrutiny in order to push through the reduction to whatever the specified determining factors are. (31 flavors).

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    2. Did you mean to comment here?
      Also, not to be overly controversial, but there has been speculation that both Trump and Hillary Clinton have issues in this regard. I suppose it is hard not to see Ben Shapiro's view of it too.

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  21. If I'm reasoning about my own reasoning possibly being determined, then I must in some sense and to some degree assume determining-factor-exempted supervisory analytic/deliberative authority in adjudicating that possibility itself, authority that is, by that process of analysis itself, independent of whatever determining factors are specified. That way, I can to make grandiose pronouncements like Churchland does, and most people won't even notice that I'm giving my own reasoning a pass.

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    1. "then I must in some sense and to some degree assume determining-factor-exempted supervisory analytic/deliberative authority in adjudicating that possibility itself"

      You have to have free will to reason. That's all you're saying. You've given no reason for that; you've just asserted it.

      The fact that reasoning is determined doesn't mean it isn't reasonable. If anything, indeterminism would be detrimental to reasoning, for in following an argument, you'd be free to just reject premises on a whim and then not follow through to the conclusion. It would be an anarchy of thought.

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    2. You’re claiming that the Irreducible Ground of X cannot create and sustain X. That amounts to a blind foist ending in a reductio along the lines of, say, that because Man is not Free in the same sense as God then in fact Man is Determined.

      That is a reductio along the lines of the referent of Good and asserting that in fact Man is ontologically void of (ontic) good.

      You’ve redefined.

      Redefining the Christian metaphysic and then repeating it over and over does not make the redefinition more “Christian”.

      The reductio alluded to there unpacks along the lines of these:

      1. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521477716890&m=1#c7549848012944119511

      2. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html?showComment=1521423322095&m=1#c1198496849158473909

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  22. Ed, I think your blog would have 10 times the number of serious commenters, and 100 times the traffic, if there were a mute button by each username.

    Just a thought that occurred to me, no idea why.

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  23. All pretty obvious. The challenging question is to harmonise God's omniscience with free will.

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