Friday, February 13, 2009

Scripture and Philosophy

Steve Hays added his thoughts to a discussion I had with Paul Manata on choice and determinism.

Steve says: Dan fails to distinguish between semantic equivocation and conceptual equivocation. Between the meaning of words and the meaning of ideas.The compatibilist/incompatibilist debate is fundamentally a debate over the concept of freedom, not the meaning of words in a dictionary.

This seems like a key issue, because it moves the debate away from exegesis to philosophy. The question is not if philosophy is permissible and useful in theology. I am not opposing all philosophy; only the practice of reading technical philosophical definitions into scripture.


Nor is the question if setting up technical definitions is normal philosophical behavior. But philosophy can be discussed in ordinary language by “tight wording” and specificity. Indeed scripture discusses philosophy in common language. To show that I have no hard feelings towards setting up special definitions in philosophical discussions, I will call the practice of exchanging “You can choose X” for “You can choose X if it’s your strongest desire” “the switcheroo” (since Steve doesn’t like the term “equivocation”).

Nor is the question if the dictionary decides theology. Steve correctly points out that the dictionary doesn’t engage in metaphysical analysis, but it does provide what would be the conclusion of such analysis by reporting common usage. The only weight I am asking the dictionary to carry is to provide the common sense meaning of the term “choose”. Steve granted that determinists make use of the switcheroo. But the dictionary doesn’t state “if it’s my strongest desire”, nor does it give Paul’s technical counter-definition. In fact, based on the dictionary’s definition (selecting between possible alternatives), we can rightly say that man never actually chooses; because the alternatives are never actually possible.

Nor is the question if common senses decides theology. Common sense tends to underestimate the devastating impact of sin, thus original sin and total depravity are ignored far more often then they should be. Steve asks why isn’t the switcheroo common sense, especially in light of the lack of empirical evidence of counterfactual choices. I reject the switcheroo as common sense, since it seems to be motivated by deterministic assumptions and it rules out some intuitive underpinnings of LFW. It may well be true that we don’t have imperial proof of libertarian freewill, but that doesn’t mean LFW isn’t intuitive. Normally we think we can choose the options we contemplate. Perhaps we are deceived and it’s an illusion, but believing so seems counter-intuitive. Further, it’s intuitive to think that ought implies can (i.e. we shouldn’t be held morally responsible for things predetermined before we were born). Since these are common sense notions, and the switcheroo rules them out, the switcheroo contradicts common sense. I didn’t provide the common sense arguments to prove LFW, only that to demonstrate that the common sense notion of choice rules out determinism. I believe we have LFW based on scripture; I take it on faith. But that’s not “common sense”, not everyone goes down that road.


Nor is the question if there is a relationship between desire and choice. I don’t reject the phrase "choosing according to our strongest desire", though I don’t use it because it’s gained a deterministic meaning. As we contemplate our options our strongest desire seems to shift. If we think about strawberry ice cream, it may become our strongest desire at that time, but the same happens when our thoughts shift to chocolate. Choice resolves indecision. So as oppose to a determinative causal relationship between desire and choice, I see a definitional one, the choice defines the strongest desire just before the choice as “just before the choice”.


Nor is the question if scripture talks about philosophy. When our Lord, using common language, taught the philosophy that “no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”, he received the common sense response: “this is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6) But while total depravity provides some practical exceptions to the common sense “ought implies can”; I don’t think we should throw it out all together. After all, inability seems to be the results of sins by the able (either Adam or our own in the case of hardening).


Nor is the question if scripture uses anthropomorphisms or accommodated language. Steve brought up the fact that Mormons and Open Theists would find my approach to scripture too philosophical, since they take some statements literally, that I take as either anthropomorphic or “accommodated language” (i.e. “the hand of God” or divine repentance). But this is not an example of using philosophy to define scriptural terms; it’s an example of using philosophy to interpret scripture. The scripture is using ordinary language to describe something extraordinary: God. Literal interpretations are closed off by other truths found in other passages.


Rather the question is “is it OK to read technical philosophical definitions into the words of scripture, or should we stick to the common sense meaning of terms?” To even ask the question is to answer it.


When I approach scripture, I typically think in terms of at least two levels: “what it says” and “interpretation”. Once I figure out what a text says, it still may be open to multiple interpretations; depending on the tightness of the wording and the specificity. Interpretation is selecting one of those meanings based on the context and truths discovered in other passages. Interpretation may make use of philosophy; especially to make distinctions and reconcile apparent discrepancies. For example, I typically use Occham’s razor to reconcile apparent discrepancies.


But while I may use philosophy at the interpretation level, I don’t use it at the “what it says” level; more to the point, I don’t use philosophy to define biblical terms. Doing so seems to leave the scripture open to almost an unlimited amount of interpretations (as opposed to just a few). This seems to deliver a deathblow to the clarity of scripture. Further, it seems like a departure from the grammatical/historical analysis of scripture and philosophy informs scripture rather than the other way around.

So to restate my argument, the common notion of choose is specific enough to rule out deterministic interpretations and the bible uses the common notion of choose.

32 comments:

bossmanham said...

It's admirable how patient you stay with those two.

bethyada said...

Of the points you make or allude to in your post, I thought 3 particularly significant.

I reject the switcheroo [switch “You can choose X” for “You can choose X if it’s your strongest desire”] as common sense, since it seems to be motivated by deterministic assumptions

Determinism seems to be so hard wired into Calvinism that they fail to see that their arguments against freewill assume determinism. Thus their "You cannot make a choice other than what is your greatest desire." This is a deterministic and anti-freewill assumption. The freewill claim is that we do not choose our greatest desire every time (our desires being is affected by our experience). Rather we weigh up those externals but still make a decision based on our will.

I don't think the debate can go far if this is not understood. The denial of this is merely assuming determinism to prove determinism.

Normally we think we can choose the options we contemplate. Perhaps we are deceived and it’s an illusion, but believing so seems counter-intuitive.

I think this is a significant argument against Calvinism. See my thoughts here.

this is not an example of using philosophy to define scriptural terms; it’s an example of using philosophy to interpret scripture.

A very astute observation. "You cannot redefine a common meaning philosophically" is reasonable. It is not an anti-philosophical statement, it is an anti-redefining words statement.

Godismyjudge said...

Hi Bossmanham,

Thank you. They debate some real trouble makers regularly, so I try to be understanding of their style.

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Hi Bethyada,

Thanks for the insight. I will check out the link.

Yes, it seemed to me there were quite a few things to clear out of the way so we could see a fairly simple point about how to define scriptural terms.

God be with you,
Dan

Robert said...

Hello Dan,

Steve Hays wrote a massive diatribe against you Dan. I have neither the time nor interest to respond to all of his points. There was however one section which I do want to respond to here. In this section Hays attacks the libertarian free will concept of being able to do otherwise and issues some unfair challenges to you. Hays creates a “straw man” then mocks it, intentionally ignoring that his creation, his straw man, is not what we libertarians believe at all.

“In fact, based on the dictionary’s definition (selecting between possible alternatives), we can rightly say that man never actually chooses; because the alternatives are never actually possible.” [Dan’s comment]

“i) Of course, this fails to draw an elementary distinction between the mental act of deliberation, and the extramental configuration of the world.”

And **what** exactly are we deliberating about when we deliberate? If only one option were available to us, and the action was necessitated and out of our control we would not bother deliberating about it and other options (e.g., we ordinarily do not deliberate about our next heart beat or other bodily functions that involve no intentionality on our part and yet operate deterministically). On the other hand, when it comes to deliberating on different alternative possibilities when performing intentional actions, we do so with the belief that we can actualize these various alternative possibilities (i.e., we deliberate whether or not we will do that alternative possibility or refrain from doing that alternative possibility, or do another alternative possibility).

Here is my terminology to help explain what the proponent of LFW means by having and making choices. A choice will involve a “binary pair”. A “binary pair” consists of two separate “poles”, with each pole representing an alternative possibility (which may be slightly different or even opposite). Example I could choose to raise my arm in order to ask a question at a lecture (one pole is the alternative possibility of raising my arm) or I could choose to refrain from raising my arm (the other pole is the alternative possibility of not raising my arm). An important point to remember about “binary pairs” is that they are **mutually exclusive** alternative possibilities (we can do one or the other, but not both SIMULTANEOUSLY). To **do** both poles of a binary pair simultaneously would be to actualize a contradiction (like both raising my arm and refraining from raising my arm at the same time).

Now most people realize that when facing a genuine choice where a binary pair is present, and they have to make the choice, they have to pick one alternative possibility and by picking that one they do not pick the other alternative possibility. When we deliberate we consider which pole of the binary pair we will choose/or actualize. Say we deliberate about two possible vacation destinations (Hawaii or Europe). In our deliberations we are thinking about these two poles of the binary pair and when we arrive at our decision we select one and simultaneously do not select the other.

“The fact that in deliberating over a course of action, I may mentally review some hypothetical alternatives doesn’t begin to prove the extramental existence of alternate possibilities—much less their availability, even if they did exist.”

He says here that when we deliberate we “mentally review some hypothetical alternatives”. That’s actually correct, when we deliberate about Hawaii or Europe as a vacation destination, both are “hypothetical alternatives”, neither is yet real in the external world, neither is yet actualized in the external world (**both** are mere alternative possibilities/hypothetical alternatives). Isn’t that precisely what we do when we deliberate: by means of our imagination we consider different “hypothetical alternatives”/alternative possibilities that we believe we could do? In fact for proponents of LFW what Hays calls “hypothetical alternatives” is what we mean by the phrase “alternative possibilities.”

Previous to our decision, all of the possibilities we think about and deliberate about (including the one that we actually end up doing) ARE **ALL** ALTERNATIVE POSSIBILITIES WITH NO ACTUALITY IN THE EXTERNAL WORLD. Now note that Hays also says that the fact we think about these hypothetical alternatives/alternative possibilities does not “begin to prove the extramental existence of alternate possibilities”. Here we might ask: what is the difference between hypothetical alternatives and alternative possibilities? Aren’t these similar ways of referring to the same reality? They may not have “extramental existence” but they are just as real as any other thoughts in our minds. Everybody has the common sense to know that just thinking about a vacation to Hawaii does not place you in Hawaii. But rational people also know that the thoughts about Hawaii as a possible destination are very real in their minds.

Now it is important to realize that when it comes to our intentional actions, they first begin as thoughts in our minds without being real in the external world. A choice about a binary pair then will occur in the mind first before it becomes actualized in the external or “extramental” world. This is important to understand and recognize because as a libertarian I believe “free will” or having and then making a choice, occurs first in the mind. Now is it less “real” because it occurs in our thinking and involves thoughts in our mind? No, unless you are going to argue that our thoughts are not real; our deliberations about alternative possibilities are not real, that our mind is not real. So if someone asked me to prove the existence of free will by means of an action in the external world, I would already know that they are leaving out this WHOLE REALITY OF HAVING AND MAKING CHOICES THAT OCCURS IN OUR MINDS AND IN OUR MINDS ALONE. I know that I deliberate, I know that I have and make choices in my mind, though I cannot show it to you outside my mind (I could talk about what I am thinking, what I am considering, what I am deliberating about, but you could never see it externally to myself, you could never see the very real thoughts that I am having in my mind).

Notice that Hays the necessitarian questions whether or not these alternative possibilities even exist: “even if they did exist.” Alternative possibilities most definitely exist initially as thoughts, because I think about them as thoughts in my mind when I deliberate. Now it is important to recognize that every actual intentional action that I end up doing, **started out as an alternative possibility in my mind** (e.g., when thinking about whether or not to raise my arm in the class, the alternative possibilities of raising my hand or refraining from raising my hand existed in my mind first before **one of them** gets actualized as an intentional action, and they both exist as hypotheticals mere alternative possibilities at first)). Now perhaps Hays would prefer to call them “hypothetical alternatives”, but I really don’t care what we call them, the important point is that we realize that in our minds previous to making a decision/choice we are considering these alternative possibilities.

“Rather, all this bears witness to is a psychological process. Our imagination.”

The fact is, thinking about and deliberating about which pole of a binary pair we will actualize, involves our imagination. Nothing wrong with that, that is just the way it is.

“ii) And, at the risk of stating the obvious, I can imagine many “possibilities” which are impossible for me to realize.”

Right, and it is important for us all to recognize that you can **also** (and do in fact do so when you do intentional actions) imagine many “possibilities” which are possible for you to realize. When we deliberate before doing an intentional action we think not about impossibilities like flying unaided to the moon or jumping a thousand feet in the air, we imagine possibilities that we really believe that we could do (like raising my arm at the lecture or choosing not to raise my arm at the lecture). It is important to note here that: just because I sometimes can imagine things I cannot ever do, does not mean that I cannot imagine things that I can do. And it is imagining things that I can do that is a crucial part of our deliberations concerning alternative possibilities.

“iii) For that matter, we often make choices on the basis of what we thought were possible outcomes which, in hindsight, turn out to be beyond our reach.”

Here Hays claims that we **often** make choices about what we thought were possible outcomes, but in reality they were out of our reach. So, since we **sometimes** do not get what we want or **sometimes** to do not reach our goals, does that mean that we NEVER EVER REACH OUR GOALS???? Does LFW no longer exist because we do not reach every single one of our goals?

“I may decide to become a med student. At the time I think I can afford med school. But due to an economic crisis after I enroll, I’m forced to drop out of med school before I graduate.

I thought that alternative was a live possibility. I was wrong.”

Doesn’t Hays know that when you make a decision that you are choosing one pole and not another pole of a binary pair? So if he chooses to become a med student, doesn’t’ that mean that in arriving at that DECISION that he must have been considering other alternative possibilities (say Lawyer, Med student, or . . .?) if a DECISION was involved? In fact even if we narrow the DECISION down to two alternative possibilities (whether to become a med student or not)? Isn’t that having and making a choice? Isn’t that considering alternative possibilities in our mind and then choosing one of them? Notice he says that **after** he enrolls, his financial situation changes. But going to med school involves MANY more decisions and thus involves having and making more choices than just deciding to be a med student/or not. Some of these decisions would include: become a med student or not? Become a med student or some other kind of student? Go to Acme school of medicine or USC? If I go to X med school then I will live **where**? Live on campus or rent a place? And let’s talk about his actual application: aren’t letters of recommendation going to be required? And isn’t he going to have to make decisions about whom he will contact to be his recommendations? And perhaps some sort of essay will be required (won’t he have to make decisions about the content and style of this essay?).

Steve makes it seem so simple, that he just “decides” to become a med student, and then since his financial situation changes he no longer has the funds available to pay for it, so he stops being a medical student and so libertarian free will is disproved!!!! Fact is, even if the financial situation changed so the funds were not there, by the time **that** occurs he has already had and made all sorts of decisions (so he’s been experiencing free will/having and making choices BEFORE the financial situation changes).

“i) Like Arminians generally, Dan has a wonderful capacity to ignore the obvious. Surely the “common man” has extensive experience in overestimating his abilities. How many middle-aged men come to the uncomfortable realization that they will have to lower their expectations. That they will be unable to achieve all the goals they set for themselves when they graduated from high school?”

Seems to me that Hays is the one who ignores the obvious: he ignores that we are almost continually confronted with having and making choices in our daily lives. Now most people have common sense and know this. But Hays wants to make fun of this common sense awareness about choices that the rest of us share. Note again he points out that people sometimes “overestimate” their abilities. Fine, the fact that we **sometimes** overestimate our abilities does not mean that we **always** overestimate our abilities (most of the time we are quite aware of our abilities and it is this awareness that we factor into our deliberations about what choices we will make). Again he brings up the really weak argument (that we sometimes do not reach our goals: the middle aged man having his mid life crisis) trying to argue against free will by this. But those middle aged men, the fact they are alive, and usually have had some sort of career, been alive for some time, weren’t they constantly having and making choices during this time **previous** to their mid life crisis, haven’t they accomplished **any** of their goals? Did they fail to achieve them all?

How does the fact we sometimes do not reach our goals PROVE WE DO NOT HAVE FREE WILL/HAVE AND MAKE CHOICES? Does Hays think that belief in LFW means that we believe a person who experiences LFW ALWAYS ACCOMPLISHES ALL OF THEIR GOALS?

“And yet, at the time they were setting these goals, they honestly thought these were realistic objectives. That’s one of the humbling aspects of real life. The rude recognition that you’ll be unable to make good on all your ambitious plans.”

Again, like a broken record, Hays points out that we do not always reach all of our goals. And again, how does this disprove the reality that we sometimes have and make choices? Does not accomplishing all of our goals prove that we never ever successfully make decisions in our minds?

“If intuition is Dan’s criterion, then LFW is false since LFW is counterintuitive. Just ask the guy who’s having his midlife crisis.”

Even if **every** male had a mid life crisis, that would not prove that we never ever experience free will as ordinarily understood.

Now it gets really interesting and we can see how Hays clearly caricatures LFW in the next words:

“iv) Let’s spend a little more time on this statement: “It may well be true that we don’t have imperial[empirical] proof of libertarian freewill, but that doesn’t mean LFW isn’t intuitive.”

His denial must be the understatement of the millennium. The way he puts it, you’d think the only deficiency in the case for LFW lies in the fact (if it is a fact) that the evidence falls just shy of apodictic proof. No Dan, that’s not the problem.

a) To begin with, it’s not a lack of compelling or overwhelming evidence, or even a lack of preponderant evidence. Rather, it’s a total lack of any evidence whatsoever for LFW. Name me just one human being who just once in his life did otherwise. Name me just one human being who just once in his life successfully accessed an alternate possibility.”

Note carefully what Hays is claiming here: not that there is lack of sufficient evidence for LFW or lack of a preponderance of evidence for LFW: “Rather, it’s a total lack of any evidence whatsoever for LFW.” Did everyone catch that, Hays claims there is ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER FOR LFW.

Hays also now brings in his intentional misrepresentation of what LFW involves. Start with: “Name me just one human being who just once in his life did otherwise.”

When we actually do an action (not just deliberate about one), the result is what I call an “actual outcome.” Now most of us are quite aware that once something happens as an event in the real world, once an actual outcome occurs, it is irreversible. There are different ways that people talk about this fact including: “you can’t un-ring the bell” (meaning if you ring a bell, you cannot take it back, make the ring not occur if it has already rung); or “you can’t change the past” (meaning that past events are actual outcomes that have already occurred and so are irreversible).
So when Hays challenges Dan to provide one example of someone just once in his life “doing otherwise”, I take that to mean that he wants Dan to provide an example of someone reversing an actual outcome THAT HAS OCCURRED, so that that actual outcome did not occur and instead substituting a different actual outcome for it instead. He is asking for Dan to un-ring the bell or present an example of this sort, in order to prove the existence of free will in the libertarian sense. Hays is engaging in an intentional misrepresentation/creating a straw man here, of the LFW view. I believe that Hays knows exactly what we mean by being able to do otherwise.

What we mean is that say the “binary pair” is raising my arm at the lecture or refraining from raising my arm at the lecture. If we have a genuine choice in regards to these two poles/these two alternative possibilities, then up until the actual outcome occurs (which will be either us raising our arm or not raising our arm) we could do either alternative possibility (though not simultaneously). We could actualize the alternative possibility of raising our arm or do otherwise and actualize the alternative possibility of not raising our arm. Either alternative is a viable option, an open possibility, neither is necessitated, either one is a possible candidate to be the actual outcome, up until we choose one (actualize one possibility) to be the actual outcome while excluding or rejecting the other. And note especially that both of these possibilities are “alternative possibilities” (which ever way we end up choosing, whichever possibility is actualized, the one that becomes the actual outcome was first an alternative possibility).

So if by doing otherwise Hays means that we can do otherwise than we actually do, that is not possible. The ability to do otherwise exists with regards to alternative possibilities that are present before one of them becomes the actual outcome.

Look at Hays next challenge to Dan: “Name me just one human being who just once in his life successfully accessed an alternate possibility.” Note what Hays is implying here: that no one has ever “successfully accessed an alternative possibility”. Now if we understand what the libertarian is claiming about alternative possibilities (that a choice is a selection from among multiple alternative possibilities that you consider in your deliberations; that **the possibility** that ends up becoming the actual outcome ***was itself an alternative possibility*** prior to its being chosen), then we can see that WE ACCESS ALTERNATIVE POSSIBILITIES EVERY TIME WE HAVE AND THEN MAKE A CHOICE.

Contrary to Hays, if he properly understood what proponents of LFW mean by “alternative possibilities” then he would know and understand that we have all experienced and accessed alternative possibilities EVERY TIME WE HAD AND THEN MADE A CHOICE in our minds. Apparently Hays is operating from his own idiosyncratic and intentionally constructed misrepresentation of what libertarians mean by the concept of “alternative possibilities” as meaning that we CAN DO OTHERWISE THAN WE ACTUALLY DO (or using my terminology: we can both do an action that becomes an actual outcome while either simultaneously doing a different pole of the binary pair, or turning back the clock and then replacing one actual outcome with a different actual outcome).

Anybody see the problem here? Does libertarian free will mean that we are able to actualize contradictions? Does it mean that I can both raise my arm and not raise the same arm at the same time at the same lecture? Or does it mean that I could at first raise my arm at the lecture and then freeze time to ensure no more subsequent events occur, exit the present time frame, and then go back in time via a time machine contraption of some sort thus “turning back the clock”, re-enter time before the choice is made, and then refrain from lifting up my arm at that lecture? Of course if LFW means having **these** abilities, this kind of control over reality and time, then it would be absurd, then it would be impossible, then it would be something that none of us has ever experienced, then it would be a phenomena for which we have no evidence for whatsoever. Apparently, Steve Hays has been reading **too much science fiction** in his spare time in his demanding libertarians to freeze time, exit the present time frame, and then go back in time, and then re-enter time and then substitute one actual outcome for another, in order to prove the existence of libertarian free will to **his satisfaction**.

But again, that is not what we mean by “being able to do otherwise”. What we mean is so simple and so universally experienced that it is deceitful on Hays’ part to intentionally construct a false representation/STRAW MAN of what it means to “do otherwise” according to libertarians (we mean and I am quite confident that most people fully and easily understand this: prior to the actual outcome which will be one but not the other of two poles of a binary pair, we could actualize either pole if we have a choice and then make a choice). At Baskin Robbins, before the actual outcome of me picking one flavor, say vanilla, occurs, I could pick other flavors besides vanilla. These alternative possibilities are possibilities that I could actualize, if I choose to do so. I have access to each of these alternative possibilities up until the choice is made and one of them becomes the actual outcome.

“To my knowledge, there’s not a single instance of a single human being at any time in his life doing otherwise. Not for all the human beings who ever lived. Billions and billions of “free” agents (in the libertarian sense). Yet you can’t cough up even one example.”

Now with increased rhetorical flair, Hays now multiplies the impossibility of ever “doing otherwise” (according to his straw man concoction of what doing otherwise means to a libertarian). And he is right, in the experience of billions of us, we never have, none of us ever has experienced **doing otherwise than we actually do”/actualizing both poles of a binary pair simultaneously/actualizing a contradiction/going back and reversing an actual outcome and substituting another actual outcome for it (i.e. having the power and control over reality to the extent that we can change past history any time that we want to and we can substitute actual outcomes which we prefer for actual outcomes that are already a part of past history.

Now on the other hand, billions of human persons (including Hays and every professing necessatarian) have made decisions in their minds, deliberated between two different poles of a binary pair and then selected one while not choosing the other (i.e., had the experience of HAVING AND MAKING CHOICES in their own personal experience). Freedom of the will in the libertarian sense is an extremely simple concept to understand, children understand the concept of having a choice between alternative possibilities/that are viable alternatives up until the point where one of them becomes the actual outcome/ of making a choice from among these alternative possibilities.

My four year old “gets it” that when we go to the store and she asks for something and we give her a choice between say two different things (two different alternative possibilities) that we believe and she believes that she can do otherwise (i.e., she can pick one thing or pick the other thing, she can make either choice because both alternatives are live options are real possibilities for her to choose up until the point where one is chosen and the other is not chosen). She even understands that when we say: “choose one of them” (the “them” are two alternative possibilities, either one of which she can access in her mind and deliberate about) and that we mean she has to pick only one while not picking the other (though she can pick either one before the actual outcome occurs of her making her choice of one rather than another). Now my four year old “gets it”, as do billions of other people throughout human history: but apparently Hays the necessitarian just does not get it. Actually, I believe he gets it, he understands it perfectly well, but in order to attack the truth which he is in such vehement denial of, in his obsession to maintain his necessitarian beliefs, he has to first intentionally misrepresent it and then mock his own misrepresentation of it, as if **that** is going to make the truth go away.

“b) But, hey, let’s waive the past. Dan, why don’t you perform a simple experiment for us? If you say you can do otherwise, then do it! What could be more direct? What could be more convincing?”

Hays continues his “challenge” of the reality that we sometimes have and make choices. Now he wants “a simple experiment”, some sort of visible demonstration that will satisfy him and his insincere skepticism of LFW. If we go by his misrepresentation of what it means to do otherwise, then no human person has experienced it and no human person can demonstrate it and there is no evidence for it (as far as we know our universe is one where time is unidimensional, unstoppable, and irreversible, perhaps it is different with God we can’t speak for Him on this or perhaps it is different in some other universe or possible world: for us at least the “arrow of time” does not stand still, moves forward and we cannot stop it, freeze it, and get “do-overs” when it comes to actual outcomes). But that is not what we mean by LFW and doing otherwise.

Here is “a simple experiment” for Steve Hays to participate in to demonstrate the reality of free will as ordinarily understood: let’s have him take a notebook and pen or pencil (whatever he chooses is his choice, Oops we’ve already given away the experiment! :-)) and record his thoughts for just one full day. And here is specifically the data that we are looking for: we want him to record and document if he **ever** during this day experiences having and making a decision in his mind? Do you think he would have any data of his own experience of HAVING AND MAKING CHOICES? I would say that he would constantly have choices being put right in his face (e.g., should I sit down to record these thoughts or stand up? Should I record these thoughts and experiences with words or drawings? Should I go to the bathroom now or in five minutes? Should I write this post or this other post on my computer? And on and on and on). In fact I would invite any one who doubts the reality of us having and making choices, to do this same “experiment.” Just this one experiment alone would add billions and billions of pieces of evidence for LFW/that we sometimes have and make choices, to the already existing billions and billions of pieces of data that folks have already experienced. If someone told me that he believed he never had any thoughts and did not have a mind, that there was no evidence whatsoever that he had thoughts or a mind, I would consider his view, his arguments to be on the same level of Hays’ denial that we never ever have and then make choices. The truth about this is inescapable because we all live in the same reality that God has made, one in which we all have minds, thoughts, and we all have and make choices.

“To use your example, why don’t you go to your local Baskin-Robbins. Take some eyewitnesses along with you. They can bring camcorders.

Then demonstrate your freedom to do otherwise. First you can choose the strawberry ice cream cone. Then let us see the same moment repeat itself, but this time we will see a chocolate ice cream cone in your hand where the strawberry cone had been.”

Here it is again, a demand for a demonstration to “do otherwise” at the ice cream parlor. Again he intentionally misrepresents the LFW view. If I choose the strawberry ice cream cone, isn’t that me actualizing an actual outcome? As such isn’t that actual outcome then irreversible? Hays then wants to “see the same moment repeat itself.” And how are we going to do that? Run our time machine so that we can reverse an irreversible actual outcome so that we can change the past and satisfy Hays? Hasn’t Hays learned in his fifty years of life that we can’t redo the past, we can’t “play back the tape”, we can’t have a do-over when it comes to actual outcomes? Hays is claiming that we would need some sort of time machine or method to play back the tape so that now we could replace the ACTUAL OUTCOME of me choosing the strawberry ice cream cone with me choosing the chocolate ice cream cone instead! [actually there is just one other small problem with Hays demand: if we could freeze time, go back in time, substitute one actual outcome of having a strawberry ice cream cone in our hand with another actual outcome of having a chocolate ice cream cone in our hand, other witnesses would not see all of this, they would only see me with a chocolate ice cream cone in my hand, how would they ever know that I had switched the events/the actual outcomes, presumably if we played back our history and made it different then their history would be different and matching our rearranged history as well] Do proponents of LFW really have access to time machines? Do we **need** access to time machines in order to **prove** that we sometimes have and make choices?

This reminds me of the skeptic of miracles the philosopher Hume claiming that extraordinary events such as miracles require more and extraordinary evidence. I don’t need a time machine to demonstrate that we sometimes have and make choices, having and making choices is not a miracle, it is something that four year olds understand and experience. Why not simply consider our daily experience of having and making choices? LFW is not a miraculous ability, in fact it is quite ordinary and mundane, which is why most people with common sense don’t even bother arguing about the existence of free will (they just keep confronting situations where they have and then make choices in their daily lives). Now if doing otherwise means the ability to actualize one actual outcome and then going back and geting a re-do and replace the first actual outcome with another actual outcome, now that would be miraculous and that would require some incredible evidence.

Hays spoke about taking some eyewitnesses to the ice cream parlor. Yeh, let’s do that and give them all note pads and pens and ask them to do the “Steve Hays experiment” of simply recording every time they experience having and then making a choice in their minds (and let’s limit it to just while they are at the ice cream parlor). If they went through with the experiment, would any of them give us any evidence that they had and made a choice while in the ice cream parlor?(things like even choosing whether or not they wanted to take part in the experiment? Whether they themselves had and made a choice about ice cream in the store?).

“That would at least furnish some prima facie evidence for your contention. If you can pull that off, we might ask you to repeat this feat under laboratory conditions.”

Using the notepad could we do this experiment of recording experiences on paper of having and making choices in our minds, “under laboratory conditions.”?

“Who needs to argue for LWF when you can show me how it’s done?”
Actually my four year old could show Steve “how it’s done”. We could present her with a choice and then ask her to tell us what she is thinking about, why she would choose one option and why she would choose the other option, ask her if both options are available (she would probably say: “if Mommy and Daddy say that I could choose one of them, and it is my choice, then I could choose either of them by telling them what I want”). Actually I don’t even need my four year old, Steve knows exactly how this works as he has directly experienced having and making choices in his mind many, many times. I bet he could even describe his deliberations, he could easily tell us “how it’s done.”

“c) So, Dan, are you able to do that? You appeal to intuition. Well, it would be very counterintuitive to have an ability you’re unable to exercise. To say you can do something you can’t do.

Suppose a guru tells me that he can levitate. What’s the best way of proving to me that he can levitate? By levitating.

But for some strange reason, he does everything except levitate to prove to me that he can levitate. He assures me that he can levitate. He appeals to intuition. He appeals to common sense. He even comes of with an a priori argument for his power to levitate.

Now, maybe I’m too cynical in my old age, but I’d begin to suspect that the guru is bluffing. Stalling for time.”

I get it, the guru should prove that he can levitate by levitating in front of Hays. But if one of us described a choice that we have, that we are facing and why we choose as we did, why we actualized one alternative possibility rather than another, Hays would simply say that we are lying, that we are under the illusion (or delusion) that we have and make choices. Hays would simply deny our experience and make fun of it and intentionally misrepresent it.

What is really sad is that Hays himself has had the same experience that we have had on innumerable occasions but in order to maintain his necessatarian beliefs, he will deny his own personal reality as well as the personal reality of billions of people.

Hays like any skeptic would simply reinterpret any evidence for the reality of free will in a way that satisfies himself. Staying with the levitation analogy, with regard to having and making choices its as if we all have “levitated: and Hays himself has “levitated” but he would deny it all and argue against even the possibility of something he has experienced innumerable times.

If someone is skeptical like this then the words of Thomas Reid apply: “I know no proof that can be given him: “he must be left to himself, either as a man that is lunatic, or as one who denies first principles, and is not to be reasoned with.”

“d) I hope you’re not going to tell me that it’s impossible to repeat the same moment in time, for if you really have LWF, then the structure of time ought to accommodate your counterfactual freedom. Isn’t that a presupposition of LWF? That the external world corresponds to your intuitions?”

It ****is**** impossible to repeat the same moment in time, you can’t un-ring the bell, you can’t take back or reverse an actual outcome. The structure of time **does** accommodate our conception of free will( because we believe that we can do otherwise up until the actual outcome occurs, up until the time one alternative possibility is actualized while others are not actualized; LFW exists before the actual outcome occurs). The internal mental world does correspond with our intuitions. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, free will exists in the mind (where alternative possibilities are considered and then actualized as decisions). And after they are actualized as decisions we then have to choose whether or not to carry out the action in the external world. God designed us to be capable of making decisions in our minds, of being able to consider alternative possibilities in our minds and then actualizing those alternative possibilities as choices and doing our own intentional actions. Some choices occur only in the mind and are invisible but nevertheless real, while some choices involve actions that involve our bodies occur in the external world and are visible to others.

“So, Dan, if you really do have the power to access alternate possibilities, then that ought to include access to alternate timelines. That’s what these alternate possibilities amount to, is it not? The power to actualize different possible-world segments?”

My four year old has the power to access alternative possibilities in her mind, if she can do it, I have no doubt that Dan can do it too. In fact I even believe Steve Hays could (and has) done it. What are “alternate timelines”? Hays says that that is what alternate possibilities “amount to”. So now according to Steve if we have access to alternative possibilities in our minds that is the same as having access to “alternative timelines”. Now my four year old has access to alternative possibilities in her mind when she deliberates between viable options. I am not sure she has access to, or considers “alternative timelines” in her mind though. We have been teaching her about having and making choices for good reasons (we haven’t taught her about “alternative timelines” do we need to do so in order to be good parents?).

And that line about having the power to actualize “different possible world segments.” That sounds pretty amazing. Is that what we are doing when we have a choice (say of raising our hand or not raising our hand at the lecture) and then we make the choice of either raising our hand or not raising our hand? I read one necessatarian claim that when we make a choice, if we do so freely (meaning we actualize one reality rather than another) then we are creating or actualizing **a whole world**. That is way too exaggerated. God may actualize an entire world, we only actualize some events in an already existing world.

“Please don’t tell me that the actual world constrains your freedom to do otherwise. For the actual world is limited to the past and present. According to you, there is no actual future. The future lies in the realm of the possible. Many different possibilities. And it’s your freedom of choice that actualizes a possibility.”

The actual world does in fact place constraints on us at times (if someone hits Hays over the head with a hammer, he probably won’t be thinking very clearly about free will and alternative possibilities after the blow that comes from the actual world). LFW does not mean that there are no limitations upon our range of choices or upon our process of choosing (if that infamous guy with the gun puts the gun to Hays’ head and threatens to blow his head off, could that put just a wee bit of constraint upon Hays?).

Actually the alternative possibilities only exist in the mind and in the present, before the actual outcomes occur. The past consists of the set of actual outcomes that have already occurred; the future consists of the set of actual outcomes that have yet to occur. The only place where we experience alternative possibilities, where we experience free will, is in the present in our minds when we have choices and then make decisions.

Steve finally gets close to saying something right when he writes: “And it’s your freedom of choice that actualizes a possibility.” That is close because it is **us**, our soul, the person, the individual, that actualizes an alternative possibility by making a choice (a choice is the actualizing of a possibility, taking an alternative possibility and making it an actual outcome/an actual event. When I choose to raise my arm in the class, I actualize a possibility. Prior to my raising my arm it was just an alternative possibility that I was considering in my mind. Then when I make the decision to raise my arm and then raise my arm, I actualize a possibility. And the same goes if my decision was to not raise my arm, is this not also the actualization of a possibility which was just a possibility in my mind first and then became an actual outcome later (note a choice can also sometimes be the refraining from doing an action that we could do if we chose to do so: this is sometimes important when dealing with situations where someone should have refrained from doing something and yet they chose to go ahead and do it).

“So, Dan, access the strawberry scenario, then access the alternate (chocolate) scenario. Repeat the same timeframe, but alternate the outcome. Alternate between one possible outcome and another.”

Instead of Dan using his nonexistent control over time and reality and an imaginary time machine, why doesn’t Steve just get an actual notepad and show us by means of it that he never has and makes choices in his mind.

“After all, that’s what LWF is all about, right? The ability to do otherwise under identical circumstances.”

If you mean by doing otherwise, that we can actualize different alternative possibilities before the actual outcome occurs, then Yes. If you mean that we can both raise our arm and keep our arm down simultaneously then No. If you mean using a time machine to play back the tape and get a do-over and replace an actual outcome that has already occurred (an actual outcome from the past) and replace it with a different actual outcome, then No. If you mean that my four year old can choose in her mind, the Batman treats or the Spider man treats, but not both, and that she both has a choice and then makes a choice, then Yes.

It’s unfortunate that Steve Hays so hates the truth that he has to caricature it and mock it, believing that misrepresenting it will make it go away. But mocking the truth will not make it go away, and Hays like all of the rest of us, is confronted with situations where he both has and makes choices, daily. In fact he cannot escape the reality of having and making choices. Perhaps that is why Sartre the most famous philosopher in the twentieth century once wrote that “man is condemned to be free.” God designed us to experience free will in the libertarian sense, and if someone opposes God’s design they will totally fail in trying to overcome His purpose with regards to free will (us being able to sometimes have and make our own choices). Someone like this will be just as persuasive as the guy who is trying to convince me that he never has thoughts and does not have a mind. The problem with the skeptic is this: the reality is that we all have minds and thoughts and we all sometimes have and make choices by using our minds and thoughts to do so.

Robert

The Seeking Disciple said...

Congrats on making Triablogue again. I hope you make it more often.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Robert,

Rather, it’s a total lack of any evidence whatsoever for LFW. Name me just one human being who just once in his life did otherwise. Name me just one human being who just once in his life successfully accessed an alternate possibility.

Makers of nonsensical claims demand nonsensical evidence. Nevertheless, an example actually is provided from scripture. Hays claims,

...I may mentally review some hypothetical alternatives doesn’t begin to prove the extramental existence of alternate possibilities-much less their availability, even if they did exist.

The prophet Elisha, speaking under the inspiration of God gave a word to king Joash shortly before his [Elisha's] death,

And he said, "Open the east window"; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot"; and he shot. And he said, "The arrow of the LORD's deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them." Then he said, "Take the arrows"; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground"; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, "You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times." (2 Kings 13:17-19)

The prophet of God himself presented an alternate possibility that was extra-mental, for the possibility (the 'could have been,' if you will) that Elisha proposed encompassed not only the human mind, but what God would have done in aiding them to destroy their enemy altogether, which was contingent upon the king's action. Now if more than one possibility does 'exist' extra-mentally, then both possibilities are mutually 'alternate' possibilities to each other; so the king's choice was one of at least two alternate possibilities.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Dan,

I've also got to hand it to you after reading Robert's comments, if you've got Hays so cornered that he's now resorted to stamping his feet and demanding that you demonstrate time travel/a recursive time-line/mutually exclusive events, I'd say you've driven him even more over the edge than I have. Your patience with these guys is truly inspiring. My hats off to you.

Robert said...

Hi JC,

“Makers of nonsensical claims demand nonsensical evidence. Nevertheless, an example actually is provided from scripture. Hays claims,”

My problem with Hays’ demands is that they are based upon an intentionally false representation of what we believe when we speak about “alternative possibilities.” We mean that when deliberating between different possibilities (each of which we have access to and can actualize if we choose to do so) each of these possibilities is an alternative possibility up until the point when we make the choice between them and so one is changed from a possibility into an actuality (while the other becomes an un-actualized possibility). Hays knows we believe this and yet intentionally misrepresents us anyway and then ends up making these extravagant and ridiculous demands to prove we can do what he misrepresents us as believing, so that we can satisfy his skepticism (like intentionally misrepresenting Joe’s beliefs, saying that: “Joe thinks he can fly like a bird by merely flapping his arms” [when in reality he has no such belief] and then demanding that Joe fly by flapping his arms so that you can see an example of Joe flying!).

“...I may mentally review some hypothetical alternatives doesn’t begin to prove the extramental existence of alternate possibilities-much less their availability, even if they did exist.”

Prior to being actualized, prior to becoming an actual outcome, these alternative possibilities are just thoughts in our minds about how things could go (or using Hays’ language they are “hypothetical possibilities”).

“The prophet Elisha, speaking under the inspiration of God gave a word to king Joash shortly before his [Elisha's] death,

And he said, . . . . But now you will strike Syria only three times." (2 Kings 13:17-19)

The prophet of God himself presented an alternate possibility that was extra-mental, for the possibility (the 'could have been,' if you will) that Elisha proposed encompassed not only the human mind, but what God would have done in aiding them to destroy their enemy altogether, which was contingent upon the king's action.”

Actually JC I believe that what this bible passage speaks of is *****more than**** just an alternative POSSIBILITY in someone’s mind which they could choose to actualize or could also choose not to actualize (as you say yourself it “encompassed not only the human mind, but what God would have done . . .”). Rather, it is speaking of an “alternative REALITY”. The prophet reveals a different way that reality could have gone, and this reality includes people’s actions as well as God’s action in this alternative reality.

The text says that the King **in fact** struck the ground THREE TIMES (so the actual outcome, the action performed by the King was to strike the ground THREE TIMES resulting in a partial destruction of Syria). Anyone standing there would have seen him hit the ground THREE TIMES. The prophet does not reveal what alternative possibilities the King was considering in his mind before he struck the ground THREE TIMES (one alternative possibility in his mind could have been to not strike the ground at all, another alternative possibility in his mind could have been to strike the ground TWO TIMES, etc. etc. whatever he thought about as an alternative possibility that he could do would have been an alternative possibility in his mind). But **that** is not what the prophet revealed. What the prophet revealed is **what reality would have looked like** had he NOT STOPPED STRIKING THE GROUND THREE TIMES, but kept going and struck the ground “five or six times.” If he had done that, then a different reality would have transpired (with Syria being completely destroyed).

Let’s take my standard example of being at a lecture and thinking about whether or not you should raise your arm to ask the professor a question, to illustrate what the prophet did. To keep it simple say there are only two alternative possibilities that you are considering in your mind (in one alternative possibility, you imagine yourself raising your arm to ask the question about X, call this AP #1: in the other alternative possibility, you imagine yourself NOT raising your arm to ask the question about X, call this AP #2). Now you are going to make a choice of one of these alternative possibilities in your mind, which you are then going to actualize in external reality (in the class). Neither of these alternative possibilities is an actual outcome while still being considered in your mind (they are real thoughts, but they are not actual outcomes until they are actualized by means of a choice). Now say that you indeed decide to NOT ask the question during the class (that would mean you NOT asking the question, what was AP #2 would be an actual outcome, an actual reality in the external world, others in the class including the professor would not see you raise your hand since you decided not to do so). Now say that instead of deciding not to ask the question during the class you decide to ask the question during class (that would mean you are asking the question, what was AP #1 would be an actual outcome, an actual reality in the external world, others in the class including the professor would see you raise your hand). Now let’s say that in fact you **did not** raise your hand in the class (i.e. AP #2 is the actual outcome), say that is what actually happened.

Now it seems to me that the prophet is revealing two different scenes to the King (it would be like the prophet revealing to you what would transpire if you **had** raised your hand in class, when in actual history you had not raised your hand; in other words the prophet is revealing what would have occurred had the King acted differently, he stopped, but what if he had not stopped, what would have happened then? Or in your case in reality you did not raise your hand in class, but what if you had chosen to do so, what if you had raised your hand in class, then what would reality look like then, what would have transpired?

So the prophet is not revealing “alternative possibilities” to the King, he is revealing ALTERNATIVE REALITIES. If he were revealing merely the “alternative realities” he would have revealed what the King was thinking about in his mind, before he struck the ground THREE TIMES. The prophet is revealing the alternative reality that would have occurred had the King not stopped striking the ground THREE TIMES, but instead had struck the ground “five or six times” instead. If he had **done that** then the ensuing reality would have been different.

It should be noted that this story clearly shows that not all events are necessitated. If they are all necessitated then the King could not have done differently than to strike the ground THREE TIMES, he could not have kept striking the ground after three strikes of the ground (the prophet actually chides him saying “you should have . . . five or six times” which makes no sense if his action were necessitated and so it was impossible for him to have chosen to do differently then he chose to do). He could have chosen to strike the ground THREE TIMES or he could have chosen to strike the ground FIVE OR SIX TIMES (either possibility was open to him, before he chose to strike the ground THREE TIMES, once he decided to strike the ground THREE TIMES and did so, the striking of the ground THREE TIMES became the actual outcome rather than him striking the ground FIVE OR SIX TIMES.

The story also shows that God not only knows actual history (what occurs) but also what could occur if different choices had been made. This gets to God’s capacity for having what Molinists call “middle knowledge”. The bible in some places reveals that God has this capacity, that He knows not only what is happening, what is going to happen, but also what would have happened if different choices had been made (a famous example is when Jesus says if certain miracles had been done in certain towns, they would have reacted differently then they in fact did: the David story at Keilah is another example).

Instances of “middle knowledge” show that God knows both all actualities as well as all possibilities and that everything is not necessitated (God knows what you will choose to do, as well as what would happen if you had chosen differently).

Robert

J.C. Thibodaux said...

So the prophet is not revealing "alternative possibilities" to the King, he is revealing ALTERNATIVE REALITIES.

Right, that's the point I was trying to get across, that the scenario Elisha described was more than a strictly intramental possibility, but was what truly would have occurred. I'm sure Hays would then switch tactics and argue that such an alternate possibility doesn't actually 'exist,' since you can't see/touch/taste it, but since the possibility spoken of involved a truly alternative action that would have performed by God as well (as testified by His prophet), it does in fact 'exist' in the sense that it was an unfulfilled real-world possibility.

The story also shows that God not only knows actual history (what occurs) but also what could occur if different choices had been made. This gets to God’s capacity for having what Molinists call "middle knowledge".

That's what my atemporal model of God's foreknowledge more or less amounted to: God's complete perception of all factors of self-determination allows Him to unerringly 'calculate' the actual choices in any given scenario.

Magnus said...

No idea if I incurred a lifetime ban or just a temporary ban from comments on your blog. So if I am still banned from commenting you can just delete this.

As for this story and LFW, it seems that LFW would need to prove that the king could go back and all things being exactly the same he would instead strike 5-6 times. It seems that this actually disproves LFW, in this way, the LFW view holds that all things being the exact same a different outcome would come about. Yet this story clearly shows that in order for there to be a different outcome something different had to occur.

It still seems that you conflate choice with LFW. The question is not choices; the question is the action theory behind those choices.

The bible is clear that different outcomes could have come about IF something were different. Yet the LFW action theory states that nothing has to be different and yet there still be a different outcome. Nonsense is what it really is, but that is just by 2 cents:)

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Magnus,

The point was pertaining to extra-mental alternate possibilities, the fact that there clearly was one (contra Hays' claims) does imply libertarian free will.

...the LFW view holds that all things being the exact same a different outcome would come about.

That's incorrect. LFW holds that a different outcome could come about, and hence a different decision could have been made, which is exactly what Elisha indicated.

The bible is clear that different outcomes could have come about IF something were different. Yet the LFW action theory states that nothing has to be different and yet there still be a different outcome.

Again incorrect, LFW states that there can be different outcomes contingent upon different choices made by libertarian agents, which is exactly what the passage in question indicates.

Magnus said...

J.C.

The LFW that I have in mind says that all things being equal and nothing is changed the outcome can be different. In this case it would say that if the king could go back and everything was the same, the exact same, then instead of striking just 3 times he would strike 5-6 times.

Now this may not be how you define LFW, but from my experience that is the usual way that LFW people use it.


As for the last part of your comment, I have no problem with it. I agree a different outcome could come about IF different choices were made. Again though, LFW action theory would say that all things being equal/same a different outcome can come about. This is of course nonsense and un-biblical.

Magnus said...

To me it looks like this, if the king had made a different decision then the outcome would be different. I think we agree on that.

Now if we played this scene over and over the outcome would still be the same because the king would always make the choice he did, UNLESS something different happened. Perhaps the king would have more information or maybe be in a different mood or think of something he didn’t before or or or… the point though is if you want a different outcome then something would have to change. This is why LFW action theory is nonsense and why the bible runs counter it.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Magnus,

Again though, LFW action theory would say that all things being equal/same a different outcome can come about. This is of course nonsense and un-biblical.

...

The LFW that I have in mind says that all things being equal and nothing is changed the outcome can be different.

Contingent upon self-determination, the outcome can be different, otherwise there would have been no possible alternative.


Now if we played this scene over and over the outcome would still be the same because the king would always make the choice he did, UNLESS something different happened. Perhaps the king would have more information or maybe be in a different mood or think of something he didn’t before or or or… the point though is if you want a different outcome then something would have to change. This is why LFW action theory is nonsense and why the bible runs counter it.

Such quaint objections are rather easily dispatched. If one was placed in the same scenario again with the magic ctrl-Z button hit and all changes undone, I believe they would make the same decision, though still contingent upon self-determination, which translates into libertarian free will since the choice is their own and not impelled by externals. I'd also be interested to know what you believe God's decision to help Israel with only 3 victories rather than more was based upon.

Concerning your repeated assertion that LFW is 'unbiblical,' I'm afraid you have it backwards. Elisha's prophetic word merely demonstrated yet another flub in Hays' logic. The Necessitarian view goes diametrically against the word of God regarding our being provided a way of escape from sin.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

If all that we do is necessitated by God, and could not be otherwise, then every point at which a saint yields to temptation was also necessitated. It cannot be truthfully said that God provides a way of escape from every temptation if He has rigged it so that every fall to it that we experience is absolutely necessary. If we cannot do otherwise, then there truly never was way which we could have endured through such circumstances, and hence we would be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, making Necessitarian philosophy plainly contradictory to scripture.

Magnus said...

J.C.

Perhaps it is a quaint little objection, but it is true. Now I agree with you that the person made the choice and in no way say that God did it. I agree that the choice was internal, that is why the tree must be made good if you want good fruit.

I would wager though that your admission that they would make the same decision runs counter many LFW'ers, glad that we agree on this though.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Magnus,

...that they would make the same decision runs counter many LFW'ers...

And the fact that I don't believe it was necessitated runs counter to a great many more exhaustive determinists.

But if our choices are internal and not impelled by externals, would you then say that our choices are not predetermined for us?

Magnus said...

Our choices are not predetermined for us.

Now i know that God knows what i will do tomorrow and I am certain to do it, but God did not make me do it.

Odeliya said...

Excellent points, Robert!

That fogginess, vagueness of the answers of dear Calv brethren is strange and surely makes my debates with them difficult. Just recently, a C fellow on a forum mentioned the term "freely", saying that he agrees that we can make some choices freely. When i asked to elaborate on the meaninig of it in the light of C view , such as -what necessitates the choice, and how that coexist with his view that everything is predetermined by God, he wasnt able to provide a coherent answer.
***
I also checked your site, Mr. JC and its very good. Appreciate the thoughts and other interesting things.

Blessings,
Odeliya

Godismyjudge said...

Thanks Roy!

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Your patience with these guys is truly inspiring.

Thanks JC. I have a one year old and a two year old, so this is nothing... :-)

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

No idea if I incurred a lifetime ban or just a temporary ban from comments on your blog.

Welcome back Magnus. Please do follow rules for leaving comments.

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. Yes, I think Steve misrepresented LFW. But interestingly, I wonder if he either thinks God travels in time or does not have LFW.

One minor quibble. I do think of think of alternatives as real, not hypothetical. Steve is saying "you can choose X, if you want to", but actually you can't choose X, because you don't want to. The ability, alternative and possibility are hypothetical and not real.

God be with you,
Dan

Robert said...

Magnus wrote:

“As for this story and LFW, it seems that LFW would need to prove that the king could go back and all things being exactly the same he would instead strike 5-6 times. It seems that this actually disproves LFW, in this way, the LFW view holds that all things being the exact same a different outcome would come about.”

You ask for an impossibility here: in order for the king to go back and get a chance to do things over, He would have to freeze time, step out of his present and then go back to his past and substitute one actual outcome for another. Steve Hays made this same demand, and you both are asking for an impossibility and you both are intentionally misrepresenting LFW.

“It still seems that you conflate choice with LFW. The question is not choices; the question is the action theory behind those choices.”

A person’s “action theory” is going to involve not only how people do intentional actions, but also whether or not when they make choices their choices are necessitated or not. If everything has been predetermined by God, then we never ever have a choice. The LFW view is that this is false that in fact sometimes we do have choices (as ordinarily understood).

Regarding “conflating” choice with LFW, every proponent of LFW believes that we sometimes have choices. This is expressed by the phrase being able to do otherwise. Necessitarians deny this, because their view does not allow for us ever to have choices. A quick and easy way to distinguish LFW from the necessitarian view is to see whether or not the person believes we ever have choices. The necessitarian consistent with his belief in exhaustive determinism, must claim that we never ever have choices. By discussing choices and whether or not people ever have choices, we clearly and easily distinguish the two views.

“The bible is clear that different outcomes could have come about IF something were different. Yet the LFW action theory states that nothing has to be different and yet there still be a different outcome.”

Common sense is also clear that if you want different outcomes you would need to choose differently. If I am in class and I have a choice between raising my hand and asking a question or keeping my hand down and not asking a question (the outcome will be either that I raise my hand or that I do not raise my hand; if I raised my hand that would result in one outcome, if I am not satisfied with that outcome after its over and done with, then I will speak of how I should have chosen not to raise my hand and thus had a different result or outcome). Einstein is attributed with having said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He was right, I tell inmates that I work with all the time: if you want different results in your life then you will have to make different choices, if you make the same choices you will get the same results.

“The LFW that I have in mind says that all things being equal and nothing is changed the outcome can be different. In this case it would say that if the king could go back and everything was the same, the exact same, then instead of striking just 3 times he would strike 5-6 times.”

Magnus keeps repeating himself, and the reality is the same, we cannot go back in time and roll back the tape, THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE. To speak of an impossibility to make his argument is a very weak argument indeed (it’s like an atheist once said to me: “let’s talk about if God chose to destroy himself, then what would follow from that?”; well excuse me I don’t accept God destroying himself as a possibility, so to consider what would follow if he did so, is impossible, ridiculous and it is a waste of time to discuss “impossible possibilities”). A friend of mine likes to liken it to having a DVD of a movie: you can go back all you want and stop wherever you want, you will always see the same thing at the same point. Well the past is like that, it is irreversible, it will not be changed and we cannot go back and change it. Now some will put aside this little difficulty (that what the necessitarian is asking for is impossible) for the “sake of discussion”, but I will not do that with Magnus. I took the time to show how misguided Steve Hays is in regards to demanding time reversals to prove LFW to his satisfaction, and Magnus is apparently cut from the same cloth. If Magnus read what I wrote and continues to make the same “play the tape again” argument, it shows he does not accept the truth about this: it is impossible to go back in time, it is impossible to do it over again.

“Now this may not be how you define LFW, but from my experience that is the usual way that LFW people use it.”

“Usual way”, that is not accurate, every person that I know personally who holds to LFW believes as I do that actual outcomes are irreversible, nobody can go back in time and reverse an outcome or substitute one actual outcome for another. Magnus keeps repeating this argument, but it really is not what many of us believe. Now if Magnus wants to prove that we can go back in time, then I would be interested in his argument showing this possibility. As it stands Magnus demands an impossibility. Since his demand is impossible (an “impossible possibility”) I reject his argument as irrelevant and weak.

“As for the last part of your comment, I have no problem with it. I agree a different outcome could come about IF different choices were made.”

One of the points of the story that JC brought up is that the prophet **does not tell the king** that he can go back and try again under the exact same circumstances (in fact nowhere in the bible is it ever suggested or is someone told that they could go back and get a re-do, do-over of something they had already done). No, he tells him that instead of tapping the ground 3 times he **should have** done so 5 or 6 times (i.e., he should have done otherwise when he had the chance). In saying he “should have done” differently, the prophet is affirming the LFW position (he did one thing, but he should have done another, and in saying that he should have done otherwise the prophet is affirming a belief in LFW, for if everything were predetermined and necessitated then it would have been impossible for him to have done otherwise, it would be senseless to speak of how he should have done differently if he had to do what he did).
“Again though, LFW action theory would say that all things being equal/same a different outcome can come about.”

Magnus can keep repeating something over and over but that will not make it true or any more true, nor will it make this argument any more powerful. John Searle who holds to LFW does not believe what you state here, and he is one of the most famous proponents of LFW (and the examples could be multiplied, your comment is not true, LFW action theory does not say same circumstances different outcome).

“To me it looks like this, if the king had made a different decision then the outcome would be different. I think we agree on that.”

If in class I decided not to raise my hand (assume that is what actually happened that that was the actual outcome), if I had decided differently and raised my hand instead then of course the outcome would be different. It is common sense that if we choose differently the outcome will be different (if two mutually exclusive alternative possibilities are being considered). And again, as I constantly remind the inmates, you want different outcomes then make different choices.

“Now if we played this scene over and over the outcome would still be the same because the king would always make the choice he did, UNLESS something different happened. Perhaps the king would have more information or maybe be in a different mood or think of something he didn’t before or or or… the point though is if you want a different outcome then something would have to change.”

Magnus keeps wanting to rewind the DVD, and the DVD each time we replay it will show the same thing. Same DVD, same scenes, same sequence, same everything.

“I would wager though that your admission that they would make the same decision runs counter many LFW'ers, glad that we agree on this though.”

His “admission”? No admission is involved, again, the people I know and have discussed this with, who hold to LFW, believe that if you play back the DVD of history you will see the same things. Only if different ******choices****** had been made would you see something different. But History is what has occurred, what was ***actually chosen***, and it cannot be changed, reversed or played back. Time’s arrow goes forward whether we like it or not.

Robert

PS – Magnus began by writing:

“No idea if I incurred a lifetime ban or just a temporary ban from comments on your blog. So if I am still banned from commenting you can just delete this.”

You were asked to stop posting here by Dan. Do you now acknowledge that the sinful things you were saying about me when you posted here in the past were false? Have you repented concerning those sinful comments? Or do you hold the same opinions as you expressed earlier?

Magnus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Godismyjudge said...

Magnus,

I am sorry you said that; things haven't changed. You are banned again.

God be with you,
Dan

J.C. Thibodaux said...

“Usual way”, that is not accurate, every person that I know personally who holds to LFW believes as I do that actual outcomes are irreversible, nobody can go back in time and reverse an outcome or substitute one actual outcome for another. Magnus keeps repeating this argument, but it really is not what many of us believe. Now if Magnus wants to prove that we can go back in time, then I would be interested in his argument showing this possibility. As it stands Magnus demands an impossibility. Since his demand is impossible (an “impossible possibility”) I reject his argument as irrelevant and weak.

That's a good point you raise Robert, even for people who embrace LFW dissimilar to mine (I embrace the 'fixed, but still contingent future' view), I've never heard any actual proponent of LFW argue it in such a manner as Magnus so badly frames it. When he states,

Yet the LFW action theory states that nothing has to be different and yet there still be a different outcome.

Actually, the autonomous choice/self-determination is itself a major variable; and it doesn't require a different outcome, only a single outcome out of more than one. The whole 'choose something and its alternative' is a sham argument, as free will allows one to make a single decision at a 'decision point,' not more than 1. 'Either' does not mean 'both,' or 'all,' yet this is exactly the sort of logically bankrupt gimmick the Necessitarians are promoting.

Just for fun, being a sci-fi fan, Hays is also making a ridiculous fallacy in temporal sequence with his challenge: If we did follow Dan with a camcorder and watch him choose one flavor of ice cream, if he were to magically rewind time for us, wouldn't that un-record the data on the camcorder as well? Maybe Steve can get a job as a 'cheap plot device technical advisor' for the next Star Trek series ;)

arminianperspectives said...

I guess God meant, "You should have struck it fives times despite the fact that I decreed from all eternity that you should strike it three times and irresistibly caused you to strike it three times."

What a mess Calvinism makes of even the simplest passages for the sake of preserving exhaustive determinism.

Robert said...

Hello JC,

“That's a good point you raise Robert, even for people who embrace LFW dissimilar to mine (I embrace the 'fixed, but still contingent future' view), I've never heard any actual proponent of LFW argue it in such a manner as Magnus so badly frames it. When he states,

Yet the LFW action theory states that nothing has to be different and yet there still be a different outcome.”

That was part of my problem with Magnus’ argument, the claim that those who hold to LFW action theory **all** believe that “nothing has to be different and yet there still be a different outcome”. I am telling inmates all the time, you can’t keep doing what you are doing and expecting different results. If you want different outcomes in your life, then the ones you’ve had so far, then you’ve got to choose to do things differently. Now I believe that I am telling these folks the truth. But Magnus was saying that **all** LFW people (which includes me) believe that we can have the same choices and expect different outcomes. So Magnus was denying the truth of what I was saying to the inmates. Magnus was also repeatedly asking for demonstrations of the impossible: if the king would go back in time, and the circumstances would be exactly the same . . .

Well the king and the rest of us, cannot go back in time. We don’t get do-overs, re-tries, second chances where past history can be changed.

“Actually, the autonomous choice/self-determination is itself a major variable; and it doesn't require a different outcome, only a single outcome out of more than one.”

You are absolutely correct about how our choices as self-determined beings who sometimes agent cause our own intentional actions have real consequences. If we choose to do something, then certain consequences will follow. Back to my classroom example. If you choose to ask the question in class and the professor answers the question, then history would be **that** and what actually happened. If on the other hand you choose not to ask the question in class then the professor does not answer your question, then history would be **that** and what actually happened. Whichever way you choose, most definitely has real and actual consequences. And the consequences are not the same for the two different choices (raising your hand and asking the question, versus not raising your hand and not asking the question).

“The whole 'choose something and its alternative' is a sham argument, as free will allows one to make a single decision at a 'decision point,' not more than 1. 'Either' does not mean 'both,' or 'all,' yet this is exactly the sort of logically bankrupt gimmick the Necessitarians are promoting.”

Right if we say that we could do A or B, then the necessatarians try to mock us as believing that we could actualize both A and B **simultaneously**. They then mock how ridiculous LFW is. Well, the nature of choice involving what I call a binary pairs means you cannot choose both, or you cannot actualize these two contrary choices, to do so would be to actualize a contradiction (e.g., like both raising and not raising your left hand at the same time in the class!). Steve Hays tried to engage in the same mocking style of argument, misrepresenting our belief in the ability to do otherwise as meaning that we believe we can change past events, take the time machine and get a replay. Many of these necessatarians seem to use the same technique: create a false misrepresentation of LFW, something really ridiculous, then mock that and conclude that you have shown problems with LFW (i.e., all that is, is the fallacy of “straw man”).

“Just for fun, being a sci-fi fan, Hays is also making a ridiculous fallacy in temporal sequence with his challenge: If we did follow Dan with a camcorder and watch him choose one flavor of ice cream, if he were to magically rewind time for us, wouldn't that un-record the data on the camcorder as well? Maybe Steve can get a job as a 'cheap plot device technical advisor' for the next Star Trek series ;)”

That’s funny. And you make a good point, if we get to rewind the tape, then when we substitute the new actual outcome (the new footage) for the past actual outcome (the old footage) that we did not like, “wouldn’t’ that un-record the data on the camcorder as well?”

I will go you one better, recall that Hays said that he wanted Dan to **visibly** show the miracle of transubstantiation (er, I mean miracle of traveling back in time and substituting one actual outcome for another, actually isn’t Steve Hays in asking that one cone be substituted for another in effect asking for a transubstantiation of that ice cream cone? :-)) by at first having one flavor cone in his hand and then having a different flavor cone in his hand.

But say Dan did the impossible and played back the tape to just before he picked one flavor over another, then Dan chooses differently and the tape goes on recording **that**. What would Hays actually see if he were witnessing the event? He would see whichever choice Dan made being made! Hays could not first see Dan choose strawberry, and then see Dan instantaneously choose chocolate at the same time. No, Hays would see Dan either pick strawberry or see Dan pick chocolate. In other words Hays would not see one flavor picked first and then immediately or simultaneously see another picked, he would only see one choice of one or the other being made. And if he was working the camcorder it would **also** only record one choice or another. And even if Steve **knew** that the switch had occurred, all he would have on his camcorder would be one choice or the other choice. And showing this to anyone else, perhaps his fellow necessitarian skeptics of libertarian free will, they would **see** no time traveling miracle, only Dan either picking and then holding a chocolate cone or a strawberry cone (and Hays “grand demand” for a visible demonstration of doing otherwise from Dan, would be a recording of the most common, ordinary, mundane event: Dan picking a flavor of ice cream and then having that flavor in his hand! Amazing! Electrifying! Mind boggling!

Perhaps Hays necessitarian friends would even be laughing after viewing this incredible and stupendous tape recording the great time travel miracle of doing otherwise). So not only could Dan not go back in time and get a replay to satisfy Hays’ skepticism, even if he miraculously did so, the camcorder would simply show a rather mundane event of Dan picking and then holding a ice cream cone of a certain flavor.

The tangled webs people weave in order to avoid the truth and maintain their false beliefs. Amazing! :-)

Robert

Robert said...

ArminianPerspectives wrote:

“I guess God meant, "You should have struck it fives times despite the fact that I decreed from all eternity that you should strike it three times and irresistibly caused you to strike it three times."

What a mess Calvinism makes of even the simplest passages for the sake of preserving exhaustive determinism.”

That is pretty funny too.

I get it now: So God predetermined that the King hit the ground three times. God then predetermined that the prophet tell the king he should have done otherwise and hit the ground five times, even though since God predetermined that he hit the ground three times (and it was thus IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO HAVE DONE OTHERWISE) the king could not have hit the ground five times. So not only is the prophet correcting the king for doing the wrong thing, the king is doing the only thing he could have done, the very thing that God predetermined that he do. And the same applies every time in the Bible that someone says you should have done otherwise, you should not have done that (in each and every case, one person is predetermined to rebuke another person for doing the very thing God predetermined that he do with necessity). And why should we be surprised, if calvinism/exhaustive determinism is true then God does this very thing himself with the “reprobates” (they are predetermined to do the evil things they do, they cannot do otherwise, it is impossible for them to do otherwise, God wanted them to do exactly what they do in every case, and yet God then on the final judgment day condemns them for doing the things he predetermined for them to do, the things they they “should not have done”, things it was impossible that they not do, chastises them for doing so and tells them they should not have done it and then sends them to hell to suffer eternal punishment for doing the very things that he predetermined for them to do).

Did I get it right ArminianPerspectives?

Robert

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Taking the (Necessitarian) Calvinist view consistently, this is akin to God's multiple, contradictory wills arguing with each other. Imagine if God's will really was as contrary to itself as their philosophy taken to its logical end makes it out to be:

----------

Sovereign will: Ha! You should have hit the ground more than 3 times!

Will of disposition: That's true, I really wanted to help you out.

Sovereign will: But I won't now, because you're just not zealous enough!

Will of disposition: I would have helped you destroy them entirely...if you could have, you know, been anything but unzealous...I mean, I really, really did want to give you a hand, but Mr. "I'm the secret, supreme will" here arranged it so that you had no choice but to hit the ground 3 times....

Sovereign will: Shush, not in front of the lesser beings.

Will of disposition: It's a valid point, I mean, why are you coming down so hard on him? You're the one who made sure he couldn't do anything but strike the ground 3 times, yet you're blaming him for it?

Sovereign will: Yep.

Will of disposition: Why?!?

Sovereign will: Look, we've been over this before, okay: I do it because I can. Being able to orchestrate evil stuff down to the smallest detail and then blame other people for it is the very definition of 'sovereignty.'

Preceptive will: Hey, can I say something he-

Sovereign will: No, this isn't a matter of a specific law or command, now go sit down.

Will of disposition: But seriously, how can I, in good conscience, say he "should have done something else" when it was the supreme will's deepest desire that he do just what he did?

Preceptive will: Hey! It's my job to say you should have done something besides what I decreed that you do!

Sovereign will: I said sit down!

Preceptive will: Right...sorry....

Will of disposition: How could there possibly be a 'should have' regarding anything if the only will that really matters is always satisfied in every single circumstance?

Sovereign will: Look, your role is very important, okay? We need you to say what I would (in some mysterious, superficial sense) prefer to do, so passages that don't comport with Calvinism can be explained away; and so that despite the fact that I ordain all sin, you can still say that I don't approve of it and stuff.

Will of disposition: But I hate sin! Why are you decreeing what I hate?

Sovereign will: For my glory of course.

Will of disposition: Who's gonna buy that one? How does it bring you 'glory' to punish people for doing what you yourself immutably decreed that they do??

Sovereign will: ............because I decreed that doing it would bring me glory.

Will of disposition: So you decree all sin down to the finest minutia, and I'm supposed to hate what you decree; you do 'all your pleasure,' which is supposed to also mean meticulous control of every circumstance designed to destroy the people that you decreed to be wicked, yet I'm supposed to say that I have "no pleasure in the death of the wicked??" How does that make any sense whatsoever?

Sovereign will: ............because I decreed that it make sense.

Will of disposition: ARGHHH!!

----------

Calvinists turned Atheist often become exceptionally bitter for some reason.

Robert said...

Hello JC,

Thanks for sharing **that** it was absolutely hilarious. :-)

That is a great idea to personify the two contradictory wills of the necessitarian conception of God and have that conversation between them: that is a keeper! So many “highlights” there. I suggest that you take some more time to further develop and then post it at SEA.

On the serious side, a friend of mine from his examination of necessitarian beliefs about God’s will and actions, concludes: first, the “two wills” as they contradict each other make him into a schizophrenic (the God of the bible is not); and second, the necessitarian views on reprobation and evil in particular, make him into a sadistic and utterly cruel person (again the God of the bible is not like that). A view that makes God appear to be something opposite what He reveals Himself to be like in His Word, is definitely false. Where the necessitarian goes a further step, and furthers the damage is that they then attempt to justify or rationalize what their system produces when trying to convert other Christians to their false views. So not only do their views directly attack God’s character as He reveals Himself to be, they then want to persuade the rest of us to adopt their necessitarian system and the implications of the system.

Robert