Thursday, June 18, 2009

Impersonal vs. Personal Possibilities

This post is a response to Steve Hays in our ongoing discussion of choice and determinism.

All Dan is doing here, and all that Dan is ever doing here, is to fault determinism because it isn’t libertarianism. He keeps acting as if determinism is deficient since the determinist can’t view “choice” in the same way a libertarian can. ...Dan has no capacity for critical detachment. He can’t bring himself to evaluate the opposing position on its own terms. All he does is to apply a libertarian yardstick to determinism, and–voila!–determinism comes up short if you measure it by a libertarian yardstick.

The first statement (that I am faulting determinism because it isn’t libertarianism) is somewhat true, but it would be better to say I fault determinism because I suspect it is libertarianism. I suspect determinists are inconsistent and retain libertarian notions. They say 'choose' meaning what everyone else does (selection between possible alternatives); but also hold to determinism, which conflicts with 'choose'. It seems Calvinsits use the normal ‘dictionary’ definition of choose but don’t follow this definition through to its logical conclusions.

The second statement (that I can’t bring myself to evaluate Calvinism on its own terms) is also somewhat true. The Calvinist concept of choice does not make sense to me – I await a clear and precise explanation as to what it is. So I keep looking for Calvinism to make sense; to explain what choose means. But I fail to see how Steve's card player example explains things. Meanwhile (absent a way of understanding the Calvinist concept of ‘choose’), I am beginning to suspect Calvinists are simply inconsistent - confusing themselves and others.

Dan: “I don't believe I am equivocating; given determinism, a person can’t choose otherwise and if one is a determinist, they can’t consistently think they can choose otherwise. I don't think the epistemic sense of ‘possible’ reconciles determinism with 'the ability to choose otherwise'.

Steve: That condition is irrelevant to my example.

If the card player example wasn’t intended to support Steve's claim regarding the ability to choose otherwise, what’s its purpose?

Dan: “The card player example relates to the outcome of choices not choices (I said choose otherwise, not do otherwise). The epistemic sense of 'possible' relates to the execution of choices, not choices themselves. In fact, the card player example is twice removed from the choice itself. The card player chooses to take another card; his success or failure in that attempt is getting another card or not (i.e. does he have a heart attack while asking for one, or does a ceiling tile fall on the dealer's head...). Steve's example is about the outcome of the draw, not the draw itself. Further, the card player isn't thinking ‘is choosing to draw possible?’ (i.e. can I make the internal mental resolution?), he's thinking about the outcome of drawing another card, so his use of possible relates to outcomes of choices, not choices themselves.

Steve: Since Dan has insisted on a very expansive definition of choice, which includes the outcome, Dan’s objection is inconsistent with his own definition: “I generally think of choices at three levels: 1) contemplation, 2) choice and 3) execution of choice.”

My definition doesn’t make Steve’s example relevant to Steve’s definition.

The explanatory power of Steve’s card player example seems dependent on a dissanalogous aspect of the example. The ‘possibility’ Steve talks about is downstream and doesn’t make direct contact with the choice, yet Steve uses the example to explain choice. Steve isn’t talking about the player drawing or not drawing, but rather the outcome of the draw. As Steve notes, the player's choice doesn’t alter the order of the deck, so while he chooses to draw or not, he doesn't choose the outcome.

The point is that the ‘possibility’ in the card player example is impersonal, and nor something the card player can effect. That's why this type of possibility isn't suitable for explaining choice.

Does a gambler look up the definition of “choice” in Webster’s before he plays poker?

The card player has some notion of what choice means.

Steve: But the “one possibility of a time” limitation is an objective limitation which is imposed on human agents by the nature of time itself–in conjunction with logical (in-)compossibilities. We cannot simultaneously make contrary choices. In some cases we can make successive contrary choices, but because contrary choices are mutually exclusive, you can only make one such choice at a time. That limitation is due to the nature of time itself, as well as what is logically compossible.

While two actuals are impossible, alternative possibilities are not. Steve seems to be speaking about two actuals, but my statement was about alternative possibilities.


Dan: “A determinist can't say (or think or imply) 'I know 20 is possible', if 20 is possible or 21 is possible and he doesn't know which.”

Steve: A determinist doesn’t have to think both A and B are live possibilities. Rather, he doesn’t know in advance which abstract possibility is concretely impossible.

It’s difficult to see how Steve’s comment is responsive or undermines my argument that one cannot positively assert twofold possibilities (even in the epistemic sense of possibility) without undermining determinism. The only way I could see Steve’s comment as being at all relevant would be if he is stressing the negative aspect – not knowing which is impossible (as opposed to thinking that given what I know this is logically possible). The problem is that Steve himself has used ‘possibilities’ in positive assertions, not just negative assertions. Using possibilities in positive assertions undermines determinism; as we have seen.

The card player can't form a positive assertion like: "given what I know these two things are possible" or "my information about these two things logically reconcile without contradiction". As soon as he does, he undermines libertarianism.

Dan: The basis of truth is causal. Causal forces outside the player and the player's causal power will determine the outcome. When we say someone can choose, we are making a positive assertion about an agent's causal abilities. We are saying what the agent can cause. Logical possibility relates to ideas, not persons. A truth can't reach out and grab you, constrain you or causally determine what you do, but a person might.

Steve: Like shuffling a deck of cards.

What does that have to do with the card player’s abilities? This really highlights the problem noted above. The ‘possibility’ in the card player example is impersonal, and nor something the card player can effect. Choice is a power of the agent, we choose what is within one's power.

We can’t transplant the epistemic sense of ‘possible’ in the card player example into the definition of choice. Steve can’t shift from third person to first. You can’t move from ‘chocolate is possible’ to ‘I can choose chocolate’. While you can move from 1st to 3rd, you can’t move from 3rd to 1st person. In other words; “I can choose chocolate’ entails that in light of my abilities ‘chocolate is possible’. But ‘chocolate is possible’ in an epistemic sense does not entail ‘I can choose chocolate’ and has nothing to do with the agent’s abilities.

Dan :“Finally, Steve looks for Greek and Hebrew word studies. I have already pointed out that modern scolorship is unanimously translates b√Ęcha and eklegomai as choose.

Steve: This goes back to Dan’s incorrible dishonesty. Yes, he pointed that out. And I responded to his rejoinder.When I respond to his rejoinder, what does he do? Does he acknowledge my response? No. He acts as if nothing was every said in response to his rejoinder.Dan can’t bring himself to argue in good faith. He keeps repeating the same stale arguments as if no one ever interacted with his argument.

This argument stalemated on the definition of choose; which is why I have been focusing on that.

Steve: A possible agent’s object of choice is not the same object as God’s object of choice. When we say that God chooses a possible world, what we mean is which possible world God choose to instantiate. Which possible world will become the real world.When we say what a possible agent chooses, that has reference to what a possible agent does in a possible world. It doesn’t mean a possible agent is choosing which possible world will become the real world. Due to Dan’s equivocation, Molinism continues to fall afoul of my objection: in the actual world, an actual agent isn’t free to choose between either A or B. Rather, the actual world actualizes either A or B. If it actualizes A, then B is no longer in play. If it actualizes B, then A is no longer in play. In Molinism, libertarian freedom only applies at the level of possible worlds, and not the actual world. An actual world actualizes one possibility to the exclusion of the others. That’s the point. That’s what distinguishes actuality from possibility. These alternatives are only live possibilities in possible worlds. In the real world, they cease to be live possibilities.

Again, I am not sure if Steve is attempting to describe Molinism or present a reductio ad absurdum argument. If he’s describing it, the description is inaccurate. Here’s a quote from Molina:


For the things that issue forth from our choice or depend on it are not going to happen because they are foreknown by God as going to happen, to the contrary, they are foreknown by God as going to happen in this or that way because they are so going to happen by virtue of our freedom of choice – through if they were going to happen in a contrary way, as they are able to, then from eternity they would be foreknown as going to happen in that contrary way instead of in the way the are in fact foreknown as going to happen – and, indeed the knowledge by which God knew absolutely that such and such things would come to be is not a cause of the things, but rather, once the order of things that we see has been posited by the free determination of the divine will, then (as Origen and the other Fathers observe) the effects will issue forth from their causes – naturally from natural causes, freely and contingently with respect to both parts from free causes – just as if God had no foreknowledge of future events. From this it clearly follows that no prejudice at all is done to freedom of choice or to the contingency of things by God’s foreknowledge, a
foreknowledge through which, because of the infinity and wholly unlimited perfection and acumen of His intellect, He sees with certainty what the free causes placed in any order of things will do, even though they could really, if they so willed do the contrary; rather, even though that knowledge exists, freedom of choice and the contingency of things with respect to both parts remains intact, just as if there were no foreknowledge. (Molina Translation by Freddoso. Concordia Disp 52 para 29.)
For more contemporary accounts, please see Flint and Craig’s response to Hasker and Adams anit-Molinist arguments.

So it’s wrong to say "in libertarian Molinism, freedom only applies at the level of possible worlds, and not the actual world".


While it’s true God is choosing the whole world, that world includes us choosing some small part of it. Further, God’s actualization of that possible world unfolds over time and in different modes – either directly (as in cases like creation and miracles…) or indirectly by permitting us to actualize parts of it in accordance to what He knew we would do.

So if Steve was explaining Molinism, the description was inaccurate, leaving ample room for developing faulty conclusions.

On the other hand, if Steve was providing a reducto ad absurdum argument against Molinism, it’s hard to tell just what it might be. When Steve says “the actual world actualizes either A or B” he substitutes ‘the actual world’ for people’s choices. It's like he's personifying the actual world. What are we to make of such an argument? The world doesn’t possess us, nor force our wills.

Steve: The other problem goes to basic contradiction within Molinism. On the one hand, Molinism tries to reconcile predestination with libertarian freedom. Possible agents are free to do otherwise, but God determines which possibility to instantiate.

Steve's statement "God determines which possibility to instantiate" could be taken in two ways. Determined may either be a mental resolution or deciding on a plan in our minds (in which cases Molinists agree with Steve's statement). What is determinate is God’s mind. But if Steve means God determines the possibility (what is determined is the world, not God’s mind), Molinists disagree.

Steve: On the other hand, Molinism says that God can choose from this array of possibilities because he knows what a human agent would do in any given situation. However, the conventional definition of libertarian freedom is the freedom to do otherwise in the very same situation.

Freedom to do otherwise in the very same situation isn’t a conventional definition of LFW, the normal definition is the ability to choose otherwise. Open theists use the ‘same situation’ definition since they have a tough time with the question ‘otherwise than what?’ Since they don’t hold to ‘a future’ they have a hard time saying we are free to choose otherwise than we will choose. So they go with freedom to do otherwise in the same situation.

Steve: So it turns on which side of the Molinist contradiction you want to accentuate. If you accentuate the libertarian side of the Molinist contradiction, then Dan has introduced a false dichotomy: “But in Molinism, if we would choose chocolate; God can't choose the possible world in which we choose vanilla.

My statement isn’t a false dichotomy. It isn’t even a dichotomy.

Steve: Up to a point, that’s true, but quite deceptive. For if libertarianism is true, then there’s a possible world in which we choose chocolate, and another possible world in which we choose vanilla. If freedom means the freedom to do otherwise, then there’s a possible world which matches each alternative Therefore, even if we accept libertarianism, God is never confronted with a situation in which our choice restricts his choice.

I agree with Steve’s premise (two possible worlds), but the conclusion does not follow. God enables us to choose, so while we ultimately depend on His power, He can’t force us to choose something.

Steve: If you stipulate that freedom means the freedom to do otherwise, then you deny God unique ability to know what we’d do in any given circumstance. If what we will do could go either way, then our choice cannot be a determinate object of knowledge.

God knows the future, not by it being predetermined, but rather directly. We should not denigrate God's epistemology to our level.

Steve: Possible agents comprise different sets of serial choices. Different hypothetical timelines. Even if you say that successive choices are successively realized, that’s irrelevant to the fact that God is instantiating one series of possibilities to the exclusion of other series. God makes that call, not the possible agent. Even in Molinist terms, the real world has a closed future.

God is instantiating one of the possibilities indirectly, by permitting us to instantiate it in accordance with what He knew we would do.

Steve: A possible person is simply a divine concept. A mental construct. It’s not something over and above God’s conception, in relation to which God is dependent. To the contrary, a possible person is entirely dependent on divine cogitation.

A possible person is more than God’s conception in the same way an actual person is more than God’s actual power. So unless we embrace pantheism, we are in some way distinct from God.

Steve: Moreover, libertarian freewill assumes control over the outcome. That’s the point. Unless the decisions of the free agent effect the chosen outcome–he’s hardly free in a libertarian sense. It would be like pushing buttons on a vending machine in which you’re free to push any combination you like, but what you get doesn’t correspond to what you select. You select the Butterfinger Crisp, but you get the 3 Musketeers instead. Is that how Dan now defines “choice”?

The means were chosen (i.e. hitting the button) but the outcome was not. Sometimes multiple choices are spoken of as one, when they are working together to accomplish one purpose. When the chain breaks, one must distinguish between the various elements. Whether choice relates to multiple mental resolutions or multiple outcomes or both; in any case determinism is undermined. However, since God looks at the heart, moral responsibility attaches first and foremost to internal actions.

16 comments:

Robert said...

Hi Dan,

You wrote:

"The point is that the ‘possibility’ in the card player example is impersonal, and nor something the card player can effect. That's why this type of possibility isn't suitable for explaining choice.

Does a gambler look up the definition of “choice” in Webster’s before he plays poker?

The card player has some notion of what choice means."

I find the card player analogy of the emotional necessatarian to be laughable. While it is true that the card player has no control of the card sequence (unless he is a cardsharp manipulating the cards, which don't forget is exactly the view that this necessatarian zealot has of God's character). But that does not mean much in respect to whether or not the card player has choices.

It is like the weather: we don't have any control over the weather that presents itself to us, it is out of our control, we have no choice in the matter. On the other hand, we have choices in response to the given weather (take an umbrella, not take an umbrella, dress warmly or dress for hot weather, etc. etc. etc.), just as the card player has choices in response to the cards being dealt to him and others.

What is the famous Kenny Rodgers song again about "the Gambler": "Now every gambler knows that the secret to survivin, Is knowin what to throw away and knowin what to keep . . . . You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run".

That is a very clear and unequivocal statement of the choices that the "gambler" has(he can choose to stay with the cards he has, choose to draw more cards, choose to quit the particular hand and fold um, choose to walk away or choose to run! Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice.

To argue from the fixity of the sequence of cards in a particular card game against the reality of free will in that same card game, is like arguing from the fixity of the weather against the reality of free will, it is just stupid on the part of the one who does so. We may not have control over certain things like the sequence of cards or the weather, but we have choices in response to these given circumstances. Unless of course you are a necessatarian and in serious denial of reality, then perhaps you might foolishly argue that we never have a choice.

Robert

arminianperspectives said...

Robert,

Just curious about this statement,

Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice.

This sounds like you affirm that one cannot make a choice unless they have a choice. That sounds contrary to your previous claim that one can make a choice that he doesn't have. Am I misreading you here? I'm not trying to argue the point with you again here, just pointing out that this seems contrary to your previous claim.

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Hello Ben,

You wrote:

“Just curious about this statement,

Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice.

This sounds like you affirm that one cannot make a choice unless they have a choice.”

No, I continue to believe that you and others are in error on this issue. I continue to maintain the same distinction. In a world where libertarian free will exists for human persons, we both HAVE AND MAKE CHOICES. In a fully necessitated world where LFW does not exist, PEOPLE NEVER ***HAVE*** CHOICES, though they MAKE CHOICES.

“That sounds contrary to your previous claim that one can make a choice that he doesn't have. Am I misreading you here?”

Consider the **context of my statement** which you quoted (i.e., I am speaking of this world where LFW is present, so a card player in this world where LFW exists, will both HAVE AND MAKE CHOICES).

“I'm not trying to argue the point with you again here, just pointing out that this seems contrary to your previous claim.”

Let me make it clear by contrasting two different worlds. In world A, the world we actually live in, reality, the world God designed (with part of His design being that humans would sometimes experience LFW), a person playing cards will face various choices. In each case, he will both have and make a choice. So at one point in the game he is given a certain card, card X, he now has a choice of continuing in the game or folding his hand and quitting. He **has** a choice, which means he could do either alternative (and either way that he chooses he could have done otherwise). Say he chooses to fold and quit this hand.

World B the world the necessitarian imagines to be the case is one in which God pre-decided every event that would occur in eternity and then carries out this total plan in history. In World B, LFW does not exist, so **no one ever has a choice**. He may make a choice, but he NEVER HAS A CHOICE. So he comes to the place in the game where he is given card X. Now he may **believe** that he **has a choice**, that he could continue in the game OR fold his hand and quit. But this belief that he has a choice is ALWAYS FALSE in World B. This is true because God has already made every choice that will occur and has done so beforehand. So while he may believe that he could either fold or continue the game after receiving card X, IN REALITY HE HAS NO CHOICE, HE WILL MAKE THE CHOICE THAT GOD ALREADY DECIDED HE WOULD MAKE. Say God has pre-decided that he continue in the game (if that is so, then it would be impossible for him to do otherwise, he would have to continue in the game, he would be necessitated to continue on in that game; and vice versa if God had pre-decided that he fold). So in a fully necessitated world, you may be engaging in the process of making a choice but you never have a choice. World B is a figment of the necessitarian’s imagination, it is fantasy, it is not the real world, it is not the world that God actually created. The necessitarian like the rest of us lives in the real world which God has created a world where we sometimes have choices, so he/she sometimes has choices as well. But he/she is in denial of reality claiming that God has exhaustively predetermined every event and if God has exhaustively predetermined every event then WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE. In a fully necessitated world you make choices, but never have choices. Every necessitarian however, operates as if he/she both has and makes choices, betraying their own profession of exhaustive determinism.

My comment which you quote is in regards to World A, where the card player does in fact have choices and then make choices because World A includes LFW. But a card player in World B would be one that makes choices but never has choices.

Robert

arminianperspectives said...

Robert,

I still think you are misunderstanding my position. You write,

He may make a choice, but he NEVER HAS A CHOICE. So he comes to the place in the game where he is given card X. Now he may **believe** that he **has a choice**, that he could continue in the game OR fold his hand and quit.

You say that he can believe he has a choice though he does not have a choice. I agree, but we can just as easily say that he believes he makes a choice, when in fact he does not make a choice since he has no choice to make. He may believe he made a choice, but he did not actually make a choice because their was no choice to make- nothing to choose from- no available options. You seem to say he truly chooses between perceived options, but that supposed “choice” between perceived options is also predetermined, so he doesn’t even have the freedom to choose (i.e. make a choice) between perceived options, which means they are no options at all- hence no choice can be made. In an ED world everything is predetermined including one’s thought process and every movement of the will. Your view seems to be mixing LFW with ED (i.e. he has freedom to “make” choices that have been predetermined for him to make, which is absurd).

You write,

Now he may **believe** that he **has a choice**, that he could continue in the game OR fold his hand and quit. But this belief that he has a choice is ALWAYS FALSE in World B.

Again, I think we could just substitute "has a choice" with "make a choice" in the above sentence:

Now he may **believe** that he **[makes] a choice**, [to] continue in the game [and not] fold his hand and quit. But this belief that he has [made] a choice is ALWAYS FALSE in World B [since he had no choice to make].

continued in next post...

arminianperspectives said...

...continued from last post:

Look at this sentence,

So while he may believe that he could either fold or continue the game after receiving card X, IN REALITY HE HAS NO CHOICE, HE WILL MAKE THE CHOICE THAT GOD ALREADY DECIDED HE WOULD MAKE.

This gets back to the definition of choice. If choice has to do with "choosing" between alternatives (as is inherent in the definition of the word), then it is senseless to say one can make a choice he does not have. It is saying that you can choose among alternatives when you have no alternatives to choose from. That's nonsense.

Say God has pre-decided that he continue in the game (if that is so, then it would be impossible for him to do otherwise, he would have to continue in the game, he would be necessitated to continue on in that game; and vice versa if God had pre-decided that he fold).

If God has pre-decided, then only God has made a choice. If God has pre-decided, then the person does not decide, because he can only move his will in the pre-decided direction. You could say God makes the choice for the person, but you can't say the person makes the choice. His every volition is predetermined. His mind can only ever move in one direction, so even perceived options are not real options (since our perceptions are just as predetermined as everything else), and one cannot make a choice if there are no options to choose from. Everything is locked into a single necessitated direction. Quite simply, you cannot “make” a choice you don’t “have” to make. The only way to avoid this logic is to tinker with the meaning of “choice”, the very thing you fault Calvinists for doing.

So in a fully necessitated world, you may be engaging in the process of making a choice but you never have a choice.

Again, I think it plainly absurd to say someone is in the process of making choices he does not have. If there are no options there is no possibility for choice, and if there is no possibility for choice, neither is there possibility for making choices. This is very basic logic.

Anyway, we have gone over this ground before. It still seems to me that when you say,

Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice.

...you are affirming my point. You are saying that the evidence that one “has” a choice is that they “made” a choice (and you use this as evidence that LFW view is correct). But if one can make a choice without having a choice (as you elsewhere affirm), then that statement is false, unless you are saying that in an ED world one can make a choice while not having a choice, but in an LFW world one cannot make a choice without having a choice. That would seem to be rather strange reasoning.

If one cannot make a choice without having a choice in an LFW world, then neither can one make a choice without having a choice in an ED world. More basic than that is the simple definition of choice, which makes the ED account absurd (and I would say it makes your account absurd as well).

But it seems we will just have to agree to disagree (again). It still doesn't seem (to me) like your above statement comports with your arguments, but if you insist that it does, I will just bow out and assume I must be misunderstanding you. At least we agree that one does not have choices in an ED world. That is a big enough black spot for Calvinism and demonstrates that Calvinists are not using language correctly. However, unlike you, I believe the case gets even worse for Calvinists in that we can’t make choices in an ED world either.

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Hello Ben,

Wow I made no mention of the having versus making a choice distinction and yet you want to bring it up again.

“I still think you are misunderstanding my position.”

No I think I understand your position just fine. You believe that if someone MAKES A CHOICE then they HAD TO HAVE A CHOICE. For you wherever and whenever a choice occurs the person must also have HAD A CHOICE. I disagree and continue to make the distinction between having a choice and making a choice believing that sometimes we may make a choice though we did not have a choice. And further believing that in a completely exhaustively determined world while the person there might make choices they would never ever have choices.

“You say that he can believe he has a choice though he does not have a choice. I agree, but we can just as easily say that he believes he makes a choice, when in fact he does not make a choice since he has no choice to make.”

AND

“He may believe he made a choice, but he did not actually make a choice because their was no choice to make- nothing to choose from- no available options.”

Here you simply ASSUME YOUR POSITION, that is just begging the question. Your position remains: a person cannot make a choice unless he had a choice. So here you simply state that if there were not at least two available options (i.e, he did not have a choice) then he did not “actually make a choice.”

“You seem to say he truly chooses between perceived options, but that supposed “choice” between perceived options is also predetermined, so he doesn’t even have the freedom to choose (i.e. make a choice) between perceived options, which means they are no options at all- hence no choice can be made.”

In a completely predetermined world he will not have freedom to make choices (his every choice is necessitated and he cannot do otherwise than he has been necessitated so he never acts freely but he still may do actions he still may act) but he may still make choices. Making a choice is making a selection (is that a fair definition or description of making a choice?). If he makes selections believing that he has multiple options available to him (though in reality they are not all accessible or available to him) he is still MAKING A SELECTION/MAKING A CHOICE. You can call it what you will, I call it making a choice.

Robert

Robert said...

I made this point before and it was ignored but I will make it again as it is Friday. First, assume we are talking about this world the actual world we live in, the world that God made and designed. Second, say my wife and I, since it is Friday and we want to give ourselves a treat are discussing and deliberating about what restaurant to go out to for dinner tonight (to make it simple limit the options to only two: The Red Onion a Mexican food restaurant OR Hof’s Hut an American food restaurant, and assume we like both and have the money for both). Third, say we decide upon Hof’s Hut. So we believed that we had two accessible and available options (Red Onion or Hof’s Hut). And it is crucial to understand that you have a choice when you actually have access to both options (if in reality you do not have access to both options then with respect to that particular choice you do not have a choice). We MADE A CHOICE, which happens to be Hof’s Hut. Fourth, say that the next day we read in the local paper that there was a hold-up of the Red Onion the day before in the afternoon and so the restaurant was closed Friday evening. We were completely unaware of that event when we MADE OUR CHOICE of Hof’s Hut as the chosen restaurant for dinner on Friday night. But now consider, when we were deliberating between Red Onion and Hof’s Hut, when we made our choice on Friday, WE BELIEVED THAT BOTH OPTIONS WERE ACCESSIBLE. But in reality we were wrong, our belief did not correspond with reality. Now we obviously MADE A CHOICE, made a selection from what we thought were accessible alternatives, we chose Hof’s Hut. But did we HAVE A CHOICE with respect to going to either Red Onion or Hof’s Hut on Friday night for dinner? The answer is clearly No. What is also clear from this example is that even in a world (this world, the actual world we live in) where we often experience free will, often experience libertarian free will, often BOTH HAVE AND MAKE CHOICES: sometimes due to the actual circumstances present in a situation we may MAKE A CHOICE THOUGH WE DID NOT HAVE A CHOICE. This illustration clearly shows your position to be false.

And take this illustration and then extend it to all of our choices and that is what it would be like to be in a completely determined world (i.e., every time you think about various options that you believe that you have access to and could actualize, in each and every case, those other options ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE ARE NOT AVAILABLE to you to choose from, in reality, the only option accessible and available to you would be the one which had been predetermined for you). In such a world you would go through the process of deliberating and choosing and you would make choices, you JUST WOULD NEVER EVER HAVE CHOICES.

“In an ED world everything is predetermined including one’s thought process and every movement of the will.”

Right, which is why in an ED world you never ever have a choice and you never ever act freely. To act freely you would need to both have and make choices. If you have to make every choice that you make, if your every action is necessitated then you neither act freely nor do you ever have a choice.

Robert

Robert said...

“Your view seems to be mixing LFW with ED (i.e. he has freedom to “make” choices that have been predetermined for him to make, which is absurd).”

You are misrepresenting my view here. In an ED world there is no instance of LFW and no instance of having freedom/acting freely. If you make a choice that you were predetermined to make, then you had no choice in the matter and you were not acting freely in the matter.

I do not mix ED and LFW because ED wipes out, eliminates LFW completely (ED and LFW are mutually exclusive categories; if you have one then the other cannot be present and vice versa). The key concept in all versions of LFW is that while you do one thing you also could have done otherwise (i.e. and think about it if you do one thing but also could have done otherwise THEN YOU HAVE A CHOICE). So for me the common denominator of all versions of LFW is the claim that we sometimes HAVE CHOICES (I say sometimes because circumstances can and do come up which with respect to a particular action may eliminate our having a choice in the matter).

In the next section you again merely repeat your view:
----------------------------------------------------------------------

“You write,

Now he may **believe** that he **has a choice**, that he could continue in the game OR fold his hand and quit. But this belief that he has a choice is ALWAYS FALSE in World B.

Again, I think we could just substitute "has a choice" with "make a choice" in the above sentence:

Now he may **believe** that he **[makes] a choice**, [to] continue in the game [and not] fold his hand and quit. But this belief that he has [made] a choice is ALWAYS FALSE in World B [since he had no choice to make].”
---------------------------------------------------------------------

This is incorrect. In a ED world, he never has a choice but he does and can make selections/make choices. Say that he is predetermined to fold his hand and quit. While the event is fixed and predetermined and it is impossible for him to do otherwise (since he has no choice but has to do what he was preprogrammed/predetermined to do), HE STILL HAS TO DO THAT ACTION OF FOLDING HIS HAND. And if he thought that he had the choice of folding or continuing and then selected folding, HE DID IN FACT MAKE A SELECTION SO HE DID IN FACT MAKE A CHOICE (though he did not HAVE A CHOICE).

Robert

Robert said...

You wrote:

“Look at this sentence,

So while he may believe that he could either fold or continue the game after receiving card X, IN REALITY HE HAS NO CHOICE, HE WILL MAKE THE CHOICE THAT GOD ALREADY DECIDED HE WOULD MAKE.

This gets back to the definition of choice. If choice has to do with "choosing" between alternatives (as is inherent in the definition of the word), then it is senseless to say one can make a choice he does not have.”

You just keep beating the same drum and the sound is exactly the same. :-) You simply assume that we must have a choice to make a choice, so you then see any making of a choice as presuming that we had a choice (this is circular reasoning, just going in circles based upon your own definition). I would think that we agree as to the definition of choosing: we choose when we make a selection. Now I believe that it is important to note that while making a choice is simply making a selection: in order to have a choice more is required. To have a choice you need to have ***access to at least two different options or alternative possibilities***. If you do not have ***access*** to at least two options then you do not have a choice: conversely if you do in fact have access to two different options then you have a choice.

“It is saying that you can choose among alternatives when you have no alternatives to choose from. That's nonsense.”

To make a selection, make a choice, both options do not need to be accessible to you (again the restaurant illustration clearly establishes this point).

“Say God has pre-decided that he continue in the game (if that is so, then it would be impossible for him to do otherwise, he would have to continue in the game, he would be necessitated to continue on in that game; and vice versa if God had pre-decided that he fold).”

Yes, if his action is necessitated then he does not have a choice, he has to do what he was predetermined to do. Say this world is exhaustively predetermined by God, and my wife and I are considering the two restaurants. God has already pre-decided that we go to Hof’s Hut. So while we may believe (mistakenly) that we chose Hof’s Hut freely, that we had a choice between the two restaurants (and now assume that in fact both were open on Friday night, assume that Red Onion did not have the police incident in the afternoon)in fact we had no choice, we had to choose the option that God had already decided we would choose (cf., in an ED world the believers are the ones who must choose to believe and the reprobates are the ones who must repeatedly choose not to believe, neither group has any choice it is all already pre-decided by God the people are just fulfilling or carrying out what was completely prescripted).

Robert

Robert said...

“If God has pre-decided, then only God has made a choice.”

In an ED world ONLY GOD EVER HAS CHOICES, every other person only makes choices, making the choices that God already pre-decided should occur.

“If God has pre-decided, then the person does not decide, because he can only move his will in the pre-decided direction.”

The person may go through the process of deliberation and then make his decision, but he only makes a choice he has no choice.

“You could say God makes the choice for the person, but you can't say the person makes the choice. His every volition is predetermined.”

No, God pre-decides what events will occur, but the people still have to carry out the plan, do the action that was pre-decided.

“His mind can only ever move in one direction, so even perceived options are not real options (since our perceptions are just as predetermined as everything else), and one cannot make a choice if there are no options to choose from.”

Again your mantra: “one cannot make a choice if there are no options to choose from” (merely again begs the question, states your view that we cannot make a choice unless we have a choice). Making a choice involves selecting one option, having a choice requires more than just selecting one option, at least two different options must both be accessible to the person making the choice. The record is in the groove and just keeps skipping at the same point.

“Everything is locked into a single necessitated direction. Quite simply, you cannot “make” a choice you don’t “have” to make.”

If all is predetermined then you will make the choice that was already decided that you will make and you have no choice, you have to make that choice.

Robert

Robert said...

“The only way to avoid this logic is to tinker with the meaning of “choice”, the very thing you fault Calvinists for doing.”

Now this is a very important misrepresentation of my view you are engaging in here. And I want to be real clear, crystal clear about this point. I do not fault the calvinists for tinkering with the meaning of having and making choices (they agree with me that in an ED world while we make choices we never ever have choices). Where I find them to be extremely dishonest is that they do not admit that their view logically and necessarily (no pun intended) entails THAT WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE. That being the case their view also entails that every time we believe that we have a choice, that belief is mistaken. They are not honest or forthright about either of these two points.

Another place where I find them to be extremely misleading and dishonest is that they try to claim that they believe in or that their view allows for “free will”. If our every action is predetermined and hence necessitated, then we never ever have a choice AND we never ever act freely. Now if they were honest and said that since their view is true, then we never ever have a choice, our belief that we have a choice is always wrong, we never act freely but only and always by necessity, then they would be honest. But that is not what they do. They will not admit what their view entails.

They will not admit that their view **is** hard determinism (all events determined no free will, no one ever acts freely), instead they play intentional and misleading semantic games such as calling their view “soft compatibilism” (with “soft compatibilism” meaning that our actions are completely determined and yet we are simultaneously acting freely). They will say things like: hey what’s the problem, we all act freely because we all do what we want to do (not being honest and forthright that our very desires are just as necessitated and predetermined as everything else, so we want only what God wants us to want in and ED world, so we do only what God wants us to do). So my problem with necessatarians (and that really is the proper term for them) is not their wrong definition of having and making choices. My problem is their total dishonesty about what their view logically and necessarily entails.

Robert

Robert said...

I had written:

“So in a fully necessitated world, you may be engaging in the process of making a choice but you never have a choice.”

You responded with:

“Again, I think it plainly absurd to say someone is in the process of making choices he does not have.”

You just refuse to see it, fine that is a choice as well.

“If there are no options there is no possibility for choice,”

If two or more options are not accessible then you do not have a choice. But you can make a selection even when only one option is accessible to you.

“and if there is no possibility for choice,”

No possibility for having a choice in an ED world.

“neither is there possibility for making choices. This is very basic logic.”

It is not basic logic it is simply you arguing in a circle, repeatedly operating from your own definition and just going around and around based on your own definition. You need to read some of the philosophers, they all disagree with you on this one (they commonly make the distinction between having and making a choice that I make). We could all be wrong and you are right, but I don’t think so.

“Anyway, we have gone over this ground before. It still seems to me that when you say,

Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice.

...you are affirming my point.”

Now you are isolating one of my statements as if it supports your view and it does not. The quote that you selectively quote was referring to a card player in a world where LFW was present, this world, the world where we both have and make choices.

Robert

Robert said...

“You are saying that the evidence that one “has” a choice is that they “made” a choice (and you use this as evidence that LFW view is correct).”

Misrepresenting my view yet again.

I do not argue that making a choice is evidence of having a choice and then use **that** against the necessitarian position. No, my argument is that there is tons of evidence that we both have and make choices (this evidence is present both in our daily experience and is continuous and also in bible passages that clearly present situations where persons HAD CHOICES). It must be remembered that the necessitarian view that claims that “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass”/that God had predetermined and necessitated every event: must prove a UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE (i.e. that we never ever have a choice). Any evidence that contradicts this universal negative (and THERE IS LITERALLY TONS OF IT) refutes he necessitarian view. So I argue from the presence of our HAVING CHOICES against the necessitarian view. That’s my argument.

“But if one can make a choice without having a choice (as you elsewhere affirm),”

Again, the restaurant example shows that we can clearly find ourselves in a situation where we make a choice but did not have a choice.

“then that statement is false, unless you are saying that in an ED world one can make a choice while not having a choice,”

NOW WE ARE GETTING SOMEWHERE, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM CLAIMING: “that in an ED world one can make a choice while not having a choice.” Bingo, you win, that’s my view! :-) :-)

“but in an LFW world one cannot make a choice without having a choice. That would seem to be rather strange reasoning.”

Actually in an LFW world **most of the time** when we make a choice we did in fact have a choice. And yet occasionally, due to circumstances, we may find ourselves believing that we had a choice about which restaurant we chose to go to for example, when in fact we did not have a choice though we made a choice! :-)

“If one cannot make a choice without having a choice in an LFW world, then neither can one make a choice without having a choice in an ED world.”

This is not correct and is just you repeating your mantra again (we cannot make a choice without having a choice). I believe that we can make a choice without having a choice in both and ED world and an LFW world (though in the LFW world this would occur very infrequently while in the ED world it would happen every time a person makes a choice).

Robert

Robert said...

“More basic than that is the simple definition of choice, which makes the ED account absurd (and I would say it makes your account absurd as well).”

Again, my qualms about the necessitarian view is not them missing on the definition of “choice”, but them not being honest to admit that in their view we never ever have a choice. The ED account is absurd in that it is contradicted by both our daily experience (since we do in fact live in an LFW world that God intended to be that way) and scripture. I don’t think my view is absurd and again the philosophers that I have read have no problem acknowledging the distinction between having and making choices.

“But it seems we will just have to agree to disagree (again).”

I will not agree with you because I believe you are mistaken about this. And from others that I have read you are clearly mistaken here.

“It still doesn't seem (to me) like your above statement comports with your arguments, but if you insist that it does, I will just bow out and assume I must be misunderstanding you.”

Yeh you might be misunderstanding my view as you are clearly misrepresenting it: hopefully what was said here will further clarify my view.

“At least we agree that one does not have choices in an ED world. That is a big enough black spot for Calvinism and demonstrates that Calvinists are not using language correctly.”

Right, this is the key, if ED excludes us ever having a choice (i.e., that universal negative present in their view – the universal negative that we never ever have a choice), and if the available evidence both of our daily and common experience as well as biblical evidence contradicts their universal negative then they are necessarily wrong, their view is dead in the water. Like a friend of mine who uses the analogy of the mighty German battleship that was supposedly unsinkable, except for a little weakness in the small rudder. Once that rudder was attacked the ship then went around in circles as they pounded it into oblivion and sunk it. Similarly, having a choice seems like just a little thing at first, but once you carefully examine and see that the necessitarian battleship has this weak spot of denying that we ever have a choice. Attack that little spot and the whole necessitarian system crumbles like the house of cards, the false man invented system that it is.

“However, unlike you, I believe the case gets even worse for Calvinists in that we can’t make choices in an ED world either.”

You may believe that but I believe that you will have great difficulty convincing calvinists that in an ED world they do not even make choices. I don’t see them ever admitting that at all.

Robert

arminianperspectives said...

Robert,

I don’t have time to address all of your responses, but I wanted to address a few things and ask you for some clarification.

You wrote,

Making a choice involves selecting one option, having a choice requires more than just selecting one option, at least two different options must both be accessible to the person making the choice. The record is in the groove and just keeps skipping at the same point.

I realize you think I am begging the question, but I disagree. What I am doing is trying to work with normal word usage. You talk about making choices involving “selecting an option”. The use of the word “select” presupposes that there is more than one option to choose (select) from. So saying we select an option, means we choose from possible alternatives. Otherwise it is not selecting an option. It is just thinking or doing something. When you talk about “selecting options” you falsify your view.

You also are very interested in the idea of being able to actualize our choice. You seem to think that if a choice cannot be actualized that means we don’t have a choice while still being able to make a choice. What I am saying is the ability to actualize a choice is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if a restaurant is closed. Having a choice (being able to form various intentions among cognitive options in the mind) is not the same as being able to actualize a choice (actually carry out our intentions). If we can only intend one thing (regardless of our ability to actualize that choice), then we do not have a choice. If we can only intend one thing, then we do not make a choice, because only one intention is possible. “Choice” (i.e. making a choice) involves alternate possibilities, or options to “choose from”. So whenever we speak of choice (whether “having” or “making” a choice), alternative possibilities are presupposed simply by using the word “choice.” You want to use choice in one sense without regards to alternative possibilities (making a choice), while then using it in another sense with regards to alternative possibilities (having a choice). That is not proper word usage. That is begging the question.

If all is predetermined then you will make the choice that was already decided that you will make and you have no choice, you have to make that choice.

Do you realize what you just said? You just said that you have no choice but to make a certain choice. I cannot help but to see that as plainly absurd. That is saying that we have no choice in choosing, that choosing does not involve choice. It is plainly absurd IMO, and betrays the improper use of terms.

Where I find them to be extremely dishonest is that they do not admit that their view logically and necessarily (no pun intended) entails THAT WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE.

Note this addition: THAT WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE [TO MAKE]

That being the case their view also entails that every time we believe that we have a choice, that belief is mistaken. They are not honest or forthright about either of these two points.

If we can believe that we have a choice and yet be mistaken about it, why can’t we believe that we make a choice and be mistaken about it?

You just refuse to see it, fine that is a choice as well.

It is a choice that I make because it is a choice that I have [to make]. If I have no choice to make, then I cannot make a choice. Yet you refuse to see it, which is a choice you have made because you had that choice to make :-)

If two or more options are not accessible then you do not have a choice. But you can make a selection even when only one option is accessible to you.

This is pure assertion with nothing to back it up. You cannot select an option if there are no options to select from. That is not question begging or drum beating or mantra repeating, it is simply basic logical deduction from normal word usage. I will address the most important part and ask for clarification in my next post…

arminianperspectives said...

Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice.

...you are affirming my point.”

Now you are isolating one of my statements as if it supports your view and it does not. The quote that you selectively quote was referring to a card player in a world where LFW was present, this world, the world where we both have and make choices.


That’s fine, but it is really odd given the context of that post. You seemed to be saying that Steve’s analogy (which assumes determinism) was wrong because if a person makes a choice in such a scenario, he “certainly had a choice”.

Now if you were assuming LFW in that statement, you seem again to be stating a necessary connection between having and making choices. The statement, “Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice” seems to plainly imply that the reality of making a choice is dependent on having a choice. But this you deny. So if this is meant to represent an LFW world, then you would seem to be affirming that there is a necessary logical connection between having and making choices in an LFW world, but not in an ED world. It would be like saying you can make a choice you don’t have in an ED world, but you can’t make a choice you don’t have in an LFW world (which actually seems to attribute more freedom to an ED world). Is that what you are saying? I admit to being confused. At one point you seemed to say this when you wrote,

In a world where libertarian free will exists for human persons, we both HAVE AND MAKE CHOICES. In a fully necessitated world where LFW does not exist, PEOPLE NEVER ***HAVE*** CHOICES, though they MAKE CHOICES.

I understand that in an LFW world people both have and make choices, but I also believe that in any world one must first have a choice before they can make one. You deny this, but your statement seems to imply it. It seems to imply that having a choice is the necessary basis for making a choice.

I was not trying to re-hash this topic with you or continue to beat my drum in the ears of someone who doesn’t here the same rhythm (for whatever reasons). That statement above made me wonder if you had changed your position since it seemed to undermine what you had previously said (that one can make choices he does not have). I figured you had either misspoke, or changed your stance. I asked for clarification. That is how this thing started, so maybe that is how it should end. Could you please explain what you meant when you said, “Whichever choice he makes he most certainly had a choice”?

And maybe you could comment on the lead up to this statement where you said,

That is a very clear and unequivocal statement of the choices that the "gambler" has(he can choose to stay with the cards he has, choose to draw more cards, choose to quit the particular hand and fold um, choose to walk away or choose to run!

Here you seem to be making a pretty obvious correlation and connection between having and making choices. You speak of his choices, and then you immediately move to him “choosing” (i.e. making choices) as evidence for him having choices. That seems to agree perfectly with my view while, again, undermining yours. Making choices cannot be sure evidence of having choices (as you seem to suggest above) if one can make choices without having choices (which is your stated view elsewhere). So it seems that you are contradicting yourself and that is why I was asking for clarification.

Thanks,
Ben