Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Grounding Objection (Part 1)

The grounding objection is kinda muddy because of many surrounding issues . My hope is that by parsing the grounding objection from the associated issues, we can see and understand it more clearly. It's a well known rhetorical device that the combination of arguments is more persuasive than the arguments presented individually. However, the arguments should be understood separately and the rhetorical persuasiveness of the combination does not increase the logical soundness of the arguments by themselves or in combination.

In parsing the grounding objection from associated issues, I do not in any way mean to deny non-Molinists the right to divide up the grounding objection into their own 'grounding objectionlets'. Indeed, cataloging and comparing variations on the grounding objection may well be an enlightening exercise. But from what I have seen, grounding objections share a common thread, a core, and it's the core that I would like to highlight.

The grounding objection is raised against Molinism by Calvinists, Open Theists and those holding to Simple Foreknowledge. This fact alone should help guide us in parsing the grounding objection itself from surrounding issues. Calvinists and Open Theists disagree with those holding to simple foreknowledge that God's foreknowledge is reconcilable with human freedom. Those holding to simple foreknowledge and Open Theists disagree with Calvinists on determinism. Calvinists and those holding to simple foreknowledge disagree with Open Theists on the future. Yet these three groups find a common objection to Molinism: the grounding objection. So the core grounding objection is rightly distinguished from areas of disagreement between these three groups.

The objection isn’t really about God’s epistemology. So rather than asking ‘how does God know counterfactuals of human freedom?’, one should ask ‘why are statements about counterfactuals of human freedom true?’. Those who think that counterfactuals are true but God does not know them should be seen as the exception; classic theists believe God knows all truths.

The objection is not seeking a sufficient cause of free acts, which would question beg against LFW, since in the libertarian view none exist. Rather than seeking the grounding of the ‘free acts’ aspect of ‘hypothetical free acts’, it seeks the grounding of the ‘hypothetical’ aspect. It is true some determinists argue free acts are illogical or impossible; but this is a separate issue. The lingering concern after parsing the grounding objection from objections to free will is this: since we do not actually make the hypothetical choices, isn't something other than us determining what would happen? And if so, how can we remain free in a libertarian sense in the actual world?

Nor is the grounding objection merely semantic. No doubt Molinists and non-Molinists may interpret hypothetical statements differently. For example, an open theist may claim Christ's statement in Matthew 11 "If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" is only a probability statement based on the actual thoughts and intentions of those in Tyre and Sidon. However, Molinists say this statement is not probabilistic, but certain. Further it was based on what they would do rather than their present intentions. So each side understands counterfactual statements in different ways, either probabilistic or absolute and either based on present intentions or based on what the person would do in the given circumstances. Still, the grounding objection is not suspended on this issue; this issue results from the grounding objection, not the other way around. Open Theists remain unsatisfied even when Molinists explain their views regarding counterfactual statements and also when they reword counterfactual statements in specific ways. The grounding issue is substantive, not semantic.

Finally, the grounding objection against middle knowledge is not the same as the grounding objection against foreknowledge. Granted, an open theist may reject that some future tense statements are grounded; and therefore are either all false or neither true or false. But even if foreknowledge is granted, as is the case of those holding to simple foreknowledge, the grounding objection is still advanced, since real world events will be available to ground future tense statements, but real world events are not, nor will be, available to ground middle knowledge, since the events will not happen.


In short, the core of grounding objection is distinct from the arguments that:
  1. LFW is illogical
  2. God has epistemological limitations
  3. Semantics regarding counterfactual statements
  4. Foreknowledge of free actions is illogical

Rather, the core grounding objection is how can counterfactual statements about a persons libertarian free will be true, given they do not actually make the choices in the real world?

God willing, I will attempt to address this question in upcoming posts.

1 comment:

#John1453 said...

Thanks for your post and the effort of working through that stuff. I'm going to chew over what you wrote and then respond (if I have anything useful to say).

Regards,
#John