Friday, July 31, 2009

Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens

Just took the family to Busch Gardens. Not my youtube clip, but this is my favorite ride in the park.

Friday Files: Whitby on Acts 13:48

Dr. Whitby discusses Acts 13:48 in his Discorses on the 5 Points, page 70. First, he gives three problems with the Calvinist translation and then provides multiple examples of how tasso 'ordained' is often translated 'disposed'.

Election entails reprobation and so what necessity could there be, 'that the word of God should be first preached to them as we read, verse 46. Was it only that their damnation might be greater? This impugns God's character.

The Apostle gives this reason why he turned from the Jews to the Gentiles,—because 'the Jews had thrust away the word of God from them, and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life; (verse 46,) but that's not a good reason to turn from the Jews to the Gentiles, since the Jews were just rejecting because they had to.

If Paul knew they were reprobate, why doth St. Paul, by God's commission, speak here to them thus, ' Be it known to you, brethren, that by this Jesus is declared to you remission of sins? Why does he add, 'and by this man every one that believes is justified, &c..? Why does he vehemently exhort them to 'beware lest that saying of the prophet Habakkuk should be verified of them, You will not believe though one declare it to you? For could God have determined that these very persons should not believe to life eternal, and yet commission his apostles to tell them, that 'remission of sins and justification to life,' was proposed to them?

These things seem clearly to evince, this cannot be the proper import of the words. But they will very well admit of these two senses: (1.; As many as were disposed for eternal life, believed; for the word tetagmenos, which we here render ' ordained,' is used in this very book to signify a man, not outwardly ordained, but inwardly disposed, or one determined, not by God, but by his own inclinations, to do such a thing; as when it is said, St. Paul ' went on foot from Assos hto gar hen diatetagmenos for so he was disposed;'(Acts 20:13) the son of Sirach says, that the conduct or government of a wise man is tetagmenos, not ordained by God, but 'well ordered or disposed by himself.' (Sirach 10:1) Thus Philo saith to Cain, "Thou needest not fear being killed by them who are, art en se tetagmenoi, 'ranked on thy side'," (quod deter. p 144) or of the same dispositions and inclinations with thee; and he saith to those children who having had vicious parents, were themselves virtuously inclined, that they are ameino tetagmenoi tazei, ' placed in a better rank;' (De Nobilit. p. 702. c)and speaking of Esau and Jacob, he represents Esau as fierce, subject to anger and other passions, and governed by his brutish part, but Jacob as a lover of virtue and truth, and so en beltiovi tetagmenon tazei, ' placed in a better rank,' (De praemiis et poenis. p. 712 B) or of a better temper and disposition; and adds, that ° Samuel was tetagmenos to Theo, ' well disposed towards God.' (De Termul. p. 203. C.) So Simplicius interprets this word; for when Epictetus had said, "If thou desirest to be a philosopher, so retain the things that seem best to thee, us os upo Thex tetagmenos eis tauten ten tazin, 'as being by God placed in that rank,' (Enchir. c. 29) that is," saith he, os upo Thex protrepomenos epi tauta," 'as being by God incited to these things'." (Simp. p.139) And to this sense the context leads, the persons opposite to those 'disposed for eternal life,' being those who through their indisposition to embrace the offer of it, were ' unworthy of eternal life'.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Files: Edgar's The Meaning of Proginwskw (Foreknowledge)

Thomas R. Edgar's THE MEANING OF PROGINWSKW (“FOREKNOWLEDGE”) is a word study on 'foreknow' and 'foreknowledge'. Edgar first notes that "In secular Greek, proginwskw meant “to foreknow, to know beforehand.” Scholars do not seriously dispute this definition." He then contends that "due to strong evidence for the meaning “know beforehand,” those who argue otherwise face the burden of proof for establishing the exegetical necessity for their proposed meaning. The theoretical possibility or the interpreter’s theological propensity is not sufficient. If “to know beforehand” fits the meaning in a New Testament passage, then this must be the preferred interpretation."

Edgar then discusss all the passages with foreknow (Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; and 2 Peter 3:17) and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23 , 1 Peter 1:2.) and explains with "to know beforehand" works in each case. Edgar deals with the two main Calvinist objections: (1) The meaning of proginwskw in this passage is to be derived from the use of ginwskw, “know,” in the LXX, and yâdau in the MT (Hebrew Old Testament) rather than from proginwskw, and (2) the personal object, “whom,” requires the meaning of “intimate relationship,” or “electing choice,” for proginwskw. Edgar points out that appealing to ginwskw and yâdau is an overt admission that the deterministic meaning desired by many interpreters cannot be derived from proginwskw itself. He contends “Neither does the prefix simply give a temporal thrust to this verb. It also narrows its semantic range, in this case to knowing beforehand. The entire semantic range of the root verb ginwskw is not carried over to the compounded form. For example, even though ginwskw, on occasion refers to sexual relations, proginwskw does not mean “to have sexual relations beforehand.” Edgar cites Acts 26:5 as a counter example of the "personal object" argument where foreknow is used personally, but implies foreknowing the person’s actions.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wesley on Acts 13:48

At first, I wasn't a big fan of Wesley's interpretation of Acts 13:48, but lately I have come to admire it's simplicity. Wesley doesn't get into technical debates about passive vs. middle voice, disputes about translating tasso as ordain vs. dispose or discussions about reflexive meanings with and without the reflexive pronoun. He is just straight and to the point. Here's the passage and Wesley's comments:

Act 13:44-48 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

As many as were ordained to eternal life - St. Luke does not say fore - ordained. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the Gospel. He is describing that ordination, and that only, which was at the very time of hearing it. During this sermon those believed, says the apostle, to whom God then gave power to believe. It is as if he had said, "They believed, whose hearts the Lord opened;" as he expresses it in a clearly parallel place, speaking of the same kind of ordination, Acts 16:14, &c. It is observable, the original word is not once used in Scripture to express eternal predestination of any kind. The sum is, all those and those only, who were now ordained, now believed. Not that God rejected the rest: it was his will that they also should have been saved: but they thrust salvation from them. Nor were they who then believed constrained to believe. But grace was then first copiously offered them. And they did not thrust it away, so that a great multitude even of Gentiles were converted. In a word, the expression properly implies, a present operation of Divine grace working faith in the hearers. (link)

Calvinists understand the passage as God's predestination from eternity, Arminians understand it as God's prevenient grace in time. Wesley quickly and clearly brings out the three best reasons to favor the Arminian view.

  1. the original word [tasso] is not once used in Scripture to express eternal predestination of any kind - Tasso would be an unusual word to convey predestination. Προορίζω (proorizo) would be more common. In fact, this would be the only such use of tasso in that sense out of the eight New Testament uses and 65 Old Testament (using the Septuagint) uses. Further, tasso is in the pluperfect, which would be a strange tense for predestination; one would expect something more definitive, like an aorist or perfect tense for predestination.
  2. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the Gospel. - In Greek, when you join a perfect participle with an imperfect “to be” verb you get a periphrastic pluperfect. In this verse ησαν is an imperfect to be verb and τεταγμενοι is a perfect participle, so we have a pluperfect. The timing for pluperfects are derived from their contexts. The Gentiles were ordained to eternal life when they heared the gospel and received it with gladness. 'Eternity past' isn't in the context and appears as more of an aside, outside the historical narrative, which is a problem for Calvinists since pluperfects derive their timings from narratives.
  3. Not that God rejected the rest: it was his will that they also should have been saved: but they thrust salvation from them. - Verse 48 and 46 parallel each other. “they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were devoted to eternal life” from verse 48 corresponds to verses 46 “but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life”. The Calvinist interpretation is asymmetrical and the Arminian interpretation is symmetrical.

Finally, Wesley anticipates and preempts an objection. What if Calvinists retreated from the position that the passage teaches predestination, but instead said the passage teaches irresistible grace? Does the passage teach God does something before believe that necessitates belief? Wesley replies: Nor were they who then believed constrained to believe. But grace was then first copiously offered them. And they did not thrust it away, so that a great multitude even of Gentiles were converted. In a word, the expression properly implies, a present operation of Divine grace working faith in the hearers. The idea is that although enablement is a core element of prevenient grace, prevenient grace doesn't stop there. Prevenient grace will carry us through conversion, so long as we don't resist. Just before faith, they could still choose to resist, but if they did so they would fall out of the number of those ordained to eternal life. However, if they don't resist, God's grace will see them through (John 6:45, 7:17).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Great Disturbance in the Force has been removed. I wonder why. Long ago, Theojunkie and I used to discuss Calvinism on Now Theojunkie might not be as read up on philosophy as Paul Manata, as knowledgeable of the church fathers as Turretinfan or as rhetorically effective as Steve Hays, but he did have some rare strengths. First, he always kept the big picture in view, we didn't debate details for the sake of it, we only ever got into the weeds as it related to the big picture. Second, he has a very logical mind. Third, Theojunkie didn't use strawman arguments, nor did he "sell to the crowd". If you were talking theology with Theojunkie, it was a legit conversation. Fourth and most importantly, Theojunkie is passionate, sincere and very kind Christian. Finally, he has a good sense of humor. I will miss Theojunkie’s blog.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Final Post on Choice/Determinism Debate with Steve

Steve Hays and I have been discussing choice and determinism. However our last two posts have shown a significant increase in talking past each other rather then moving deeper into the topic. While I could give a line by line response, I would for the most part simply be repeating arguments I already presented. I am taking that as an indication that it's time to wrap things up (for now).

My primary argument has been as follows:

P1: The bible says we choose
P2: Choosing rules out determinism
C1: So the bible rules out determinism.

P1 is plain in that every English translation of the terms bâcha and eklegomai as choose. Further, the concept of choice crosses linguistic barriers, because it describes something we all experience daily. It would take a conspiracy theory to even suggest that the meanings have shifted over time without scholars noting the change and translating bâcha and eklegomai differently.

I supported p2 by citing multiple dictionaries which define choose as selection between possible alternatives. But determinism denies possible alternatives, so these dictionary definition of choose rule out determinism.

I grant that determinists could develop a useful definition of choose that harmonizes with their philosophy. But I deny such a definition should be used to understand scripture. The bible was written for the common man; as can be seen by many of it's books being addressed to this and that church and the Nation or People of Israel.

I also note that the wiktionary defines choose as select. But I also note it defines select as choose, so under-defining terms leads to unhelpful tautologies.

While Steve poked at P1 and provided a tautological definition of choose (decision), his primary thrust has been at the notion that determinism rules out alternative possibilities. While he grants that determinism rules out alternative possibilities at a metaphysical level, he none-the-less maintains that in an epistemic sense of possible, determinists can hold to alternative possibilities. So he concludes I am eisegeting the dictionary - reading in absolute possibilities when it could be understood as relative possibilities.

I grant that an epistemic sense of possible is both valid and common, but I deny that a determinist could hold to possible alternatives even in an epistemic sense. The epistemic sense of possible alternatives rules out determinism. Further, the epistemic sense of possible isn't a valid candidate for defining choose.

The epistemic sense of possible is a relative sense as opposed to an absolute sense. Given the facts I have; such and such can happen. The process of logical reasoning results in us concluding something is free from logical contradiction; thus we call it possible in an epistemic sense. Further, it only takes into account what we know; other truths that we don't know may contradict the idea in question. So something that may be absolutely impossible may be logically possible and something that may be logically possible may be epistemicially possible.

Steve cited a gambler as an example of a determinist with possible alternatives in an epistemic sense.

Steve: I cited the gambler to illustrate the fact that human agents can deliberate over hypothetical possibilities, and decide on one–even though only one of these hypothetical possibilities is a live possibility–and the gambler knows this at the time he’s deliberating and deciding what to do next.

One of the problems is the gambler does not decide on one of the hypothetical (epistemic) possibilities. He wishes the card to be 2 rather than 3, but he doesn't choose for the card to be 2 rather than 3. He chooses to draw or not - to take his chances. It's not as if 2 and 3 are face up on the table and the dealer is letting the gambler pick one. If it was, he really would be choosing 2 over 3. Steve himself notes: The gambler goes into the game knowing in advance that his choices have no effect on the order of the cards. And yet his choices are made with a view to the order of the cards. If the gambler did decide on one of the epistemic possibilities, the example might be relevant, but he doesn't, so it's not relevant.

Another problem is that the epistemic sense of possible is an impersonal possibility, not a personal possibility. It says what is logically possible, not what is causally possible. Choice is about an agent's abilities, but the epistemic sense of possible isn't about an agent's abilities. Steve counters that choice often takes an impersonal object, which is true but besides the point. In the epistemic sense, the possibility is impersonal, not the object. Is the agent able (or at least think he's able) to select the object? If so, it's a personal ability, not an impersonal possibility. The gambler could reason the card's spontaneous combustion is logically possible given what he knows, but that doesn't mean it's in his power (or that he thinks it's in his power).

A third problem is that Steve uses alternative possibilities - meaning more than one possibility. But determinist's think there can be only one possibility at a time. Determinism rules out not just twofold actualities, or just twofold possibilities but also twofold epistemic possibilities. If 2 is possible, 3 is not - and vice versa.

To avoid this third problem Steve runs into a fourth problem - he has expresses alternative possibilities as epistemic possibilities, not just not knowing if the two things are impossible. As soon as he moves from the negation (I don't find these things to be logically impossible) to the assertion (based on what I know these things are possibilities), he undermines determinism.

In addition to the main line of debate on epistemic possibilities, Steve has been pressing me on whether choice relates only to mental resolutions or also to the extra-mental execution of the choice. I have responded that it doesn't matter, because determinsts don't believe in the ability to choose otherwise or the ability to do otherwise. So it's an unneeded rabbit trail, but my answer is that choice can be used either way depending on the object of choice and responsibility attaches primarily to the internal mental resolution.

Steve has cited the example of someone choosing between careers, thinking he can do both, but external circumstances would prevent either from coming to fruition. Initially I took this example as Steve defending of the idea that freedom amounts to the hypothetical: if X is my greatest desire, I can choose X. That was the topic at the time. However, perhaps Steve was transitioning from hypothetical possibilities to epistemic possibilities. I should have picked up on it sooner, but the card player example made it clear.

The med students sense of possibility is different than the card player example. The student thinks he can control the outcome; the card player knows he can't control the order of the deck. The student's possibility is personal, causal and metaphysical, but the possibility in the card example is impersonal, logical and epistemic.

The fact that the student thinks he can realize his goal introduces a second level possibility: given what I know it's logically possible that this is absolutely possible (rather than given what I know, I think this is logically possible). The reasons why determinists can't hold to twofold epistemic possibilities have already been cited and clearly determinists can't believe in twofold absolute possibilities.

I will let Steve have the final word on this debate. I want to thank Steve for his taking the time to dig into these important topic with me. Steve really challenged me to think. I hold no ill feelings toward Steve and ask him to forgive me if I offended him in any way.

Here's the posts from the debate:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Response to Steve on Frankfurt Example

This clip is a response to Steve on Frankfurt examples.

Final Response to Paul Manata

Paul’s final post contains somewhat of a summary of our debate, so I won’t respond point by point since that would just be repeating much of what has already been said. While I am not crying ‘straw man’ over his rundown of my argument, I do think it combines my initial argument with my responses to Paul’s statements on choose and determinism. Paul did bring up some new arguments about epistemology which I won’t address either since I doubt the relevance and I would have to do quite a bit of research– to his credit, Paul is much better read on these matters than I. Also, I won’t comment on the role of philosophy and scripture (since I said enough already), even though I actually consider that matter of greater importance than the LFW/determinism debate. The one area I will address is Paul’s definition of choose.

Choose = df to select freely out of a greater number of things, where this selecting is a mental action explained in terms of reasons, where a reason is a purpose, end, or goal for choosing one (or more) thing to make a selection out of a group of things, or an intentional object, which is about or directed at the future and opative in mood, i.e., wishing to pick x-thing and that it be good for x-thing to prevail in the world rather than y-thing being picked and prevailing in the world.

I don’t think “to select freely out of a greater number of things” is a technical “philosophical” definition. Perhaps a case could be made that the definitions I provided are better or more common, but I don’t think that’s necessary. So this shifts the burden of proof to me to show this definition rules out determinism.

P1: Choosers only consider selecting things they think to be possible
P2: Choosing is out of multiple things
C1: So choosers believe in multiple possibilities
P3: But determinism rules out multiple possibilities and determinists can not consistently believe in multiple possibilities
C2: So choosing rules out determinism.

P1 and P3 are probably the only controversial premises. P1 can be clarified by the fact that we never choose something we think to be impossible. If we think something is impossible, we rule it out. By Paul’s definition, we choose things we believe to be conducive to our goal, so clearly the impossible isn’t conducive to our goal. P1 can be further clarified, in that choosing a thing entails an intention to act to produce that thing. For example, choosing an apple over a pear entails the intention to reach out and grab the apple. But actions are the actualization of a possibility and no one believes his own hypothetical actions (when he’s evaluating what to choose) to be impossible. So P1 seems sound. Even if exceptions could be found, certainly P1 is normally the case.

P3 is the subject of the debate between Steve and myself (so perhaps Paul’s view lives on in Steve), but given Paul is a semi-compatibilist he should grant P3.

With that, I would like to thank Paul for his time and this stimulating debate. God be with you Paul!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Choose debate (from my POV)

Long ago I provide a list of scriptural passages that I thought taught freewill. (link) Turretinfan asked me: Why do any of the passages you cited, or the combination of passages, require anything more than a simple, Calvinistic free will? I asked him what is Calvinist free will, so I can respond? He said: “Calvinistic free will simply says that a choice is a determination or judgment by an animate being with respect to one object in preference to another object.” I responded: “Choice and preference can be synonyms, but to use a synonym to define its counterpart is somewhat bootstrapped.” (link)

I didn’t consider the “thesaurus approach” precise enough and pushed for a more rigorous definition, which Turretinfan was somewhat reluctant to provide, in fear that it would obscure rather than clarify the issue. Turretinfan warned me that philosophy may just confuse things. (link)

Gene Bridges said: we Calvinists have no burden of proof to prove "compatibilism," but the Libertarians MUST prove libertarianism since they're positing it as axiomatic. …GIMJ is doing a marvelous job of demonstrating that Arminianism has no exegetical argument against Calvinism of merit, it's all ethical and philosophical when the exegetical dress is removed. (link)

Consider this the father of the “choose” argument, but you should also meet the mother. I objected to Bernable’s use of a divided sense of freedom. (link) I thought that compatiblism fails since in some ultimate way we are not free given we are not free from determinism. TF responded again warning me of my use of philosophy. I was starting to think compatiblism could only survive by keeping its head down. I again asked TF to define choice and he gave me a definition that I thought sufficient to conflict with determinism.

Here’s a concise form of my argument against a divided sense of freedom:

P1: When one posits that idea A is logically compatible with idea B, he is
speaking of idea A in a compound sense, including idea B P2: compatiblism posits that the idea of being able to freely choose between 1 & 2 and the idea of being determined to 1 are logically consistent C1: Therefore, the compatiblist is speaking of being able to freely choose between 1 & 2 in a compound sense, including the idea of being determined to 1 P3: Compatiblists can say we are able to freely choose 2 only in a divided sense, excluding being determined to 1. C2: therefore, compatiblists speak both in a divided and compound sense at the same time. (link)
(more here)

Ok, so the three key takeaways: 1) I didn’t think compatiblism works but 2) I needed a sufficient definition of choice to demonstrate why, so the “thesaurus approach” would not do and 3) determinists had been reluctant to get more precise, criticizing me for being too philosophical. The dictionary was simply a tool to get me past problems 2 # 3.

OK, enter Paul Manata… In many ways Paul’s approach was the exact opposite of Turretinfan’s.

Here’s my initial argument: The American Heritage College Dictionary (3rd edition) defines choose as: to select from a number of possible alternatives. (similar definitions available here and here) Determinism includes the idea that preceding causal forces render all our actions necessary such that they cannot be otherwise. So a “predetermined choice” implies an “impossible possibility” and an “inalternate alternative”. Since the bible states that we have wills and choose, determinism isn’t consistent with the bible.(link)

Paul on the other hand had cited philosophers Kane and Goetz/Taliaferro and expressed concern that we frequently hear that "choice" just means some kind of libertarianism about the will. The second is like unto it: "You Calvinists must necessarily go against laymen, common sensical understandings of certain terms. Your position is counter-intuitive. Ordinary folk laugh at you." (link)

The posture is the exact opposite – Paul sees the threat coming from the common parlance and appeals to philosophers; TF had warned me of being too philosophical and wished for me to stick to common parlance. Further, Paul seems skeptical about classic compatiblism (i.e. #1). It literally seems like all my problems above (1 to 3) are gone and the main aspects of the debate were over before it started. I was standing ready to try to knock down all forms of compatibilism, but the attack never came.

So I criticize Kane and Paul criticizes the dictionary. When Paul seemed ready to grant that the common man’s view of choice conflicted with determinism, I moved in to close the discussion by saying scripture was written to the common man: if Paul admits the common man thinks of choice as libertarian, he should address the fact that the bible was written by common men and to the common man (i.e. to the people of Israel and the church, not the semi-compatiblist) and it uses the terms choice and choose. (link)

I don’t want to overestimate Turretinfan’s influence but he did advise Paul to minimize the definition of choose (link) and then Paul argued that 1 to 3 above are back on the table. (link)

So my argument:

P1: The bible says people have wills and choose P2: But choosing rules out determinism C1: Therefore, the bible rules out determinism. (link)

P2 is another way of saying compatibilism doesn't make sense, which Steve and TF have opposed. Compatibilism can knock out P2, but compatibilism has to stand to be able to do so.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Response to Paul on 2 Kings 10

This post is in response to Paul's post "Choose the best" based on 2 Kings 10.

Response to Paul on Clarity of Scripture

This youtube clip is a response to Paul Manata's post called some clean up. I want to be clear that I do think of Calvinists as brothers in the Lord.

Restart of Paul's Arguments

This youtube clip is in response to Paul's post called kaput. The big picture is that Paul's recent dictionary definition put him where Steve was several months ago and likely this path would have similar results to my exhange with Steve (i.e. him saying here's why such and such squares with determinism and me saying here's why it does not).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rabbit trail on PAP and Frankfurt Examples

Paul claims some libertarian philosophers deny PAP (Principle of Alternate Possibilities). He cites Timothy O' Connor, David Hunt and William Lane Craig. (link) This topic is somewhat tangential to our determinism/choose debate, but it's interesting so I thought I would address it. I tend to disagree with PAP but I also disagree with some of Craig's recent comments. I don't think O'Connor was denying PAP and I find Hunt's comments prima-facia inconsistent, so I will only address Craig.

PAP and Frankfurt Examples

PAP is the idea that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. (Free will Handbook. Fisher. Frankfurt-Type Examples and Semi-Compatiblism. p283.) Note that not just some, but all events for which we are accountable must be free and not necessary under PAP. So for example those holding to PAP must deny we are morally accountable for our actions that result from prior free choices but are themselves not free. Understood this way, not just some, but a great deal of libertarian thinkers deny PAP. Arminius' commentary on Romans 9:19 reveals he denies PAP: If, indeed, the man commits that which deserves hardening of free-will, he is subjected to blame, and is worthy of wrath, even if he may be hardened by that will, which can not be resisted. For resisting and that freely, the divine will, revealed in the word, which can be resisted, he is brought into that necessity of the divine decree, also revealed in the word, which can not be resisted, and so the will of God is done in reference to him, by whom the will of God is not done. (link) On the other hand, denying PAP is very different then saying man never has alternative possibilities (AP) or even that AP is necessary for moral responsibility.

Here's a Frankfort example: Suppose Jones is in a voting booth deliberating about wheater to vote fro Gore or Bush. After reflection, he chooses to vote for Gore and does vote for Gore by marking his ballot in the normal way. Unbeknownst to him, Black, a liberal neurosurgeon working with the Democratic Party, has implanted a device in Jones's brain which monitors Jones's brain activities. If he is about to choose to vote Democratic, the device simply continues to monitoring and does not intervene in the process in any way. If, however, Jones is about to chose to vote, say, Republican, the device triggers an intervention that involves electronic stimulation of the brain sufficient to produce a choice to vote for the Democrat (and a subsequent Democrate vote). (ibid. 282)

The Frankfort example has numerous problems, such as 1) there is no "sign" beforehand indicating what the choice will be, 2) there's no such thing as a "forced choice" so no device could trigger a choice, 3) the will is part of our immaterial soul, so no physical device could monitor and manipulate it. However, the interesting question is if the Frankfort example can be fixed. Let's look at Craig's attempt.

Response to William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig: "But as you note, I’m a libertarian who thinks that causal determinism is incompatible with freedom. That doesn’t imply that I hold to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), which states that a free agent has in a set of circumstances the ability to choose A or not-A. I’m persuaded that so long as an agent’s choice is not causally determined, it doesn’t matter if he can actually make a choice contrary to how he does choose. Suppose that God has decided to create you in a set of circumstances because He knew that in those circumstances you would make an undetermined choice to do A. Suppose further that had God instead known that if you were in those circumstances you would have made an undetermined choice to do not-A, then God would not have created you in those circumstances (maybe it would have loused up His providential plan!). In that case you do not have the ability in those circumstances to make the choice of not-A, but nevertheless your choice of A is, I think, clearly free, for it is causally unconstrained—it you who determines that A will be done. So the ability to do otherwise is not a necessary condition of free choice." (link)

I disagree with Craig's statement - while he patches some of the problems in the prior Frankfort example, he creates some new ones. Middle knowledge looks like it could successfully replace "the sign" and Molinism could replace the "forced choice" and work with an immaterial soul. So it seems the initial Frankfort problems are fixed. However, Craig has some new problems.

First, Craig defines PAP in a much broader sense than Fisher; Craig's not just going after responsibility, he's going after AP. Both Fisher and Craig deny PAP, but given their different definitions of PAP, Fisher denial entails actions that are "necessary but responsible", Craig's denial entails actions that are "necessary but free". For Fisher, the issue is "do you have to have AP in all cases of responsibility?" For Craig, the issue is "do you have to have AP in any cases of freedom?"

The problem with Craig's argument is that middle knowledge entails AP. Everything God knows via His middle knowledge is possible (included within God's natural knowledge). God could not know, via His middle knowledge, that you would choose something that would "louse up His plan", because God's plan totally failing is strictly impossible and not an object of His natural knowledge. This falls into the same category as God sinning. It's logically inconsistent to have a Sinning Holy One, so such scenarios are self-contradictory, logically impossible, and not part of God's natural knowledge. Only in a relative sense (removing some of God's attributes from view) can we even talk about such things without sliding into incoherence.

Nor could God still have middle knowledge of Jones voting democratic without the possibility of Jones voting republican because it would louse up His plan. By middle knowledge God knows which of two or more possibilities would obtain under various circumstances. If nothing else is possible, middle knowledge is unnecessary and superfluous, since God already knows what "would" happen - the only thing that can happen.

If you remove the "it would louse up God's plan" aspect, and just say God chooses not to create that world, then such a choice leaves man with AP. The person can, but will not (and would not) choose otherwise. So Craig's replacement of "the sign" was unsuccessful; it was replace by something that entailed AP - the very element he attempted to remove.

Further, causal indeterminism entails AP; it's the core element of AP. The deterministic/indeterministic distinction is broader than the agent/event causation distinction. Thus, even agent causation may be deterministic or indeterministic. If the agent doesn't have alternative possibilities, then his nature determines him to one and only one action. Although there is a difference between this and deterministic event causation, it's still deterministic, not indeterministic.

Finally, Craig's example doesn't rule out AP. Now God couldn't get me to vote for republican (since I wouldn't do so), but He could create a world where I live in Timbuktu. So there are three possible worlds: vote republican, vote Democrat, and riding a Camel in the Sahara. Now Craig goes further and says what if my voting Democrat messes up His sovereign plan. So God has to put me in the Sahara; permitting me to vote Democrat is impossible (since it would be unwise for God to do so). Oddly enough, we still have alternative possibilities: vote republican or ride a Camel in the Sahara. Not what I had in mind when I entered the voting booth, but twofold possibilities none-the-less, so it's still not deterministic. Even under the assumption that God wouldn't create me at all, "possible me" (the object of God's natural knowledge that did not get actualized) would still have had alternative possibilities.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Craig and still recommend his books. I have no idea how these recent statements he has made could be reconciled with his earlier works. In his chapter "Within One's Power Once More" in his book Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom: The Coherence of Theism : Omniscience, Craig states "But assuming that our actions are not causally determined, we have the ability to act in ways other than we in fact act" p. 161. But it seems this recent statements are mistaken.

Why I Reject PAP
I agree with Arminius on the hardness of hearts, but while such acts are voluntary they seem like they are less than choices. Recall Aristotle said: "Choice is manifestly a voluntary act. But the two terms are not synonymous, the latter being the wider. Children and the lower animals as well as men are capable of voluntary action, but not of choice. Also sudden acts may be termed voluntary, but they cannot be said to be done by choice." (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (ed. H. Rackham) II.3) Thus, rejecting PAP harmonizes with my choose arguments.

Futher, PAP seems to be interpreted too specifically for my taste. You must be able to vote Democrat or Republican. You must be able to do good or evil. You must be able to eat chocolate or vanilla... Aquinas broke freedom down into two parts: exercise and specification. "Now a power of the soul is seen to be in potentiality to different things in two ways: first, with regard to acting and not acting; secondly, with regard to this or that action. Thus the sight sometimes sees actually, and sometimes sees not: and sometimes it sees white, and sometimes black." (link) For me, it's enough to choose A or not - I don't need to extend things to the ability to choose A or B. Now this issue is mostly perception not real. Some determinists like to specify "B" and then show B is impossible. But both "A or not" and "A or B" are alternative possibilities. It's just one is more specific than the other.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Scripture and the Common Man

Paul seems to missunderstand my view on scripture. He states: Crucial to Dan’s argument is the claim that “common man” are all, each and every, libertarians. If Dan claims that some “common men” are not indeterminist, but determinist, then he defeats one of his premises, or makes the Bible speak in contradictions. To spell this point out, recall that Dan says, “The Bible is written by and to the common man, it means what they mean, since they mean certain words libertarianly, then the Bible so means those words.” Yet if we allow some (even one?) of the “common men” to whom the Bible was written to be determinists, then it must mean what they mean by the words that are the topic of our discussion. However, since there are indeterminist “common men”, then the Bible must also mean what they mean by the words we are discussing! Therefore, Dan must assume that each and every “common man” is a libertarian, which I find highly implausible. (link) It was not said what was said I said.

The bible message, especially the essentials of the faith, is understandable by common men using their normal means of understanding terms. It's normal for words to have more than one meaning and to use context to define terms. Granted, the bible contains many mysteries but the mode of communicating the mysteries is plain so we can know what we are supposed to know. For example, we know the incarnation is true, but we don't know how it's true. Also, the bible contains things that are "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16), but they are still understandable for common people, using normal means - including comparing scripture with scripture. I had thought Paul and I had common ground on this view; but perhaps I am mistaken.

On the issue of the clarity of scriptures, I am with Hodge and other mainline Protestants.
Here's what Charles Hodge had to say on the topic:

The Bible is a plain book. It is intelligible by the people. And they have the right, and are bound to read and interpret it for themselves; so that their faith may rest on the testimony of the Scriptures, and not on that of the Church. Such is the doctrine of Protestants on this subject. It is not denied that the Scriptures contain many things hard to be understood; that they require diligent study; that all men need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to right knowledge and true faith. But it is maintained that in all things necessary to salvation they are sufficiently plain to be understood even by the unlearned....

The Scriptures are everywhere addressed to the people, and not to the officers of the Church either exclusively, or specially. The prophets were sent to the people, and constantly said, “Hear, O Israel,” “Hearken, O ye people.” Thus, also, the discourses of Christ were addressed to the people, and the people heard him gladly. All the Epistles of the New Testament are addressed to the congregation, to the “called of Jesus Christ;” “to the beloved of God;” to those “called to be saints;” “to the sanctified in Christ Jesus;” “to all who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord;” “to the saints which are in (Ephesus), and to the faithful in Jesus Christ;” or “to the saints and faithful brethren which are in (Colosse);” and so in every instance. It is the people who are addressed. To them are directed these profound discussions of Christian doctrine, and these comprehensive expositions of Christian duty. They are
everywhere assumed to be competent to understand what is written, and are
everywhere required to believe and obey what thus came from the inspired messengers of Christ.

The Scriptures are not only addressed to the people, but the people were called upon to study them, and to teach them unto their children. It was one of the most frequently recurring injunctions to parents under the old dispensation, to teach the Law unto their children, that they again might teach it unto theirs. The “holy oracles” were committed to the people, to be taught by the people; and taught immediately out of the Scriptures, that the truth might be retained in its purity. (link)

Opposing this leaves Paul two unattractive options: 1) give Fisher the fisherman's ring or 2) play the role of the sceptic and deny the scripture speaks plainly on this specific issue. Paul takes a step down the second path by citing Goetz.

“I can’t speak for Charles, but I would not base my belief in libertarianism on passages in the Bible. And I wouldn’t argue against your Calvinism from biblical texts. I believe that the Bible doesn’t teach anything about the issue of free will. It wasn’t written for that purpose, just as it wasn’t written for the purpose of teaching us whether or not we have souls. In short, I believe the Bible is not a philosophical text written to teach philosophy. It doesn’t fail to teach Calvinism because it teaches libertarianism. It simply doesn’t teach anything about the matter of free will.”

The bible doesn't teach us we have souls? The bible shouldn't be used to argue against (and presumably for) Calvinism? Determinism and Calvinism are inseparable. Take irresistible grace: grace is the effectual cause of conversion, such that you cannot do otherwise than convert. That's determinism and necessity. If we can't turn to the bible to answer questions like this, just where does Goetz want us to turn? Him? Is he really tell us to develop our philosophy apart from scripture and then read it into scripture? His whole idea of the role of philosophy is radically different than mine. For me, philosophies' primary role is to help reconcile apparent discrepancies in scripture.

That sound you hear is coming from Geneva, as Calvin is trying to get out of his grave and pimp smack Paul for even quoting something like this. Hopefully Paul disagrees with Goetz and would not attack scripture itself to avoid the force of the argument. I don't know how sola scriptura could be defended without sharing my view here.

Paul asks: what if the “common man” is wrong; does that make the scripture wrong as well? Then God would either not use the term choose or deny the term or explain what He means by it. Take for example the word ‘Baal’. What Baal's followers meant by Baal and what God meant by Baal was different; and God made that sufficiently plain.

Paul asks: what is the referent of “common man?” It appears to function as a static assortment of people. … I dare say that how a “common man” in a stoic society defined terms would not be the same as how a “common man” in an Epicurean society defined terms.

For my purpose, 'common man' is in terms of a whole assembly. The bible was frequently addressed to all of Israel, all of the church.... and that for over a thousand years. Of course, at one point in time, the groups are static, but over time changing is the norm, so common men are changers.

Incidentally, not all stoics were fatalists; Cicero being a notable example. (link) But let’s say stoics did have a different definition of choose. Probably a stoic dictionary would be different, based on the different usage. This does seem problematic, but the early church understood choice in a way that undermined stoic fatalism. So while such a problem could have occurred, it did not.

Let's look at how Justin Martyr refutes fatalism:

And the holy Spirit of prophecy taught us this, telling us by Moses that God spoke thus to the man first created: “Behold, before thy face are good and evil: choose the good.” And again, by the other prophet Isaiah, that the following utterance was made as if from God the Father and Lord of all: “Wash you, make you clean; put away evils from your souls; learn to do well; judge the orphan, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord: And if your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool; and if they be red like as crimson, I will make them white as snow. And if ye be willing and obey Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye do not obey Me, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”And that expression, “The sword shall devour you,” does not mean that the disobedient shall be slain by the sword, but the sword of God is fire, of which they who choose to do wickedly become the fuel. Wherefore He says, “The sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And if He had spoken concerning a sword that cuts and at once despatches, He would not have said, shall devour. And so, too, Plato, when he says, “The blame is his who chooses, and God is blameless,” took this from the prophet Moses and uttered it. For Moses is more ancient than all the Greek writers. And whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men; but they are charged with not accurately understanding [the truth] when they assert contradictories. So that what we say about future events being foretold, we do not say it as if they came about by a fatal necessity; but God foreknowing all that shall be done by all men, and it being His decree that the future actions of men shall all be recompensed according to their several value, He foretells by the Spirit of prophecy that He will bestow meet rewards according to the merit of the actions done, always urging the human race to effort and recollection, showing that He cares and provides for men. (link)

Justin turns to scripture first and then to philosophers instructed of scripture. He considers scripture sufficient to put down fatalism. More to the point, his understanding of 'choose' is sufficient to put down fatalism. But Paul's definition of choose reconciles just fine with fatalism. Given the differences in methodologies here, it's no wonder the conclusions are radically different.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Determinist 'Common Men'

Hard on the heels of my “the common man has a libertarian definition of choose” claim is Paul’s retort that not all common men are libertarians. (link) Paul cites a survey which he mistakenly attributes to Eddy Nahmias, Jason Turner, Steve Morris but was actually conducted by Thomas Nadelhoffer and Adam Feltz as a follow on study to the original survey. (link) The original survey can be found here. Both surveys seem to favor determinism, but only the original study points out it's own shortcomings, openly discusses them and appeals to others to fix them.

The first study states: "we view these results as preliminary, not conclusive, and hence as motivation for further research on folk intuitions about freedom and responsibility and for further consideration of the role such intuitions should play in the free will debate" and "A potential problem more specific to our studies is that the presence of determinism might not have been salient enough in the scenarios... we agree that the more salient determinism is in the scenarios, the more significant the results would be (see Black & Tweedale, 2002)" and "if one is able to find a way to increase the salience of determinism without masking it with a different free-will threat, we welcome the attempt.

Let's look at how this problem plays out in the second study that Paul cites. In Thomas Nadelhoffer and Adam Feltz study 105 participants in three groups answered 'yes' 30 to 52% of the time to the question: do you think that our actions can be free if all of them are entirely determined by our genes, our neuro-physiology, and our upbringing?

How overt is determinism? On the one hand 'determined' is in the question. On the other hand, any contribution to determinism via external forces (i.e. our circumstances) is explicitly ruled out: 'entirely determined by our genes, neuro-physiology and upbringing'. But that's the real fear about determinism: that something outside of us determines what we do. Our genes, neuro-physiology, and upbringing are a significant part of our personality or character or self. So apparently the question assumes self-determination and excludes the treating aspects of determinism.

Now it seems to me that in determinism, given our genes, neuro-physiology, and upbringing external circumstances determine our actions. It's like throwing a ball against a wall. If the wall is at a 90 degree angle, a ball thrown straight at the wall will bounce one way, but if the wall is at some other angle the ball will bounce another way. So the "angle of the wall" (i.e. our genes...) is a contributing factor. But given the wall is 90 degrees, what really determines the outcome is if the ball comes in straight or from some angle. And that's intuitively threatening. But it's not just omitted from the question; the question precludes it.

Perhaps determinists might argue that it really is only stuff internal to us that does the determining and not things external to us. But libertarians would have their retorts as well. In that case, the whole discussion seems to be assumed in favor of determinism in the survey question.

Had the survey question disclosed that our genes, neuro-physiology, and upbringing themselves were predetermined and eternal factors play a major role in determining what we do, the results might have been different. At best, threatening factors were omitted and at worst, the question could be read in a libertarian way (i.e. we self-determine our actions and given the circumstances we could self-determine this or that).

But there's a second problem with the way the question could be read. Let's assume it's read as as determinism. Might people be tempted to answer it, given the assumption determinism is true?

Before this last election, I pushed as hard as I could for McCain, but now that it’s over and my side lost, I support Obama. I used to be a Calvinist. When I first became one, I didn’t stop witnessing or trying to do the right thing, or feel hopeless. Not only did my soteriology change, but all the underlying assumptions changed with it.

That “if” in the survey question is a big “if”. It makes me assume I am on the loosing side of the determinism/LFW debate. Between compatiblism or hard determinism, I would go with compatiblism. So I might have answered yes to the question. If I find out I was wrong about Arminianism, I wouldn’t curse God and die, nor would I eat, drink and be merry; I would become a Calvinist. There’s a huge difference between saying your notion of freedom holds you back from determinism and saying your notion of freedom is so strong you would not modify it even if you knew for a fact you were wrong.

Now I don't envy the task of coming up with a fair and balanced survey - rigging the game would be easy but coming up with reliable results would be hard. But I do think it's fair to discount the results given the wording used.

But leaving that aside, it seems implausible that between 30 and 52% of the population don't use the normal definition of 'choose'. Wouldn't we expect to see their definition in the dictionary? If that many people were OK with some determinist notions, it’s far more likely they use the normal definition of choose and are unaware of the conflict.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Choice vs. Choose

In our debate, I argued that the dictionary definition of choose rules out determinism. In Paul's recent rejoinder he states: “I cited numerous dictionaries that didn’t include a PAP (Principle of Alternate Possibilities) element”. (link) This is true, but misleading. Paul defined choice, but not choose. My argument was based on the verb choose, not the noun choice. In this post I would like to revisit the dictionaries, and explain why it's important to distinguish between choice and choose.

The Dictionary Definition of Choose

The American Heritage College Dictionary (3rd edition) defines choose as: to select from a number of possible alternatives. defines choose as: to select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference defines choose as: To select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out.

The Oxford Compact English Dictionary defines choose as: pick out as being the best of two or more alternatives.

Merriam-Webster's defines choose as: to select freely and after consideration

Encarta World English Dictionary: decide from among range of options

Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary: to decide what you want from a range of things or possibilities:

The Wordsmyth English Dictionary: to select from two or more alternatives.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Why Not Choice?

Choose is an action verb; choice is a noun referring to the completed action. What is special about choosing isn’t the resultant state after the action, but rather the action itself. In choosing one must prefer on alternative to another. While the resultant state is the willing of only one thing; the process of getting to that state involves two things.

On the TV show Smallville, Lex Luther finds one of Clark Kent’s crystals. He has it tested and finds out that it’s made from a special material not found on earth. The question isn't how it coexists with other elements on this planet, but how it got there. Similarly, the verb choose involves twofold possibilities and the noun choice gives the resultant one actuality.

Alternatives and Lowest Common Denominator

Turretinfan provides some definitions of the verb ‘choose’ that don’t use the word possibilities. (link) He thus concludes using a least common denominator method that ‘possibilities’ should “hardly be viewed as the actual "common man" meaning of the term”. The problem is his statement “none of these definitions included the word "possible" or an equivalent concept.” His definitions includes the word “alternatives” which is an equivalent concept. Alternatives are possibilities or things we can choose.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language - The choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities.

Encarta World English Dictionary - possibility of choosing: the possibility of choosing between two different things or courses of action

Merriam-Webster's - a proposition or situation offering a choice between two or more things only one of which may be chosen b: an opportunity for deciding between two or more courses or propositions2 a: one of two or more things, courses, or propositions to be chosen b: something which can be chosen instead

Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary: something that is different from something else, especially from what is usual, and offering the possibility of choice:

The Wordsmyth English Dictionary - one of two or more possibilities; option. - The choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities - a choice limited to one of two or more possibilities

Oxford Compact English Dictionary - one of two or more available possibilities

Hopefully it's clear that the 'dictionary definition' of choose includes at least two possibilities. But determinism prohibits twofold possibilities, so the dictionary rules out determinism.