Friday, June 11, 2010

Additions to LFW

Traditionally, Libertarians have guarded the definition of free will very closely. Libertarians don't allow compatiblists to remove essential aspects from the concept of free will, like say, reducing ability to hypothetical ability. But while we maintain constant vigilance against compatibilist reductions to free will, it seems to me we are less aware of needless and harmful additions to the concept of free will; additions that may be just as damaging as compatibilist reductions.

Both Arminians and Open Theists frequently use the term free will, but do we mean the same thing by it? Compatibilist reductions to free will are subtle; saying we are able to do otherwise, meaning we are able to do otherwise if we want to. Likewise, Open Theists may have subtle and dangerous additions to free will.

Libertarians generally agree that man must be able to choose otherwise than he actually chooses in order to be free. This is a personal ability; a power the agent has. Such a twofold possibility is normally thought of in causal terms. On this, Open Theists and Arminians agree.

However, Open Theists are not yet satisfied. In addition to the ability to cause this or that, Open Theists insist that we must be able to convert propositions from possibly true to actually true. Not only must Bob be able to choose chocolate or vanilla, Bob must also be able to make it true that "Bob chose chocolate".
Open Theists and Arminians both are willing to say, Bob can make true that the proposition "Bob chose chocolate". But disagreement remains in how they interpret the idea of Bob making propositions true. Open Theists would not be satisfied with the idea that Bob can be the basis of truth for the proposition "Bob chose chocolate". Nor would they be satisfied with the idea that Bob has the power to choose chocolate or vanilla, such that, were he to choose chocolate, "Bob chose chocolate" would be true, and were he to choose vanilla, "Bob chose vanilla" would be true. Arminians can cash out the idea that Bob makes propositions true with such ideas, but for Open Theists, that's not enough.
Nor do Open Theists hold to the deviant notions that Bob causes truth directly or that Bob logically implies truth. They understand that Bob causes actions and events and truth corresponds to those actions and events. The relation between Bob and the events is causal, but the relationship between the events and truths about those events is logical; and Open Theists aren't mixing those things.
So what exactly are Open Theists adding to libertarian free will? Open Theists hold the idea that propositions about future free will acts, in an absolute sense, cannot be true. (I say in an absolute sense, because some Open Theists reinterpret statements about the future in a relative, probabilistic sense, meaning given current factors, Bob will choose chocolate is more likely than not, but not 100% certain). If the statement, "Bob will eat chocolate" is true, then Bob is not free with respect to eating chocolate. Propositions about events become true the moment the events happen and not before. Bob himself has the power to change the proposition "Bob chose chocolate" from possibly true to actually true. This is how Open Theists cash out the idea of Bob making statements true and this is the power that Open Theists add to definition of libertarian free will.
Of course, this addition has profound implications for the foreknowledge argument, since the foreknowledge argument obviously rules out the Open Theists addition to libertarian free will, but LFW itself seems to remain untouched by the foreknowledge argument. Likewise this addition has broad implications into the relationship between time and truth. Indeed, it's hard to see if Open Theists first give man an extra ability and therefore develop their views of the relationship between time and truth or if they first take a stand on the relationship between time and truth and based on that develop their views of man's abilities. Either way these views seem symbiotic. I believe there are strong theological and logical reasons to reject the Open Theists concept of the relation between time, and truth and therefore the need for their additions to libertarian free will. God willing, I will post on the foreknowledge argument and the relationship between time and truth latter.
Why do I believe that from a historic perspective, Open Theists are adding to the notion of free will rather than Arminians subtracting from it? For one thing, the church at large has generally accepted the idea that God knows the future. For another, when theologians dealt with logical determinism and logical possibilities, many of them affirmed freedom in a divided sense, but not a compound sense and proposed it as a solution to the foreknowledge argument. As an example of the divided sense, while Bob can choose chocolate (divided sense), it cannot be that God knows Bob will not choose chocolate and Bob will choose chocolate (compound sense). Similarly, Bob can lift 100 lbs or 150 lbs, but from this we cannot conclude Bob can lift 250 lbs, since that would be a composition fallacy. Not that Open Theists commit division and composition fallacies, but rather they are opposed to the whole business of the truth about what we are going to do being logically deductible via a rational inference.
Another way of some theologians said the same thing is that they affirmed the necessity of the consequent, but not the necessity of the thing consequent, which is basically a distinction between causal possibility and logical deduction. One can find a long standing, deep rooted tradition of explaining our abilities in a way that conflicts with Open Theism.
Arminians and Open Theists agree we cannot do the logically impossible; we cannot make contradictions true. Our ability to act cannot contradict any other truth and hypothetical scenarios in which we use that ability must also be free from contradiction. But for Open Theists, statements about what will do may not be true, nor may truth about what we will be deductible from other truths. For them, this would mean something other than us determined this truth, since they are not open to the idea that our future action is the basis of truth for the present future tense proposition.
I have been picking on Open Theists a bit here and that's not entirely fair. I have often seen Calvinists trying to form reducto ad absurdem arguments against Arminianism and in the process they impute the Open Theists additions to LFW to Arminians. But detecting and avoiding either additions or subtractions from LFW should help avoid problems.

22 comments:

bossmanham said...

Good essay, Dan. It looks like you've been doing quite a bit of study on this lately. What sources have to been using, if you don't mind my asking?

Godismyjudge said...

Thanks Boss. Hum... Some of this was inspired by answering Steven's foreknowledge argument. I also recently read schoolman Peter Auriol with benifit. I personnally think the schoolmen/early Molinists were some of the best on these topics; better than the recent stuff. Fransisco Suarez on freewill is great.

God be with you,
Dan

A.M. Mallett said...

Yes, this was very good ... I have bookmarked it for personal use.

Godismyjudge said...

Glad you found it useful Trav! A bookmark? Thanks for the high honor, but do you use Google reader or something similar? I find it helpful.

God be with you,
Dan

Steven said...

I don't think open theists are adding to the notion of LFW. I think they're drawing out its implications.

Godismyjudge said...

Thanks for sharing your view Steven, although I have already shared my reasons for disagreeing with you.

God be with you,
Dan

A.M. Mallett said...

Dan, I have started using Google Reader more frequently but old habits are hard to break sometimes.

A.M. Mallett said...

I don't think open theists are adding to the notion of LFW. I think they're drawing out its implications.

Would a contrasting parallel inferring fatalism is merely drawing out the implications of Calvinist determinism or compatibalism be as appropriate as your observation?

Anonymous said...

"Would a contrasting parallel inferring fatalism is merely drawing out the implications of Calvinist determinism or compatibalism be as appropriate as your observation?"

I don't know what you mean by 'fatalism' or 'determinism'; there are a lot of different senses of the respective words, and unless you define your words, I can't answer your question with maximal accuracy.

(from Steven)

A.M. Mallett said...

I don't know what you mean by 'fatalism' or 'determinism'; there are a lot of different senses of the respective words, and unless you define your words, I can't answer your question with maximal accuracy.

Steven, given the comments are being made within the context of LFW e.g. opposing the philosophy of determinism, it is somewhat disingenuous to plead a degree of ignorance regarding the terms fatalism and determinism. I use the term fatalism within it's theistic applications rather than the materialism aspect and determinism is a particular Calvinist distinctive albeit often avoided by it's adherents with the compatibalist device.
I believe you could, if you tried hard enough, provide some reasonable response even it is does come short of your maximal desires.

Anonymous said...

"Steven, given the comments are being made within the context of LFW e.g. opposing the philosophy of determinism, it is somewhat disingenuous to plead a degree of ignorance regarding the terms fatalism and determinism. I use the term fatalism within it's theistic applications rather than the materialism aspect and determinism is a particular Calvinist distinctive albeit often avoided by it's adherents with the compatibalist device."

There are all kinds of determinism and all kinds of fatalism. I don't know what you mean unless you define your terms, because on certain senses of either word, I am neither a determinist nor a fatalist.

It's not disingenuous. Either be more specific or else I can't answer your question.

(from Steven)

A.M. Mallett said...

Steven, if you cannot discern the context from what has already been stated, perhaps it is best you not reply.

bossmanham said...

Has it really come to this?

A.M. Mallett said...

Yeah, pretty much ... I'm not going to quibble over the meaning of determinism with regard to Calvinist theology. It is like arguing the meaning of "is".

Anonymous said...

What part of what I said don't you understand? I told you, 'determinism' and 'fatalism' have different meanings in different contexts, and I don't know what the heck you're asking unless you be more specific.

Here's an example. Some Calvinists think God determines X to happen through secondary causes. But I lean towards occasionalism, and I don't believe in secondary causes. I don't think events cause other events, so there's that relevant difference. If by determinism, you mean "each event causes the proceeding event necessarily, given natural laws", then I am not a determinist. So either define your terms or else I can't help you.

So also with 'fatalist'. Do you mean, the future is inevitable? Sure, I'd be a fatalist, but so would JC Thibodoux. Do you mean, no one has a choice about anything? No, I deny that--I had a choice about typing this post (though it wasn't a libertarian-free choice). Do you mean, every event is now unpreventable? No one can prevent any event from happening? Well, maybe, but I think anyone who holds that God knows the future should also think all events to come are unpreventable.

So, AM, define your terms or else I can't really help you.

(from Steven)

bossmanham said...

I wonder why it would matter the means God uses to determine something

Seems like it's just muddying the issue instead of answering the question...

A.M. Mallett said...

If by determinism, you mean "each event causes the proceeding event necessarily, given natural laws", then I am not a determinist. So either define your terms or else I can't help you.

I believe I had already made clear I was not referring to materialism but to theistic usage. Why don't you just give it the good try instead of trying to dance all over the place. I think I am smart enough to figure out your answer.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like it's just muddying the issue instead of answering the question..."

If the definitions are so clear and obvious in your mind, then it won't kill you to define them.

"I believe I had already made clear I was not referring to materialism but to theistic usage. Why don't you just give it the good try instead of trying to dance all over the place. I think I am smart enough to figure out your answer."

(i) There's nothing "materialistic" or "non-theistic" about the example I gave you. That's probably what the Westminster divines thought, for example.
(ii) If the concepts are so clear in your mind, then it wouldn't hurt you to define your words. If you don't want to, I can only infer that it is because you don't know exactly what you're talking about.

(from Steven)

bossmanham said...

Dan,

I was wondering if you check the hotmail address you have? I had a couple of questions for you.

A.M. Mallett said...

Steven, you are playing games with an adult. It doesn't really matter one way or the other to myself if you address the inquiry or not. Here it is again per chance you feel up to the task.

Would a contrasting parallel inferring fatalism is merely drawing out the implications of Calvinist determinism or compatibalism be as appropriate as your observation?

Steven said...

Who's playing games here? You're the one who won't define your terms and in response to my questions you just make remarks on my character.

If you don't define "determinism" and "fatalism", I don't know whether or not to answer the question if fatalism is a proper inference from determinism.

A.M. Mallett said...

Steven wrote:
If by determinism, you mean "each event causes the proceeding event necessarily, given natural laws", then I am not a determinist.

Steven then wrote:
There's nothing "materialistic" or "non-theistic" about the example I gave you.

I reply:
Steven, you are confused and I have never so much as laid eyes on a turnip truck. We'll leave off with this.