Monday, April 9, 2012

Turrenfan's Cross Examination of Dan: The Bible Teaches Libertarian Free Will Debate (Part 9 of 12)


TF:  Thank you very much.  Do you believe God ordained the fall?

Dan: Please define ordained.

TF: ha, ha.  I see.  Did you provide in your affirmative constructive a definition of libertarian free will?

Dan: Yes, I said the essence of libertarian free will is the ability to choose something or not. I used the example of ice cream, the ability to choose ice cream or not.

TF: did you address the question of whether or not that involves the denial of the compatibility with determinism?

Dan:  No, not in my opening speech.  We just dealt with it in the last cross ex.  Specifically the one possible future vs two possibilities.  One does not equal two so one is incompatible with the definition of two.  One future, two futures.  One possibility, two possibilities. 

TF: Did you provide a definition of possibility?

Dan: No, would you like one?

TF: In the usual sense people talk about possibilities, do they have any reference to God’s decrees?

Dan: Let me give an example.  When I say something is possible, I mean it can happen.  There’s nothing in the way blocking it from happen or that sort of thing. 

TF: Do you know God’s decrees?

Dan: No.

TF: So in fact, could your comment be based on knowing God’s decrees?

Dan: No, and sometimes we think we are able to do something and we can’t.  Sometimes we are wrong.  But what I don’t believe is that we are always wrong and it’s an illusion. 

TF:  Your sense then has no reference to the decrees.

Dan: My sense is what it is; it’s not what it’s not.   I am saying what it is; I am not saying what it’s not.  I am saying it can happen.  I am not saying it’s not God’s decree or something like that.

TF: Right, so in other words, you have no reference to God’s decree.

Dan:  God’s decree is something that could stop it from happening.  So  when I say something is possible I mean that it’s possible; there is nothing getting in the way.

TF: Including God’s decree?

Dan: Yes, is God’s decree something that could prevent it?  Sure it is.  But I am not specifically pointing out God’s decree.  I am saying what it is, I am not saying what it’s not. I am saying its something that can happen.

TF: You have heard of the idea of apophatic theology and philosophy, right?

Dan: Why don’t you go ahead and draw that out a bit more.

TF:  That’s a theory of thought, where you understand things are, by understanding what they are not.  Like God is not a man.  That’s one thing we know about God, that He is not a man.  Now Jesus Christ is God and man.  But God is not a man.  That’s an apophatic statement.  We are defining God based on what He’s not.  He is not a creature.

Dan: Right, especially with the doctrine of God, obviously we are going to have to rely on that sometimes, because we can’t fully relate.

TF: So there is nothing wrong form the standpoint of epistemology to understand things with respect to what they are not.

Dan: there’s nothing inherently wrong with it but that’s NOT what I am doing.   What I am doing is saying it’s possible.   That’s all it is.  It’s something that can happen.

TF: and that statement doesn't have anything to do with whether God has determined or not determined whether it will happen. 

Dan: sure it does, because God’s decree is something that can impact what’s possible or not.

TF: But you don’t know what that determination is, so you don’t take it into account when you say such and such can occur. 

Dan: No.  When I say I can choose ice cream or not, I can choose chocolate or not; I am saying it’s an ability that I have.  It’s a possibility for me.  It’s one of my capacities. 

TF: But your not saying even if God has determined that I won’t.  Worse yet, if God has determined that I can’t.

Dan: Right.  That is true and if God has determined that, I would be wrong.  I would think that I can but I really can’t.  That was my point about illusion.  Maybe, sometimes, I think I can but I can’t.  But to think that we always think we can do something we can’t; that's wrong.  There’s a difference between seeing a mirage in the desert, every once in a while that will happen, but to take that and say we can never trust our eyes at all would be a bit extreme.  So that’s I would view this.  When I say I can choose chocolate or not, normally, that’s the case.  Sometimes, I might be wrong.  Maybe God has got a heart attack waiting for me.  So I say please give me the chocolate and I don’t end up eating it because I die.  Well, OK, God has a decree that prevented me and I was wrong in that case.  But to take that and extrapolate that everything is an illusion is a bit far fetched. 

TF: It it your impression that the compatiblist position is that everything is an illusion?

Dan:  There are a number of philosophers that do have to go down that road.  But most determinist philosophers now (I am talking about John Martin Fisher those Timpe or  Vivilen’s cite) they just deny the ability to choose otherwise.  What they go for instead is this semi-compatiblism where moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, but they go ahead and drop the ability to do otherwise. 

TF: well the ability to do otherwise wasn’t in any of those dictionary definitions you provided was it?

Dan: What it gives is multiple possibilities, the ability to select between multiple possibilities.  Plural.  So two possibilities, not one.

TF: But it didn’t say the ability to select both of them.  It just said the ability to select from those. 

Dan: From two possibilities, yes.

TF: Yes.  It doesn’t say you have the ability to select both.

Dan: You mean simultaneously, like having your cake and eating it to?  Your right.  

TF: It doesn’t specify that you have the ability to pick one and the ability to pick the other. 

Dan: It does, not in the sense of two futures realized at the same time. It’s one future or the other, both of which are possible.  That make sense?

TF: It doesn’t actually say, both of which are possible.

Dan: It says they are possibilities.  There are two possibilities. 

TF:  Right, but that’s the same way compatiblists talk.  And that doesn’t imply that both possibilities are both actualizable possibilities.

Dan:   I understand that compatiblists do say those things.  But they mean something very different than the normal sense.  And I explained that.  When I say, you can eat a hot dog if you want to, what I mean is I don’t know if you want to or not.  It’s epistemic uncertainty on my part.  What it is not talking about is, if you have a different desire than you actually have, then you would be able.  So what I am arguing is the sense you are using is NOT the common man sense and the bible was written to the common man. 

TF: And yet the ability to choose otherwise didn’t appear in any of the dictionary definitions you provided; except that you find it implied in the word possibilities.  But your survey suggest that it just means alternatives, in which case, we are back to no real endorsement of libertarian free will in any of the dictionary definitions you provided.

Dan: Well that’s not a question, but as I explained, “alternatives” are basically “possibilities” and I cited 12 and 11 definitions. So two alternatives is about the same as two possibilities.   And my case is based on two possiblities verses one.  You argued that there’s only one possible future given God’s decrees and I am saying the common man meaning of choose means select between possibilities, plural, meaning more than one, not just one.

TF: Of course the common man is only referring to perceived possibilities, right?

Dan: That is correct, yes.

TF: And man can’t perceive the decrees.

Dan: That is correct.

TF: So in fact there is no conflict. Correct?

Dan: The conflict is if you believe in determinism, you don’t believe that two things are possible.  Either epistemicly or ontologically.  Basically, you just don’t believe in twofold possibilities in an epistemic sense either. 

TF: You only believe it in a divided sense that divides out the decree, which is how everybody speaks, right?

Dan: No. No. No.  Absolutely not.  What I am saying is that you don’t believe in twofold possibilities.  When I say the epistemic sense, that’s probably unclear for folks so let me go ahead and explain.   The epistemic sense means what you know, so you might not know if something is possible or not, so I don’t know if I can choose chocolate.  What I am saying is based on determinism, you know that two things are not possible. 

TF: Right, the very definition of selection requires that only one of those things occur. 

Dan: That’s true, but what I am saying is you can’t believe two things are possible.  So epistemically, you can rule that out, you can rule out two possibilities. That’s just not on the table because you’re a determinist; you believe there is only one possible future, given God’s decrees.  So you have already ruled it out.  It’s off the table.

TF: In common terms if there is only one actual future, in common parlance there’s no possibility of any other things happening then what’s in the actual future. Is that correct?

Dan: Well that’s what I think determinism is all about.  So I think what you said is a fair statement of determinism. 

TF: Isn’t that they way people normally talk.  If they say X is inevitable, then they mean it cannot be otherwise.

Dan: Yes that’s normal, if X is inevitable, inevitable in the sense of unavoidable, nothing can avoid it, no power can avoid it, it’s necessary, nothing else is possible, yes, that’s determinism.

TF: OK, let me ask you this.  You had posed towards the end of your opening presentation that it would be difficult to live believing in determinism.  How would you live, believing in determinism?

Dan: That’s a good question.  I think you would just live with the contradiction.  I think determinist would have to contradict themselves to actually make a choice and the reason why I say that is you don’t think something is possible, then you just stop considering it, like Pilate; when he saw he couldn’t prevail, he moved on to other alternatives.  The fathers would often use the example of if fatalism were true, you wouldn’t take care or use measures, you wouldn’t be cautious or think about what your going to do because you don’t think about what’s impossible.

TF: now what’s the fundamental difference between Calvinistic determinism and fatalism?

Dan: Primarily, going back to the Warfield article, Warfield described the difference as Calvinism is personal, and fatalism is impersonal.

TF: And Calvinists believe that the ends as well as the means are ordained? 

Dan: Yes.  Yes they do.

TF: So that would be another distinction, right?

Dan: Well a lot of fatalists would affirm the same.

TF: not the fatalists you were talking about with the fathers though, right?


Dan: No they actually did.  Like for example, I think it was Irinaus who was talking about the cart.  So the example was a donkey hooked up to the back of a cart. He’s walking along, but if he decides to stop the cart is going to drag him along, but if he walks voluntarily behind the cart, even though he can’t do otherwise, he is going along with it.  And that would be a means that is included in getting where he’s going.  

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