Monday, August 15, 2005

Answering an Inquiry on LIbertarian Free Will

Dr. Reppert,

My name is Ross Parker. I'm 24 years old and I am about to start seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I'm a frequent visitor to your blog, and I have learned greatly from your comments in the field of Philosophy of Religion, especially your critiques of the Calvinistic worldview. I have a philosophical question that has really caused a lot of confusion and frustration for me over the past several weeks, so I was hoping that you could help me out.
I have always firmly believed that I have Free Will-- that my decisions are up to me. I have never been able to make sense of the Calvinistic worldview. How can God cause all events (including people's sins, and souls being eternally seperated from Him in Hell ) and at the same time be a loving God.

Recently I decided I would read up on the issue of Free Will from a philosophical perspective. Here I encountered my first critiques of the concept of Libertarian Free Will. The major critique that caught me right between the eyes (so to speak) was the argument that our decisions are dictated by our strongest motive. The argument (as I'm sure you know) says that not only is the concept of LFW wrong; it is impossible. Decisions are either 1) caused by psychological factors or 2) random and therefore not "up to me".

So I'm in kind of a mental bind. I firmly believe that we have to be free in a Libertarian sense in order to make sense of our common experience of life as well as making sense of the existence of evil and a loving God. But I am clueless as to how LFW "works" (for lack of a better term). The more I think about the issue the more I can't make sense of how I would make a decision if there is no reason that causes the decision. But that would take away my responsibility for the action, and make God responsible for the evil actions that I do.

If you get a chance, I hope that you can respond to my inquiry regarding a rational account of free agency. Perhaps you could recommend the best article or book that you can think of to help me out. I know that you're very busy, so there is no rush. But I hope that you will be able to give me a little insight. I certainly look forward to hearing back from you!

Sincerely,

Ross Parker

This argument is a false dilemma that begs the question against agent causation. By way of response, I would look at chapter 4 of William Hasker's The Emergent Self.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0801487609/ref=olp_product_details/103-9250044-6235862?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance
Also, Jerry Walls' book Why I am Not a Calvinist should cover this, though I haven't actually read it.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0830832491/qid=1124171011/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-9250044-6235862
Let us say you being tempted to commit adultery. You have your desire for what pleasure it would bring you on the one side, and the reasons not to do it on the other. You have reasons for both actions, and agency libertarianism says you can perform either action, you can choose to follow one set of reasons or the other. Your action isn't reasonless either way; but it's your choice which reason you follow. To say that there has to be a determining cause here is to assume determinism, a question-begging position for a determinist to take.

27 comments:

Jason said...

Hey Ross;

I'm not sure there's a short answer for what you're asking about. Dr. Reppert's answer is good, and I think it's right as far as it goes--but you seem to have been asking a related question in there, too. (For which I suspect Dr. Hasker's book may be helpful, though I can't testify to that myself--it's still somewhere in my 4 year backlog, though closer to the current top than it was back in January. {g})


This question, was in regard to God's causation of all events; specifically, how this is to be reconciled with derivative active (not merely reactive) causation.

I find I'm required to affirm my own action ability (on peril of nonsense); and I find (subsequenty) that I should conclude the existence of God, and God's causation of all reality (and, in passing, I find subsequently that I must be derivative of something other than myself, therefore _I_ am not God {g}).

_And_--I know it isn't helpful to say, "It's a mystery, just believe it." Not when people care about understanding truth, and are trying to do that.

So, I _could_ say that, but I won't. {s}

But it would take me a long time to explain what I figured out; and I don't know that it would be any help, unless you were working it out yourself. (My understanding isn't your understanding.)

So I'll give a couple of hints, and try to be reassuring that there _is_ a solution, that affirms and incorporates all those statements of truth. (And in a highly orthodox way.)


To understand how they all fit together, try considering first the sorts of distinction, between God's action of self-causation and any other action He would do. Those distinctions, all of which _continue_ in operation (the continuation is also important, in several ways), are what (I think) provide for our existence as derivative act-ers.

These notions (when you find them) should also stay firmly in mind, and at hand, when going on to consider the questions of ethics. When you _do_ go on to that, don't let yourself be distracted by apparent size or numbers of sins--the principles are what you should concentrate on; and _first_ (and mostly) in regard to yourself.

(We're certainly taught this often enough as Christians, hm? {g!} Our business, regarding sin, is first and foremost in relation to our _own_ transgressions against what we otherwise know to be good. The principles we discover of God, in relation to _our_ own sinning, are the same that He'll be applying and acting toward, in regard to everyone else as well. Everyone else's transgressions should _not_ be ever our primary focus, though, in soteriology.)


I hope those hints will be helpful. If not, or if you'd rather try something more specifically theological, I can hardly recommend anything better than George MacDonald's _Unspoken Sermons_ (3 volumes, along with _The Hope of the Gospel_.) You can find the texts online for free, from the American publisher of his literary estate, at:

www.johannesen.com

He wasn't much for Calvinism, either. {g}


Jason

Giordano Sagredo said...

Daniel Dennett's Elbow Room provides some good thought experiments and ideas for thinking about this stuff within a naturalistic framework. Overall, the solutions provided are inadequate, but there are some real conceptual gems therein.

Do bonobo chimps (or other non-human animals) have the kind of free will that you think we have, or is there something special about our freedom? In my opinion, studying the neuro-psychological basis of a person (or a monkey) choosing what candy bar to pick at a vending machine is a great experimental inroad to the problem of "free will." It is as good an example of free will as any, and isn't encumbered with superfluous moral categories (unless eating a Mounds bar is immoral).

Daniel said...

I've written a short essay on this topic, addressing the claim that we always act for the "strongest motive". My basic claim is that there is no intelligible way to understand "strongest motive" that isn't introspectively false. The argument is better developed in my essay here.

Ahab said...

I still think Hume nailed this one on the head:
"Where [actions] proceed not from some cause in the characters and disposition of the person, who perform'd them, they infix not themselves upon him, and can neither redound to his honor if good, nor infamy, if evil."

How can we ever be held responsible for our actions if we don't have (determining) reasons for them?

Daniel said...

Ahab, you can't just casually include "determining" like that in brackets. Libertarians believe people act for reasons, but not for determining reasons. Hume's claim is only true if people act for no reason at all.

Steven Carr said...

Daniel dennett's Elbow Room is compulsory reading on the subject.

To say that people do things for reasons but not for determining reasons is based on no more than a feeling that the d-word is not 'theologically correct'.

If there is a reason why somebody chose A rather tnan B, then that reason determined that they chose A rather than B.

After all , somebody chose A *because* of a reason, and you can't say 'because' without saying 'cause'.

Think about what 'because of a reason' means....

You might be interested in William Lane Craig's definition of free will

http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/menmoved.html

'A theory of divine inspiration based upon God's middle knowledge is proposed, according to which God knew what the authors of Scripture would freely write when placed in certain circumstances.

By arranging for the authors of Scripture to be in the appropriate circumstances, God can achieve a Scripture which is a product of human authors and also is His Word.'

Free will means that if you are in certain defined circumstances , you will freely choose one particular defined way.....

Sounds like determinism to me.

'Libertarian free will' is such an appealing concept that people believe in it, and then sneak determinism in by the back door, once they realise the consequences of claiming in public that their actions are not determined by rational thought.....

Steven Carr said...

Ahab is quite right about responsibility.

I have no desire to murder somebody.

But if I did I would plead not guilty.

Grounds? My body had been possessed by a supernatural entity which made me do things I had absolutely no desire to do.

No Christian jury would convict.

A determinist can say 'There are absolutely no circumstances in which I would murder somebody for a fee of one dollar.' and be right (if there are indeed no circumstances, then he would never murder somebody for a dollar.)

A libertarian would say 'There are some circumstances in which I would murder somebody for a dollar.'

Who is the more moral person?

Daniel said...

Steven, thank you for your response. I assure you my arguments are based on reasons, and not a "feeling" of theological correctness.

Hume's argument only works if a person is acting for no reasons at all. If someone were not acting for any reason at all, it would be like a seizure, and hardly praise- or blameworthy.

Incompatibilist free will meet Hume's condition. Let us say I choose between two goods, killing my uncle for his inheritence and letting him live because it is the right thing to do.

In possible world one, I kill my uncle. If you ask me why I did it, I say that it was for the inheritence. If you ask me why I didn't let him live, I'd say the same thing.

In possible world two, I let him live. If you ask me why I did it, I say that it was the right thing to do. If you ask me why I didn't kill him, I'd say the same thing.

Both these answers would be correct. Further, they both meet Hume's condition that they proceed "from some cause in the characters and disposition of the person". I was free and freely chose in both worlds between two things I wanted. I have a reason to perform either, it's just that I choose differently in each possible world.

I wrote yet another essay on this question here. Sorry to plug my posts again. I express the point better there, and answer some objections people raised.

Ahab said...

Daniel, I don't know about you, but there is only one of me and I only live in one world. Your example seems to me a rather obvious case of question begging.
In the real (single) world we live in, you are either going to commit murder or not. Whatever action you do take will be based upon some reason. And that will be the determining reason.

And I think you've missed Hume's point: seems obvious to me that it applies to all types of actions. One can only claim responsibility for his action if it "proceeds from some cause in the characters and disposition of the person."

Steven Carr said...

Jason's response simply shows that it is random whether or not he kills his father.

Sometimes the coin comes down on one side, sometimes the other.

Libertarian free will = randomness.

Steven Carr said...

Ahab is quite right about the question begging nature of Jason's post.

It reminds me of a leaf falling down. The leaf thinks 'now , I'll float this way, now I'll float that way.'.

One minute Jason has a reason to kill his uncle and does so, the next he has a reason to spare his uncle and does that instead.

Ahab said...

Daniel,
I read the article you wrote about free will. You seem to make the same mistake all liberterians make: you postulate some sort of will that is able to freeely choose the reasons for your actions. Problem is, how is the willl able to choose which reason to base his action on? Doesn't it need some reason or belief to help it decide which is the best reason to select? Otherwise this will is acting completely randomly and you cannot claim responsibility for your actions.
You are going to end up in an infinite regress here: your will needs a reason to select a reason to select a reason to select a reason .............a reason on which to base his actions.

Ahab said...

By the way, Daniel, I read your profile on your website. The Buffy you're interested in isn't by any chance the infamous Buffy Summers from Sunnydale? What a freakin' fantastic show that was.
Sorry, Victor, for the OT outburst here, but it is always such a pleasure to find areas of commonality with those who hold very different world views.

Jason said...

Steve: um, actually, Daniel isn't Jason. I am. {g}

I would have to post a _really_ long comment, even by my standards, to cover all this. For brevity's sake (meaning, among other things, it isn't covering _all_ of this...{g}):

a.) I think William Lane Craig's definition is seriously wrong. (He isn't defining free will, btw, but trying to include it within a definition of divine inspiration. I do understand and accept the link of his definition to the current topic.) He's making the very common error of working out an explanation that tacitly requires God to be existing and operating within and only within the natural space-time system. Correcting this won't instantly solve all related free-will issues; but at least it won't be contributing to the problem anymore thereby.

b.) So far, the flow of discussion seems to be proceeding on an acceptance of a conflation of cause/effect and ground/consequent uses of 'reason'. This should be corrected first, with the correction kept firmly in mind, before continuing any further on any side of the debate. Jumping back and forth between the meanings is illegitimate.

Jason

Jason said...

Sorry. Meant to say, "Jumping back and forth... is illegitimate, *too*." {g}

The meanings should neither be confused, nor casually hopped back and forth between.

Jason

Daniel said...

I should mention I have a much lower standard of proof here than usual. Psychological determinism is an argument that libertarianism is incoherent. As such, in order to refute it, I simply need to show that it is coherent, not that it is true. Therefore, I'm free to make any assumption I like, as long as I can show that the conclusion is coherent.

Jason, thank you for the ground/cause distinction. That will help.

Libertarians believe that we have grounds (final cause) for several potential actions. The (efficient & motive) cause of the action is the will. Aquinas's image of this is that several things are presented as good by the reason to the will, and the will causes one of them to happen.

Does this make my action to some extent random? Yes. The will does not have some further reason to select the action it does. Saying that it should treats the will like a homunculus with its own reason and will, leading to regress, as you pointed out. Does it make my action "competely random"? No. There are a limited set actions presented by the intellect.

The question, then, is whether or not this partial randomness removes moral responsibility.

Hume's argument treats randomness as though it were a cause. Somehow, I am supposedly not really performing an action if it is partially random, but "randomness" is doing it. However, randomness is not a cause of anything. The fact that something has a degree of randomness does not somehow make it caused by randomness, let alone completely outside our control. The question is where the grounds and motion come from.

In the case of a decision, the grounds of the decision are coming from my own intellect and the motion is coming from my own will. Together, this process is called a "decision".

This description may not be true, but I believe it is coherent.

Jason said...

Mmm... when I was talking about the ground/consequent -- cause/effect distinction, I wasn't meaning that the ground == final cause. (That would mean there was in fact no distinction in category. {g})

I've gotten the impression somehow that psychological determinism, as a system, is something a bit more positive than an attempt to show libertarianism to be incoherent.

I can see another category error leading to (causing? giving grounds for? {g} ) problems, here. There's a difference between random and unpredictable--they shouldn't be conflated.

Jason

Ahab said...

Aren't 'ground' and 'consequent' terms used for syllogisms?

Why would someone assume that the mind works like a syllogism? Is that the category error you guys are talking about?

I'm really confused now.

Jason said...

{{Is that the category error you guys are talking about?}}

Yep! Well, it's the one _I_ was talking about. {g}

{{Why would someone assume that the mind works like a syllogism?}}

A _very_ good question.

_Because_ (yes I know it's ironic to use that word here; bear with me {s}) there are two equally important ways in which we use the word 'because', and _both_ those ways are somehow intersecting in our rational mental events.

In one sense, the "because" I presented just now, is a logical consequent of a ground. Or, if my "because" happened to be invalid somehow, then we can all sit around debating that--and the various syllogisms we thereby employ will themselves be logical consequents of grounds, or at least that's what we'll be trying to do.

In another sense, though, the "because" I presented just now, is an effect of a cause. And we know very well now that those causes and effects are _at least somewhat_ physical (specifically neurophysical); apparently very much so.

Now, the natural material of the brain is agreed on all hands to behave in a certain fundamental way (at least): it reacts and counterreacts automatically according to stimuli. Indeed, this sort of natural behavior is _so_ prevalent (and _so_ obvious), that when we talk about cause and effect, we (naturally! {g}) default to that understanding of it (whatever it means for us to 'understand' something.)

This obviously natural cause and effect process, happens in a determinative way. Even if/when it's random, the result has been determined by the cause. (As a reaction to natural force, in this case.)

At the same time, it is obvious that to be caused is not to be proven. Indeed, what is a first common thing to do when we want to cast aspersion on someone's claimed understanding of truth? We find some way to claim his understanding _was merely caused_, as a reaction to stimuli.

I am not aware of any sceptic, for instance, who would agree to convert to Christianity _because_ (ground/consequent) Christians could be shown to be highly efficient cause/effect reactors to their environment.

And yet, a Christian's belief (just like any other) is an effect, and must have causes.

Even so, the cause/effect relationship is so different from the ground/consequent relationship, that we commonly treat them in disputation as though one can be dismissed if an account of the mental event can be provided along the lines of the other category.

One of the results of all this, is that a person can talk in one breath about the 'reason' for something being cause/effect determinative; and then switch in practically the next breath to talk about the 'reason' for something being ground/consequent determinative.

Both these ways of talking about the 'reason' may be correct; but they cannot be correct in the same way.

In fact, for a train of thought to have any value, _both_ wholly distinct systems of connection _must_ apply (in their wholly distinct ways) to the same series of mental events: the thought must happen (and so have causes), and the thought must involve a conclusion that is a logical consequent from a ground (or the thought is worthless and could be true only by a fluke).


Since both must apply, however, it's easy to treat one as being the other, or emphasize one at the expense (or even exclusion) of the other.


And then here comes a further complication. {g}

We _do_ in fact believe that one of these _can_ exclude the other. We _do_ believe some causal effects preclude ground/consequents from being present (or happening, or existing in virtue of a thought, or whatever).

Whereas, on the other hand, most of us (unless we're being philosophically desperate to save our position {wry g}), don't claim our ground/consequents exist uncaused. We dispute _about_ the causes, and their relations to ground/consequent, instead.

Moreover, we know very well what general category of causes can produce results that lack any quality (even erroneous or broken) of ground/consequent.

It's the sort of causal behavior that atheists propose must be foundationally true about ultimate basic reality. And which most of us (in the West anyway) believe to be the sort of causal behavior that Nature exhibits or undergoes _as_ Nature.


And that's where I'll stop for now. {s}

Ahab said...

Yes, Anscombe used the different meanings of 'because' to point out flaws in Lewis' original argument against naturalism.

I'm a little uncomfortable with you association of 'determine' with causes. Ever since Hume there has been a lot of disagreement regarding the nature of the cause and effect relationship. As you know, it can be argued that an effect is simply something that follows upon a cause - no metaphysical strings attached. If you are going to insist that determination is equivalent to necessity, then we are probably going to find an area to disagree upon.

I'm pretty sure I know where you are going with all of this, but it's not really fair of me to prejudge your argument here, so my suspicions shall remain unvoiced.

Jason said...

For purposes of helping maintain some peace, then, I won't go there. {g} (Nor will I insist you go there, too. {s})

Meanwhile--part of the point to the previous discourse (which as you'll recognize was borrowed, with some polishing, from Lewis' revision in light of Anscombe's criticisms), is that there are different types of necessity, and so different types of determination (to coin a phrase). Both types should be respected and accepted; which we normally do, but which becomes specially problematic when we begin studying and discussing our own mentality and its properties (and implications thereof).

Now, one type (ground/consequent) must be respected and accepted, at peril of nonsense in discussing anything at all, including about the other type (cause/effect).

But I think the other type should be respected, too. To propose that an effect is merely an event that happens (no further metaphysical--or physical!--strings attached) to follow another event which we may (arbitrarily) label the cause, at the very least entails the surrender of the scientific enterprise. Which I for one am not willing to do; mainly because (ground/consequent {g}) when I study the relations of natural events, the if/thens I think about those events are showing me that one event is causing another through transmission of force.

The behavioral determinists, for instance, aren't pulling their case completely out of their rears. {g} Their explanations _do_ account for a significant number of human events, and I think that this should be respected and to some degree accepted. The limits to that acceptance can also be found, however--and those limits should also be accepted, and the implications of the limitations should be factored into our beliefs about what is true.


Anyway, I also think it's okay to be uneasy about an association of determination with 'causes'. I think it's an intuition of truth, that something somewhere has been misunderstood about the relation of mere power-effects to evident reality, especially in relation to _us_, you and I, as persons. (Nor is this problem resolved by the usual theistic moves, as I readily agree and insist.)

Jason

Ahab said...

Jason,
Firstly, I don't think science is going to be threatened by the lack of a metaphysical explanationf for what causation is. Scientists have had the good sense to put a lot of this metaphysical speculating to one side and carry on in a pragmatic manner.

Secondly, I still don't quite understand how this ground/consequent and cause/effect distinction is going to rescue libertarian free will from what I consider to be a basically incoherent position. It's model or explanation of free will results either in an infinite regress or a purely random choice. Pace Daniel, the limited set of choices is irrelevant to the random nature of the decision.

Sorry, if I appear dense here. I've learned to accept the fact that my mind doesn't really deal very well with abstract philosophical problems, but I know it can at times be frustrating for those trying to explain their views.

Daniel said...

Here's a thought experiment to show what I mean by non-determining causes. Imagine an item called a snufflepuff. The snufflepuff every hour randomly emits a puff of either red or blue smoke. This random emission is genuinely, ontologically random. Sometimes the snufflepuff emits red smoke and sometimes it emits blue smoke. That's just how it works.

If someone asks me, "What caused the blue smoke?", how should I answer the question? It would be bizarre to say that nothing caused the blue smoke. There's a snufflepuff right next to the blue smoke, and without the snufflepuff, there would be no blue smoke. I would answer that the snufflepuff caused the blue smoke.

What if someone then asked me, "What caused the blueness of the smoke?". In this case, I could answer that emitting blue smoke sometimes is the kind of thing that snufflepuffs do. The smoke, is not, after all, yellow. So, I would answer that the snufflepuff caused the blueness of the smoke.

What if someone then asked me, "What caused the blueness rather than the redness of the smoke?", I would say the same thing. Emitting blue smoke is just something snufflepuffs sometimes do. When they emit blue smoke, they do not emit red smoke at the same time.

Of course, none of this is real, as there are no snufflepuffs. However, I wouldn't say this is an incoherent thought experiment. The problem is with treating an event as uncaused simply because it is random. Causation asks where the motion, event or object came from, not whether it might not have come from it.

Jason said...

{{Scientists have had the good sense to put a lot of this metaphysical speculating to one side and carry on in a pragmatic manner.}}

There are times when that is appropriate, I agree.

{{I don't think science is going to be threatened by the lack of a metaphysical explanation for what causation is.}}

Maybe not; but that wasn't what you had said, nor what I was talking about.

There's a big difference between not having a metaphysical explanation for causation; and proposing that in fact no event follows another in virtue of any such thing as a cause.

You had written: "it can be argued that an effect is simply something that follows upon a cause - no metaphysical strings attached."

That's a metaphysical argument, which attempts to reach a conclusion of positively _excluding_ anything other than mere sequentiality between events. Whatever else scientists are doing, they are _definitely_ building scientific conclusions on something more than sheer instances of event that happen to be sequential.

(Which is one example of why it isn't a good idea to simply set metaphysical issues aside and proceed on pragmatically. {s} Sometimes it's safe to do that; but the decision of whether it's safe is itself a metaphysical conclusion--which could be rightly or wrongly reached.)


{{Secondly, I still don't quite understand how this ground/consequent and cause/effect distinction is going to rescue libertarian free will from what I consider to be a basically incoherent position.}}

Maybe it won't. {shrug} I wasn't arguing that one way or another.

Nevertheless, the distinction is important to understand; and confusion about it shouldn't be built into discussions on the topic, whether pro or con.

{{Its model or explanation of free will results either in an infinite regress or a purely random choice.}}

Could be; could be a fundamental error is being made in the argument somewhere.

This is a place where we should be careful in what we mean by 'random', too.

Whatever else Aquinas said or meant, I doubt he would have held very long (if at all) that a will ultimately has no further _reason_ than its own raw choice--not a derivative will (such as ours) anyway.

(And is there any improvement, by recoursing up to God as the Independent Fact upon which we are depending? Not on prevalent attempts common in theology, I think--those definitely involve at least one fundamental error: one exemplified, to some degree, by the famous Euthyphro Question.)


{{the limited set of choices is irrelevant to the random nature of the decision.}}

In and of itself, I agree with that (in whatever way 'random' is being meant.)

Jason

Jason said...

Ahab:

So, would you say that Daniel's snufflepuff example illustrates a principle that science can do without, pragmatically wending its way on regardless? {g} (I wouldn't!)

Daniel:

So, which of the causes in your example would you identify as 'non-determining'?

I suspect you meant that the snufflepuff was itself a non-determin_ed_ cause of the smoke.

In what way then should the snufflepuff be considered different from the Independent Fact? (Or should it? Or would you say there are multiple IFs?)


Jason

Ahab said...

Jason wote:
There's a big difference between not having a metaphysical explanation for causation; and proposing that in fact no event follows another in virtue of any such thing as a cause.

You had written: "it can be argued that an effect is simply something that follows upon a cause - no metaphysical strings attached."


Yes, but I hope I didn't give the impression that I was actually adopting such an arguement. What I was attempting to indicate is that often (or maybe all the time) we assume certain things about the nature of causation, but we still don't really know whtat the true nature of casuation is.

That's a metaphysical argument, which attempts to reach a conclusion of positively _excluding_ anything other than mere sequentiality between events. Whatever else scientists are doing, they are _definitely_ building scientific conclusions on something more than sheer instances of event that happen to be sequential.


Yes, we are in complete agreement here.

(Which is one example of why it isn't a good idea to simply set metaphysical issues aside and proceed on pragmatically. {s} Sometimes it's safe to do that; but the decision of whether it's safe is itself a metaphysical conclusion--which could be rightly or wrongly reached.)


I think scientists set it aside for pragmatic reasons: if they did not they would still be sitting around discussing what that nature is and no science would have been done over the last couple of centuries.
Of course, scientists have to make certain assumptions that can rightly be characterized as metaphysical (or maybe 'philisophical' would be a better term?) if they are going to be able to engage in the scientific enterprise. I think we all have to do that..

Ahab said...

Jason wrote:
Whatever else Aquinas said or meant, I doubt he would have held very long (if at all) that a will ultimately has no further _reason_ than its own raw choice--not a derivative will (such as ours) anyway.


I think it interesting from an historical perspective to study Aquinas' thoughts on free will (or anything else for that matter). But I'm certainly not going to buy into his metaphysical system. For me that would be equivalent to accepting the medieval model of the universe as a reliable source for understanding planetary motion.!!!!

Honestly, I don't think if push came to shove that I could come up with a completely satisfactory account of how we are able to make the choices we do. That lack of knowledge does not compel me to accept a model (libertarian free will) which appears to me to be deeply flawed.

As with most questions involving the operation of the mind, I think the neuroscientists are going to have the final say on this matter. Though I suspect there are a few others here who would disagree with that prognostication :-)