Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Modus Ponens and Incompatibilism

The argument for incompatibilism is really very simple.

1) I am not responsible for the eternal decrees of God (or the laws of nature and the condition of the universe at the big bang).
2) I am not responsible for the fact that, given the decrees of God, I sinned at 2 PM yesterday.
3) Therefore, I am not responsible for the fact that I sinned at 2 PM yesterday.

Or formally:

Not Responsible for A
Not Responsible for If A then B.
Therefore, Not Responsible for B.

How can I be responsible for that which is the modus ponens consequence of that for which I am not responsible.

15 comments:

Mike Darus said...

The Calvinism I learned in Bible school differentiated the decrees of God from wholesale determinism of every event. Biblical revelation identifies that God decreed the creation of the world, the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ, the end of this world, and who are the chosen. However, it is very difficult to establish from Scripture that God decrees (or has decreed) every event that has or will ever happen. Hard core Calvinism will state that our apparent ability to make daily choices is an illusion. The version I learned gives flexibility of individual decisions within the boundaries of what has been decreed. In your argument for icompatibilism, I suggest:
1) I am not responsible for God's choice of me for salvation. It was a gift of grace.
2) When tempted, I have a real choice between sinning and choosing the way of escape.
3) I am responsible for the sin I committed yesterday (mine was at 6 PM). But I cannot claim credit for my salvation.

Robert said...

Hello Mike,

“The Calvinism I learned in Bible school differentiated the decrees of God from wholesale determinism of every event.”

Your version then, would be similar to a friend of mine, who runs a major apologetics organization. Greg believes in the so-called five points of calvinism, but he also believes in LFW. So his view, like yours does not lead to God being the author of sin, the elimination of our ever **having** choices/free will, etc. etc. I have problems with TULIP, but at least Greg and you are not espousing the more radical form of calvinism which is problem plagued and leads to all sorts of bad consequences in its denial of libertarian free will.

“Biblical revelation identifies that God decreed the creation of the world, the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ, the end of this world, and who are the chosen.”

I would agree with the first part, but then disagree with you about God decreeing who are the chosen, apart from them having faith.

“However, it is very difficult to establish from Scripture that God decrees (or has decreed) every event that has or will ever happen.”

Not only difficult but impossible because scripture presents clear cases where people had a choice (you bring up clear examples yourself, see below). And if they had a choice then not everything is predetermined.

“Hard core Calvinism will state that our apparent ability to make daily choices is an illusion.”

Well that is what their view logically entails, but few of those who espouse this version are so honest as to admit that their view precludes our ever having choices.

“The version I learned gives flexibility of individual decisions within the boundaries of what has been decreed.”

And that is why your, and Greg’s version of calvinism is a stronger version than that of say the Triablogers.

“In your argument for incompatibilism, I suggest:
1) I am not responsible for God's choice of me for salvation. It was a gift of grace.
2) When tempted, I have a real choice between sinning and choosing the way of escape.
3) I am responsible for the sin I committed yesterday (mine was at 6 PM). But I cannot claim credit for my salvation.”

I would affirm both (2) and (3) as those are clear instances of libertarian free will (and are both cases present in scripture, dealing with temptation, and being responsible for our own sins). As you point out in (2), 1 Cor. 10:13 makes no sense unless we really can choose both to give into temptation or resist it by availing ourselves of the way of escape that God always provides (i.e., we **have** a choice). I also agree with you on (3) as we are completely responsible for our sins (cf. Ezekiel 18; James 1:13-15) and yet God **alone** rescues or saves us (so we cannot take credit for our salvation, but we always take responsibility for our own sins).

I would disagree with you on (1) as that is simply your calvinistic doctrine of unconditional salvation coming through. The bible I believe is clear, that salvation is conditional in the sense that we must have faith in order to be saved. And God makes salvation available to all and desires for all to be saved. I also believe that God foreknows everything so those He foreknows will respond in faith to the gospel message are those that He chooses to be His people, whether Jew or Gentile.

By the way, in his argument in this thread, Victor seems to be taking aim at the form of Calvinism that claims that “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass”. He is talking about the version that has God decreeing everything including our sins. This does eliminate our responsibility. We become the finger puppets of God, rather than, genuine persons who do our own freely performed actions. Your version on the other hand, Mike, as you affirm that sin results from LFW (“I have a real choice between”; you could give into temptation or do otherwise and resist) and making the wrong choice, leaves us (rather than God) being responsible for our sins.

It is good to see that you distance yourself from the other more problematic version of calvinism or exhaustive predetermination of all events.

Robert

Robert said...

Victor,

Out of curiosity, I went to Triablogue to see if Steve Hays would respond to your argument. And there I found this typical utterance from Hays:

“Victor,

You’re acting like an intellectual clown. Adjectives (“Ludicrous!” “Smokescreens!” “Irrelevant!”) are a sorry substitute for arguments. If you’re incapable of constructing a rational case for your position, then why don’t you make it official and join the circus?”

Is that kind of personal insult and attack really necessary? Is that what the bible calls us to in our dealings with other believers?

Hays continues to engage in this kind of sinful speech with those with whom he disagrees (whether they be believers or unbelievers makes no difference) with no accountability or evidence of repentance whatsoever. His speech is sinful and embarrassing to the cause of Christ. And he fancies himself an apologist. The “god” of calvinism is a gruesome and sadistic person, and he is not the God revealed in scripture. They say that we become like the God that we worship, Hays illustrates this quite well: he is just as nasty and ornery as the “god” he wants to believe exists. Neither Hays nor his conception of God reflects the character of Christ who is the true God, the one who died for all including sinners who will never repent and come to believe.

Hays also wrote to Victor:

“Your problem is that you want a “simple,” knockdown argument to disprove Calvinism. This constantly induces you to trot out one simpleminded objection after another.”

First of all, Victor’s objections to calvinism have not been “simpleminded” but thoughtful and very valid criticisms of Hays’ calvinism.

Second, Victor, here is a simple knockdown argument to disprove calvinism (the version Hays espouses).

Calvinism (Hays’ version) entails that God predetermines every event that occurs. If every event is predetermined then every event is a necessitated event and it is impossible that it go otherwise. We only **have** choices if we can do otherwise in a situation. If every event is predetermined/necessitated, then this claim entails that we **never ever have a choice**/we can never ever do otherwise in a situation.

The claim that we never ever have a choice is a universal negative. A universal negative is refuted by any counter example. So Calvinism (Hays’ version) entails the radical and extreme and false claim that WE NEVER HAVE CHOICES.

Ok, take this claim and “test it” by examining our own experience as well as the people in the bible. Is there **any** evidence that we or they ever **have** a choice? Yes, lots of it. And all this evidence of the reality of us having choices demonstrably shows Calvinism (the claim the God predetermines every event) to be false.

Robert

Clayton said...

How can I be responsible for that which is the modus ponens consequence of that for which I am not responsible.

Easy. I promise God I'll meet him for lunch. Suppose that God is good enough at reading minds that he knows if I'll go back on the promise, in which case he'll zap me so that I instantaneously appear at our lunch date.

I am not responsible for God's conditional intention. That God has such a conditional intention entails I'll be at our lunch date one way or another. God never zaps me and I arrive freely. I'm responsible for being there, but it's a modus ponens consequence of something I'm not responsible for.

Timmo said...

Victor,

I am not sure the argument you present is logically valid. I am going to use some logical notation, but I hope that won't obscure what I am trying to say.

You present the argument this way:

"Not Responsible for A
Not Responsible for If A then B.
Therefore, Not Responsible for B."

The inference in this argument is not modus ponens. The inference modus ponens takes the form:

α
α ⊃ β
∴β

Instead, your argument has a slightly different form because of the presence of the operator 'I am not responsible for it being the case that...', which we can symbolize by using '♦':

♦α
♦(α ⊃ β)
∴♦β

This argument is invalid without the addition of:

(K) ♦(α ⊃ β) ⊃ (♦α ⊃ ♦β)

I think we can show that instances of (K) are not, in general true.

Let 'p' stand for some arbitrary proposition and let 's' signify the proposition 'I sin'. I will present a reductio showing that (K) leads to the conclusion that I am not responsible for sinning.

I will appeal to the following theses:

(a) If A is a truth of logic, then I am not responsible for A.

(b) If ~B, then I am not responsible for B.

(K) ♦(α ⊃ β) ⊃ (♦α ⊃ ♦β)

Here is my argument against accepting (K):

(1) (p & ~p) ⊃ s [logic]

(2) ♦((p & ~p) ⊃ s) [from (1) by (a)]

(3) ♦((p & ~p) ⊃ s) ⊃ (♦(p & ~p) ⊃ ♦s) [from (K)]

(4) (♦(p & ~p) ⊃ ♦s) [from (2),(3) by modus ponens)

(5) ~(p & ~p) [logic]

(6) ♦(p & ~p) [from (1) by (b)]

(7) ♦s [from (4), (6) by modus ponens]

So, if we accept (K), a principle required for your argument to go through, we must accept that we are not responsible for anything we do.

Victor Reppert said...

I did not say that my conclusion followed by modus ponens. I said that I shouldn't be held responsible for that which is true by a modus ponens implication of that which I am not responsible for.

Timmo said...

Victor,

Thanks for your comments.

You write, "I said that I shouldn't be held responsible for that which is true by a modus ponens implication of that which I am not responsible for."

How is this different from endorsing (K), which says: If I am not responsible for p and I am not responsible for p implying q, then I am not responsible for q?

To recapitulate, I offered a counter-example of this sort:

(1) I am not responsible for it raining and not raining.

(2) I am not responsible for the fact that it is raining and it is not raining implies I am a sinner.

(3) Therefore, I am not responsible for being a sinner.

The fact that I am a sinner is a modus ponens consequence of things I am not responsible for -- yet I am definitely responsible for being a sinner!

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

Robert: "[good points] ...I would disagree with you on (1) as that is simply your calvinistic doctrine of unconditional salvation coming through. The bible I believe is clear, that salvation is conditional in the sense that we must have faith in order to be saved. And God makes salvation available to all and desires for all to be saved. I also believe that God foreknows everything so those He foreknows will respond in faith to the gospel message are those that He chooses to be His people, whether Jew or Gentile. ..."

The Calvinistic (mis)understanding of Election and denial of human "free will" follows from misunderstanding time as absolute ... from thinking of God as being "in" time, as we are.

But, God is the Creator. And time is as much an aspect of the Creation as is matter/energy ... and space. So, it is impossible that God is "in" time any more than that he is "in" space; it is impossible that God is subject to the passage of time any more than that he is constrained by distance; it is impossible that the passage of time changes God ... or his knowledge ... any more than that my attempt to hide myself in the depths can indeed hide me from God.

I understand that (some) Calvinists like to say to Arminians: "Let God be God!" Would that Calvinists themselves would heed this admonition!


Robert: "... As you point out in (2), 1 Cor. 10:13 makes no sense unless we really can choose both to give into temptation or resist it by availing ourselves of the way of escape that God always provides (i.e., we **have** a choice). ... I also believe that God foreknows everything ..."

But think a bit longer on this: IF we *do* freely choose to do what we do ... you know, real freedom, not the illusion of "compatibilism" ... and thus it is indeed true that any choice *could* have been made differently that it was, and IF it is true that God "foreknows" everything, all events and all acts/choices, THEN what follows from these two assertions?

Let's go back, almost to the beginning (and let's not worry about whether the first chapters of Genesis are literal history or "allegory"):

Cain murdered Abel. Was Cain compelled to murder Abel, or did he choose to do the act (was the act necessitated by "events," will he or nill he)? Might he have chosen differently? Have we not just (reasoned and thus) claimed that all acts are free choices?

The story of Abel's murder presents God as intervening with Cain before the commission of the murder ... of giving Cain an explicit opportunity to change the trajectory he was on. Cain refused God's prompting to change his attitude, and ended up murdering his brother.

But, Cain *might* have changed his attitude, and thus might not have murdered his brother. Or, at any time before the deed was complete, he *might* have chosen other than he did, and thus might not have murdered his brother.

So, IF (since!) God "foreknows" everything, does it not follow that God "foreknew" the potential history-that-never-was that would have followed had Cain not murdered Abel? And, does it not follow that all of human history (including salvation history) would have been different than it turned-out-to-have-been had Cain heeded God's prompting and had not murdered Abel?

Does it not follow that God "foreknows" *all* the potential histories-that-might-have-been of all our acts?


God is so much "bigger" than we can even imagine. Contrary to Mr Rhoda's need-to-believe, I do not engage in a "strawman dismissal of open theism." Rather, I engage in a *considered* dismissal of Open Theology: that God is Just-Too-Small.

exapologist said...

Hi Victor,

It would be interesting to see your remarks on John Martin Fischer's semicompatibilism, which grants the force of PvI's Consequence Argument you state here.

Paul Manata said...

EA,

Victor's responds to Fischer, who accepts the consequence argument but argues that ability to do otherwise isn't a condition of moral responsibility (enter Frankfurt), by saying that Frankfurt counter-exampels are "smokescreens." At least, that's the response he gave me.

exapologist said...

Thanks, Paul!

Victor Reppert said...

Timmo, your argument puzzles me.

(1) I am not responsible for it raining and not raining.

(2) I am not responsible for the fact that it is raining and it is not raining implies I am a sinner.

(3) Therefore, I am not responsible for being a sinner.

But 1 is false in all possible worlds, and hence false in this one. Whereas in the Calvinism case, the premises are suppsed to be true. Are you just pointing out that I need to make some corrections in my argument to rule out these kinds of cases?

Timmo said...

Victor,

Yes, I am suggesting that some corrections or extra clauses should be added to the thesis that an agent cannot be morally responsible for the logical consequence of states of affairs the agent is not responsible for creating. We might express that idea this way:

(K) If I am not responsible for A implying B, then if I am not responsible for A, then I am not responsible for B, either.

I am trying to show this does not hold in full generality. I will fill out the argument a bit more, and try to make it more clear.

The argument appeals to the following claims:

(a) If A is a truth of logic, then I am not responsible for A.

(b) If ~B, then I am not responsible for B.

Here goes:

(1) If it is raining and not raining, then I am a sinner. [logic]

(2) I am not reponsible for it raining and not raining implying I am a sinner. [from (1) by (a)]

(3) If I am not responsible for it raining and not raining implying I am a sinner, then if I am not responsible for it raining and not raining, then I'm not responsible for being a sinner, either. [from (K)].

(4) If I am not responsible for it raining and not raining, then I am not responsible for being a sinner. [from (2),(3) by modus ponens]

(5) It is not the case that it is raining and not raining. [logic]

(6) I am not responsible for it raining and not raining. [from (1) by (b)]

(7) I am not responsible for being a sinner. [from (4), (6) by modus ponens]

Thus, we run into trouble if we accept (K) in its full generality!

So, I do think it is true that I am not responsible for it raining and not raining. Because it is not the case, I am not responsible for it being the case!

Odin said...

Timmo,

I think you are correct in saying that for the argument to be valid we need another rule for transitivity of responsibility.
However, the rule K you constructed is invalid (as you yourself proved), and the reason is that implication A => B says something about B only if A is true, or in other words, false implies everything.

(K) ♦(α ⊃ β) ⊃ (♦α ⊃ ♦β)

If we analyze what exactly the rule says, we have 2 possibilities:

1. A is true => B is also true, thus, if i am not responsible for A being true and i am not responsible for the implication, then i cannot be responsible for B BEING ALSO TRUE. I think we can accept this part about responsibility, and the rationale behind the intuition is that B was determined without my decision, so it has nothing to do with me, how could i be held responsible?

2. A is false => B can be either true or false, so if i am not responsible for A being false, i am also not responsible for B regardless whether it is true or false. This is where the problem is, because we cannot apply the rationale from before here. The fact that a is false may be not my decision, but it still allows me to cause B.

So i suggest to amend the rule to the following:
(K2) ♦(A => B) => ((A and ♦A) => ♦B)

which models the intuition more closely.

What do you think about this? Do you see any unexpected consequences?

Odin