Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some resources on Frankfurt from Triablogue

But I am still confused.

I wrote my master's thesis on free will. It still seems to me that the distinction between the freedom of action of freedom of choice means that we can ask the question "was the choice free" independent of any consideration of whether in a counterfactual situation, a person could have carried out their action had they chosen otherwise. PAP, as I see it, applies to choices, not actions. So if I am right the Frankfurt considerations are just irrelevant to assessing the freedom of an action.

I must ask myself, is it that easy to refute Frankfurt arguments? And maybe you guys can help me see why it isn't that easy. Still, I think the examples will all sooner or later founder on this problem.

25 comments:

exapologist said...

Hi Victor,

I would suggest you raise your concerns with compatibilism and PAP at the blog where all the professional philosophers working on action theory hang out, viz., The Garden of Forking Paths:

gfp.typepad.com

There, you can ask John Martin Fischer himself if you like.

Anonymous said...

“I would suggest you raise your concerns with compatibilism and PAP at the blog where all the professional philosophers working on action theory hang out, viz., The Garden of Forking Paths:

gfp.typepad.com

There, you can ask John Martin Fischer himself if you like.”

That is indeed a great blog for discussions of free will and compatibilism. However, Victor’s concerns have not been with merely the view known as compatibilism. No, his concerns have been with calvinism. Some calvinsts attempt to use the Frankfurt examples to argue for their view that everything is predetermined and yet people can and should be held responsible for their actions. Victor has made some comments that have got the calvinist hive buzzing and extremely agitated.

Fischer himself is not a calvinist and espouses a variation of compatibilism though some calvinists attempt to use his material to argue for their calvinism. I don’t think that Victor needs to go to the Garden of Forking Paths, he is doing just fine in showing the problems with calvinistic compatibilism here on his own blog.

Robert

Paul Manata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Manata said...

Robert,

"Victor has made some comments that have got the calvinist hive buzzing and extremely agitated."

Is this rhetoric really called for, Robert.

Damned if we do damned if we don't.

If I respond in an objective and non-harsh way to Victor, I'm "buzzing" and "agitated."

If I don't respond, I "can't answer" Victor's arguments.

Really, Robert, enough's enough. Time to give it a rest.

Victor Reppert said...

My concern is philosophical as well as theological. Of course, it may turn out that some sort of philosophical compatibilism is available for naturalists, but if one introduces an controlling agent who brings about the actions that everyone performs, then the compatibility disappears.

It would be interesting to ask a secular compatibilist like Fischer whether he thinks introducing a Calvinistic God changes anything.

mattghg said...

Would I be right to say that there are arguments for compatibilism which turn on showing libertarianism to be incoherent in principle, and that these arguments aren't available to the Calvinist because he/she is committed to the existence of at least one being with libertarian freedom, i.e. God?

Victor Reppert said...

It isn't so much God's freedom at stake here. It's the idea that if naturalism is true, then if we are not responsible, there isn't someone else who is responsible. If Calvinism is true, then if the responsiblity isn't ours (because of God's control over our lives), then there is someone who can be held responsible.

In fact, when I took my first metaphysics course from Ted Guleserian years ago, the decisive argument against compatibilism that he used was the idea of someone with a computer hooked up to your brain causing you first to desire to perform, and then to perform actions. The idea was that surely we're not responsible if we have someone manipulating us with a computer in our brain, so therefore we must not be responsible if there is no determining cause.

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

“My concern is philosophical as well as theological. Of course, it may turn out that some sort of philosophical compatibilism is available for naturalists, but if one introduces an controlling agent who brings about the actions that everyone performs, then the compatibility disappears.”

Victor a few times here in different threads I have brought up Robert Kane’s concept, Covert Nonconstrained Control, and my example of Joe’s “bad chess move”. I have been discussing the CNC concept with Kane and he agrees that calvinism is espousing that God exercises this type control over us.

“It would be interesting to ask a secular compatibilist like Fischer whether he thinks introducing a Calvinistic God changes anything.”

Fischer in his writings makes it clear that if God has exhaustive foreknowledge then we do not have libertarian free will. Fischer also argues by means of his distinction between guidance and regulative control, that someone may have guidance control of their actions (and so not be able to do otherwise) and yet still be held responsible for their actions. Some calvinists hoping to use Fischer for their own ends, will attempt to use him for this very reason because they want to believe that our every action is predetermined by God (hence we cannot have regulative control but only guidance control), and yet we are responsible for the actions which God predetermined for us to have (actions which we had to do and never could have done otherwise). Kane’s CNC concept shows the problems with this kind of compatibilism very well in my opinion.

Robert

Victor Reppert said...

Robert: I was trying to think of what the initials were for CNC control, and if I had remembered them, I would have used them. I read Free Will and Values way back when, and he had introduced the concept already.

Ilíon said...

V.Reppert: "It would be interesting to ask a secular compatibilist like Fischer whether he thinks introducing a Calvinistic God changes anything."

Robert: "Fischer in his writings makes it clear that if God has exhaustive foreknowledge then we do not have libertarian free will."

Though, in truth, neither he nor those who assert likewise do anything of the sort.

No one's *knowledge* of even a mere event, even exhaustive knowledge of the event, is the cause of the event. Much less is anyone's knowledge of an act, however exhaustive, the cause of the act -- The contrary to what I've just asserted is, after all, exactly what Fischer et al are asserting: their whole "argument" falls apart if others do no accept the ridiculous assertion that an act or event is caused by *knowledge* of it.

Following Fischer and his ilk, one might as well assert that "Washington crossed the Delaware" because we know he crossed the Delaware ... and if we were to have "exhaustive knowledge" of the crossing, then it would be impossible for Washington to not have crossed the Delaware.

Robert said...

Hello Ilion,

“Though, in truth, neither he nor those who assert likewise do anything of the sort.”

My point was **not** that Fischer is correct in his claim. **He** believes that if God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events, then we cannot have libertarian free will. But he is an agnostic and so the data of scripture plays no part in his thinking. For me the bible presents **both** that God has exhaustive foreknowledge AND that we sometimes have libertarian free will. I think Fischer is wrong on this and we are talking about it together. Maybe I can persuade him to think and do otherwise, :-).

“No one's *knowledge* of even a mere event, even exhaustive knowledge of the event, is the cause of the event. Much less is anyone's knowledge of an act, however exhaustive, the cause of the act -- The contrary to what I've just asserted is, after all, exactly what Fischer et al are asserting: their whole "argument" falls apart if others do no accept the ridiculous assertion that an act or event is caused by *knowledge* of it.”

I agree with you that a common error made here is to assume that if God knows something will occur in the future then he must have caused or brought it to pass. No, God may foreknow events which He did not want to occur, which other agents brought about (though God allowed the events to occur and could have prevented them from occurring if he had desired to). Outcomes that he did not want to occur. The most clear and obvious example of this being when we bring about sin. We brought these sins about, God did not bring them about, though he allowed them and foreknows them all.

“Following Fischer and his ilk, one might as well assert that "Washington crossed the Delaware" because we know he crossed the Delaware ... and if we were to have "exhaustive knowledge" of the crossing, then it would be impossible for Washington to not have crossed the Delaware.”

As you probably know Ilion, it is the calvinist who limits God’s foreknowledge by claiming that he cannot foreknow outcomes that involve libertarian free will actions, that He **only** foreknows what He ordains/predetermines.

Open theists in agreement with calvinists think it is impossible for God to foreknow future events that involve libertarian free will. Strange bedfellows indeed. The calvinist uses this argument that God cannot foreknow libertarian free will choices to argue that libertarian free will does not exist. The open theist uses this argument to argue that foreknowledge of these events cannot occur so God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of freely made choices. So one jettisons foreknowledge based on this argument, the other jettisons libertarian free will based on this argument. But **both** are wrong on this, as the bible presents both that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all events AND we have libertarian free will. Ilion you will also note how much the calvinists detest the open theists because of their belief in libertarian free will and denial of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. The Arminians get this one right as they have always held that **both** are true, and that the bible teaches and presents both.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

“Robert: I was trying to think of what the initials were for CNC control, and if I had remembered them, I would have used them. I read Free Will and Values way back when, and he had introduced the concept already.”

CNC is Kane’s acronym for Covert Nonconstrained Control (Covert because the person does not know that he is under the control of another person; Nonconstrained because his actions are neither coerced or constrained; control because one agent is completely controlling the will of another person). I used the “Joe’s bad chess move” illustration of CNC partly because I, like you, love the game of chess. What do you think of that analogy?

So Victor do you believe that calvinism amounts to CNC type control over all human actions? And if so, what problems do you have with God exercising CNC control over people? The CNC concept shows that a person could be doing exactly what he wants to do whenever he does an intentional action, and yet he can never do otherwise, and is being completely controlled by an outside agent. I think it captures the calvinist view of God's control very well.

Robert

Ilíon said...

Robert: "My point was **not** that Fischer is correct in his claim. ..."

Did I even imply otherwise? Sheesh! Can you give me some credit over here?


Robert: "... **He** believes that if God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events, then we cannot have libertarian free will. But he is an agnostic and so the data of scripture plays no part in his thinking. ..."

And (referencing an historical event) I showed the false basis of this belief/contention (**) without reference to any claim presented in the Bible, did I not? So, even being 'agnostic' [Say! Isn't that a neo-Grecism for "ignoramus?" ;) ], he and his fellows have no rational excuse for holding onto these erroneous assertions that human "free will" is extinguished by God's "exhaustive foreknowledge."


Ilíon: "No one's *knowledge* of even a mere event, even exhaustive knowledge of the event, is the cause of the event. Much less is anyone's knowledge of an act, however exhaustive, the cause of the act ..."

Robert: "I agree with you that a common error made here is to assume that if God knows something will occur in the future then he must have caused or brought it to pass. ..."

My point is intended to be stronger than this. I am saying that the whole "Divine 'exhaustive foreknowledge' extinguishes the possibility of human 'free will'" argument stands upon confusion (and likely some equivocation) and error, including fundamental confusion about causality.

Moreover ... or perhaps someone will want to claim that I simply misunderstand the arguments/assertions of Fischer et al ... I don't understand the claim to be "that if God knows something will occur in the future then he must have caused or brought it to pass," but rather something like "that if God knows something will occur in the future then [it cannot *not* occur]" (*) -- ergo if the idea of Divine "exhaustive foreknowledge" is true, then we do not and logically cannot freely chose our actions. But, this argument *assumes* (it's a hidden or unacknowledged assumption) that knowledge of an event (or act) is in some unspecified way the cause of the event (or act) ... AND, it seems to me that the argument also fails to distinguish between mere natural or physical events and willed acts; which is to say, it's confused even in that important regard.

(*) The whole argument, and especially the part about God's knowledge foreclosing possibilities, is a subtle question-begging. That's probably why it appears to be so strong to those already pre-disposed to believe its possible conclusions: 1) Divine "exhaustive foreknowledge" does not exist; or, 2) human "free will" does not exist.


(**) To believe/claim that God's "exhaustive foreknowledge" of some future event or act annihilates all except one of the potential outcomes or choices makes exactly as much sense (that is, none) as to believe/claim that our knowledge about some past event or act annihilates all of the potential outcomes or choices which we know (from our vantage) did not occur.

To even speak of God's "foreknowledge" is to run the risk of seeing God as an effect of his Cosmos, rather than its Creator. What seems always to be overlooked is that to speak of God's "foreknowledge" is speak of our point of view, not his. From our point of view, it seems to us that God "sees the future;" but from God's point of view (and in so far as we can even imagine an "eternal" or "timeless" point of view), past, present, and future are all *NOW*

Once we grasp that our time-bound distinctions are irrelevant to God, we can perhaps understand that for any potential choice we (individually and collectively) face, God knows *all* the potential outcomes which would follow from any choice which might be made: God knows the history-that-we-are-making and he knows all the histories-we-might-have-made-but-did-not.

Robert said...

Hello Ilion,

I wrote:

Robert: "My point was **not** that Fischer is correct in his claim. ..."

You replied:

“Did I even imply otherwise? Sheesh! Can you give me some credit over here?”

Don’t worry Ilion I did not think that you did not understand, I just wanted to make sure that **others** understood that while Fischer makes the argument and claim, I believe Fischer is mistaken on this.

“Ilíon: "No one's *knowledge* of even a mere event, even exhaustive knowledge of the event, is the cause of the event. Much less is anyone's knowledge of an act, however exhaustive, the cause of the act ..."

Robert: "I agree with you that a common error made here is to assume that if God knows something will occur in the future then he must have caused or brought it to pass. ..."

"My point is intended to be stronger than this. I am saying that the whole "Divine 'exhaustive foreknowledge' extinguishes the possibility of human 'free will'" argument stands upon confusion (and likely some equivocation) and error, including fundamental confusion about causality.”

It is based upon some confusions alright.

“Moreover ... or perhaps someone will want to claim that I simply misunderstand the arguments/assertions of Fischer et al ... I don't understand the claim to be "that if God knows something will occur in the future then he must have caused or brought it to pass," but rather something like "that if God knows something will occur in the future then [it cannot *not* occur]" (*) -- ergo if the idea of Divine "exhaustive foreknowledge" is true, then we do not and logically cannot freely chose our actions.”

That is the argument.

“But, this argument *assumes* (it's a hidden or unacknowledged assumption) that knowledge of an event (or act) is in some unspecified way the cause of the event (or act) ... AND, it seems to me that the argument also fails to distinguish between mere natural or physical events and willed acts; which is to say, it's confused even in that important regard.”

I agree that some make the mistake of assuming that God can only foreknow what he causes to occur or predetermined to occur. That is actually limiting God’s foreknowledge which I take to be that he foreknows everything that occurs including freely chosen actions that involve libertarian free will (something again both the open theists and calvinists believe to be impossible).

Ilion when you speak of “mere natural or physical events and willed acts” please explain further what you mean by this? Do you mean that “willed acts” are actions that God intentionally does, while “mere natural or physical events” are events that God allows that involve the laws of nature and just occur by natural means? Just want to understand you better here.

“(*) The whole argument, and especially the part about God's knowledge foreclosing possibilities, is a subtle question-begging. That's probably why it appears to be so strong to those already pre-disposed to believe its possible conclusions: 1) Divine "exhaustive foreknowledge" does not exist; or, 2) human "free will" does not exist.”

If you claim that God cannot know future actions that involve libertarian free will, that is merely making a dogmatic claim of something that you happen to believe. That is not going to be very convincing to others who do not hold your assumption or desire to believe what you desire to believe. The open theists want to believe in libertarian free will but not that God exhaustively predetermines everything; the calvinists want to believe that God exhaustively predetermines everything and that libertarian free will does not (cannot exist). But just because you desire something to true, and want to believe it, no matter how desperately, does not mean that it is true. Especially when in fact the bible presents that God has exhaustive foreknowledge, that we sometimes have libertarian free will and that God is sovereign (defined biblically as He does as He pleases).


“(**) To believe/claim that God's "exhaustive foreknowledge" of some future event or act annihilates all except one of the potential outcomes or choices makes exactly as much sense (that is, none) as to believe/claim that our knowledge about some past event or act annihilates all of the potential outcomes or choices which we know (from our vantage) did not occur.”

Your argument here is a common one by libertarians. And I agree with you that just knowing something (whether the knower is God or us) does not cause it to occur. My favorite example is our bringing about, causing sins to occur. God does not cause them to occur or bring them about, we do. Yet God foreknows every sin that we will ever commit. So his foreknowledge does not cause our sins.

“To even speak of God's "foreknowledge" is to run the risk of seeing God as an effect of his Cosmos, rather than its Creator. What seems always to be overlooked is that to speak of God's "foreknowledge" is speak of our point of view, not his. From our point of view, it seems to us that God "sees the future;" but from God's point of view (and in so far as we can even imagine an "eternal" or "timeless" point of view), past, present, and future are all *NOW*

Once we grasp that our time-bound distinctions are irrelevant to God, we can perhaps understand that for any potential choice we (individually and collectively) face, God knows *all* the potential outcomes which would follow from any choice which might be made: God knows the history-that-we-are-making and he knows all the histories-we-might-have-made-but-did-not.”

I agree with you that God transcends time and space as the creator of all things.

God knows what the actual history of the world was, is, and will be. He also knows what might have been the actual history had other choices been made (there are a few examples of this in the bible, examples that Molinists like to cite in support of their view). Regardless of whether we are talking about history-that-we-are-making or histories that might have been, he knows it all.

I also agree that to speak of “foreknowledge” is to speak from a time frame such as the one we are in. Your point about God’s point of view is past, present, and future are all NOW, was the view of C.S. Lewis and others. Lewis said that for God everything is in an ETERNAL NOW. He likened it, as have others, to us being at one point watching a parade going by, we see it coming towards us and passing by, from our point of reference. God on the other hand is like a person high above who sees the whole parade in one glance. You may be right Ilion, I don’t know what it is like to know everything at once, I know only partially. Personally when I think about what it must be like to know everything at once, that for me, since I am a visual learner, is what it would be like to see everything at once.

Robert

Clayton said...

It's true that to know is not to cause. Augustine was pretty clear on this. This doesn't help us see how foreknowledge can be compatible with libertarian free will. If it's _foreknowledge_ it seems there must be a mental state temporally prior to the act or event it represents that has a representational content that is/will be true. The question is whether such foreknowledge is possible if there is no causal connection between states of affairs/events simultaneous with the mental state and the future action. It's one thing to say (correctly) that the mental state is not the cause. It's another to say the state constitutes knowledge if there is no cause.

Ilíon said...

Robert: "Don’t worry Ilion I did not think that you did not understand ..."

Whew! That was the only was I could see to understand what you'd written, but I didn't want it to be that way.


Robert: "I agree that some make the mistake of assuming that God can only foreknow what he causes to occur or predetermined to occur. That is actually limiting God’s foreknowledge which I take to be that he foreknows everything that occurs including freely chosen actions that involve libertarian free will (something again both the open theists and calvinists believe to be impossible)."

Yes, it seems to me that Calvinism and Open Theology are different workings-out of the same error -- seeing God as being limited in a way that logically he simply cannot be limited, and this because one is forgetting (or not understanding) that he is the "ground of all being."

As I said a few days ago to someone I think we both greatly respect:
"AND, as best as I can understand your question (I'm having a difficult time deciding I do understand just what you're asking), it seems to me that you've making the mistake that is common to Calvinists *and* Arminians -- and which I think lies at the root of the centuries-long dispute between Calvinism and the rest of Chistendom. I think that rather than trying -- as best and as admittedly incompletely as we "time-drenched" human beings are capable -- to see the issues from an erernal or "timeless" vantage-point, you (and the Calvinists) are imputing an ontological priority to time, which it does not possess. One might try to illustrate the error by saying that you are turning 'time' into 'Time.'

In effect, you are incorrectly seeing God as an
effect of his own created Cosmos -- which seems to me to lead to Calvinism ... or to Open Theology (or to other [far more serious] errors, of course)."



Robert: "Ilion when you speak of “mere natural or physical events and willed acts” please explain further what you mean by this? Do you mean that “willed acts” are actions that God intentionally does, while “mere natural or physical events” are events that God allows that involve the laws of nature and just occur by natural means? Just want to understand you better here."

By a "willed act" I meant any "act of the will" of any being/entity possessing 'will' -- regardless of whether a specific act of the will results in a physical event others notice. By "mere natural or physical event" I meant a causal chain-of-events which can be fully explained without reference to an "act of the will" of some being/entity possessing 'will.'

An example of a probable "mere natural or physical event:" A woman is closing/locking her office door on a weekend afternoon. The glass transom falls out of its frame and hits her in the head, breaking, and a huge sliver of glass plunges into her brain and she is made unconscious. (This happened to a woman who was my boss back in 1981 or so.)

Even though the environment and materials involved were all artificial (and thus, ultimately the cause was faulty design and/or faulty installation), as there was no reason to suspect that anyone *sought* such a result, we are justified in chalking this up as a "mere natural or physical event."

Now, my boss' younger sister happened to have come up to the office with her. She called the emergency services, and the injured woman's life was saved. That was a "willed act."

But, suppose my boss' sister had hated her and had intentionally "panicked" for a minute or two, hoping that a small delay would ensure that my boss died. What other human being would ever have known that her emminately understandable "panic" had not been real? The building was locked; that floor was locked off from all others (a special key was needed to get the elevator to stop there); and all the rooms on the floor were locked (I'm assuming my boss' office must also have been now locked, since the glass fell out when she closed the door), and thus no phones were immediately available (this was before cell phones). Regardless of whether results had worked out as she had hypothetically willed, she still would have willed to murder her sister ... the death of her sister, whether or not it had actually occurred, would have been a "willed act."

I used the qualifiers "mere natural or physical event" and "willed act" to emphasize the distinction between an 'event' and an 'act.' An 'act' may (or may not) directly result in an 'event.' But, if any 'event' can ever *directly* result in an 'act,' then "free will" is an illusion and there is no distinction between 'acts' and 'events.'

If it helps explain to look at it this way, I am making the same distinction, but with different words, that Flew makes in his 'Choice and Rationality.' And I was placing even more emphasis on the 'will,' for that is the important distinction between agents and non-agents, regardless of whether any specific "act of the will" results in a physical event.

Robert said...

Victor you wrote:

“It would be interesting to ask a secular compatibilist like Fischer whether he thinks introducing a Calvinistic God changes anything.”

I was thinking about this some more and I believe that Fischer would say that “introducing a Calvinistic God” would eliminate moral responsibility. Here is why. In my discussions with Kane he says that the CNC concept is what calvinism is claiming to be true. Kane uses the Skinner book Walden Two as an illustration of CNC control and what it would look like. Fischer is aware of the CNC concept of Kane and says in his latest book: “The kind of manipulation that takes place in Walden Two does indeed rule out moral responsibility . . . . If there is unconsented to covert manipulation of certain sorts, this can be the sort of historical factor that rules out moral responsibility.”

Ok, if Kane is right that calvinism proposes a form of control that is rightly described as CNC type control. And if Fischer says that CNC type control eliminates moral responsibility. Then it follows that Fischer would say that “introducing a Calvinistic God” who exercise CNC type control over human persons **would eliminate moral responsibility**.

This is an interesting conclusion because some calvinists attempt to use Fischer’s views for their own ends. And yet Fischer himself would say that Calvinism does in fact eliminate moral responsibility. So the calvinist desperate to support their view "prooftext" from Fischer when in fact his view is that their view eliminates moral responsibility. Kind like the way cults prooftext from the bible to prove their views as well (when the bible taken properly contradicts the views of the cult).

Robert

Robert said...

Ilion,

“Yes, it seems to me that Calvinism and Open Theology are different workings-out of the same error -- seeing God as being limited in a way that logically he simply cannot be limited, and this because one is forgetting (or not understanding) that he is the "ground of all being."”

Yeh, they are quite strange bedfellows both railing against the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and libertarian free will.

“By a "willed act" I meant any "act of the will" of any being/entity possessing 'will' -- regardless of whether a specific act of the will results in a physical event others notice. By "mere natural or physical event" I meant a causal chain-of-events which can be fully explained without reference to an "act of the will" of some being/entity possessing 'will.'”

I think you are talking about events that are brought about intentionally (by a mind doing something in the world: e.g., human persons build a rocket ship that can overcome the law of gravity and be shot into space) or not intentionally (physical processes that work by natural law without any conscious intention; e.g. the law of gravity causing an object to go down).

“An example of a probable "mere natural or physical event:" A woman is closing/locking her office door on a weekend afternoon. The glass transom falls out of its frame and hits her in the head, breaking, and a huge sliver of glass plunges into her brain and she is made unconscious. (This happened to a woman who was my boss back in 1981 or so.)

Even though the environment and materials involved were all artificial (and thus, ultimately the cause was faulty design and/or faulty installation), as there was no reason to suspect that anyone *sought* such a result, we are justified in chalking this up as a "mere natural or physical event."”

No intentionality was involved in the physical objects that were involved.

“Now, my boss' younger sister happened to have come up to the office with her. She called the emergency services, and the injured woman's life was saved. That was a "willed act."”

In making the phone call, intentionality was involved on the part of the sister.

“But, suppose my boss' sister had hated her and had intentionally "panicked" for a minute or two, hoping that a small delay would ensure that my boss died. What other human being would ever have known that her emminately understandable "panic" had not been real? The building was locked; that floor was locked off from all others (a special key was needed to get the elevator to stop there); and all the rooms on the floor were locked (I'm assuming my boss' office must also have been now locked, since the glass fell out when she closed the door), and thus no phones were immediately available (this was before cell phones). Regardless of whether results had worked out as she had hypothetically willed, she still would have willed to murder her sister ... the death of her sister, whether or not it had actually occurred, would have been a "willed act."”

Right so a mind that has choices, can intentionally make multiple choices depending upon what the person wants to do. Or put another way: freely chosen voluntary actions presuppose a being that has consciousness and intentionality.

“I used the qualifiers "mere natural or physical event" and "willed act" to emphasize the distinction between an 'event' and an 'act.' An 'act' may (or may not) directly result in an 'event.' But, if any 'event' can ever *directly* result in an 'act,' then "free will" is an illusion and there is no distinction between 'acts' and 'events.'”

What you say here is one of the reasons that I hold to agent causation. Our voluntary actions do not result from a chain of events, but their source is **us**, the agent that does its own actions. We are not mere events, or mere physical beings, we are persons made in the image of God with an immaterial soul. And this soul is the source of our intentional actions.

Thanks for your clarifications Ilion,

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Clayton,

“It's true that to know is not to cause. Augustine was pretty clear on this.”

Is Augustine the sole authority on this?

“This doesn't help us see how foreknowledge can be compatible with libertarian free will.”

So you have seen the attempts so far and are not convinced they are compatible?

“If it's _foreknowledge_ it seems there must be a mental state temporally prior to the act or event it represents that has a representational content that is/will be true. The question is whether such foreknowledge is possible if there is no causal connection between states of affairs/events simultaneous with the mental state and the future action.”

You are speaking of mental states here and presumably also including God’s “mental states”. How do we know about God’s mental states? For that matter, how do we know how God knows what He knows?

“ It's one thing to say (correctly) that the mental state is not the cause. It's another to say the state constitutes knowledge if there is no cause.”

Now you appear to be trying to figure out what “causes” God’s knowledge or how it comes about. My problem is that I do not see how we can know how God knows what He knows. I do not doubt **that** God knows things, but as to **how** he knows what he knows, how do you or I or anyone, know?

Robert

Clayton said...

Robert,
There's lots there.

No, Augustine is not the sole source on this. But he is an important historical source and the first I know of to emphasize this point. His move (to know is not to cause) is a good one, but it has to be the first. If we distinguish foreknowledge (which requires having mental states that temporally precede the states of affairs they are about) from God's perfect and timeless knowledge, the problem seems to be this.

(1) It seems foreknowledge of X which is at t2 at t1 requires that there is some cause or other at t1 of X.
(2) If there is some cause or other of X at t1, then an agent is free to bring X about only if an agent can freely affect what takes place at t1.
(3) In the case of divine foreknowledge, however, God's knowledge of our actions was knowledge had billions of years before we were born.

If you are a compatibilist about freedom and determinism, there's your solution. If you are an incompatibilist and foreknowledge requires deterministic causal chains, it seems that the problem of divine foreknowledge is as threatening as the problem of determinism. You can, of course, deny determinism to save freedom, but that would require denying the possibility of foreknowledge.

I take it that (1) is controversial, but when I've raised this in discussion, most are willing to say that nothing can have knowledge of the outcome of indeterministic systems.

Of course, much of this is historically anachronistic because a standard response is to deny God foreknowledge. God has knowledge of the future, but God is timeless. But, I think it's useful to tease apart the different aspects of Augustine's view because there's lots there that is good. But, there's lots more that needs to be said to see if his response is apt.

Robert said...

Hello Clayton,

“No, Augustine is not the sole source on this. But he is an important historical source and the first I know of to emphasize this point.”

I was just wondering why you specified Augustine alone, why not Anselm’s comments on, etc. etc.?

“His move (to know is not to cause) is a good one, but it has to be the first.”

First implying other moves, what other moves do you have in mind?

“If we distinguish foreknowledge (which requires having mental states that temporally precede the states of affairs they are about) from God's perfect and timeless knowledge, the problem seems to be this.”

How do you know that God’s knowledge is timeless? And for that matter, to say it **is** timeless, what exactly does that mean? As I am a time bound creature who always thinks in terms of time frames, I am not at all sure what “timeless knowledge” would be like. Again, we are going to my point in the earlier post which you did not comment upon at all: we don’t know how God knows what He knows only that He knows what He knows.

“You can, of course, deny determinism to save freedom, but that would require denying the possibility of foreknowledge.”

You seem to be saying here that it is impossible to show divine foreknowledge and libertarian free will to be compatible. That either we retain free will or we retain divine foreknowledge, but we cannot retain both. Is that your position?

“I take it that (1) is controversial, but when I've raised this in discussion, most are willing to say that nothing can have knowledge of the outcome of indeterministic systems.”

I believe that God can. And this belief that God can has been the historic and majority position of Christians throughout church history (the Socinians and open theists today have denied exhaustive foreknowledge). When you say that “most are willing to say that nothing [or no one] can have knowledge of the outcome of indeterministic systems”, who are the “most”? Reminds me of when someone says: “they say . . .” I always want to know who “they” are! :-)

Robert

Clayton said...

Hey Robert,

I only specified Augustine because he is who I've last read and he's pretty clear on the point.

You wrote:
How do you know that God’s knowledge is timeless? And for that matter, to say it **is** timeless, what exactly does that mean? As I am a time bound creature who always thinks in terms of time frames, I am not at all sure what “timeless knowledge” would be like. Again, we are going to my point in the earlier post which you did not comment upon at all: we don’t know how God knows what He knows only that He knows what He knows.

There's supposed to be a difference between saying that God has foreknowledge (implying his states of mind are temporally located and hence denying that God is 'outside' of time) and saying that God has perfect knowledge of events that are _for us_ future events. What I was suggesting is that it is foreknowledge in the strict sense (i.e., the sense that requires thinking of God as temporally located) that is hard to reconcile with libertarianism as it seems a condition necessary on having foreknowledge is that there is some causal chain linking the states of the world simultaneous with the initial judgment with the states that will obtain and are represented by those prior mental states. If someone were to say that such causal connectedness is not necessary for knowledge, I think that's an interesting move. I have to confess that this seems to go against many people's views about knowledge.

Anyway, I can't make sense of God being timeless so I wouldn't make any claims about God's being timeless. I'm also an atheist, so I won't say that God is temporally located. You're probably right that the sensible view for the theist is to concede that we do not know how God knows (or would know), but that's no reason not to try to work through arguments that suggest ways God could not know, you know.

Robert said...

Hello Clayton,

"I'm also an atheist, so I won't say that God is temporally located. You're probably right that the sensible view for the theist is to concede that we do not know how God knows (or would know), but that's no reason not to try to work through arguments that suggest ways God could not know, you know."

Clayton I am wondering why as an atheist who presumably believes that God does not exist, that you would then attempt to figure out what mental states God has if He has foreknowledge? It seems to me that determining the mental state of a nonexistent being or person would be impossible. Are you engaging it this merely for logical speculation and analysis or what? Personally I would not be spending too much time speculating about the mental states of nonexistent persons, but then I am also not a professional philosopher. You have read Augustine on the foreknowledge and free will issue, have you read Anselm at all. I have a friend who is going to be publishing a book on this in about a month or two, you might be interested in checking it out.

Robert

Clayton said...

Hey Robert,

I don't spend too much time worrying about the mental states of entities I take to be non-existent. Sherlock Holmes, for example. I don't care if he believes Watson can juggle five chainsaws. (I have friends, however, who could work on that question for years.)

I find theism philosophically interesting and so enjoy thinking through its implications. My mode of engagement is less 'What is God like?' but 'What would a perfect being be like?'

I haven't read much Anselm, but if you had a reference for that book I'd take a look at it at some point.

Best,
Clayton

Robert said...

Hello Clayton,

You wrote:

"I find theism philosophically interesting and so enjoy thinking through its implications. My mode of engagement is less 'What is God like?' but 'What would a perfect being be like?'

I haven't read much Anselm, but if you had a reference for that book I'd take a look at it at some point."

It is interesting that you are considering the question of what a perfect being would be like. My friend Kate Rodgers wrote a book called PERFECT BEING THEOLOGY on this topic. The current book she has will be out in a month or two she says, it will be on Anselm's way of showing the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and libertarian free will. Clayton you may want to check it out when it comes out.

Robert