Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Frankfurt and the case for open theism

The interesting thing that I have been noticing abot Frankfurt cases is that they at least attempt to violate PAP without positing causal determination. You can't do otherwise, but there's no causal chain going from what keeps you from doing otherwise and your actual action. It's the lack of a causal chain going from the controller to the action that makes them good intuition pumps for people who would not be inclined to accept compatibilism in the first place.

The tricky issue is whether non-causal guarantees have the same sort of responsibility-denying effect that causal determinism does in the minds of incompatibilists. And this brings up the whole foreknowledge and freedom debate. Level 1 incompatibilism says that an act can't be both free and causally determined. But besides Frankfurt counterexamples, there is another type of fact that doesn't cause, but might seem to eliminate alternate possiblity. That is divine foreknowledge. A level 2 incompatibilist will say that if there is a determinant but it is not a causal determinant, it's still eliminates responsibility. This drives that Hasker-style argument for open theism. Hasker's libertarian opponents think that causal determination would remove responsibility, but since God's foreknowledge doesn't cause our actions, it doesn't affect our responsibility for them. The "bludgeon" approach to Frankfurt examples plays, therefore, into the hands of the open theists.

Where's Alan Rhoda?


Alan Rhoda said...

Sorry, Vic.

I'm currently tied up with the logistics of moving from UNLV to Notre Dame, where I'll be a postdoc at the Center for Philosophy of Religion working on, you might expect, open theism.

You've raised an interesting issue here that I'm going to have to think about. Offhand, I think Hasker would argue from level 2 incompatibility to level 1 incompatibility. As I read him, he objects to God's having exhaustively definite foreknowledge because he thinks it entails determinism, which is incompatible with moral freedom.

Mike Darus said...

I have always thought that God's foreknowledge could be based on an infallible ability to predict. This would look and smell like determinism but I think it is distinct. I am unfamiliar with the term "exhaustively definite foreknowledge" so maybe that precludes "infallible ability to predict."

The other factor I think interesting is God's apparent ability to be self-limiting. He certainly did this in the incarnation. I wonder if it also applies to this issue? This is another opening for open theism but with an incarnational twist that would allow affirmation of all the orthodox sovereignty statements.

Bilbo said...

I hate showing off my ignorance, but what are PAP and Frankfurt examples?

Mike Darus said...

I had to look it up too. This article does a good job of explaining Frankfurt counter examples: http://gfp.typepad.com/online_papers/files/needasubstancedualistsurr22.pdf

PAP is the Principle of Alternative Possiblities: you can only be morally responsible for an action if you could have acted differently. You are not responsible if your action was determined for you. (my version)

It is a common occurance on this blog that I must do an hour of reading and at least one lookup on Wikipedia before I can post UNintelegently. Intelegent posting will likely require reading some books or taking a college level class.

Bilbo said...


I read the article. If it does a good job of explaining what Frankfurt counter examples are, then I missed it.