Friday, December 05, 2008

Love Potion #9: A Problem For Compatibilists?

I am redating this post because it is getting still getting some active discussion, and has been visited by Dave Baggett, a co-editor of Harry Potter and Philosophy and C. S. Lewis as a Philosopher.

How would a compatibilist analyze the case of an effective love potion, which the Hasker passage appeals to in his reference to Harry Potter? In the case of Voldemort's mother Merope, she cast a spell on Tom Riddle, Sr., causing him to love her, only to become frustrated by the fact that the love produced by the potion was compelled. So she stopped using the spell, and he dumped her.

What accounts for the frustration and disappointment with a love compelled by the one being loved?

39 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Because if it happened in Harry Potter, it must be an accurate reflection of reality...

Assuming the premise, the reason the love is unsatisfying is that it is not predicated on any qualities in the person being loved, but rather on the potion. In fact, it is often in spite of the qualities of the lovee. It's a chemically induced love, rather than a love induced by a natural attraction to the qualities of the lovee. Interestingly, in fiction which delves into the question of love potions where teenage characters are concerned, the chemically induced attraction is not in itself considered unsatisfying. Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is happy to be found attractive—he only starts to see the downside when his life is in danger because every woman in Sunnydale wants a piece of him.

Of course, romantic love is a very confused affair. It's typified by being both passionate and irrational. We get infatuated with someone based on arguably trivial concerns, like appearance and similarity of interests. We overlook obvious flaws and sins to the point of denying their existence. Furthermore, romantic love is between equals. So all around it's a very poor analogy for the passionless, rational, condescending love of God.

A far better analogy would seem to be the love of a parent for child. It's a calmer, more measured love, rooted in a relationship which was chosen by the father (usually) but not by the child. It isn't characterized by passionate desires or unrealistic needs.

Of course, that brings me back to the point I made in the previous post: the love of a father for his child is neither coerced nor freely chosen. He is not forced to love his child against his will; it is simply part of his nature to do so. The love is genuine and meaningful, yet he never chose it in any libertarian sense; nor could he choose against it. In fact, we'd tend to say that a father who freely chose not to love his child any more had no love for him in the first place—or at least a very inferior love. So the opposite of your thesis seems to actually be true: the easier it is to choose love, the less meaningful and genuine the love appears to us to be.

The love of the child is similar: hardwired and difficult to overcome even if the father is a very lousy one. There is no libertarian freedom there.

So to answer your initial question, I'd reiterate that love potions, if they are unsatisfying, is because the love is not rooted in the nature of the person being loved, or in the relationship between the natures of the lover and the lovee. The natural love is overridden and replaced by an artificial love. Often, it's actually directly overruling a natural lack of love, or even a natural antipathy—so the lovee knows that it's actually unnatural and contra the inherent desires of the lover. It's hard to see any analogy there to the situation of God and man.

legodesi said...

She's upset because the man's love is a result of conditions totally irrelevant to his feelings. Maybe she wished that he would love her out of his natural affection. If she were a materialist, she may not care, since in the end, chemical causation is the same as natural causation. just a litle artificial, that's all.

Victor Reppert said...

In the Calvinist scenario, the person begins as an unregenerate sinner who suppresses the truth, and hence cannot recognize the qualities of God for what they are. The person receives irresistible grace, which provides the person with an awareness of God's attributes to which the proper response is love.

I've always thought that the initial act of being forced into the Kingdom by irresistible grace on this scenario doesn't even qualify as free in the compatibilist sense. One is caused to do what one does not want at all to do.

Randy said...

Bnonn,
Because if it happened in Harry Potter, it must be an accurate reflection of reality...


These philosophical problems based on what happens in fantasy stories do seem a tad ridiculous.

Of course, that brings me back to the point I made in the previous post: the love of a father for his child is neither coerced nor freely chosen. He is not forced to love his child against his will; it is simply part of his nature to do so. The love is genuine and meaningful, yet he never chose it in any libertarian sense; nor could he choose against it. In fact, we'd tend to say that a father who freely chose not to love his child any more had no love for him in the first place—or at least a very inferior love. So the opposite of your thesis seems to actually be true: the easier it is to choose love, the less meaningful and genuine the love appears to us to be.

Excellent points.

Our conception(s) of love are based on the varying forms of human relationships we encounter and experience. The concept of libertarian free will is not part of our normal understanding of love. In fact, as you point out, it actually runs counter to what we think is entailed by love.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I've always thought that the initial act of being forced into the Kingdom by irresistible grace on this scenario doesn't even qualify as free in the compatibilist sense. One is caused to do what one does not want at all to do.

No, one is caused to desire what one previously did not desire, which in turn causes one to do what one previously could not do. You don't seem to really understand the Calvinist view, Victor.

Victor Reppert said...

So what happens when I receive irresistible grace? I have to be different with it as opposed to without it.

Steven Carr said...

Harry Potter is fictional.

Do compatibilists really have to worry about what happens in fictional stories written for children?

Surely compatibilists must be far more worried by the way that Harry Potter can produce all sorts of effects using forces which are controlled by his mind.

There is a famous song which goes 'You made me love you.
I didn't wanna do it
I didn't wanna do it
You made me want you
And all the time you knew it
I guess you always knew it.'

People who write popular songs know that there is no frustration and disappointment with a love compelled by the one being loved.

Victor Reppert said...

You should tell this to people who write anthologies like "Harry Potter and Philosophy." Nevertheless, I think most of us suppose that there is something deficient in a love that is not freely given. What does "freely given" mean in this context? Well, there are two schools, compatibilists and incompatibilists, and it may turn out that these considerations here don't add anything to that controversy.

Robert said...

Victor wrote:

“In the Calvinist scenario, the person begins as an unregenerate sinner who suppresses the truth, and hence cannot recognize the qualities of God for what they are. The person receives irresistible grace, which provides the person with an awareness of God's attributes to which the proper response is love.”

In the system where everything is completely controlled and predetermined by God, everything that takes place is according to an exhaustive pre-plan. God forms the plan, then brings about all the events that make that plan reality. In such a world only God has free will, every other **personal** being merely carries out the dictates of God. All the biblical language about choosing and the narratives about people seemingly making their own choices are all illusory because in each case the person does only what God predetermined for him to do, just like a puppet having its strings pulled by a puppet master. The determinists adopt “compatibilism” because they want to believe in such a world and simultaneously believe in moral responsibility, choices, free will, etc. (all realities that do not and cannot exist in an exhaustively determined world).

“I've always thought that the initial act of being forced into the Kingdom by irresistible grace on this scenario doesn't even qualify as free in the compatibilist sense. One is caused to do what one does not want at all to do.”

You are mistaken here when you speak of “being forced into the Kingdom by irresistible grace on this scenario”. That claim about being forced implies a will that is being overcome by another stronger will. But in an exhaustively determined world, again, there is only one person with a free will, the one who controls and predetermines all events (the divine Puppet Master). For some, God predetermines that for a time they will live sinful lives being out of relationship with Him. During this time period they seem to be rebelling against Him and His will (though again this is all illusory as they have no choice in the matter and simply do whatever they were predetermined to do: God controls their will completely and directly so that they do whatever He wants). Then at a specific (and of course predetermined) moment, God controls their will so that they do whatever He wants and they then seek after God and begin behaving as a “believer”. So no overcoming of the will occurs whatsoever.

WHY WOULD GOD NEED TO **OVERCOME** A WILL THAT HE ALREADY COMPLETELY AND DIRECTLY CONTROLS?

When you speak of God overpowering or overcoming a person’s will with irresistible grace you are **assuming** that the person genuinely has a will and that that person genuinely acts freely. If the person acts freely and then is overcome by a stronger will, **that** would be overcoming or overpowering of the person’s will. But again, in exhaustive determinism, the divine Puppet Master completely controls the “will” of his puppets, so there is never any real resistance (anything that seems like choices or free will or resistance is illusory).

In Star Trek there is the infamous expression “Resistance is futile” which presupposes a genuine free will that is overcome by the power of the Borg. In an exhaustively determined world there is no real resistance, it only **appears that way** to you if ignore the reality that all wills are completely controlled and determined by the divine Puppet Master.

Robert

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

So what happens when I receive irresistible grace? I have to be different with it as opposed to without it.

Indeed—you become regenerate; you become indwelt by the Spirit; you become inclined toward God instead of away from him; you receive a special knowledge of God which you previously did not and could not have. Refer to 1 Corinthians 2:10ff.

Now, this change is certainly not something you wish for at the time. I can personally attest to that since I was a new atheist before new atheism was the new thing. You can read my testimony if you want to know more. So, if when you said "forced into the Kingdom" you meant this ontological change, then I rescind my previous objection. I think "forced" is a rather poor choice of words because of the despotic connotations it appears to convey on God—but it is essentially accurate. However, since the context of this discussion is choice, I presumed you were referring to the actual decision made by the regenerate man: the actual faith that he places in Christ. That is not "forced" in any sense I would understand the word, as if God makes a person believe against his will. It may be contrary to his previous, unregenerate desires, and so he will be conflicted and confused—but his will is actually now disposed toward God. He chooses faith inevitably, but not under coercion.

Hope this clarifies things.

Regards,
Bnonn

Robert said...

BNONN wrote:

“Now, this change is certainly not something you wish for at the time. I can personally attest to that since I was a new atheist before new atheism was the new thing. You can read my testimony if you want to know more.”

This is not quite accurate. If a person becomes a Christian the Holy Spirit had to have been working in him to lead him to Christ for salvation. In doing this leading, the Spirit reveals Christ to you, reveals your own sinfulness, your need for a savior, that Jesus is the one and only Savior, etc. etc. For most this process takes some time. And during this time you definitely begin to seek after and desire to know Jesus. Those who become Christians continue to seek after Jesus, while some have the same experience but choose not to turn to Jesus with faith. To say then that at the time of your conversion you don’t want to be saved/regenerated is not true of **most of us** (Bnonn is apparently an exception, he was not seeking after God and was an Atheist and then suddenly out of the blue he changed; that is not how it goes with most Christians however). Most of us, through a sometimes significant amount of time and the work of the Spirit realize the need for Jesus as Savior and also desire for Him to be our Savior and Lord. And we have this desire to be saved before we are saved.

“So, if when you said "forced into the Kingdom" you meant this ontological change, then I rescind my previous objection. I think "forced" is a rather poor choice of words because of the despotic connotations it appears to convey on God—but it is essentially accurate.”

Again, as I stated in the previous post, according to the determinists God directly and completely controls everything, so God **never** has to force someone to be converted nor does He overcome any resistance. If you control another person’s will (as determinists claim about God and all people) then you simply redirect it towards yourself when you want the person to be “converted”. A puppet master never has to overcome the resistance of his puppets as he already controls their every movement already.

“However, since the context of this discussion is choice, I presumed you were referring to the actual decision made by the regenerate man: the actual faith that he places in Christ. That is not "forced" in any sense I would understand the word, as if God makes a person believe against his will. It may be contrary to his previous, unregenerate desires, and so he will be conflicted and confused—but his will is actually now disposed toward God. He chooses faith inevitably, but not under”

Note well that while the person who is “converted” to Christ is not forced or coerced into faith according to the determinist (there would be force or coercion only if the person had genuine free will to resist, but in exhaustive determinism only God has free will no one else does).

Nevertheless, SOMETHING MUCH WORSE is in operation if exhaustive determinism is true.

If we are coerced into something, **at least we were genuine persons with genuine free will**. But in an exhaustively determined world, we are “persons” who never have a choice, do not have free will, but instead are like puppets being controlled by the divine puppet master. Being a completely controlled and predetermined puppet is WORSE than being someone who is overpowered by another (at least in the latter you are a real person with a real will: not as in the former where a person is supposedly with will and intelligence and self awareness and yet completely controlled by an external person, the divine puppet master of exhaustive determinism).

Robert

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

As usual, Robert's hatred of the Bible's teachings about God's sovereignty is both tedious and predictable.

Robert said...

Bnonn writing with the usual contempt and condescension that you can expect from calvinists/theological determinists wrote:

“As usual, Robert's hatred of the Bible's teachings about God's sovereignty is both tedious and predictable.”

I don’t hate what the bible **actually** teaches about God’s sovereignty (i.e., that God does as He pleases in any and all situations). The biblical conception of God’s sovereignty is both loved and appreciated by the vast majority of bible believing Christians who never have been and never will be theological determinists. We love the Lord and are thankful and encouraged by his sovereignty and have experienced it many times in our lives. We just reject theological determinism/calvinism/exhaustive determinism, whatever you want to call the error.

The error that determinists like Bnonn **choose** make is to equate exhaustive determinism with God’s sovereignty. They are not the same and a careful reading and interpretation of the bible shows them to be distinguishable. God **in fact** does as He pleases.

And it is extremely clear both from scripture and our daily experience that God created human persons who are genuine persons with genuine free will. Persons who make their own choices (including with respect to salvation) and are held responsible for the choices that they make. I love the Lord and the bible that He has given to us. My problem is neither with the Lord who is an awesome person with great character and His revealed Word/the bible. No, my problem is with a man-made and invented theological system that assumes exhaustive determinism and then attempts to force the bible to fit that erroneous belief. I have studied and taught the bible for over thirty years now and have seen people’s lives transformed by the truth of the bible and the gospel which God desires all men to embrace.

Bnonn can **choose** to believe and embrace his erroneous deterministic beliefs all he wants to: God allows (He does not predetermine) that choice. God created us with free will and he even allows people to make the worst and most foolish choices (one of which is to embrace exhaustive determinism and to tarnish God’s character with the implications of that man-made concoction and mistaken set of beliefs).

Robert

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
Nevertheless, I think most of us suppose that there is something deficient in a love that is not freely given.

CARR
You should tell that to people who make money by knowing what people really do want.

They seem to think the public want a love where there is no choice, and people were fated to be together in love.

Steven Carr said...

ROBERT
In the system where everything is completely controlled and predetermined by God, everything that takes place is according to an exhaustive pre-plan. God forms the plan, then brings about all the events that make that plan reality.

CARR
Are you claiming God created one particular world ,containing certain events that God knew would happen, and the world God created was the world God wanted to create?

And that God did not want to create a different world containing different events?

Controversial stuff....

Randy said...

Victor,
Nevertheless, I think most of us suppose that there is something deficient in a love that is not freely given. What does "freely given" mean in this context?

To give something freely generally means to give something without a price. To give one’s love freely is to give one’s love without a demand (price) that the love be returned or in return for a favor or without expectations that a favor will be given. It really is not about free will.
I believe you are distorting our normal concepts of love to try and make some point about which theory of free will fits in best with your conception of God.
It is not a particularly persuasive approach.

Robert said...

Steven asked:

“Are you claiming God created one particular world , containing certain events that God knew would happen, and the world God created was the world God wanted to create?”

I believe that God has the ability to foreknow anything and everything that will occur in the future (even including events that involve free will choices). Since God has this ability he foreknows whatever will happen in any world that He decides to create. He knows how things would be and turn out if we had our normal capacities as well as if we had different capacities. So God not only knows what will happen with certain events, but with **all** events.

Now my difference with the theological determinist is that I believe that God **can** (because He **is** sovereign and does as He pleases and has the power and intelligence to do so) and **did** create a world where human persons have genuine free will (as ordinarily understood). So people have choices and at the same time God knows how they will choose in every instance. God knows all of history, and it consists of us doing some things that are pleasing to Him and some things that are not pleasing to Him (and in neither case are we predetermined/or necessitated to do what we choose to do, we have genuine choices and are responsible for the choices we make). God as creator decides what the parameters/features of a particular world will be (e.g., in this world we have two legs, one brain, but these parameters could have been different: what Plantinga has called the “design plan” for human persons). He then creates **that** particular world (with the features/parameters that it has), and then He freely and sovereignly interacts with that world (the interaction including direct sovereign interventions; maintaining the world in existence, allowing or permitting things to occur, etc.).

“And that God did not want to create a different world containing different events?”

God creates a particular world with particular features or parameters (He cannot create a world where we both have three legs and have two legs; in a particular world we will have either two or three legs). He then interacts in history with that particular world and the parameters that he created that world with (e.g. he created this world with the laws of physics that it has; he created this world where humans have a body and soul) are maintained.

As an analogy, imagine someone imagining a stage and then creating **that** particular stage, determining its dimensions and characteristics, as well as the sound system and pieces on that stage. Then inviting actors to do some improvisation on that stage. The resulting “story” will be a combination of both the parameters set by the designer of the stage as well as the actions and choices of the actors as they freely improvise.

In an exhaustively determined world, the designer not only imagines and creates the stage, but that person directly controls all things and other persons so that everything goes precisely according to an already pre-written script. In this determined world, there is no improvisation, no freedom, the actors simply parrot the pre-written script. Or changing analogies, the actors are merely puppets whose strings are completely controlled by the puppet master/designer, they are not human persons with free will.

“Controversial stuff....”

Unfortunately, any time you talk about God you engage in controversy. :-)

Robert

Victor Reppert said...

My intuitions (Oh dear, that's going to get dumped on now isn't it) tell me that there is something missing in a love that is completely under the sovereign control of the person receiving the love. "Of course you love him. He's got you completely programmed."

Robert said...

So Victor are you a bit squeamish about a completely determined world? You wrote:

“My intuitions (Oh dear, that's going to get dumped on now isn't it) tell me that there is something missing in a love that is completely under the sovereign control of the person receiving the love. "Of course you love him. He's got you completely programmed."

I read your comments here and could not help but think of the movie THE STEPFORD WIVES. If you recall, in that movie there were two very distinct groups of people. The determinists who were quite content and happy with their completely programmed and perfect “wives” (though these “wives” were no longer genuine human persons with free will). And those who were resisting the determinists because they believed genuine love freely given and an imperfect but human wife was **superior** to the pre-programmed versions. The same intuitions and beliefs that motivated those who rebelled against the determinists in the movie are probably the same intuitions that you make reference to in your words. The movie THE STEPFORD WIVES provides a very vivid contrast of competing views of determinism. As in the movie, the determinists who espouse calvinism have to suppress the reality of their daily choices and twist the bible to attempt to use it in support of their “vision” of what humanity ought to be like (or what they **want to** believe that “humanity”/human persons are). Fortunately, as in the movie, the determinists view is not reality and is overcome by the reality of genuine human persons making genuine choices, including the choices needed to destroy the determinist’s little utopia. It should also be remembered that the determinists in the movie were actually anti-human, anti-free will, because of their agendas of control and manipulation of circumstances so that they, the **elite** would receive the benefits of completely determined “persons” (there are interesting parallels in the arrogant and elitist attitudes of the men in the movie who wanted the robotic wives and modern calvinists). In a word they were rightfully, the **villains** who needed to be overcome by the heroes. The heroes being those who held the almost universal intuitions about humanity and free will and control of other persons.

Robert

Steven Carr said...

ROBERT
Fortunately, as in the movie, the determinists view is not reality and is overcome by the reality of genuine human persons making genuine choices, including the choices needed to destroy the determinist’s little utopia.

CARR
God, of course, could have created the world in which the film Stepford Wives was not made.

But God decided to create this world. And then created the world we live in, rather than a different world.

God decided to create the world were Stepford Wives was made ,so that people could see how wrong it was to live in a world where somebody decided what would happen and what would not happen, and then brought about whatever world he wished.

God is a master of irony.

Steven Carr said...

ROBERT
Then inviting actors to do some improvisation on that stage. The resulting “story” will be a combination of both the parameters set by the designer of the stage as well as the actions and choices of the actors as they freely improvise.

CARR
So God ,being all-powerful, decided to create the world where you would write that post, and did not create the world where you did not write that post?

I hope you are not a Molinist, because Molinism is trivially true.

Randy said...

Victor,
My intuitions (Oh dear, that's going to get dumped on now isn't it) tell me that there is something missing in a love that is completely under the sovereign control of the person receiving the love. "Of course you love him. He's got you completely programmed."


It isn’t your intuitions but your reliance on bizarre fantasy scenarios to illustrate what real love is that is deserving of criticism. You’d do better to examine real life human love relationships.
Humans don’t choose to love. Humans fall in love.

Robert said...

Randy wrote:

“It isn’t your intuitions but your reliance on bizarre fantasy scenarios to illustrate what real love is that is deserving of criticism. You’d do better to examine real life human love relationships.”

Victor is a philosopher and they like to engage in imaginative scenarios in order to think things through. Nothing wrong with that as long as you end up with the right conclusions! :-)

Randy your last line is incredible to me:

“Humans don’t choose to love. Humans fall in love.”

I find this statement to be absolutely false and misguided with some extremely bad implications if it were true. C. S. Lewis wrote a book called the Four Loves in which he talks about different kinds of love. The “love” that you fall in and out of, is better designated as **infatuation**. Infatuation plays a part in marriage relationships but is not the key. Where I particularly find your statement to be false is with respect to biblical commands to love. Now I don’t know if you are a Christian or not, but Christians in the New Testament are COMMANDED to love various persons. We are commanded to love our neighbor, other believers, our spouses, and even our enemies. Now if love were as you say, merely a matter of “falling in love”, then we could not obey these commands (we'd have to wait to "fall in love" first before we could obey the commands to love). The fact these things are COMMANDED shows them to be choices: choices where you either choose to obey or you choose not to obey. We don’t wait to “fall in love” before we obey these biblical commands, that is not how it works. You choose to obey and hence choose to love.

Your view would wreak havoc if carried out consistently. You don’t like imaginative scenarios that Victor and other philosophers engage in, so let’s consider some more real scenarios. Imagine a married couple, he leaves his wife and divorces her because he has “fallen out of love” for her (after he met the cute young thing that he “fell in love for”). According to your view, he is justified, as he has fallen in love with someone else, he ought to relate to that new love rather than his wife. Or take the young girl who is now pregnant because a young man “fell in love” with her, but now he no longer has those feelings, and he doesn’t want the baby, he doesn’t even want her. And he’s justified in disconnecting from her as he has fallen out of love with her and now has fallen in love with another girl that he also has gotten pregnant. The scenarios could be multiplied, but what is common in all of these cases is that if love is merely “falling in love” (having certain feelings, being infatuated), then people also “fall out of love”, what is missing is a commitment of the will. What makes a relationship strong is not feelings that may come and go, or the appearance of a person which changes with time, but the commitment of the will to that person. And that commitment is a choice. It is the choice that keeps people in relationships when the feelings ebb and flow, even when the “feelings” are not there. A friend of mine just buried his wife who has suffered from Alzheimer’s for years. For years he took care of her even when she no longer knew who he was, even when she did not have the youthful and attractive appearance that she had had when they were married, even when she was no longer contributing anything to society. He took a vow, in sickness and in health, to be married and committed to her by **choosing** to remain in relationship with her.

No, the greatest loves always involve choices (not just feelings of infatuation). Choices made even when the other person is hostile or an enemy, when the other person is not attractive, and even when you don’t have the **feelings** of “falling in love.” God loved us while we were yet sinners the Bible says. That means God’s love was an act of the will, not Him “falling in love” with us, being infatuated with us, and then deciding to have a relationship with us. To claim that love is merely something that you fall in and out of depending on having certain feelings is immature, incomplete, and if lived out consistently leads to relationship disasters.

Robert

Steven Carr said...

So the love which is chosen freely is love produced because people obey commandments to love freely?

Robert said...

Steven Carr wrote:

"I hope you are not a Molinist, because Molinism is trivially true."

I have some questions about your comment here.

First, what according to you, is wrong with Molinism Steven?

Second, you state Molinism is "trivially true". If it **is** true, then what's wrong with believing it?

Third, you start by implying that I would be **wrong** to be a Molinist, but then in the same breath you speak of Molinism as being true. Shouldn't we maintain beliefs that are true?

Fourth, what do you mean by it being "trivially true"?

Robert

Steven Carr said...

I didn't say it was 'wrong' to be a Molinist.

Given the existence of an omniscient being (not necessarily God) and libertarian free will, Molinism is trivially true.

In every set of logically possible circumstances, a libertarian free agent will freely choose one particular way.

That choice can be known by God by looking at the set of circumstances and examining the knowledge of the omniscient being.

That's what omniscience means.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating discussion; thanks for introducing it, Victor! Like you, I tend to be an incompatibilist, though if I were a Calvinist I think I'd reply to the challenge posed by the Potter thought experiment by distinguishing between first and second order desires. Although Merope's potion made Tom infatuated with her, he wouldn't have wanted to be controlled by a potion in this manner. I think there's also something very intuitive to say a potion, by its nature and in light of our psychology, can't generate real love. Dumbledore says the same thing, interestingly (not to offend those who think we're overdoing the philosophy through fiction thing). Biological determinists, as one of the posts mentioned, probably couldn't deny that real love could be generated by a potion, but Calvinists want to distinguish their determinism from that of many of our atheist friends. Personally I think the analogy (between the two sorts of compatibilism) is strong (if I'm wrong, forgive me; not trying to offend anyone, just telling you how I see it) and compatibilism in either form is inconsistent with real love, which has to be more two-way than what compatibilism (of either form) can allow. I strongly suspect that at our current stage of spiritual development, love does involve a choice. I think this is what makes sense of the command to love, since ought implies can. I've not heard good arguments against such a principle. And although it's true that God can't help but love us, and it's nonetheless real love, I think that's because of God's essential nature and impeccability and the distance between him and us in this respect (for now; eventually when we're entirely conformed to the image of Jesus we'll take on sinlessness and an ineliminably loving nature), and as the Calvinists like to remind us, God isn't one of us! Anyhoo, just my two cents' worth!
~Dave Baggett

Randy said...

Robert,

“It isn’t your intuitions but your reliance on bizarre fantasy scenarios to illustrate what real love is that is deserving of criticism. You’d do better to examine real life human love relationships.”

Victor is a philosopher and they like to engage in imaginative scenarios in order to think things through. Nothing wrong with that as long as you end up with the right conclusions! :-)


Yes, I know many philosophers love to engage in such things. I simply think one would be wiser to stick to imaginary scenarios that are a little closer to reality.
I have generally found that philosophical ruminations on fantasy scenarios to be fruitless at best, at worst they lead to more conceptual confusions.
I should make clear here that I see philosophy as being primarily descriptive. The philosopher should work to give accurate descriptions of the concepts we employ in our daily lives.


Randy your last line is incredible to me:

“Humans don’t choose to love. Humans fall in love.”

I find this statement to be absolutely false and misguided with some extremely bad implications if it were true. C. S. Lewis wrote a book called the Four Loves in which he talks about different kinds of love. The “love” that you fall in and out of, is better designated as **infatuation**. Infatuation plays a part in marriage relationships but is not the key.


Yes, we can be infatuated with another person. That does not mean that we choose to love those we aren’t infatuated with.
Why do you think people say things like they fell in love or that they found themselves in love or that they were carried away by love? Or why the often heard complaint that they wished they didn’t love someone because they know the other will never return their love? You can’t simply choose to stop loving someone any more than you can choose to love.

Have you ever heard anyone say something like this: I am going to choose to love him and if he chooses to love me then we will get married?




Where I particularly find your statement to be false is with respect to biblical commands to love. Now I don’t know if you are a Christian or not, but Christians in the New Testament are COMMANDED to love various persons. We are commanded to love our neighbor, other believers, our spouses, and even our enemies. Now if love were as you say, merely a matter of “falling in love”, then we could not obey these commands (we'd have to wait to "fall in love" first before we could obey the commands to love). The fact these things are COMMANDED shows them to be choices: choices where you either choose to obey or you choose not to obey. We don’t wait to “fall in love” before we obey these biblical commands, that is not how it works. You choose to obey and hence choose to love.


That is your interpretation. The only sense I can make of such a commandment is that one should always attempt to treat others as if you did love them. Same sort of thing for respect. One can show respect to another person whom they really do not respect.

But if your interpretation were correct, then that gives me another very good reason for not believing in this Christian God. He doesn't seem to understand humans very well.


If my wife told me that she chose to love me in order to fulfill some commandment, then I would not think her love authentic.


Your view would wreak havoc if carried out consistently. You don’t like imaginative scenarios that Victor and other philosophers engage in, so let’s consider some more real scenarios. Imagine a married couple, he leaves his wife and divorces her because he has “fallen out of love” for her (after he met the cute young thing that he “fell in love for”). According to your view, he is justified, as he has fallen in love with someone else, he ought to relate to that new love rather than his wife.


No, I am not saying that he should leave his wife. Where did I say that?

What if he chooses not to love his wife anymore? Is he then justified in leaving her because he now no longer loves her?

One usually is deeply in love with the person they marry. That is why they choose to make the commitment to spend their lives together. That doesn’t mean they chose to fall deeply in love.


Or take the young girl who is now pregnant because a young man “fell in love” with her, but now he no longer has those feelings, and he doesn’t want the baby, he doesn’t even want her. And he’s justified in disconnecting from her as he has fallen out of love with her and now has fallen in love with another girl that he also has gotten pregnant. The scenarios could be multiplied, but what is common in all of these cases is that if love is merely “falling in love” (having certain feelings, being infatuated), then people also “fall out of love”, what is missing is a commitment of the will. What makes a relationship strong is not feelings that may come and go, or the appearance of a person which changes with time, but the commitment of the will to that person. And that commitment is a choice. It is the choice that keeps people in relationships when the feelings ebb and flow, even when the “feelings” are not there. A friend of mine just buried his wife who has suffered from Alzheimer’s for years. For years he took care of her even when she no longer knew who he was, even when she did not have the youthful and attractive appearance that she had had when they were married, even when she was no longer contributing anything to society. He took a vow, in sickness and in health, to be married and committed to her by **choosing** to remain in relationship with her.


I agree with you that a long term relationship takes commitment. And during that relationship many choices have to be made in order to maintain it.
But those choices follow from being in love or from having fallen in love.
You are putting the cart before the horse.



No, the greatest loves always involve choices (not just feelings of infatuation). Choices made even when the other person is hostile or an enemy, when the other person is not attractive, and even when you don’t have the **feelings** of “falling in love.” God loved us while we were yet sinners the Bible says. That means God’s love was an act of the will, not Him “falling in love” with us, being infatuated with us, and then deciding to have a relationship with us. To claim that love is merely something that you fall in and out of depending on having certain feelings is immature, incomplete, and if lived out consistently leads to relationship disasters.


Again, those choices follow from the love one already has toward another. The example of your friend’s care for his sick wife was an excellent (and moving) illustration of this. His actions toward her were an expression of his love.

Victor Reppert said...

Thanks, Dave, for responding, and for not plugging your love potion paper in the upcoming Harry Potter philosophy essay volume. (Leaving that to me).

We don't have ordinary, realistic cases in which human beings are able to guarantee that others love us. So we have to look to fiction to find cases, because we don't have real-world cases to work with.

I think I am convinced that setting the issue up this way simple re-runs the compatibilist-incompatibilist debate, and so it doesn't add anything to the mix of the discussion. The incompatibilist says "If our actions causally determined, then we aren't morally responsible," and the compatibilist says "well, if they're caused in the wrong way, that undermines moral responsibility, but the right sorts of causes are compatible with real freedom and responsibility."

Bnonn's argument seems to be "If humans are aware of the true attributes of God, then they will love him. What God does with those he saves is he gives them an awareness of who He is, and once he does that, their love for Him is a guaranteed response. But even though it's guaranteed, it's still real love because it is caused by an awareness of God's greatness. God is loved for exactly the reason why he deserves to be loved. The love is causally determined, but it is determined my the right sorts of things. If it were determined by some magic potion, it would be determined by the wrong sorts of things."

I of course don't like this analysis because, well, I'm an incompatibilist! But I suspect that we are back in the compatibilism debate, and if we are here much longer, someone will be asking me whether I want my Frankfurt counterexamples with ketchup or with mustard.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well said, Victor. It's a great thought experiment to elicit our convictions and intuitions and analysis on these matters, but nothing particularly new is added to the debate by it, which is of course not unusual when it comes to doing philosophy through fiction. But of course it's a fun way to introduce or re-introduce the debate and relevant forks in the road between its participants, as you and various others identify, and that might get some folks interested who up until now weren't, since they're Potter fans and that interest serves as a hook for them. ~D. Baggett

Steven Carr said...

When do incompatibilists reliquinsh free will?

When does Tom Riddle stop having the free will to choose between one action and another, simply because he has taken a love potion?

He can choose to kiss Merope on the lips or on the cheek.

Hey presto, he retains free will, because he can choose between one action and another.

If free will is the ability at time X, to choose between an action A and an action B, when do people ever lose such an ability?

Or is free will lost when a person can freely choose between a vast range of actions A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I....etc etc, which incompatibilists have decided to lump together because in their opinion they are all no more than variations on A?

I guess this depends upon how you define 'free' will. It would be interesting to see libertarians give a definition of free will.

Robert said...

The discussion seems to be waning so let’s fan the flames a bit here.

Steven Carr asked:

“When do incompatibilists reliquinsh free will?”

When the particular case calls for it. I say particular case because the “default position” appears to be that we have various choices in any given situation. But other factors can eliminate our particular choices, so it depends.

I believe the discussion of “free will” ought to be at the level of whether or not we have choices or not regarding a particular action. We have a choice when we can actualize at least two different possibilities in a given situation (though not simultaneously if they are sufficiently different options). If our action is necessitated by some necessitating factor, then we do not have a choice and hence do not have “free will” with respect to **tha** particular action.

“When does Tom Riddle stop having the free will to choose between one action and another, simply because he has taken a love potion?”

Now here you refer to a **choice** (“the free will to choose between one action and another”), but we need to keep in mind that in an exhaustively determined world (say one in which God has predetermined every event before it occurs) THERE WOULD NEVER BE A SITUATION WHERE WE EVER HAD A CHOICE. Complete or exhaustive determinism eliminates or precludes us **ever** having choices. If the potion were to eliminate Tom from having any choices then I’d say he did not have free will at all. If he had any choices, then to that extent he has free will.

“He can choose to kiss Merope on the lips or on the cheek.”

Here you speak directly of a particular choice (to kiss on the lips or on the cheek, two different possibilities, two different actions, a choice being present). If he can do either one, then he has a choice and so has “free will”.

“Hey presto, he retains free will, because he can choose between one action and another.”

Right, if he really has a choice he has “free will” with respect to that particular action.

“If free will is the ability at time X, to choose between an action A and an action B, when do people ever lose such an ability?”

Whenever a particular choice is eliminated so that only one possibility can be actualized, then free will or the reality of having a choice is eliminated with respect to a particular action.

“Or is free will lost when a person can freely choose between a vast range of actions A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I....etc etc, which incompatibilists have decided to lump together because in their opinion they are all no more than variations on A?”

If there are “variations” with each being a particular and different action, then each of these variations is an alternative possibility. If the person can actualize at least two of these alternative possibilities in a given situation then he has a choice. Again, I recommend speaking about having choices or not having a particular choice.

“I guess this depends upon how you define 'free' will. It would be interesting to see libertarians give a definition of free will.”

I am not really interested in a definition of “free will” as there are several that have been suggested. What I have noted is that the common denominator, the common feature in all of these suggested definitions is that some sort of actual choice is present. With respect to a particular action is my action necessitated (by some sort of necessitating factor) in which case I have to do it and cannot do otherwise. Or do I have a choice in which I can actualize one of two different possibilities (i.e., what is commonly described as having the ability to do otherwise, I could have done otherwise, my action was not necessitated but chosen)? My action is either necessitated or it involves a genuine choice. Also in listening to people when they speak of having “free will” what they seem to be saying is that they believe they have a choice with respect to some particular action (e.g. I have free will if I can choose either the pie or the ice cream for dessert, people are referring to having choices). So I suggest that rather than asking about whether or not we have “free will”: ask, with respect to ****a particular action****, does he/she have a choice or not? If not, what factor(s) are necessitating their action and so eliminating the choice? If Yes, then they have “free will” with respect to that particular action.

Robert

Steven Carr said...

I don't think Robert answered any questions at all.

'I have free will if I can choose either the pie or the ice cream for dessert....'

So all I need to do to turn people into unthinking lumbering robots is to remove ice cream from my restaurant menu, so they can only choose pie?

Could we ever see a definition of libertarian free will?

Of course compatibilists claim people do have choices.

They are free to choose what they want to choose.

Is a person free if he gets to do whatever he wants to do?

Or is a person a slave to his desires?

Steven Carr said...

I am interested to know when libertarians consider that they have relinquished free will.

Robert says he has free will if he can choose between pie and icecream for dessert.

Can he freely choose to urinate or not to urinate at the restaurant table?

If Robert can make free will choices about not urinating while sitting at a restaurant table, or during the taxi ride back to his apartment, or while greeting his guest before the meal, does this mean that there is no potion I can give him which will compel him to urinate at least 2 times a day?

Would a 'urine potion' be a problem for compatabilists?

I am talking about a potion which compels people to urinate 2 times a day.

Or would such a potion be a problem for libertarians who claim they can freely choose whether or not to urinate during eg church services?

When does free will disappear?

Robert said...

Carr doesn’t’ accept my “answers”, that’s OK; his comments show me that he does not understand the issues.

“So all I need to do to turn people into unthinking lumbering robots is to remove ice cream from my restaurant menu, so they can only choose pie?”

If you can only do one action, and cannot do otherwise, than you do not have a choice and I would say you do not have free will with respect to **that** particular action.

“Could we ever see a definition of libertarian free will?”

As I said before, there are multiple proposed definitions of “free will” what they all have in common is that a person has a choice between two different possibilities, each of which he could choose to actualize (i.e., he has a choice with respect to a particular action). Since the common denominator is always that a person has a choice, why not focus on whether or not people have choices with respect to a given action?

Put another way, if you want to refute all definitions or versions of libertarian free will, simply refute the reality of choices. If you can show or demonstrate that we never have a choice, you prove all versions of the libertarian conception of free will to be false. I have not seen any one do it, or even get close (in fact in the very action of choosing which arguments against libertarian free will they will employ, are they not in fact engaging in choices? For that matter, in the very words they choose to use to make their argument, are they not inescapably engaging in choices, the very reality they are attempting to argue does not exist???????), so I am quite confident about the reality of us having choices (and thus having “free will”). I have never seen a determinist who does not have choices, make choices, talk about choices, and approve certain choices while disapproving other choices, all the while arguing that free will/having choices does not exist!!!! Oh and of course while he is arguing against libertarian free will, he wants me to choose to adopt the compatibilist conception!!!! To **choose** compatibilism over the libertarian view!!!

“Of course compatibilists claim people do have choices.”

You can claim anything you want, but in reality if you do not have a choice, then you are not acting freely. Again, if everything were exhaustively determined there would never be any choices.

“They are free to choose what they want to choose.”

This is vacuous and useless, why do I want and so choose the pie rather than the ice cream? What reasons do I have for the choice that I make? These are the more important questions.

“Is a person free if he gets to do whatever he wants to do?”

Not if his wants or desires are necessitated by some external persons, factors or coercive force. If someone else controlled my desires and determined what desires I have and what desires that I act on, then I would not be acting freely now would I?

“I am interested to know when libertarians consider that they have relinquished free will.”

I gave my answer which you **choose** not to accept: with respect to a particular action we are not acting freely or “lose free will” when we have to do the action and it is impossible for us to do otherwise.

“Robert says he has free will if he can choose between pie and ice cream for dessert.”

Again, I suggest discussing whether or not we have a particular choice. This quickly takes you to whether or not the person is acting freely or is not free in their voluntary action.

“Can he freely choose to urinate or not to urinate at the restaurant table?”

If you mean me, Yes!

I assume that you have the ability to choose to do so or refrain from doing so at the restaurant table as well? Or am I wrong about you?

“If Robert can make free will choices about not urinating while sitting at a restaurant table, or during the taxi ride back to his apartment, or while greeting his guest before the meal, does this mean that there is no potion I can give him which will compel him to urinate at least 2 times a day?”

I don’t know, are you trying to develop one? :-) Are you going to try it on yourself first, or your wife?

Regarding a potion that can ***compel*** us to do anything, both libertarians and Compatibilists agree that if the action **is** compelled or coerced, then the person is not acting freely. This is a belief held by both sides.

“Would a 'urine potion' be a problem for compatabilists?”

If the potion compels someone to act, then it is coercion and it is not acting freely according to BOTH libertarians and Compatibilists.

“I am talking about a potion which compels people to urinate 2 times a day.”

You just don’t seem to get it, if compulsion is involved then the person is not acting freely with respect to that action. Assume you are successful in developing your potion, the two times a day the person is compelled he is not acting freely (according to both libertarians and compatibilists): so what about the rest of the day when he is not compelled, is he acting freely then, does he have choices then?????

“Or would such a potion be a problem for libertarians who claim they can freely choose whether or not to urinate during e.g. church services?”

Again, if it compels an action then free will/choice is eliminated. And again both libertarians and Compatibilists agree on that, which suggests you don’t understand the issues because you wonder whether coerced or compelled actions are a problem for libertarians/Compatibilists.

“When does free will disappear?”

When we no longer have ***any*** choices.

Even if twice a day our actions are compelled, the rest of the day we have choices. That is why I say, take it on a case by case basis. If we have a choice we have free will, if we have no choice, are acting under coercion or compulsion then with respect to that particular action we are not acting freely.

Robert

Steven Carr said...

ROBERT
Even if twice a day our actions are compelled, the rest of the day we have choices.

CARR
Robert doesn't understand.

There are *no* times during the day when he is compelled to urinate.

Suppose I name any 2 times of the day (say 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock)

He can easily choose that he goes to the toilet before those times, if he freely wishes to do that.

He can go any time he freely chooses.

Then when those 2 times of the day arrive, he is under no compulsion to do anything.

So can we please have a defintion of libertarian free will that will explain why at any particular given time T, people can freely choose to urinate or not, yet human beings are compelled to urinate.

This is relevant to Victor's original problem, because it can easily be transferred to the case of a person who is compelled to love somebody else, yet has perfect libertarian free will at any given moment T.

Can we get a definition of libertarian free will please?

The online Stanford entry says '“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.'

So if I can choose to go to the toilet at 9.30 pm or choose to go to the toilet at 9.31 pm, then I still have free will, don't I?

And if Tom Riddle can choose to kiss Merope on the mouth , or choose to kill her on the lips, doesn't he still have free will?

SO why would Merope find these free will kisses unsatisfying?

Robert said...

“There are *no* times during the day when he is compelled to urinate.”

I think you are confusing categories, making a category mistake. Biological necessity and voluntary action. A voluntary action is one where we freely choose to do the action. A biological necessity is something that must be done, we cannot choose to do otherwise. Urinating is a biological necessity, we have to do it at some time. The voluntary action of going to the bathroom is not a necessity it is a choice. Even small children know this as they will sometimes intentionally pee in their pants as an act of rebellion towards the parents (when they are perfectly capable of and aware of how to go to the bathroom to take care of their business). Hence we can decide when we go to the bathroom. And decisions are choices. A potion that compels our behavior makes our action like a biological necessity (we have to do it). Most people want others to love them as a voluntary action, a choice, not as a biological necessity or necessity induced by some potion.

“Suppose I name any 2 times of the day (say 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock)

He can easily choose that he goes to the toilet before those times, if he freely wishes to do that.

He can go any time he freely chooses.

Then when those 2 times of the day arrive, he is under no compulsion to do anything.”

Here you are referring to the voluntary action of choosing when to go to the bathroom. Since it is a voluntary action it involves a choice and so can be done “any time he freely chooses.”

“So can we please have a defintion of libertarian free will that will explain why at any particular given time T, people can freely choose to urinate or not, yet human beings are compelled to urinate.”

Reason based explanations of voluntary actions involve choices made for reasons. We may be biologically compelled to do something, and yet voluntary action comes in when we choose when and where and how we will do the voluntary action. A good reasons based explanation of voluntary action can be found in John Searle’s book RATIONALITY IN ACTION.

Definitions do not ordinarily explain how something works. A definition of compatibilism that someone offers does not explain how compatibilistic actions occur.

“This is relevant to Victor's original problem, because it can easily be transferred to the case of a person who is compelled to love somebody else, yet has perfect libertarian free will at any given moment T.”

Your error is to equate voluntary actions that express love with a biological necessity like urinating. You also make the error of not seeing that a **compelled action** is not a **voluntary action** (and the discussion of compatibilism versus libertarianism involves **voluntary actions**).

“Can we get a definition of libertarian free will please?”

Sure, but how will that help this discussion?

“The online Stanford entry says '“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.'”

You answer your own question and how does it help?

“So if I can choose to go to the toilet at 9.30 pm or choose to go to the toilet at 9.31 pm, then I still have free will, don't I?”

Yep, with respect to the *****voluntary action***** of deciding when to go to the bathroom, you have a choice, hence you are acting freely in the libertarian sense.

“And if Tom Riddle can choose to kiss Merope on the mouth , or choose to kill her on the lips, doesn't he still have free will?”

Yep, because kissing, like deciding when to go to the bathroom is a voluntary action, not a biological necessity. The point about a potion that compels behavior is that it turns what is ordinarily a voluntary action involving a choice (like kissing or deciding when to go to the bathroom) into a necessity, something you have to do, where you have no choice.

“SO why would Merope find these free will kisses unsatisfying?”

Because she wants the kisses to be voluntary actions (freely chosen) not necessitated actions resulting from a potion that necessitates the behavior. She wants the kisses to be a voluntary action, not an action that is compelled or necessitated.

Robert

Steven Carr said...

ROBERT
She wants the kisses to be a voluntary action, not an action that is compelled or necessitated.

CARR
But I have already explained that they are voluntary, according to the dogma of libertarian free will.

Riddle can choose whether to kiss her on the mouth or on the cheeck.

THis means that if he kissed her on the mouth, he could have chosen to kiss her on the cheek.

And this choice is what is called libertarian free will.

Apparently, supporters of libertarian free will deny that somebody has free will if he could have chosen to do something other than what a person did.

If Tom kissed Merope on the cheek, the mere fact that he could have chosen to do something other than what he did - namely kiss her on the mouth - is not enough to have free will?

THis is just one reason why libertarian free will is incoherent.

Robert said...

“CARR
But I have already explained that they are voluntary, according to the dogma of libertarian free will.”

No you have claimed that a compelled action can simultaneously be a free will action involving a choice. They are mutually exclusive categories: if it **is** compelled then the action is not a choice, if it is a choice then it is not compelled.

“Riddle can choose whether to kiss her on the mouth or on the cheeck.

THis means that if he kissed her on the mouth, he could have chosen to kiss her on the cheek.

And this choice is what is called libertarian free will.”

Right, if he really has a choice and the action is not compelled. If the action is compelled by a potion it is not a choice.

“Apparently, supporters of libertarian free will deny that somebody has free will if he could have chosen to do something other than what a person did.”

Where did you see that? That is the opposite of what Libertarians believe. Libertarians all suggest that if you did/chose to do one thing and it was a voluntary action, not a compelled action, then you also could have done otherwise/chosen differently. The claim that you could do otherwise is standard libertarian thought.

“If Tom kissed Merope on the cheek, the mere fact that he could have chosen to do something other than what he did - namely kiss her on the mouth - is not enough to have free will?”

If he had a choice he had free will. But again, you attempted to claim that an action could both be compelled and a choice at the same time, that is irrational, and that is not what libertarians believe.

“THis is just one reason why libertarian free will is incoherent.”

You ignored my points and simply end by ridiculing the libertarian free will as “incoherent”. Choices are not “incoherent”. And you as well as everyone else constantly engage in choices, talk about choices, advise certain choices while arguing against others, etc. etc. etc. I think you know exactly what choices are, and you know that the concept of choice as well as the experience of having and making choices is not “incoherent.” If all you are going to do is ridicule the opposing position, then I am done. I don’t have time to waste on this kind of thing.

Robert