Friday, July 22, 2016

Could I have done otherwise if determinism is true?

If any kind of determinism is true, soft or hard, you could not have done otherwise given the actual past. It is possible that you could have done otherwise if antecedent conditions had been different, given the actual past, you could not have done otherwise from what you did.

26 comments:

B. Prokop said...

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present."

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, the first "quartet" in Four Quartets.

Legion of Logic said...

I'm curious how the atheists who are determinists reconcile that with claiming to use reason and evidence better than Christians. Aren't we all doing what we have no choice in doing, even if that was the case? Do I have any more choice in finding atheism untenable than I have of being male and white?

entirelyuseless said...

It is similarly true that given that God is omniscient, you could not have done otherwise given the particular thing that God knew about what you would do.

I agree that those statements are true, and I think they matter no more than the statement about God, and have no more and no less influence on whether we are free and in what way.

Satta M. said...

I don't know, but why would I have 'done otherwise'? If I made the decision based on my knowledge and experience at the time, I don't see why I would have behaved any differently. Obviously everyone second guesses their decisions, but that's after the outcome and consequences are known.

WLC has what I consider to be a pretty reasonable take on this:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-the-B-theory-of-time-exclude-human-freedom

John Moore said...

To answer Legion of Logic: Using reason does not require free will. Reason is causality. Free will means acting without cause, which is the opposite of reason.

It's true that Christians are caused to say the things they do. It's not the saying that's irrational, but the content of what they say. Christians are caused to say that things happen without cause.

Jim S. said...

John Moore: can you expand upon what you mean? Unreasonable beliefs are caused just as much as reasonable beliefs are, so I don't see how reason and causality could be the same thing. And a reasonable belief could be uncaused -- that is, if the belief "2 + 2 = 4" popped into my head uncaused, then that belief would still be reasonable (although I think you could argue that it would not be reasonable for me).

grodrigues said...

@entirelyuseless:

"It is similarly true that given that God is omniscient, you could not have done otherwise given the particular thing that God knew about what you would do."

No, it is not true, similarly or otherwise.

John Moore said...

You desperately want to sink this putt, but your ball rolls right past the hole. Now you can either accept the evidence of your senses, or you can make a powerful effort of will to overrule your senses and declare that your ball indeed went into the hole.

Whichever you do, it is deterministically caused in you by the state of the universe. But we only call the first option reasonable.

We call it reasonable when you are caused to accept the evidence of your senses, and we call it unreasonable when you are caused to deny your own senses.

All reasons are causes, but not all causes are reasons. The difference is that we call reasonable those actions associated with goal-pursuit. A rock suddenly tumbling down a ridge is not reasoned action, but my running out of the way (to save my life) is.

Where do goals come from, if not from the free will of an immaterial spirit? They come from evolution.

OK, how's that?

steve said...

In determinist theological traditions like Calvinism (as well as Thomism, Augustinianism, and Jansenism), it's not the past that precludes you from doing otherwise, but predestination. It's not necessarily intramundane causality that determines your actions; rather, your actions were predetermined by antemundane factors.

John Mitchell said...

"I'm curious how the atheists who are determinists reconcile that with claiming to use reason and evidence better than Christians"

I dont know if atheists use "reason and evidence" better than Christians but what i really dont understand is what determinism and/or libertarian free will have to do with it.

You can let two chess engines of different strength play against each other, the stronger one 'reasons' better than the weaker one does. They dont have free will; they are, in fact, determined to move as they do, yet one does better than the other.

I reject materialism but i could never get around to embrace LFW. Even a staunch defender of LFW like Van Inwagen finds it hard to defend the view.
Yes there are some bullets to bite, given that i question if compatibilism makes any real sense too.
I rather wonder if the whole focus on the will having to be 'free' in some sense is not misconceived.

Jim S. said...

We call it reasonable when you are caused to accept the evidence of your senses, and we call it unreasonable when you are caused to deny your own senses.

Could you define what you mean by "accept"? A belief has propositional content but sensory impressions do not, and there seems to be plenty of room for inaccuracy and error to enter in to the picture between the reception of sensory impressions and the formulation of a propositional belief about those impressions.

Ilíon said...

John Moore: "Using reason does not require free will. Reason is causality. Free will means acting without cause, which is the opposite of reason."

God-deniers are the most ridiculous -- and, indeed, self-ridiculous -- things in existence.

Victor Reppert said...

And what does this statement accomplish? Do you really believe that atheists will see the error of their ways if you tell them they are ridiculous or intellectually dishonest? Do you really think that there are low-information atheists out there who will be terrified by ridicule and charges of intellectual dishonesty from Christians? (That is the Dawkins rationale for ridiculing believers.)

Ilíon said...

Please! We've been over this time and time again.

Ilíon said...

Without in this post directly addressing what VR is above actually demanding of me -- to wit, he is demanding that I must, for the umpteenth time (because, apparently, all the other times go down the memory hole), justify why I refuse to play "nice" with God-denial

======
What has you "niceness" accomplished, VR? To be even more blunt, what has your Stockholm Syndrome accomplished?

Here is that "high-information" God-denier, David Brightly, just a few minutes ago: "Nobody has explained why, in a causally closed physicalistic world, provided that this allows thought and feeling, there cannot be creatures like us whose lives are guided by conceptions of choice and responsibility. I agree it's a big proviso, but that's altogether another question."

This absurdity, this anti-logical and anti-ratiional bullshit, never stops with these people.

Time and time again, many ot the "theists" who comment here, including you, here have explained just why it is that "in a causally closed physicalistic world ... there cannot be creatures like us whose lives are guided by conceptions of choice and responsibility"

So, how does the "high-information" 'atheist' deal with these many arguments, over many months and years, showing that his worldview is utterly false to what we *all* know to be true about our own individual selves? Why, he just ramps up the illogic -- "Nobody has explained why, in a causally closed physicalistic world, [if we assert that 'causally closed physicalistic world' does not entail absolute determinism], there cannot be creatures like us whose lives are guided by conceptions of choice and responsibility. I agree it's a big proviso, but that's altogether another question."

Well, yes. If we assert that 'A' = 'not-A', then we can "reason" our way to any "conclusion" that we wish.

Your "high-information" pretend-atheists are not stupid, and they are not ignorant ... they are intellectually dishonest. Likewise with your outburst above.

Keith Barracks said...

entirelyuseless: "It is similarly true that given that God is omniscient, you could not have done otherwise given the particular thing that God knew about what you would do."

I'd have to agree with grodrigues; if we can't choose to do otherwise, then God is responsible for evil. If Eve and Adam eating the Apple had to happen, then either Evil doesn't exist in an objective sense, or this particular notion is wrong. I'm inclined to think the later.

Ilíon said...

^ Part of what leads people astray on this issue is the wide-spread (and absurd!) idea that "the future" exists, that "the future" is just like the past with the exception that it hasn't yet been viewed.

By way of analogy, people are (incorrectly) thinking of "the past", "the present", and "the future" as though the history of the Creation were a movie. In this false understanding, "the past" is those frames which have already been projected on the screen, "the present" is the frame currently being projected onto the screen, and "the future" is those frames which are still on the reel waiting ot be projected onto the screen.

But that is not what "the future" is like. "The future" does not exist; the term "the future" refers to potential history. There is no THE future; potentially any number of different things, and indeed quite contrary things, my occur "in the future".

Here is how God's omniscience intersects with "the future" -- God knows *all* the potential "futures" -- God knows what follows if you do 'X' and he knows what follows if you do 'Y' instead.

This whole "argument" -- "It is similarly true that given that God is omniscient, you could not have done otherwise given the particular thing that God knew about what you would do." -- is pointless ... and frequently dishonest.

Ilíon said...

I meant to write "This whole [line of] "argument" ..."

Ilíon said...

You know, VR, I merely mock the prophets of Baal; I'm not going to slaughter them in Kishon.

David Brightly said...

Agreed. The physicalistic world gets by without choice. But what is important to us is the manifest world of macroscopic bodies and persons, whose action follows from desires and beliefs. Suppose all this supervenes on the physicalistic world, with each manifest state corresponding to myriads of physical states. Then the manifest world might return to a previous state but supported by a quite different physical state, and the subsequent evolution might be quite different. The upshot of this for my take on the world is that although I think I'm in just the same circumstances as before my action this time could be different, and I may well do otherwise. These are the conditions for having choice. One might go so far as to say that the determinism of the physicalistic world sustains the indeterminism of the manifest.

Miguel Corleone said...

"God knows what follows if you do 'X' and he knows what follows if you do 'Y' instead."

But how would he know whether you'd be doing X or Y? Sorry if this is a stupid question..

Ilíon said...

MC, It's not that your question is stupid. It's that you haven't yet been able to break free of the incorrect conception of "the future", and so you don't yet grasp that it's not a question that can be answered ... because it's not a question that can be sensibly asked.

And I can't think of any other way to explain it than what I have already written above.

Let's try, though --

It's not that you shall be doing 'X' or 'Y' at 10:00 tomorrow; it's that you may be doing 'X' or 'Y' (or even 'Z') ... and that God knows *all* the potential future histories which follow from what you do choose to do when the choice comes.

Keith Barracks said...

Ilion: God knows what follows if you do 'X' and he knows what follows if you do 'Y' instead.

That appears to me like open theism, which is also problematic: If God is sovereign, and also the 'Greatest Conceivable Being', I find it odd to say that God only knows potential futures, and not just 'The Future'. I'm not saying it's determined by God's foreknowledge, but that we determine it, then God foreknows it. This doesn't seem very difficult to conceive since we have reasons for choosing one thing over another, and since that's the case, God can know the reasons, and weigh them with our personalities, determine what action we will take.

Miguel Corleone said...

Thank you for the response IIion. I think I'm somewhat getting it.

Keith,

If we have 'reasons' for choosing one thing over another, then wouldn't that mean there is always some prior state that has already determined what choice will be made?

I'm wondering how this is different from determinism? Or how 'free-will' in the libertarian sense can fit into the picture?

Ilíon said...

me: "God knows what follows if you do 'X' and he knows what follows if you do 'Y' instead."

Keith Barracks: "That appears to me like open theism, which is also problematic: ..."

Open Theism is "problematic" because, among other things, it denies that God *knows*.

What I have said is the very opposite of Open Theism.

Keith Barracks: "If God is sovereign, and also the 'Greatest Conceivable Being', I find it odd to say that God only knows potential futures, and not just 'The Future'."

There is no such thing as "THE Future" for God to know.

Keith Barracks: "I'm not saying it's determined by God's foreknowledge, but that we determine it, then God foreknows it. This doesn't seem very difficult to conceive since we have reasons for choosing one thing over another, and since that's the case, God can know the reasons, and weigh them with our personalities, determine what action we will take."

Can't you see the problematic nature of what you have just said? Can't you see that you are saying that God does not *know* this "THE Future" which you imagine exists, but rather that he can merely make a highly educated guess about which choice you shall (not may, but shall) make in "THE Future".

Yet, left unasked is this: how does he even know what your options shall be? For, after all, most of the options in most of the choices we make are generated by other people's choices.

It seems to me that *you* should be checking yourself for the Open Theism cooties.

Ilíon said...

Miguel Corleone: "I think I'm somewhat getting it."

It's a mind-shift. We so constantly hear people speak of "THE Future" as though the term refers to one actuality rather than to many potentialities that we have a hard time thinking clearly on the matter.

Miguel Corleone (to Keith): "If we have 'reasons' for choosing one thing over another, then wouldn't that mean there is always some prior state that has already determined what choice will be made."

One should take care to not say/think 'reason' when one means 'cause', and vice-versa.