Monday, August 03, 2020

The case against soft determinism

The main arguments against soft determinism are there. 1) There is insufficient reason to believe that determinism of any sort is true with respect to human actions. 2) If soft determinism is true you are being praised or blamed for actions that, in the final analysis, are the result of circumstances beyond your control.


Assume, for example that there is a God. Suppose God creates you in such a way that he guarantees that, on 8/3.2020, you commit the crime of murder. Suppose the day after that, you die. You meet God at the last judgment, and God tells you that you are going to have to spend eternity in hell because you are a murderer. But God, you  reply, given the way you created me, I could not have avoided committing the murder. What are you damning me for something you made me do. Can God reasonably say “You wanted to do it, so it really is your fault, not mine.”


unkleE said...

Would Calvinists quote Romans 9:14-24 and say that is quite reasonable for God to do that, and we shouldn't question him? That is probably a misunderstanding of Romans 9, but it has been used that way.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, they do.

But it seems the question can be put a few different ways.

"Who are you, O man, to answer back to an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being?"
"Who are you, O man, to answer back to Yahweh?"

Which does it mean?

Hal said...


What criteria would you use to determine if a human agent has acted freely (can be held responsible for her actions)?

oozzielionel said...

Are you trying to confront the strain of Calvinism the runs through Jonathan Edwards, J.I. Packer and John Piper? Packer labels responsibility and sovereignty as antimony. Piper pushes back on the suggestion of a near paradox here: "The solution is this: Moral ability is not a prerequisite to accountability. Natural ability is. "All inability that excuses may be resolved into one thing; namely, want of natural capacity or strength; either capacity of understanding or external strength" (p. 150)."

unkleE said...

I wasn't thinking of anyone in particular, just making the point that this question is a "problem" for some theists as well as for naturalists.

Victor Reppert said...

Actually, I was thinking in terms of compatibilism in general, using a theistic example as an intuition pump to suggest that there is something wrong with compatibilism. Calvinism doesn't require determinism in general, since there could be libertarian free will with respect to particular choices, but irresistible grace might be needed for salvation.