Intelligent Design

Andrew Jones on Free Will

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Over at EN he writes:

If determinism is also true, that does not mean that free will is false. It could be simply that there is a problem with the philosophical abstraction called “libertarian free will” (which seems to assert indeterminism as a fundamentalist tenet).


“If determinism is also true, that does not mean that free will is false.” Yes, it absolutely does. “Free” is the opposite of “determined.”
“It could be simply that there is a problem with the philosophical abstraction called “libertarian free will” (which seems to assert indeterminism as a fundamentalist tenet).” Libertarian free will posits “liberty” (i.e., freedom to do otherwise) as a fundamental (not fundamentalist) tenet.

Like so many, Jones believes compatibilism is the answer. Here is the Wiki entry on compatibilism. Briefly compatibilists  define “free will” as an agent acting according to their own motivation. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. However, the motive itself is not free; it is determined. Arthur Schopenhauer captured the theory as “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

I have written about compatibilism before, and the problem with this approach is easy to see. It is a semantic dodge, a word game. Words have meaning; we don’t get to impose meaning on words to suit the conclusion we want to reach.  The whole issue in the determinism/free will debate is whether we could have done otherwise.

Suppose I ask my friend Joe the following question:  “Do I have free will, if by “free will” I mean ‘the ability to have done otherwise?’”  It is obviously no answer to that question for Joe to say, “Yes, you have free will if by free will you mean, “the absence of coercion which gave you the ability to act according to an utterly determined motive.”  I really do want to explore the question about whether I could have done otherwise, and Joe’s answer is not helpful.  You might even say Joe dodged the question.

3 Replies to “Andrew Jones on Free Will

  1. 1
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Barry
    As a Christian I have often wondered what you think about Augustine’s view regarding human nature which he grouped into four categories or states.

    “In his famous book, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, the Scottish Puritan, Thomas Boston (1676–1732) tells us that the four states of human nature are: (a) Primitive Integrity; (b) Entire Depravity; (c) Begun Recovery; and (d) Consummate Happiness or Misery.

    These four states, which are derived from the Scripture, correspond to the four states of man in relation to sin enumerated by Augustine of Hippo: (a) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); (b) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); (c) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and (d) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified man.”

    Thanks

    Vivid

  2. 2
    vmahuna says:

    There is some 19th century quote about the difference between a Civilized Man and a Savage is that the Civilized Man “controls his urges”. I babysit my daughter’s children. I have know each of them from the hour they were born, so I’ve watched them Grow. And one of the HUGE differences between being a 2 year old human and a 3 year old human, is that by 3, the little human is MUCH better at controlling urges and getting along with other members of the manpack. So we all get urges to lie, cheat, steal, and commit mass murder, but the huge majority of humans CHOOSE not to. I can’t see any logic to the idea that only psychopaths get those urges. After all, the English, who are generally considered the epitome of good manners, starved as many as 3 million Bengalis to death in 1943. There was no shortage of food. The English simply CONFISCATED the entire harvest. Something about denuding the landscape because of the THREAT that the Japanese MIGHT advance from Siam into eastern India…

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Vivid,
    This system seems consistent with scripture to me. Obviously, the most important matter is where are we now? In that regard, I think of salvation as both an event and a process. I use the three “Ps” to illustrate. The instant one comes to faith one is free from the Penalty of sin. From that moment until we die, if we cooperate, the Spirit works with us toward sanctification, thus freeing us from the Power of sin. This is what Paul means by “work out your salvation . . .” It is not that we work for our salvation; we work out the sanctifying consequences of our salvation. Finally, when we shuffle off this mortal coil, we will be free from the Presence of sin.

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