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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reformed Folk & The Power of Contrary Choice

Libertarian free will (LFW) can simply be defined as the ability to choose contrary to how one will. My position on the matter is straightforward. LFW is a philosophical surd. If it is true that one can choose contrary to how he will, then the future God believes will come to pass might not come to pass; and even if the future does come to pass as God believes, he will not have been justified in his belief. He would have just been lucky.

John Frame once noted: “I don't know how many times I have asked candidates for licensure and ordination whether we are free from God's decree, and they have replied ‘No, because we are fallen.’ That is to confuse libertarianism (freedom from God's decree, ability to act without cause) with freedom from sin. In the former case, the fall is entirely irrelevant. Neither before nor after the fall did Adam have freedom in the libertarian sense. But freedom from sin is something different. Adam had that before the fall, but lost it as a result of the fall.”

I resonated with John’s observation the very first time I read his lament. This is a very serious matter. These men to whom John refers may have very well been ordained and licensed in Reformed denominations (or gone to teach at seminary), yet without any appreciation for the implications of their religious philosophy.

It’s one thing not to appreciate that Adam was not able to choose contrary to how he chose. It’s quite another thing to accuse as being in opposition to the Reformed confessions one who does appreciate the folly of the philosophical notion of “the power of contrary choice”.

Recently, on a well known Reformed website, I was accused by an ordained servant in a Reformed denomination that I was “outright denying that Adam was created righteous and innocent, contrary to all the Reformed confessions.” If this were indeed true, then I trust by God’s grace I'd give up my office as an elder in my denomination.

In a discussion having to do with the freedom of the will in general and Adam's first sin in particular, my "opponent" asserted that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he did, which of course I deny (and in this instance challenged the notion).

I was told by this ordained servant (who I will simply refer to as OS) that:

The pre-Fall and post-Fall distinction is what is completely escaping you.

I responded: “Did the metaphysics surrounding LFW change with the fall?” (John Frame's point I believe.)

Given OS’s assertion regarding the distinction he thinks I am missing, it would seem to follow that he thinks the metaphysics surrounding LFW has been altered since the time sin entered into the human race. Yet OS (somewhat happily) responded with: “The mechanics of how man chooses something are the same before and after: he can always choose what his nature determines that he can choose.”

Now OS was close to correct with his answer. I did offer him a minor correction though: “The nature determines no action of choice. The nature simply determines the moral quality of the choice that will necessarily occur according to the inclination at the moment of choice. So then, an unregenerate man will sin; his nature determines that he must. His nature, however, does not determine what sin he will choose.”

Although OS indexed the determination of the actual choice to the nature (as opposed to correctly indexing it to the inclination that is consistent with the nature), he was indeed correct when he stated that the “mechanics of how man chooses something are the same before and after.” So given that OS affirms this with me that the mechanics of choosing have not changed since the fall, I am confused as to what he thinks is escaping me with respect to the “pre-Fall and post-Fall distinction”. (Could it be that he is thinking inconsistently, like those to whom John Frame was referring?)

I reject the notion of the power of contrary choice, just as OS says he does. I reject the notion that the metaphysics of choosing has changed since the fall, just as OS says he does. The only disagreement we had communicated, and it is a big one, is that OS affirms that “Adam could have willed to do the right thing” and in saying so, OS also affirmed that “[the impetus] would have come immediately from Adam, even though such ability to choose the good had been given him by God.” It would seem that he attributes this to the “power” Adam had (see below) and the “pre-Fall and post-Fall” distinction (noted above). For now we might just note that OS affirms two mutually exclusive propositions.

OS: “Let me state that again: Adam could NOT have thwarted God’s will in the garden.” “What I am saying is that Adam could have willed to do the right thing.” “Are you denying that Adam could have chosen to obey?”

Mustn’t it be true that if Adam truly could have acted contrary to how he did, then Adam truly could have acted contrary to God’s decree? After all, had Adam acted as OS says he could, then the decree would have been thwarted - hence OS's contradiction.

OS also stated: “You are outright denying that Adam was created righteous and innocent, contrary to all the Reformed confessions.

This is false. What I stated (and argued) was that Adam was not able to choose contrary to how he did, yet this is does not imply that Adam was not created righteous or innocent.

The ability to choose contrary to how one will is libertarian freedom, a philosophical surd that being created innocent and righteous cannot legitimize. I deny LFW and, therefore, affirm that Adam could not choose contrary to how he did. OS claims to deny LFW yet asserts that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he did. What OS has done is the deny the literal label LFW, while affirming its meaning! So we have two things going on here – my alleged apostasy from the Reformed confessions and OS's internal contradictions. (Something tells me that the allegations are being driven by the contradictions.) With respect to what I have been accused of, does my denial of Adam’s supposed ability to choose contrary to how he did lead one to rationally conclude that consistency on my part would require me to deny that Adam was created in righteousness and innocence? A premise would seem to be missing in that line of reasoning.

OS also said: “You deny that Adam was created with the power to obey.

This is false. As I clearly noted: “YES Adam prior to falling had the ‘power’ to perform spiritual good. Just as Tom’s quote from Calvin notes, Adam had the power to choose good over evil, but as Calvin also noted in that same excerpt, this power could be exercised ‘if he so willed; so now we have power and what Calvin called ‘the will’ to contend with. The ‘power’ is akin to the nature and liberty – liberty being the ability to act as one wants – the nature in that case being un-fallen, yet mutable. Accordingly, Adam could have stood and not fallen – ‘if he [so] wished’ – which is to say – had he been so inclined..."

I was most clear in my affirmation that Adam had the power to obey. Nonetheless, the power to obey does not imply that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he did anymore than a car’s power to run can direct the car in a direction contrary to the way in which it ends up moving. What OS did seems rather apparent. OS equivocated over the use of the word "power". He apparently confused the "power" the Confession speaks about with the "power of contrary choice"! He assumes that Adam had the power to choose contrary to how he did, which is LFW.

Toward the end, OS stated just prior to locking the thread: “you are using the term “molinist” as if it was all about Adam’s will before the Fall, and wasn’t about middle knowledge and man’s ability after the fall. You cannot project the one onto the other, like you are so obviously doing. I am very tired of this thread, and am therefore closing it.

I’m hesitant to even try to address this remark because it lacks any discernable progression of thought. It’s more of an emotional outburst than anything else I’m afraid. What I will note, however, is that OS has seemed to miss the relevance of my reference to his Molinistic type assertions. OS is under the impression that since he affirms that God’s plan could not be thwarted, he is somehow Reformed in his thoughts about the will of Adam. I merely pointed out to him: “OS, no Molinist thinks that God’s decree won’t come to pass (or be thwarted). Molinism affirms two essential points: 1) Man will act in accordance to God’s decree; and 2) man could act contrary to how he will. Both of these sentiments you have affirmed in this thread. Accordingly, you do not distance yourself from the Molinist when you say that man will act in accordance with God’s decree. This is precisely what Alvin Plantinga and W.L. Craig affirm. You affirm the tenets of Molinism when you say that Adam *could* have acted differently than he did. The Molinist says, as do you, that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he did, yet that Adam would choose according to God’s decree (i.e. not thwart God’s decree).”

In the final analyses, if OS truly denied LFW, wouldn't he deny that Adam could have chosen contrary to how he chose? Yet he’s not willing to do this. In fact, he bolstered his argument by attributing Adam’s alleged freedom to choose contrary to how he did to the “pre-Fall distinction”, affirming my suspicion that he falls into the category of those examined by John Frame.

God’s plan according to Molinists who affirm LFW will not be thwarted. Accordingly, the affirmation that God’s plan will come to pass is not evidence to convict one of the repudiation of LFW. So, OS’s appeal to God’s immutable decree is of no help to him since all good Arminians affirm this. (I am not suggesting for a moment that OS is Arminian; I have little doubt he affirms the "Five Points.") I seriously do wonder whether OS believes that fallen men can choose different sins than they do and whether men in glory will be able to choose different righteous deeds than they will. If he does believe this, then he is quite consistent with his libertarian freedom philosophy. If he should answer NO, then he is happily inconsistent and simply consigns LFW to the prelapsarian paradigm.

I’m not saddened so much that men don’t appreciate the distinctions that I have tried to make on this subject. Nor am I terribly surprised that ordained servants are sometimes confused in their thinking when it comes to the metaphysics of choice. I am saddened, however, how easily people – especially when they are ordained servants – are willing to say that X-and-so does not affirm the Reformed standards. That is a far-reaching problem in our day.

Ron
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25 comments:

rgmann said...

Ron, in one of your responses to OS, you wrote:

“The decree causes nothing, just like foreknowledge causes nothing. Events are caused in accordance with the decree and consistent with foreknowledge, but neither is causal. The question lurking behind all of this is what would have caused Adam’s strongest inclination…”

Can you elaborate on this a little more? What would have “caused” Adam’s strongest inclination in your view, and how does this relate to Adam’s ultimate sinful desire to disobey God’s command?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Rgmann,

All things come to pass according to God's foreknowledge and decree, yet it is by God's providence he orders all things to fall out. This providence extends itself even to the first fall, which was that of angels, and subsequently to the fall of Adam.

I would have to think that God pre-interpreted two primary particulars of providence (the law and the tempter) to the end whereby the two in that particular instance or state of affairs would trigger Adam's sinful inclination. With respect to the first fall, the fall of angels, God of course orchestrated the state of affairs that would result in sin without a tempter.

The point we must appreciate is that the first sin was the inclination otherwise the sinful action would have proceed from a righteous inclination, which would take away the moral relevance of the choice, making it a movement without an intention (i.e. an intelligible inclination to do so). Moreover, the mystery of the first sinful inclination is no less mysterious than the origin of any inclination. The mystery would seem to be in that God is able to present particulars to the soul and in doing so bring to pass inclinations that are precisely in accordance to his sovereign determination, and then movement of the body from that inclination. Just as it is consistent with your person, a regenerate man, to choose x-sin or y-not-sin, so it was with Adam. It was consistent with Adam to be inclined to sin. It will not be possible for us in glory to be so inclined because we will be like Christ.

In sum, God brings these acts to pass through inclinations, which are brought to pass through the divine orchestration and presenting of divine-preinterpreted particulars to the soul of men.

I'm not sure what you meant in the last part of your question. You seem to be drawing a distinction between inclination and ultimate sinful desire and I cannot discern what you might be looking for.

Good Lord's Day.

rgmann said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the clarification. You wrote:

I'm not sure what you meant in the last part of your question. You seem to be drawing a distinction between inclination and ultimate sinful desire and I cannot discern what you might be looking for.

No, that was just poor wording on my part I suppose. In the context of the Fall I would view Adam’s “strongest inclination” to be the sinful desire itself, which then caused him to eat the forbidden fruit. I agree with you that the sinful inclination/desire preceded the outward action of eating the fruit.

In sum, God brings these acts to pass through inclinations, which are brought to pass through the divine orchestration and presenting of divine-preinterpreted particulars to the soul of men.

While I agree that God providentially “causes” or brings these acts to pass through inclinations, you appear to be saying that God only does this by presenting “divine-reinterpreted particulars” externally to the souls of men (such as “the law and the tempter”). In other words, God only indirectly brings these sinful inclinations to pass using secondary means to influence man’s will, but the inclination or desire itself is self-generated internally by man’s own soul. Is that correct? If so, then I’m not sure I completely agree. For Scripture seems to teach that God also directly inclines men’s hearts to evil apart from secondary means. For example:

He [God] turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants. -- Psalm 105:25

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. -- Proverbs 21:1

He [God] has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should hear them. -- John 12:40

Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day." -- Romans 11:8

Without any hint of trepidation Scripture boldly asserts, "God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Yet, in all of this, God is righteous since all that He does is righteous by definition (i.e., there’s no “higher” law that prohibits Him from directly “causing” us to sin). Therefore God’s direct causation of Adam’s evil desire would have been perfectly holy, righteous, and good; for God only wills what is holy, righteous, and good. In other words, even though this makes God the direct “cause” of Adam’s sin, the “sinner” or “wrongdoer” was still Adam and not God. But if that is the case, then where's the difficulty in asserting that God Himself directly caused Adam to have the sinful desire to disobey His command? How is that in any way contrary to Scripture?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

In the case of Adam, I don't think we can say that God went into Adam's pure heart and created a sinful heart. He certainly used the tempter and the law as means to bring this to pass.

As for his dealings with sinful men, for God to "turn" a heart to this sin or that, I don't think we can simply assume in any of those instances you quoted that God did so apart from means, though he certainly may do so directly, apart from means. For instance, sending strong delusion implies means. To say that God turns the hearts of kings does not necessarily mean that God acts directly. After all, Jesus warns that we can *cause* little children to stumble, but of course we do not have sovereign control to act directly over the hearts of children, yet God indexes the cause of the stumbling to immediate work of men. In the like manner, if God says he will "cause" this or that to happen, it need not mean that he does not use means to those ends. It just means that God is surely behind the hardening. It underscores, in other words, God's sovereign prerogative.

Ron

rgmann said...

In the case of Adam, I don't think we can say that God went into Adam's pure heart and created a sinful heart. He certainly used the tempter and the law as means to bring this to pass.

Of course I agree that God used Satan and His law as secondary means to bring about the sin of Adam. But how can those “external” means in and of themselves cause an “internal” sinful desire in “Adam’s pure heart,” to use your words? If Adam’s heart was indeed “pure,” then God’s law in itself couldn’t possibly have generated a “sinful” desire in his heart. Moreover, if Adam’s heart was indeed “pure,” then the external temptation provided by Satan in itself also couldn’t have generated a “sinful” desire in his heart. In fact, a man can only be tempted “when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Therefore, an external temptation would have been to no effect against Adam’s “pure” heart that had only “pure” desires. In other words, Adam’s sinful desire could not have been self-generated from a “pure” heart that was free from any such inclination, but would have had to have been directly and internally generated by God in Adam’s heart in order for the law and tempter to have any secondary effect at all.

As for his dealings with sinful men, for God to "turn" a heart to this sin or that, I don't think we can simply assume in any of those instances you quoted that God did so apart from means, though he certainly may do so directly, apart from means.

Well, since none of the passages I cited mention that God used any secondary means, I don’t see how we can legitimately assume that He used any secondary means. If God is quite capable of inclining men’s hearts to evil apart from any secondary means (WCF 5.3), then why would we assume that He used secondary means in passages that don’t mention any means? Especially when other passages explicitly mention when God indirectly causes sinful desires and actions using secondary agents, such as when He sovereignly sends evil spirits to tempt (1 Kings 22:19-23) and torment (1 Samuel 16:14-23, 18:10, 19:9) and blind men to the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).

For instance, sending strong delusion implies means.

God’s sending “strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11) sounds more like His direct or immediate influence upon the minds of sinful men to me. The secondary means in the passage are “the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception” (vs. 9-10). But the “strong delusion” is explicitly stated as coming from God Himself. Again, in light of WCF 5.3, why would we assume a mediate cause here?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

If Adam’s heart was indeed “pure,” then God’s law in itself couldn’t possibly have generated a “sinful” desire in his heart. Moreover, if Adam’s heart was indeed “pure,” then the external temptation provided by Satan in itself also couldn’t have generated a “sinful” desire in his heart.

If we have three particulars, law, tempter and fall, and if by removing one of the first two particulars the third doesn’t occur, then that would mean that the a sufficient cause given the remaining particular would be the one that was removed. It simply gets back to God’s pre-interpretation of the particulars. God determined that in the presence of law: if tempted, then fall – did he not? Accordingly, the antecedent necessarily becomes the sufficient condition for the fall. (I may move from condition to cause because I moved from state of affairs to sequential order.)

In fact, a man can only be tempted “when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Therefore, an external temptation would have been to no effect against Adam’s “pure” heart that had only “pure” desires.

The verse is not attempting to give an explanation of the pre-lapasarian fall. James is speaking to the “brethren” – and it is they who are not to say that when they are tempted, they are tempted by God. Although that principle would apply to Adam, the second part of the verse cannot. With respect to the second part, they have no lust to be drawn by, which underscores that that the verse pertains to converted brethren and may not be used to try to explain the fall. Finally, the verse states a man is tempted when drawn away, which takes the form: “If tempted, then drawn away.” You have reworded the verse to: “If and only if tempted, then drawn away,” which makes the antecedent not only sufficient but necessary.

Also, Jesus was "tempted" but I don't think the verse may apply to him! :) In the like manner, I don't think you may apply to the verse to the first Adam either (for similar, relevant reasons). The verse presupposes that one has a sin nature when tempted, which Adam (and Jesus) did not have.

In other words, Adam’s sinful desire could not have been self-generated from a “pure” heart that was free from any such inclination, but would have had to have been directly and internally generated by God in Adam’s heart in order for the law and tempter to have any secondary effect at all.

This is fallacious as well. You are arguing, “If not self-generated, then God directly generated,” which is a fallacy of false dichotomy. Again, if we have three particulars, law, tempter and fall, and if by removing one of the first two particulars the third doesn’t occur, then that would mean that the a sufficient cause given the remaining particular would be the one that was removed.

I think that’s enough for now.

Ron

Joshua said...

Excellent summary of the debate Ron, and the replies to Mr. Mann are also superb. Thank you greatly for sharing these thoughts.

No free will said...

Ron:

I like this proof of yours the most!

Who would you say has influenced you the most in your thinking?

Establish the necessity of God’s belief about Adam’s choice:

1. Before Adam sinned, God believed Adam would sin

2. If x is believed in the past, it is necessary in the future that x was believed then

3. When Adam sinned, it was necessary that God believed he would

Establish the necessity of Adam’s choice, given the necessity of God’s belief:

4. Necessarily, if before Adam sinned God
believed Adam would sin, then Adam would sin

5. If p {p = God’s historical belief about Adam’s choice} was necessary when Adam sinned (3), and necessarily if p, then q; then q {q = Adam’s choice to sin was then necessary}: (consequent from 4 and transfer of necessity principle]

6. Therefore, it was necessary that Adam would sin when God believed he would [3, 4 and 5]

Establish that Adam does not act freely, given the necessity of Adam’s choice:

7. If before Adam acted it was then necessary that Adam would sin in the future, then Adam could not have done otherwise

8. Therefore, Adam could not have done otherwise than sin in the future

9. If one cannot do otherwise, then one does not act freely

10. Therefore, when Adam sinned, he did not do it freely (which is to say he could not have chosen to do right)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Joshua,

Thanks for your support. My sincere hope is that people will not allow a religion that includes many mysteries to become a religion of irrationality. To be logical is a sin these days, yet to be inconsistent is a virtue. When one becomes too conistent, he runs the risk of being labeled a rationalist.

Ron

johnMark said...

Ron,

I was reading WLC's answer to a question on Middle Knowledge and Free Will.

WLC's correction to the questioner starts What Molinism holds is that God knows logically prior to His decree to create a world what any person would freely do in any fully specified, freedom-permitting set of circumstances in which God might place him..

Now, in that statement doesn't "degree" sort of lose its definition? And on what grounds would the degree be "logically prior" to human actions? It almost seems as if he is saying that God imagines a purposeless world prior to creating, sees how it would turn out and then decides to decree a few things.

Even in that scenario, God's decree wouldn't be rendered as powerless to save free-will as the molinist would like.

If you read his whole answer there always seems to be an escape. Or am I missing something?

Thanks and I enjoy your blog.

Mark (from Georgia)

p.s. I hope you are blessed with DTK. :-)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi John Mark (from Georgia),

“WLC's correction to the questioner starts What Molinism holds is that God knows logically prior to His decree to create a world what any person would freely do in any fully specified, freedom-permitting set of circumstances in which God might place him..”

Yes, this is the position of Molinism (and consequently that of William Lane Craig). The problem is that there are no creaturely choices that are free in the libertarian-Molinistic sense. If there were, then there would be no way of God knowing what would happen if it is indeed true that it might not happen. I unpack that a bit more on my refutation of Molinism.

“Now, in that statement doesn't "degree" sort of lose its definition? And on what grounds would the degree be "logically prior" to human actions? It almost seems as if he is saying that God imagines a purposeless world prior to creating, sees how it would turn out and then decides to decree a few things.”

I’ll assume you mean “decree” and not “degree”. I was stumped for a moment there but I think your fingers must have hit the wrong key.

Craig did not assert that the decree is logically prior to human action but that the decree is logically prior to the knowledge of what that action would be in any state of affairs. (The decree is even temporally prior to the actual action, if the world in which that action obtains is instantiated). With that aside, keep in mind that Calvinism requires that God’s knowledge of his decree must logically follow from what God knows he can bring to pass providentially. Accordingly, God’s knowledge of what is possible to bring to pass must be predicated upon a logically prior knowledge of what is possible for God to bring to pass. Where we part way with the Molinist-Arminian is that within Calvinism the divine knowledge of all possible (morally-relevant) creaturely-choices is contained within God’s necessary knowledge of what he himself can bring to pass in the lives of un-instantiated essences; whereas within the system of Molinism some morally relevant creaturely choices that are logically possible for creatures to make are not feasible for God to bring to pass. Such is the case when it is true that the creature would not have actually chosen that logical possibility. The point you are trying to make, however, is correct - if your point is that God’s decree would be constrained by what the uninstantiated essence would responsibly do, as opposed to what God would have the essence responsibly do. This is why that within Molinism not all possible worlds are feasible for God to instantiate. So, for example, if Judas was unwilling in all feasible worlds to sell out the Lord in a morally relevant way, God could not have instantiated a possible world within which Judas would do so while being held morally accountable for doing so. Accordingly, given Molinism, God’s “decree” would have to be according to what an un-instantiated essence would “freely” do under certain circumstances, as opposed to upon what God could sovereignly determine that the essence do in a morally relevant way under a specified state of affairs. Consequently, the totality of God’s eternal knowledge of what is true would in part be eternally informed by something outside himself. This is where “middle-knowledge” comes into play for the Molinist. God’s eternal knowledge of what men would responsibly do in any set of circumstances would not have been according to God’s necessary knowledge of what was possible for him to bring to pass, but rather would have have been according to ungrounded future-tense truth propositions pertaining to what creatures would do. God’s knowledge becomes eternally derivative, which gets to the heresy of Molinism.

If this is unclear let’s talk two-way if you’d like.

And yes, David is a wonderful blessing. He told me recently about you, and I told him I thought I had come across you before.

I was a bit rushed in all of that, but I think I hit the main points.

Blessings,

Ron

Owen said...

Dear Ron,
Forgive me for a potentially (likely) uninformed and possibly confused question. Free will was the issue which spurred me into philosophy some years ago, but I must admit I do not presently keep up with it, thus nor do I think I'm conversant in the matter. That said, my question is regarding your opening paragraph...

Libertarian free will (LFW) can simply be defined as the ability to choose contrary to how one will. My position on the matter is straightforward. LFW is a philosophical surd. If it is true that one can choose contrary to how he will, then the future God believes will come to pass might not come to pass; and even if the future does come to pass as God believes, he will not have been justified in his belief. He would have just been lucky.

I suppose I'm hung up on a possibly ambiguity in the term "will" in the phrase "how one will."

My initial thought was that 'will' can be used to signify the truth of propositions about the future. "He will be picked third in the draft." Call this the future descriptive sense.

And it can also be used to refer to the hypothetical aspect of the mind to which we attribute the power of volition. "He has not the will to carry out such an arduous regimen." Call this the volitional sense.

(Of course it can mean other things too, like a legal document enumerating the specifications regarding the posthumous distribution of my assets, but obviously I'm concerned with the previous two senses.)

So when you say:
"(LFW) can simply be defined as the ability to choose contrary to how one will"

I'm unclear as to how you're using 'will' here. If it's in the former sense, then LFW seems prima facie and obviously intuitive. If it's in the latter sense, then LFW seems obviously (and uninterestingly) incoherent.

Can you help me out here?

-NMO

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I suppose I'm hung up on a possibly ambiguity in the term "will" in the phrase "how one will."

Hi Owen,

Thanks for the clarifying question. How one “will” choose is not referring to the faculty of choice, i.e. “man’s will” but rather to the outcome of what will be chosen. So to use your words, “future descriptive” is what I had in mind and not anything to do with man’s volition, and certainly not a legal-will. :)

Thoughts?

Ron

Owen said...

Thanks Ron,

So bear with me as I work through this, if you 'will.'

If in fact LFW is defined as "the ability to choose contrary to what you will," and if 'will' be taken in the future descriptive sense (yes, I'm making up my own terminology here), then I certainly see why it's a 'surd,' as you say. But at this point it seems so by reason of the way the definition is framed.

Certainly it's contradictory to say that I have the ability to do other than what I 'will' do, if what I "will do" refers to whatever - in general - I end up doing. It's trivially true that I can do no other than that.

I can't imagine a Libertarian would deny that, but I also think they would object to the generalized scope of 'will,' no?

Am I making sense?

Does not a Libertarian hold that you have the ability "to have done other than you did"?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

No, they don't think that one has the ability "to have done other than you did" because the past is necessary. They think that one has the ability to act contrary to how they will (end up acting). The reason they give is that although the future act is true (i.e. will occur), it is not metaphysically necessary. They hold to pure contingency, which means that they believe that Jones will do X, does not mean that Jones will necessarily do X.

Make sense?

Ron

Owen said...

No, they don't think that one has the ability "to have done other than you did" because the past is necessary. They think that one has the ability to act contrary to how they will (end up acting).

So they believe that one had the ability "to have done other than one did."

Here I've changed "have" to "had."

This is what I meant to imply. I'm naive, but not so naive as to suppose L's think the past is presently alterable. =)

This amended version I take to be equivalent (although framed as hindsight) to your "has the ability to act contrary to how they will (end up acting)."

Yes?

Two more questions...
a) I admittedly feel a little awkward/disrespectful addressing you as if we're on a first name basis. But I'm following what I take to be the standard parlance on your blog comments. I'd be happier with Mr. Digiacomo unless you object.

b) "Pure contingency" is, at least for me, easy to say yet hard to pin down precisely. Can I ask you to spell out, briefly, what you mean to be implied by it?

best,
Nicholas.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I'm sorry that I was calling you by your last name; I thought it was your first! :)

Nicholas,

Call me whatever you feel most comfortable calling me, within reason of course! :)

Now that we have our tenses right, let's move to your new question:

"'Pure contingency' is, at least for me, easy to say yet hard to pin down precisely. Can I ask you to spell out, briefly, what you mean to be implied by it?"

Not necessary. Need not occur.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Since Satan and Adam have perfect wills and compatibalism defends the view that man does what is consistent with his nature. How could they sin unless God caused them?

Reformed Apologist said...

What's a "perfect" will? What does it mean to "cause" sin? Compatiblism turns on a different view of freedom than what incompatiblists hold to, which clutters more than clarifies. In any case, please feel free to clarify your thoughts and question.

Anonymous said...

A sinless will is a perfect will. To cause something is to bring it about. Like if God gave Satan the desire to sin, then he brought it about. I'm just wondering on a compatiblist view how would Satan (being made perfect) choose to sin if he hasn't Fallen yet?

Reformed Apologist said...

Both man and Satan fell in their nature prior to acting in accordance with the fallen nature. After all, if Eve was tackled prior to eating or was constrained from eating only due to vanity over her figure, wouldn't sin have occurred just the same? We Malay safely conclude that actions proceed from inclinations and the quality of inclinations are consistent with one's nature.

No will is perfect that is capable of sinning.

God didn't "give" the sinful desire. The sinful desire came from within the soul when certain providences were brought before it. There's no contradiction here. Men sin by the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

Anonymous said...

1 more question when God said it " was Good" at the days of creation. Then, how do you interpret that? Do you think the world wasn't perfect because it had the possibility of sin?

It kinda makes me think of the glorified state. Do you think in the Glorified state we will be free but not able to sin?( sorry 1 turned into 3 but i think they're interrelated)

Reformed Apologist said...

No possibility of sin in glorified state. We will be confirmed in righteousness and like Christ. The first creation was perfect in that it was a perfect creation that offered the potentiality for both good and evil. It was a perfect place for testing for instance.

Anonymous said...

if tempted, then fall – did he not?

It doesn't exclude the possibility of a fall with a different sufficient cause that was a 'tempter' though does it? Although I agree in this particular case (the actual world and the actual Fall), and with your formulation, that temptation was sufficient cause was it necessarily sufficient? Was temptation necessary for the fall?

Thanks.

Reformed Apologist said...

Way too many questions in last ten minutes. You may list your number, I won't publish and I'll call. I'll publish this offer under all your questions today.