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On Libertarian Free Will and Causation



Some thoughts on a recent convo with someone on Determinism and Libertarian Free Will. It was veered more on the philosophical aspect but then it goes into theological consequences near the end. There are also two linked articles. But the second is far shorter and is just a summary of an argument I’ve composed.


When someone asks “why did A choose X or Y” you’re asking two questions, the first being what reason/rationale did the agent have. If they choose X then it’s reason (or reasons) X1. If Y, then reason Y1. That’s the first sense of “why”. The second sense is what determined that X1 was followed as opposed to Y1 and vice versa? This is what you really mean by “Reason”. So you formulate the problem as:

R -> Agent then X1 then X.
R-> Agent, then Y1 then Y.

In each case, R is the determiner of what the end is, the reason, as you put it. But for you in order to end up with X or Y, the R then must different. So instead it should be formulated:

R1-> Agent then X1 then X

R2 -> Agent then Y1 then Y

R for the determinist will be something akin to a necessary chain of events or factors in past which lead to X. Eg, why did X1 reason appeal in a deterministic manner? Because of the agent’s nature. What determined the Agent’s nature? Z did. What determined Z? Y did etc etc. Eventually you either have an infinite regress of a necessary causal series (which is logically absurd, see Aquinas argument from contingency) or you end up with an A which is the determiner of why it is, with nothing behind it. In that sense, the determinist too ends up with something that is as it is for no “Reason/determining factor” behind it, other than the thing itself. So even though you end up with X because of R1 or Y because of R2. This determining factor will be R simpler, without qualification. The difference is that the Libertarian sometimes says that the Agent themselves are the R. So the LFW formulation is:

R.Agent then X1 then X

R.Agent then Y1 then Y

So the same R which for the determinist, is ultimate in determining all things with nothing behind it, is placed in the Agent themselves per Libertarianism. So it is not true to say that there is no reason. Because there is both in both senses of the word. So when you say it can’t be agent causation because there’d be no reason, it’s begging the question/circular since reason here means determining cause.

So you’re saying that “there can’t be the agent as determining cause because then there’d be no determining cause.” But erm, yes there would, the agent. Saying “But there needs to be a determining cause behind the ultimate determining cause” would be an absurd sentence. So you say instead “but there needs to be a determining cause behind the Agent”. Which is simply to assert determinism. Do you follow? LFW says the ultimate cause can be the Agent, but then there’d be no reason. If you mean rationale, then that’s not true. If you say Ultimate determiner, that’s also not true, because we say it’s the agent. But to say that’s not the Reason/ultimate determiner, is either to say the concept of ultimate determiner is incoherent in favour of an infinite regress (which puts determinism in the same boat). Or to say that the agent simply can’t be the UR but it must be something other. Which is simply to assert determinism is true. Which I don’t accept, which means since you made the claim, you must show why determinism is true.

Even if it was, what you said would not be an argument, but is simply an assertion. People always choose real or apparent goods. If the disparity between X and Y is so clear then what is the more apparent good will always be chosen. So far so good. But if the choice isn’t clear or the goods are equal or close or appear to be, it is in this case that there could be a Libertarian decision. Which is why if I’m given the option of say killing a friend because they called me names or not killing them, you can rewind the clock a billion times, I can have LFW but I’ll never choose to kill. The other thing is if as you say the presence of X1 or Y2 (rationales) are enough to determine the outcome, then you are saying that to the intellect X1 being chosen over X2 means that X1 is either better in appearance or better in actuality. However to a perfect intellect, it cannot be a matter of appearance. So based on your system, it is because the X1 is better that the divine intellect chose it. Since the better reason will always determine and the divine intellect always knows what the better reason is.

However on this system there could never be 2 equally good reasons or goods to choose one. One good must always supersede another and the divine intellect must always choose said good. Which means that the fact that creation exists, and evil exists and determinism is true, means that it is greater good and thus a necessary decision of the divine intellect that creation and evil exist. If God didn’t choose both then a lesser good would be chosen, and God wouldn’t be perfect and thus not God. Thus for God to be perfect requires that He be dependent on both creation and evil. Only the Libertarian can say that creation is not a necessary decision. Or a lesser good. But that there are metaphysically distinct eternal goods (the divine energies), which are all equal, which God can choose from. If they were all equal per a determinist system, then you’d reach a stasis, a halt. Since there would be nothing to tip the scale and cause movement in any one direction. Only per LFW can you have the ultimate determiner in the Agent themselves as to why equally eternal goods where chosen as they were.

In sum: If there is but one good then which the perfect intellect perceives as X1 then that must be what it chooses. In the actual world, that would involve creation and evil, meaning God’s goodness and glory are dependent on both. If however are many equally good goods from which the divine intellect can choose, thus necessitating that his existence wasn’t the only outcome, then determinism is ruled out. Since if the reasons must determine the agent but the reasons are equal then the agent is in stasis. The only way to have equal goods such that God’s glory isn’t dependent on this reality, and not have stasis is posit that UR/ultimate determination is located in the personhood/Agents. Otherwise you don’t have the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Rather you have the necessary emanations of the Greeks.

Here is the piece on  Jonathan Edwards were I explain it more.

Part of the argument is summarized  in a much shorter version here.


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This entry was posted on December 6, 2016 by in philosophy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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