I would just like to start this post by writing that this unplanned exchange with Aaron has been so far very enjoyable and challenging. His most recent post on the topic can be found here
. My goal today is to defend choosing as neither random nor determined. I will do this by appealing to reasons as being enough for an intelligible choice. I have attempted to divide the discussion into a few parts. Each begins with a header and then usually an indented quote from Aaron's post.
Organic vs. Mechanical Metaphors
... the dominant analogy shouldn't be one physical object impacting another and moving it, so it moves another, and so on until we get some final result, like gears moving more gears or a cue ball hitting another billiard ball; instead, it should be a living thing which grows according to its nature.
The dispute over the proper metaphor for determinism is minor. I will continue to nitpick, however. Aaron believes that physical laws are very distinct from biological laws. He wants to use a biological metaphor for determinism as opposed to a physics metaphor. The difference between biology and physics is merely one of size and methods, not of type. Billiard balls follow their nature just as much as do trees. Although Aaron doesn’t come out and say it, he seems to have adopted some flavor of vitalism
. Vitalism is, of course, discredited in biology.
The Structure of Choosing
Of course there are such situations, and when it happens a decision still has to get made. How? Or on what basis? Is it something which finally makes one action more appealing? Or is it nothing? If it's something, we're back to determinism. If it's nothing, we're with Bill the robot. Positing "free will" itself won't help because the question is how that free will actually choses in the hard cases. If the free will doesn't choose one over the other because of something, why isn't it random? And if it is random, what does that do to moral responsibility? We can hardly blame someone for something random. This, incidentally, was the crux of the argument I mentioned losing.
If he's restricting his defense of free will to such equally balanced situations, that leaves and awful lot of determinism.
As I understand it, Aaron'’s view of deliberation is this: I sit down and look at my choices. Each choice gets a score on how much it conforms to my character. I then pick the choice with the highest score. Before, I claimed that Aaron’s picture of the soul seemed too simplistic. This is what I mean. The idea of a linear scoring pattern for decisions turns humans into a big computer or automaton. Thus, when Aaron talks about “equally balanced situations,” he is thinking of both choices getting the same score.
My view is admittedly much messier than Aaron’'s. Even if the crude “points” language is removed, his view is very odd. There just seems to be something wrong with this claimed ability to decisively compare choices. I do not want to defend balanced situations; I want to defend incommensurable situations. What exactly are incommensurable choices? Kane defines them this way: they are both desired more than all the other alternatives for different, noncomparable reasons. Although I believe that incommensurable choices face us more than we might think, I am willing to allow a lot of determinism in life. The important point is that in some situations, we can look at our choices, and be free to choose.
This is the intuitive picture of the world that we all have. We believe that we do actually choose. But in Aaron’'s view, we do not choose. For what is choosing if we lack the power to choose the negation?Choosing for Reasons
...a decision still has to get made. How? Or on what basis? Is it something which finally makes one action more appealing? Or is it nothing? If it's something, we're back to determinism. If it's nothing, we're with Bill the robot. Positing "free will" itself won't help because the question is how that free will actually choses in the hard cases. If the free will doesn't choose one over the other because of something, why isn't it random? And if it is random, what does that do to moral responsibility? We can hardly blame someone for something random.
Aaron continues to offer the dilemma: either we choose based on something, or on nothing. If something, then determinism. If nothing, then we are acting on chance. This is the classic compatibilist argument against libertarian free will. There are interesting aspects lurking below the surface of this story, including the assumption that exercise of free will is an event. However, I will face it head-on and take on one of the horns of the dilemma.
Suppose this general scenario:
1) reason R-1 is sufficient for action A-1 and R-2 is sufficient for A-2
2) R-1 and R-2 cannot be compared in a scoring sense.
When I choose A-1, Aaron claims that I need some reason R-3 that explains why I chose R-1 instead of R-2. If I don’t have R-3, then I am on the same level as Bill the robot. However, this could go on ad infinitum. Why didn’t I choose R-4 as my reason instead of R-3? Is that random, or because of R-5? Determinist or indeterminist, this claim of reasons being necessary for reasons is absurd because of its infinitely regressive nature. The vicious regression poses a problem for both sides. The determinist usually escapes this cycle by passing the buck to outside factors. It is thus disingenuous (to a degree) for Aaron to cite “character” as the reason for action. If his infinite criticism holds, then the ultimate reason for every are not as nice as character or goals, but 1) the initial state of atoms and minds and 2) the causal laws that govern mind and matter.
Take another example of the infinite regression problem: knowledge. Descartes believed that you must always know that you know. In modern epistemology, it is accepted that it is clearly possible to know something without knowing that you know it, or knowing that you know that you know it. Just as it is acceptable to know without knowing you know, it is acceptable to act on a sufficient reason without having a reason for that reason. In many cases, it is better to know that you know, and in the same way, it is better to have reasons for reasons. It just is not required.
My view is this: We do not need reasons for reasons. We only need reasons for choices and actions. The choosing from reasons is properly basic, and need not be explained on a deeper level. (2) entails that I cannot choose the stronger reason, because there is no stronger reason. Aaron believes this to be random. Is it? I believe that as long as an intelligible continuity can be seen along my choices, it is sufficiently non-random. This is ensured by the formation of reasons from within my character. This aspect of creation of the self is important to fend off charges of randomness.Frankfurt’'s Mistake
Harry Frankfurt wanted to show that we could have moral responsibility even in cases without being able to do otherwise. I have hesitated to post a argument against him, as there are very many, but I am unhappy with various implications of most. I will stake my ground now.
Frankfurt'’s counterexample (and those inspired by him) fail because they still presuppose causal determinism. In the main world, Jones chooses to perform A in accordance with Black’s wishes. In the counterfactual world (which we will deal with), if Jones shows an inkling of choosing not to perform A, then Black “zaps” Jones so that Jones desires to perform A. Black cannot zap Jones after Jones has chosen. For if Black did, it would be a straightforward case of overt coercion, which even compatibilists do not like. The only way for Black to guarantee that his zapping will ensure that A is still chosen is if the zapping is causally determined. If the counterfactual world was not causally determined, then Jones could indeed actually choose A and perform it. Thus, Frankfurt’'s example holds in causally determined worlds only.
This is hard to discuss without access to the original paper, or at least a FSC paper. Fortunately, I found a copy online
. The Role Of Scripture
Being Christians, the problem of scripture must be addressed at some point. I will reiterate what I mentioned in the comments of a previous post. General revelations, both empirical (science, history) and analytical (philosophy), are conceptually antecedent to specific revelation (the Bible). Lyell and Copernicus affected our understandings of Genesis 1 and Joshua 10. To even a greater extent, must philosophy color our understanding of passages in the Bible. Thus, if it can be shown that compatibilism is clearly incoherent, then compatibilism is not an option for interpretation. The debate of free will, then, need not involve scripture at all.
Once again, conceptual antecedence is not chronological antecedence. My view does immobilize believers from reading and learning from the Bible.
In the comments, Robert seems to advocate
a Kierkegaardian picture. He sees incompatibilism as rational, and the truth of compatibilism must be revealed through faith. The fideists inspire and challenge me, but I ultimately disagree with them. My view of Christianity is what Victor Reppert
terms critically rational. I believe that God is the author of all truth and each truth thus reinforces and supports my faith.
If it is true that salvation is by grace alone (the usual Protestant position), then we cannot and should not be morally responsible. Thus, while I would like the PAP, in some sense, to be satisfied in salvation, it does not severely affect my view if PAP is not fulfilled.
Xon wishes that I discuss the passages. I am hesitant to; lack of knowledge and training may lead me down the wrong paths. With that said, I see no reason why the elect (referred to in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9) cannot refer to the Gentiles as a whole. My reading of the passages then is that God had always planned to save the Gentiles. The snatching out of the hand then refers to those attempting to coerce believers into falling away (through torture or lies). A passage in favor of incompatiblist free will is the Lord's prayer itself. "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Somehow, God's will is not being done on earth right now. If he is controlling everything, then it must be his will that his will is not done. That is like saying, "Never pay attention to anything I say."Conclusion
There is an intuitive and yet exciting aspect to this theory. We are in control and responsible for our choices. There is some measure of objective worth that is being met. In addition, when we choose between incommensurable alternatives, it is often at hard times in our lives. In a very real sense, we form our souls at those moments, determining many future actions. We have great power and thus great responsibility.