Archive for the ‘Magnus’ Category

LFW vs. Scripture

July 8, 2008

One of my readers, Magnus, wrote in a previous combox here (link):

This whole idea that we make choices independent of our nature is foreign to Scripture.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. Luke 6:45

Yet if one holds to LFW you must deny this truth, even though it is revealed throughout the pages of Scripture. So if I have to choose between a philosophical construct [LFW] or what the Bible clearly teaches, I will stick with the Bible.

I mostly agree with what Magnus has to say, but I want to offer a few additional comments.

1) The fact that there is a causal explanation for human actions (including decisions) negates the idea that human actions (including decisions) are uncaused.

2) One attempted evasion of the conclusion that causal explanations negate Libertarian Free Will (LFW) (as opposed to simple, compatible free will) is to claim that causal explanations are ex post only. That is to say, if we pick up the donut, the cause is our hunger, but if we leave it on the table, the cause is our vanity: we could have gone either way, and we call the desire the cause, if it prevailed in that instance. Such an evasion, though, doesn’t jive with the “fruit of the tree” analogy in Scripture. No one would say that the tree becomes a pear tree by bearing pears. Instead, we all know that the tree bears pears because it is a pear tree – the nature of the tree is the causal explanation for the species of its fruit – an ex ante explanation.

3) Another attempted evasion of the conclusion that such causal explanations negate LFW is to provide a counter-analogy in which the nature serves as some sort of guardrails, limiting choices but not actually determining specific choices (the precise choices being the expanse of road between the guardrails). Thus, in the counter-analogy, we can choose to drive in the right or left lane, even if we cannot drive over the cliff.

The primary problem with the counter-analogy is that one of the usual accompanying principles and intuitive grounds for accepting LFW is the claim that “free will” is connected with moral responsibility. The “fruit of the tree” analogy from Scripture indicates that “good” vs. “bad” is a function of nature. Even if there is “free will” (of some libertarian kind) among different good options or different bad options, if there is no libertarian free will (LFW) between good and bad, then LFW is clearly not relevant to the issue of moral responsibility – a conclusion that practically eviscerates LFW, even if it theoretically permits the continued existence of some form of partial libertarian free will.

A secondary problem with the counter-analogy is that it seems to be simply a new example of special pleading. If the “choice” between good and bad is a nature-determined choice, why would we expect that the morally less significant choice between “greater good and lesser good” or between two indifferently good options is not also somehow determined? If the answer, is “but they could be” or “but you haven’t proved they aren’t,” so be it. The burden of proof of the existence of supposed LFW is on its advocates, not the other way ’round.


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