Who knew there were so many Mormon compatibilists?

March 23, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 10:13 am   Category: Foreknowledge,Theology

It never ceases to amaze me how many Mormons will, when push comes to shove, choose to believe in a fixed future and a fated existence instead of an open future and a robust version of free will. What gives?

If you are unfamiliar with the terms “compatibilism” and “incompatibilism”, here are some quick definitions taken from the wikipedia article on the subject:

Incompatibilism is the view that the notion of a deterministic universe is completely at odds with the notion that people have a free will… Libertarianism suggests that we actually do have free will, and that therefore the future is not determined.

So libertarianism (or libertarian free will) is the doctrine that we are really free to choose and that the future really is not determined or fixed. Sounds very Mormon right? (Right?) Isn’t that just what Lehi taught?

Compatibilism, also known as soft determinism and most famously championed by Hume, is a theory that suggests that free will and determinism are in fact compatible. According to Hume, free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather, it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires.

So in contrast we have compatibilism, or hypothetical free will. This is a doctrine that says our futures are fixed and fated but we at least hypothetically could choose differently than we are fated to choose.

So here is the rub – if God exhaustively knows the future then the future must necessarily already exist for him to know it. If the future already exists then it is fixed. If so then the compatibilists must be right. If the compatibilists are right we are not actually free to choose our own destinies in the libertarian sense (and as Lehi taught), we are in fact fated to a pre-set (or predestined in my opinion) future and only have the hypothetical ability — not the actual ability — to escape our fates.

The alternative choice is to assume Lehi was right and then we have real and robust free will in the libertarian sense and that God is smart enough and powerful enough to accomplish all of his purposes anyway. It is to assume God is smart enough and powerful enough to make it appear like he knows a set future even though there is no set future to know.

It seems like a no-brainer to me. We believe humans may eventually enter peer relationships with God and that we really are free to choose to do so, therefore it seems like when push comes to shove free will wins out in Mormonism and we should have faith in God to be able to accomplish his work even if the future doesn’t already exist in a fixed fashion.

But apparently it is not a no-brainer for some Mormons. There is clearly no short supply of Mormons who will happily give up the notion of real and robust free will and exchange it for the anemic compatibilist variety of free will. And what do they get in return for accepting the idea that their own futures are fated or predestined? — the notion that God is also fated and that he knows what the actual (already existing) future will be. The problem is that if God knows what the actual future will be he knows what HE will do then too so he is also fated and predestined.

I have recently discussed this idea in a couple of threads and have been shocked to discover that even knowing some of the implications of compatibilism there are Mormons who readily choose it over robust free will. (They always seem to do some bizarre mental gymnastics and come up with some incomprehensible gobbledy-gook about varying perspectives and whatnot in defense of their compatibilist positions in those conversations…)

I can’t exactly figure out why… Is actually having robust free will too horrifying? Is the notion of a God that is powerful and wise enough to accomplish his works even in the face of an open future and contingencies too hard to have faith in? Do we love the idea that we are fated so much that we don’t want to let it go? What is going on here?

176 Comments »

  1. I think it’s the influence of neo-orthodoxy, which seeped into the thought of some influential Mormons in the middle of the twentieth century (and also, I think, on modern evangelicalism’s influence on the way Mormons discuss and think about their religion). As pointed out in the M* thread, nineteenth century Mormons seemed to have no problem conceiving of a limited God. Neo-orthodoxy’s stress on an absolute God, however, makes this unpalatable. I hate to drag him out for another flogging, but Elder McConkie’s stress on God’s various omni- characteristics, was particularly influential in this dynamic.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — March 23, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  2. I hate to drag him out for another flogging

    Hehehe. Good call Matt. That whole development in church history must be partially behind it all…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  3. Geoff,

    It’s just that anything beyond a compatibilist free will simply looks like real magic, something which Mormonism is supposed to reject. Now I know that I’m not surprising you with any of this, but I think that it really is the problem. Of this is quite different from those who reject LFW due to an argument from omniscience. I think this argument is seriously flawed, for I simply do not think that total omniscience is at all a good thing for an actual being as Mormons beleave God to be. Imagine not being able to carry on an actual conversation because you would already know everything that would be said in it. Imagine never being able to be surprised, pleasantly or otherwise. Imagine never being in any kind of suspense. What a horrible existence!

    However, I must say that I don’t think that the LFW has adequately addressed the Talmage claim that knowing, or better yet, predicting isn’t causing. What if the future only APPEARS fixed from Gods and only Gods perspective? What if the future is fixed that you will freely choose X? Is this a contradiction? Maybe, but I think it needs to be spelled out better than I have seen.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 10:34 am

  4. So here is the rub – if God exhaustively knows the future then the future must necessarily already exist for him to know it.

    Or, since God is Omnicient, God knows all possible outcomes the could result from the exercise of our Free Will. A.k.a. the Groundhog Day postulate.

    Comment by V the K — March 23, 2006 @ 10:53 am

  5. V the K,

    But isn’t the whole point of omniscience is that God knows exactly how it WILL come out? If He doesn’t know which of all the possibilities which He knows could come out, then other than His being much more creative than us, how is His actual knowledge of the future any different than ours?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 11:07 am

  6. Jeff – In your second paragraph you ask some classic compatibilist questions and my response is in the post I think. I readily concede that the past is fixed, but I suspect I will never believe that my future is fixed. I also don’t understand why believing Mormons would so easily reject the glorious and scripturally backed idea of robust free will for the mess of pottage that is compatibilism (aka hypothetical free will).

    V the K – Possible futures make perfect sense to me. As long as the possibilities remain open until the moment of choice. I simply believe God is prepared for all contingencies. I can’t understand why having that kind of faith in God is objectionable to so many Mormons.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 11:19 am

  7. I don’t think that you dealt with those questions very well at all. Consider the difference between knowing the future and merely predicting it (somehow) with 100% accuracy. If God merely predicts the future, then the future need not exist in any way at all, contrary to what you claim. Here is the distinction which I draw between the two:

    Knowing: The future is necessarily entailed and it is already fixed, though not by God. God simply knows, possibly, what that fixed future will be.

    Predicting: The future will end up being some way, though which way it will actually being depends upon a lot of contingencies. God simply happens to be able to predict, again, possibly and somehow, which of the many possible futures will end up being the actual one.

    While the best kind of freewill which could be hoped for in the first one would definitely be a kind of compatibilism (which I still don’t see as being at all bad in any way) the second option does seem to allow for LFW.

    There is too often a subtle equivocation here between a future being fixed or determined and the future being fixed or determined BY SOME INDIVIDUAL. The two are not the same. Why cannot my future be determined by me? Why cannot God know how I will eventually determine my future to be? Just as I am able to predict that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning does not suggest that I cause it, why should God being able to predict my future decisions suggest that anybody other than myself is actually making those decisions? Just because certain decisions might have somehow been “destined” to happen, why does this suggest that it wasn’t in the end my decision to make?

    I don’t think that your post, or Ostler’s book, have adequately addressed these issues.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 11:32 am

  8. Not to belabour the point, but the type of freedom Lehi speaks of (free to act and not be acted upon) tends to imply a freedom in terms of freedom from outside effects. Thus it very much is akin to the definitions of freedom typically given by compatibilists. The key libertarian phrase “could have acted otherwise” just isn’t in the chapter.

    The reason Mormons tend towards compatibilism (unless convinced otherwise by subtle philosophical argument) is the fact that prophecy is considered an ubiquitous phenomena. And not just vague ones such as we typically find in the scriptures – prophecies so vague that they could be interpreted as applying to numerous events. Rather I think many people feel they or people they know have experienced revelations giving precise information about the future that they feel is hard to reconcile with a lack of foreknowledge.

    Comment by Clark — March 23, 2006 @ 11:45 am

  9. Just to add, while 19th century Mormons conceived of a limited God (as I think most Mormons today do) they also accepted very robust foreknowledge that would be incompatible with the strict libertarian view. While some figures could be reconciled to the open theism position, I think it tends to be anachronistic to read it back onto 19th century theology.

    Comment by Clark — March 23, 2006 @ 11:47 am

  10. Geoff,

    I don’t see how free will can be understood differently than Hume’s argument (“free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances”). LFW believes that choices can be made independent of the circumstances, which is to believe that some acts have no causes. Under this theory, if God or anyone else asks me why I chose to go to church, I have to say, “nothing caused me to go to church — there was no reason. Not my love for you, not my desire to keep the commandments, not to see my friends, nothing. It was random chance that I showed up.”

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 23, 2006 @ 11:53 am

  11. Geoff, while (like Jeff G) I have addressed these issues at some length, here I’ll give sound-bite compatibilist responses to a couple of your points.

    assume Lehi was right and then we have real and robust free will in the libertarian sense

    The language of 2 Ne. 2 is not specific enough to distinguish between libertarian freedom and what I have called “autonomous freedom.” It is not helpful to anachronistically read modern philosophical concepts into Lehi’s thinking.

    And what do they get in return for accepting the idea that their own futures are fated or predestined? -the notion that God is also fated and that he knows what the actual (already existing) future will be.

    Actually, I don’t gain this since I also doubt exhaustive foreknowledge. What I perceive is gained is that individuals’ eternal futures do not depend on any degree of randomness (which I cannot see how libertarian freedom escapes), but only the nature of their uncreated backwardly-eternal individual intelligence and the power of the atonement.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 23, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

  12. Jeff: Consider the difference between knowing the future and merely predicting it (somehow) with 100% accuracy.

    Just to be clear — I never said God predicts 100% of the future with 100% accuracy. I have said he is the ultimate predictor and is prepared for all contingencies and thus can know his purposes will be accomplished.

    Why cannot my future be determined by me?

    It can. As long as you are able to be the actual cause of your choices and not some external “great causal chain” I am fine. But then that is LFW isn’t it?

    Clark: Rather I think many people feel they or people they know have experienced revelations giving precise information about the future that they feel is hard to reconcile with a lack of foreknowledge.

    It may be hard to reconcile, but it is not impossible. Why give up on robust free will just because it is hard to imagine that God could give accurate prophecies even though the future is open? Is it too hard to have that kind of faith in God’s power? Must we tell him how he should accomplish his prophetic work even at the expense of our own free will?

    Matt: nothing caused me to go to church-there was no reason.

    I think you are confusing personal reasons with causes. Are really prepared to be a determinist? Are you ready to agree with Jeffrey and Christian that all of our “choices” are actually caused by a great external causal chain rather than having at least some choices caused exclusively by you? If so then how are you actually responsible for any choice? If every action you make is actually a reaction to prior causes then how can you be responsible for any of it?

    I am not talking about random chance here. I am talking about your ability as an agent to independently act rather than be acted upon. I am saying that if we really are of the same “kind” as God then some of our thoughts, words, and deeds must originate from within us independently of all external causes.

    Christian: The language of 2 Ne. 2 is not specific

    You are right of course. That was perhaps a cheap rhetorical trick I used to say “why not trust Lehi?” But I think that the vast majority of Mormons do read those passages just as I do so I used them in that way to point out the inconsistencies in hoping for both a fixed future and a robust form of free will.

    Let me add that I think the great weakness of the position you and Jeffrey hold as full-fledged determinists is that your “great causal chain” becomes the ultimate and impersonal God of the universe. In your view no one — not even God — is free to choose anything other than that which the great causal chain dictates. That is a view of the universe that I highly doubt I would ever accept.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  13. Now Geoff,

    You aren’t reading very charitably here.

    I never accused you of saying that God could predict the future with 100% accuracy. Instead, I was asking why a member couldn’t believe that along with LFW? I don’t think that Ostler’s argument fully takes this possibility into account. (As you well know, this isn’t my position, only a critique of your argument against foreknowledge.)

    As to “ME” causing something, the big beef is that LFW requires (right?) that I be somehow outside of the great causal chain. There is no reason whatsoever to believe this without positing ontological miracles which Mormonism has traditionally rejected.

    The great causal chain does not become God, unless by God you mean some kind of bodiless Nothing like other Christian sects. God, according to Mormonism, must be a physical and time-bound person and as such is just as much in the causal chain as anybody else. Why should this be a horrible thing?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 12:51 pm

  14. Geoff: Are you ready to agree with Jeffrey and Christian that all of our “choices” are actually caused by a great external causal chain rather than having at least some choices caused exclusively by you?

    This is an incorrect depiction of my position. The causes that ultimately matter are internal: the nature of an individual’s eternal uncreated intelligence, and that of God. What springs forth from my eternal uncreated intelligence can only be called “internal,” even if it is deterministic.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 23, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  15. Rightly stated Christian,

    While internal causes are certainly the ones which really matter, they are no more outside the causal chain than the external causes are.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

  16. Jeff: Consider the difference between knowing the future and merely predicting it (somehow) with 100% accuracy.

    Jeff, there must some explanation for the fact that God just happens to be 100% accurate. It cannot be by sheer random luck that he is a great predictor? How does he do it?

    Matt: nothing caused me to go to church-there was no reason.

    There is a difference between an efficient cause and a reason. The reason can act teleologically to guide behavior and leaves all kinds of options as to how to achieve the reason; an efficient cause produces a single outcome. So you have conflated two very different ideas it seems to me.

    Christian: The language of 2 Ne. 2 is not specific.

    Yes it is. There are things that act and things that are acted upon. Lehi links this distinction to free will and agency. What is the link? Here is what I think he rather clearly implies. Things that act are free. Things that are acted upon are passive results of causes. I have argued at some length that this phraseology reflects the Calvinist/Arminian distinctions and debate about irresistible grace and libertarian free will in the 19th century (See my “The Development of the Concept of Grace in Christian Thought.”)

    Matt: LFW believes that choices can be made independent of the circumstances, which is to believe that some acts have no causes. Under this theory, if God or anyone else asks me why I chose to go to church, I have to say, “nothing caused me to go to church-there was no reason. Not my love for you, not my desire to keep the commandments, not to see my friends, nothing. It was random chance that I showed up.”

    No LFW doesn’t assert any such thing. LFW claims that circumstances are not determinative, not that they don’t influence or form a limiting case (e.g., I am not free to be 10 feet tall). LFW doesn’t require you to say there was no reason why you went to church. What it says is that the reasons you considered were not determined to be what they were before you thought about it. The reasons you considered were those yo chose to consider and the reasons you considered were agent caused by you in relation to possible outcomes that my occur. However, LFW does say that you could have valued and chosen to act on other reasons, you could have chosen to stay home from church. Moreover, don’t you actually believe that you could have had reasons to stay home as well and acted on those? See also the response to Christian below.

    Moreover, I become just a bit impatient with those who believe that past is destiny and future is just the outcome of the past. Do you really feel that shackled by your past and unable to create new and novel outcomes?

    Christian also says: What I perceive is gained is that individuals’ eternal futures do not depend on any degree of randomness (which I cannot see how libertarian freedom escapes), but only the nature of their uncreated backwardly-eternal individual intelligence and the power of the atonement.

    If something is the outcome of causes which occur long before we think about something, then everything is independent of reasons and random in precisely the sense you reject here. We become merely biological processors of prior causes that pass through us to cause results; nothing ultimately happens for reasons we consider — and indeed our very reasons are also caused by factors prior to our reasons and therefore are not reasons at all. However, agent causal libertarian free will is not randomness. If it is asked why I did something freely, the answer is because I chose it. That isn’t random. It is explained by choices. Merely being open to different possibilities that are resolved by the action of an agent is hardly randomness.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

  17. Blake, I don’t have time to say much, I just think that one has to be careful about taking the theology that gave birth to a particular phraseology to entail that the text being translated with that phrase means the same as in the textual origin. Put in intelligible English, there’s far less to the text than appears. That kind of round about exegesis seems to imply that Joseph took the phrases he did because of their cultural baggage when it seems doubtful he would have been aware of all the cultural baggage.

    Geoff, regarding not throwing out libertarian free will simply because of our intuitions, the compatibilist might say the same regarding responsibility – the main argument (IMO) for libertarian free will. That’s the point ultimately. Both positions have problems reconciling to intuitions which suggests that the evidence for either theologically is problematic.

    Comment by Clark — March 23, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

  18. Blake,

    I agree that there must ultimatly be an explanation available for how it is done, however the omniscient-ist can simply say that “they have faith” at this point. My point is that your argument wasn’t entirely water-tight, and that it would seem that a person can logically accept both LFW as well as God’s ability to predict, rather than know, the future with 100% accuracy.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

  19. Jeff G. There is too often a subtle equivocation here between a future being fixed or determined and the future being fixed or determined BY SOME INDIVIDUAL. The two are not the same. Why cannot my future be determined by me? Why cannot God know how I will eventually determine my future to be? Just as I am able to predict that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning does not suggest that I cause it, why should God being able to predict my future decisions suggest that anybody other than myself is actually making those decisions? Just because certain decisions might have somehow been “destined” to happen, why does this suggest that it wasn’t in the end my decision to make?

    Jeff you have two mutually exclusive ideas here. If the future is detemined by me, or by an indivdiual, then I act as agent to determine the future without being caused by prior causes to do so. If am caused to act as I do then I am merely a biological processor of prior causal information to transmit it into the future and what happens is not up to me but beyond my control.

    Further, you are surely aware of the Consequence Argument that is at the center of the current philosophical discussion of why determinism entails that what occurs is not up to me. You need to address that argument. It seems quite decisive to me. Look here: http://spot.colorado.edu/~oddie/det.html

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  20. Jeff G. It seems to me that if the believer in omniscience believes that God can predict with 100% accuracy, I would respond that such a move assumes implicitly that there is an explanation for that accuracy and how God does it (just as you admit here). But then there is no reason to believe that the explanation for the 100% accuracy solves the problem at all because it assumes that the future can be known with 100% accuracy, and that is quite enough to establish the problem.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  21. Clark: The notion of acting and being acted upon must have some significance in Lehi’s discussion — and the obvious link is the one I made. Things that are merely acted upon are not free because they are passive results of those things that act upon them. To be free we must be active causes and not merely passive results. So Lehi certainly seems clear to me.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  22. Blake,

    re 20: I think you need to spell out your argument a little better than that. Predicting with 100% accuracy can be different from knowing in a number of ways. For starters, God’s “omniscience” (meaning his knowledge of present and past events) would seem to be to a certain extent universal. Such need not be the case of future events. God only needs to be 100% correct in those predictions which He chooses to make. In this case, His ability to predict future events need not be very different in nature than my ability to predict some events with 100% accuracy. The 100% accuracy is not a necessity as it would be in the case of absolute foreknowledge. Your argument in this aspect could use a lot of strengthening, especially since the Mormon account of a time-bound God would suggest predictive abilities over absolute foreknowledge.

    re 19: Your account of nothing being ‘my’ fault only works when things are seen from a strictly physical point of view, a point of view where ‘I’ don’t even exist, but instead mere material in motion. Strictly speaking, that IS all that I am. However, when things are seen from a different point of view, a point of view where ‘I’ exist, then in that same context ‘I’ cause things to happen. Outer events may cause me to cause certain events over others, but it is still ME that is causing them. You cannot externalize all causes influencing an agent without shrinking that agent out of existence.

    I haven’t however, read the link. I’ll try to get to it sometime in the next week.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  23. Jeff: In the example you give, God could insure that his predictions are limited to those he will causally bring about — and that doesn’t require LFW at all for those things he causes. So I agree with you to that extent. What he cannot do is predict LFW choices with 100% accuracy without having some explanation for how it is done and any such explanation will inconsistent with LFW. But since we are talking about God’s knowledge of act free in the sense of LFW, isn’t your emample beside the point?

    Further, your double aspect theory of explanation won’t work for the mere reason that there is still the first way of explaining things that is entailed in the second way of explaing things, so it is merely a complicated way of begging the question and avoiding the problem.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

  24. Christian (14): The causes that ultimately matter are internal: the nature of an individual’s eternal uncreated intelligence, and that of God.

    This sounds just like agent causal libertarian free will to me. I believe that is what Blake suggested over at your site and it is what I believe as well. If it is not that, can you explain how your position differs from agent causal libertarianism? I mean as long as choices can “determined” by the agent independently of external causal chains then we are on the same page (and you are a libertarian after all). If external causes ultimately cause the choices then it makes little difference if you call them “internal” or not.

    Jeff (13): LFW requires (right?) that I be somehow outside of the great causal chain. There is no reason whatsoever to believe this without positing ontological miracles which Mormonism has traditionally rejected.

    Why should we assume that the existence of LFW requires some ontological miracle? Why not assume that LFW is an uncreated, beginningless, and inherent property of all intelligent beings? If I start with that assumption then it require an ontological miracle to remove your free will…

    I have no particular problem with an idea of a great causal chain acting on things — but our scriptures also indicate that we can act rather than be acted upon. I take that to mean our real free can continually and add to the causes in a great causal chain independent of all other causes.

    Clark (17) – The complaint I have is that compatiblists have no decent explanation for how we can be really responsible if the future is fixed whereas I think there are loads of decent explanations of how God could accomplish his purposes even with an open future.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 3:05 pm

  25. Jeff (13): LFW requires (right?) that I be somehow outside of the great causal chain. There is no reason whatsoever to believe this without positing ontological miracles which Mormonism has traditionally rejected.

    Of course there is. We are morally free and we cannot be morally free if we are merely cogs in the gear box. We experience our freedom — and this experience is sheer illusion if we are mere cogs in the gear box. We choose to enter into authentic relationships, and we cannot do that if we are mere cogs in the gear box. Moreover, what do you mean by ontological miracles. If it is perfectly natural to be free agents because the properties of mind are enhanced and emerge from neural complexity, then there is something really amazing here — but it is not supernatural. What you really mean is that we must be really amazing if we have free will — and we are! On the other hand, if we are merely biological processors, there’s nothing really amazing about that is there?

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

  26. Christian (14): The causes that ultimately matter are internal: the nature of an individual’s eternal uncreated intelligence, and that of God.

    Christian I would like you to unpack what you mean by this. What does it mean to be “internal to us”? If you mean that it flows from our DNA, then of course you’re a determinist thru and thru, but no one believes all human behavior is causally explained by DNA. (otherwise identical twins would always do all the same things). If you mean that it arises from our own powers of causation and reasoning, then how does it differ from agent causal accounts of libertarianism? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

  27. A few thoughts:

    Time is part of G-d’s creation. He is independent of it. The entire question may be irrelevant. How can G-d know all, save whoever He pleases and yet throw the dice? How can G-d live outside of time and yet be part of it? If G-d knows all, how was the sacrifice of Jesus “real”? I suspect it’s akin to the wave/particle duality in Physics; eternal matters cannot be completely grasped in our mortal realm.

    I also reject the traditional LDS interpretation of mankind entering mortality. I believe we’re living a plan B of sorts because of the war in heaven and this was not G-d’s original intent for us. Perhaps as a consequence of the rebellion in Heaven G-d had to throw the dice to give mankind a real choice?

    Comment by Steve EM — March 23, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

  28. Steve: What makes you think that God created time?

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  29. Blake,

    I think that your correcting Geoff every once in a while on points that I don’t think are in harmony with your position would make the discussion seem a lot less like two gangs facing off against one another. For instance this claim:

    “Why not assume that LFW is an uncreated, beginningless, and inherent property of all intelligent beings?”

    Geoff, it is not the creation of LFW (whatever that could possibly mean) which matter here, but rather the instantiations of it. An instantiation of LFW cannot be eternal or beginningless in anyway and the energy necessary to make physical things change from their otherwise causal course must have come from somewhere. This is why LFW makes it look like not only God, but all of us have the power to bring about mini-creatio-ex-nihilo’s.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  30. Geoff,

    But internal causes are still causes, just as determined as out causes. Now I still haven’t taken the time to investigate Blake causal libertarianism, but I simply see no way to get anything beyond compatibilism w/o invoking some sort of thing which must be outside of the chain of causation.

    Now for Mormonism, the doctrine of uncreated selves is a HUGE help in dealing with this. For while all internal causes are still deterministic causes, the fact that all external causes have do run through us as self-existent causal filters is a wonderful idea. Under such an idea, internal causes, while still fully deterministic, can never completely be explained in terms of external causes.

    I guess my question for you is this: where does that something other than fully deterministic causes come from? We can both agree that we are largely subject to external causes, right? Additionally, we both agree that we are largly deterministic creatures, right? The difference which I see is that determinism goes all the way down while you suggest that it only goes so far in explaining what we do. Where does the rest come from?

    The most plausibly answer which you might be considering here would be our uncreated intelligence. This seems to be problematic for it seems to border on Cartesian Dualism. If, as I assume, the intelligence is seen to be material and spatial, contrary to Descartes, then must explain where this material thing gets the energy necesary to move about and exhert physical influence on the other parts of our body? This is where the miracles seem to lie in wait.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

  31. Jeff G. Oh come on, you know I don’t have an original bone in my body. That’s why I parrot Geoff, albeit with different reasons than he gives.

    If properties of mind emerge from material consistutents, then how is creation of thoughts ex nihilo. Of course they are novel and not determined by prior material states, but that isn’t consistent with creation ex nihilo. So is anything novel necessarily ex nihilo in your book.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

  32. Blake,

    Your argument against 100% prediction seems to be no more than an assertion, namely that the ability must be explained in terms of mechanisms which reduce back into your foreknowledge argument. You claim seems to be just as faith based as the person who claims that God is able to predict correctly, whether He insures such or not.

    “We are morally free and we cannot be morally free if we are merely cogs in the gear box.”

    Oh, c’mon. If you start of assuming that you are right then it should be pretty easy to demonstrate is using that assumption. What is the difference between “being morally free” and our “considering ourselves and other morally free”? Why should we accept the former rather than the latter? Why couldn’t our free-ness be an illusion?

    Regarding emergence and nearal complexity, I still don’t buy it. How is downward causation or any kind of causation supposed to amount to non-deterministic free-will? Granted, I do acknowledge that the system is very complex and we do acquire A LOT of control do to these fully deterministic processes, but I have no good reason to doubt that this vast degree of control is able to boot-strap itself to counter-causal free-will.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  33. Blake,

    I know that you don’t parrot Geoff (I hope that was a joke). It’s just when you allow his statements to go uncorrected while jumping at every error we might make, it seems that you aren’t in it to investigate the truth of the matter, but only make everybody think your position is right. That’s all.

    About the creatio ex nihilo, here is where I am speaking to Geoff rather than you. I know that your position doesn’t involve miracles (I just don’t think that you account gives you what you want it to), but I am convinced that Geoff’s does. This goes back to my claim that you do not correct or argue against Geoff.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  34. I guess its time that everybody lays their cards on the table. What are the assumptions which each of us is taking for , especially those which are religiously motivated?

    Mine are that we are totally physical beings and that there are no ontological, supernatural miracles.

    Blake’s seems to be that we are not merely “considered” free, but that we really are free since we must be responsible according to scripture.

    Geoff’s seems to be that our self-existent intelligence is something far more specialy than the mere material which we see around us now, and this intelligence is able to make us really free.

    Am I right on these accounts?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 23, 2006 @ 4:08 pm

  35. Blake,
    The Almighty G-d created everything we know ex nihilo, including time. Before creation there was no space-time, no energy/matter. Nibley’s G-d bound by time and the reorganizer of existing matter is a sub-contractor G-d, not the Almighty. I can praise, but not worship, Nibley’s handicapped G-d; I worship his boss, the Almighty G-d.

    Comment by Steve EM — March 23, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

  36. Steve EM,

    Every modern prophet from Joseph Smith on has rejected creation ex nihilo as a false doctrine. You are free to believe whatever false doctrines you would like and the church probably won’t kick you out for being wrong — but please don’t try to derail this discussion. (If you believe that modern prophets have supported creation ex nihilo feel free to email about it.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 4:44 pm

  37. Jeff: I know that your position doesn’t involve miracles (I just don’t think that you account gives you what you want it to), but I am convinced that Geoff’s does.

    Then you are convinced of a falsehood on this Jeff. You seem to be reading all sorts of things into my earlier statement that are simply not there. The truth is that I certainly can’t explain in great detail all of the working of free will anymore than I can explain any uncreated thing or emergent property. I am not certain of the ultimate nature of spirits either (whether they are uncreated as whole cloth or made up of “particles of intelligence” for instance) but I am certain that free will is somehow connected with intelligence. I actually do think that the notion that free will is somehow an emergent property is the most likely explanation and that does not require anything ex nihilo. (Further, it works in both the whole cloth and the atomist models of spirits).

    So in answer to your question about cards on table – yes I agree that we must be responsible according to scripture and revelations from God (as you ascribe to Blake) and yes I believe that our intelligences (in whatever form) are inherently free (probably due to emergent free will).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

  38. Jeff G.:Your argument against 100% prediction seems to be no more than an assertion, namely that the ability must be explained in terms of mechanisms which reduce back into your foreknowledge argument. You claim seems to be just as faith based as the person who claims that God is able to predict correctly, whether He insures such or not.

    The “argument” against 100% predictability isn’t so much an argument as a challenge that must be met for your argument to be cogent. You have already admitted that there must be some explanation for 100% success in prediction — tho I notice that you steadfastly and studiously avoid giving any such explanation. If there is 100% success in prediction we both agree that it cannot be by sheer luck that it happens, so there must be an explanation for that success. You can leave that a mystery, but it won’t constitute a challenge to the argument that LFW and foreknowledge are incompatible because I have presented an argument showing that — and it doesn’t rely on predictability or anything but foreknowledge and free will. If you can give some explanation how God could achieve 100% success without fail without assuming either causal determinism or foreknowledge (both of which are demonstrably incompatible with LFW) then I would like to see it. I believe you have the burden to show what this explanation is since you are the one who asserts it is possible. Without such an explantion you’re just begging the question.

    Further, even if we are totatlly physical beings, it doesn’t follow that there are no non-physical properties or emergent powers. So your view that determinism is implicit in the notion that we are physical beings doesn’t follow. Further, I don’t believe that LFW necessarily requires the rejection of physicalism (tho I am not a physicalist). So you would have to show that physicalism entails determinism somehow — good luck since process philosophers are physicalist but believe that creativity and novelty are inherent in physical states as they become or change. Such a view seems quite possible (and to me compelling).

    If you want to believe that we have mere illusory “free will” and that such illusion is compatible with genuine moral agency I think you’ve got a tough problem. Or do you believe that moral responsibility is also an illusion? While we’re at it, perhaps you believe that everything about our life is also an illusion? I would say your view is just illusory as far as I grasp what you are saying (tho I’m not very good at understanding illusions so I’m quite sure I just don’t get it).

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

  39. Jeff: I left this for another post. You ask: “How is downward causation or any kind of causation supposed to amount to non-deterministic free-will?” This is a good question. Here is the answer:

    I have argued that agents have a power to creatively organize the data of experience into a coherent or unified experience. The phrase “creatively organize the data of the prior moments of experience into a novel choice or act of willing” explains a lot. First, this phrase must be imbedded within a usage — and the usage I have in mind is the process metaphysic and particular theory of Charles Hartshorne. Second, what it explains is a basic human causal power that we know we in fact have, i.e., the power to creatively organize the disparate and chaotic data that goes into our experience into a whole and unified experience that we sometimes bring to consciousness. In the act of perception, we actually organize data according to schema and add a unity to our experience that is not present within the data themselves. So there is an irreducible element of creativity and novelty in this act of organizing prior data into our experience. What we add to the data of the causal past is a creative organization that shematizes our experiences (perhaps along the lines of Kant’s categories).

    Further, we also have the basic power to organize the chaotic activity of populations of neurons in the cereberal cortex into an ordered process of neural activity. In fact in tests PET scans show that the chaotic neural activity shifts into a self-organizing neural patterns in the act of perception (somewhat like the way chotic water molecules in a tub drain self-organizes itself into an orderly process of a spout or funnel that is much more efficent at emptying the tub).

    In the experience of choosing, what we do is take the data of prior experiences and add to these data something not in the data — and in this activity of ordering the data we create experience, consciousness, choices, thoughts and so forth. The new level of mind is emergent and not fully or deterministically explainable by the lower level causal data. Thus, the break with determinism occurs at the very place we expect it — the act of creating our consciousness and thoughts and (dare I say it) our acts of willing and choosing among alternatives. The prior data do not explain fully or determine the causal powers of the mind that emerges from the lower level of neural activity. (Such a causal break with levels of explanation is simply what occurs in ontological emergence).

    The control comes in the fact that we control the orderly emergence of our mental activities. We organize the data as we learn that we can given the past data available to us — so it isn’t ex nihilo and it is related to but not determined by prior character and prior physical states. So the act of willing is: (1) within our control; (2) a basic power that we have; (3) not determined by the prior causal data; and (4) not fully explainable by reference to lower levels of organization due to its emergent properties. Further, in the act of choosing we both act partly out of our character and also partly reform our charcter – which is what is required if we have any responsibility for what our character is.

    The newly emergent unified consciousness then has powers of downward causation because it acts as an organism and not merely a collection of independent cells. We act as a unified person or agent, not as a collection of disparate and chaotic neural cells. What emerges is a self, a person. What acts is a person with a history and memory that unifies our acts into a coherent character. So the character is formed and itself partially re-formed in the act of choosing. Good question — long answer.

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

  40. Blake (#21), as I recall we disagreed upon this is the past. I think you’re reading 2 Nephi 2 through a Libertarian filter. That is, I don’t see it anywhere near as obvious as you do. Indeed to me, as stated, it talks about actors and actees without making any metaphysical claims about either. The freedom is a freedom from and freedom to but not a freedom to do otherwise than what one does. That nuance simply isn’t in the text, although one can read it into it. You read actor as only truly being an actor if Libertarian free will pertains, but that is simply sneaking ones assumptions in through the back door. It doesn’t say much about what Lehi believed. (IMO)

    Geoff (#24), the typical response by compatibilists towards responsibility is to either dismiss responsibility or to simply offer up revisionist view of what is meant by responsibility. If you privilege our particular linguistic use of responsibility, then yes, that is strongest argument against compatibilism. As you know, my own view is that we should privilege science and distrust our linguistic and intuitive concepts. Thus the difference between Blake and I.

    Blake (#31), the claim that thoughts are novel entails a quasi creation ex nihilo unless one buys into the controversial notion of radical emergence. You do, so it’s not an issue to you. But for many of us that is a hugely problematic assumption to buy into. So one should keep this in mind when discussing this with Jeff and myself (and perhaps most others – I think you’ll agree most people don’t buy into radical emergence)

    Jeff (#34), we’ve all had these discussion (often round and round about) so aren’t we all reasonably familiar with each other’s assumptions? It seems odd that about every two months a topic on free will emerges and most of the comments are near identical repetitions of what was said the previous time. Some forgetfulness is inevitable. But it is interesting that we seem trapped in a dialog that is inherently circular.

    Blake (#38), I agree that the “coincidence” that predictions are 100% correct is strong evidence that they can’t just be predictions. It solves a logic problem by introducing something much more problematic. (IMO)

    Comment by clark — March 23, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  41. Just a note, I mentioned some interesting papers on revisionist responsibility a couple of years ago. I’ve been meaning to go back to the topic ever since, but just have a few other things I’m thinking through first. Maybe this will be the excuse to do so, as soon as I finish thinking through Ben’s paper.

    Comment by clark — March 23, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

  42. Clark,

    As opposed to Jeff, you are not a strict causal determinist. So if you reject Blake’s explanation of how free will works then what is your alternative explanation (even if our truly free choices all happened “in the beginning” as you have theorized)? I mean it is one thing to dismiss “radical emergence” but it is another to present an alternative. Jeff’s critiques of free will are aimed as much at your theory (or any theory that postulates non-deterministic free choices at any point in the eternities) as it does the notion of robust LFW that Blake and I believe in after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 23, 2006 @ 11:47 pm

  43. I think that I once read a quote from President Spencer W. Kimball, stating that it had always been his understanding that the foreknowledge of God consisted in God exercising sufficient control to bring about his purposes. If I remember correctly (but I may have forgotten by now), this was somewhere in the New Era. I have tried to look for the actual text in recent years but have not been able to find it. If it wasn’t so awkward to thumb through the online archive of church magazines to find anything that isn’t indexed, I would begin to suspect that the article I read had been omitted deliberately. It makes sense to me that President Kimball would believe in an influence-based version of foreknowledge, because this concept is clearly expressed in 1 Nephi 9:6.

    On the other hand, there are many verses of scripture that support the idea that the future is present before God, outside the strand of time in which we live. Chris Grant has a collection of references that seem to confirm this point of view, gathered from the writings of Neal A Maxwell.

    Back in the mid-1970s, I spent a miserable couple of years at BYU, trying unsuccessfully to meet President Kimball’s stated expectation that prospective missionaries needed to completely overcome the habit of masturbation. Almost everybody that I met at BYU seemed to be completely confident that the future was fixed. When you’re trying to make changes in your own behavior, it really doesn’t help to be told that your future is already known. In explaining why we needed to go our separate ways, my brilliant former girlfriend from high school said that she had learned from Chauncey Riddle that the purpose of life is to allow God to show us our selves so that we will acknowledge that his judgments are just. Along with her newfound knowledge of the meaning of life, it probably didn’t help my case with her that I was remarkably immature and lacking in self confidence (this still describes me well — sorry). There were a lot of things that I liked about BYU, but somehow the deeply ingrained fatalism in and about Provo never really made my list of favorite things.

    I think that I started out firmly convinced that compatibilist foreknowledge was a delusion because of the strong influence of my father’s opinions in the early development of my own opinions. Because the movie “Oh, God!” has the God character say, “I am big on the past, and I am big on the present, but as to the future even I don’t know all the details,” my father calls “Oh, God!” a documentary movie. Based on his experience in teaching decisionmaking methods, my father has made the observation that many people believe that the future is already out there somewhere and that our task is simply to prepare for it. According to my father, you can tell whether or not a person believes that we really have any choice in how we make the future, by asking the simple question, “Does God know who is going to win the baseball game tomorrow?”

    At this point in my life, I am not sure that I actually know the correct answer to the question about the baseball game, and I doubt that it really matters. The part that really does matter is described well by another movie quote, from “Back to the Future 3,” “But what does that mean? It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”

    Comment by Steve S — March 24, 2006 @ 12:36 am

  44. Great discussion. For the record, I agree with Geoff and Blake. Just in case it comes down to a popular vote.

    I also think it’s awesome that I think more comments have been dedicated to the discussion of agency than almost any other topic in the ‘nacle, well, at least in the Top 10.

    Comment by Eric Russell — March 24, 2006 @ 1:45 am

  45. Clark or Blake,

    Where is the discussion which you guys had about radical emergence? It is at that point that Blake suggests is when LFW arises, but I simply can’t accept his acccount of emergence. How is the emergence of consciousness or choice any different from the emergence which we observe in so many other systems, i.e. the origin of life? While I fully agree that the whole is not simply the sum of its parts, but I’m quite uncomfortable with this claim:

    “The new level of mind is emergent and not fully or deterministically explainable by the lower level causal data.”

    Further more, I fear that Blake is adopting this account of emergence in order to account for his assumption of actual responsibility which he is unwilling to sacrifice. I guess this isn’t all that bad, and I’m sure that I’m as guilty as the next guy, but I’m worried that motivation may be playing the role that justification should play at times.

    BTW, Sorry about the misattribution Geoff. While I still think that LFW comes from magic, I must have been mistaken in assuming that you considered the self-existent intelligence to be the “free” part of us.

    As regards “illusoriness” I think that you are being a little harsh here, Blake. Responsibility isn’t an illusion, but is something which we attribute to something. It isn’t that we think we are responsible when we really aren’t, but rather that we are responsible BECAUSE we think we are responsible. In this, I suppose responsibility to be a social construct of sorts. I know you won’t be terribly inclined to this, but that isn’t really an argument against it, is it?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2006 @ 3:14 am

  46. Clark re: Lehi and agency: The entire text is about alternatives and acting for ourselves without merely being acted upon — so it provides a robust libertarian view. Look at it closely: v. 14 says the world is divided into things that act and are acted upon. v. 15 says that there is an opposition in all things. v. 16 says that God gave to man “to act for himself” and not merely to be acted upon. It also says that man could not act for himself if he were not enticed by opposing options. v. 26 says that men are redeemed because they know both good and evil and act for themselves. v 27 says that men are free because they can choose among alternatives of liberty and eternal life, or death and captivity.

    So we are free because we act for ourselves and are not merely acted upon and because we have alternatives among which to choose. That just is libertarianism. Determinism entails that we are merely acted upon by prior causes and there are no alternatives but one inevitable outcome of prior causes. Further, given that in the context of the Arminian/Calvinist debate in the 19th century this was precisely the way the issue of irresistible grace was described, and it therefore becomes compelling as a hermeneutic of this text. It is precisely what Methodists argued repeatedly against Calviinists. Joseph certainly heard it over and over again — and preferred it to the Calvinist view. The Methodists were self-conscious libertarians.

    Jeff in #45: I’m confused. You say you accept the emergence of life and that what emerges is not just the sum of the parts. You ask: How is the emergence of consciousness or choice any different from the emergence which we observe in so many other systems, i.e. the origin of life? The answer: It isn’t different in kind. Emergence of the mental is emergence of the same kind as life and novelty that exhibits new properties that dead matter doesn’t exhibit. It is just that it is demonstrable that with greater neural complexity greater intelligence and properties of mind emerge. Look at the taxonomic scale of evolution — greater properties of mind and more novelty in action of organisms emerge over time with greate complexity.

    Moreover, I adopted emergence long before I linked it with any theory of free will. Though I think that the phenomenon of free will is another reality that is explained by emergence. But as you admit, it really doesn’t matter what my motivations are.

    Further, you begin by saying that moral responsibility is not merely an illusion and then you reduce it to a social construct of mere attribution (following Strawson and Dennett I suppose). But that means that a given person is never really morally responsible; it is merely that other attribute responsbility — unjustifiably. More specifically, it means that moral responsiblity is an illusion in the sense that when I attribute moral responsbility to you, there is nothing really about you that justifies my attribution. So when I say that you are guilty of murder, for instance, the locus of moral responsbility isn’t in you (it is not a property that you have “to be morally resonsible for murder”); rather, moral responsibility is a property of the one who attributes responsibility. Thus resonsibility is a mere construct that is unjustified and not real — i.e., mere illusion. So no wonder I don’t buy such a view as one that takes moral responsibility seriously.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2006 @ 7:57 am

  47. In #40 Clark says: It seems odd that about every two months a topic on free will emerges and most of the comments are near identical repetitions of what was said the previous time. Some forgetfulness is inevitable. But it is interesting that we seem trapped in a dialog that is inherently circular.

    I suppose this is true — but look where we’re taking it. We keep pushing each other and forcing better discussion and newer and better explanations. I haven’t explained in this detail on a blog how emergence answers the luck/randomness objection that Jeff and Christian keep bringing up. Since they weren’t satisfied, I look for ways to respond more responsively. I attempt to show how what Jeff does accept (emergence of life and evolution) suggests the approach I suggest. I attempt to show how an essential facet of LDS thought, real moral responsibility (MR), is out of synch with Jeff’s view of MR and how it entails libertarianism — and because you accept MR it means some form of libertarianism is also required on your view. So I think we’re making progress. I attempt to show how Chrisian’s view of an internal locus of MR is really a form of libertarian agent causation. So I start from what I’ve learned in our discussion as to what we agree on and begin moving forward from there. Maybe I’m just an illusioned eternal optimist — which is what Jeff believes I am anyway!

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2006 @ 8:49 am

  48. Steve S – Interesting perspective. Maybe fatalism is more part of Mormonism than I imagined.

    Blake – I agree that new things are coming up in this iteration of our ongoing debate. For instance I was very interested in your point about Joseph’s awareness of the Calvinist/Arminian debate over fatalism vs. libertarianism prior the translation of the BoM. Joseph’s preference for the Methodists (and contra Calvinists) is good evidence that he was aware of the pro-libertarian meaning of those Lehi verses. I had not heard or considered that before.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 24, 2006 @ 9:55 am

  49. Geoff: (#42) So if you reject Blake’s explanation of how free will works then what is your alternative explanation (even if our truly free choices all happened “in the beginning” as you have theorized)?

    Just to re-iterate, since I’m rather frequently misunderstood on this part. I look to philosophy to understand the possibilities. That means that I want to understand all sides, along with their problems. Despite appearances I really don’t feel like I have a horse in this race. Put an other way, since Blake has made similar points, I don’t feel obliged to come up with a systematic philosophy that answers these questions. To me the inquiry is more important. Further I have a deep and abiding distrust of systematic philosophy – especially when people present it as the answer.

    So to me to show that things are more open is my aim. I don’t feel in any way obliged to be able to answer the question. To me to present the lack of an answer as clear evidence that my critiques are off is to fundamentally misunderstand the weakness of any metaphysical arguments and to lack a certain necessary skepticism of such metaphysical inquiry.

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  50. Oh Blake,

    There you go taking the least charitable reading possible again. While you should certainly subject my argument to the harshest criticism you can bring against them, you should give me the benefit of the doubt as to what I am actually arguing.

    First of all, I didn’t follow Strawson or Dennett in claiming responsibility is a social construct. It is something I came up with (granted following some suggestions from Dennett and others) and if anything I have a Searlian version of social constructs here.

    Let me apply your argument against social construct to other social constructs: Money is all illusory! After all, since the only reason why we accept certain kinds of currency is because it is social convention that certain, otherwise worthless, things count as currency. But this convention doesn’t merely place everybody under the illusion that these pieces of paper or money. Instead, it REALLY makes these pieces of paper become money! Thus money is ontologically subjective in that if nobody believed in it, it wouldn’t exist at all, and yet epistemically objective, in that there are facts which exist about independent of what anybody believes about it (just not the fact that anybody believes in it). Marriage is the exact same way; people believing that a couple is getting or has gotten married actually constitutes their getting married. Why cannot responsibility be the same way?

    As to emergence, while the properties of the whole cannot be accounted for by the summing up of the properties of the parts of a system, the properties of the whole are DETERMINED by, or are wholly a function of the properties of the parts. This is why I think I need to figure out what you are claiming in this radical emergence stuff, because an emergent system, from everything I know, is just as determined as a non-emergent one (just like bacteria).

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2006 @ 10:40 am

  51. With regard to the “100% prediction” debate:

    It seems clear that part of this would include the idea that God knows he’s predicting correctly, predicting on the basis of some evidentiary standard that is universally reliable for him and will continue to do so. Otherwise, he’s just a lucky, lucky guy. (Or, one could argue that God could predict the extent of his prediction powers.)

    If we see prediction in this light, it isn’t just prediction. It actually is knowledge. If we assume that he’s never wrong in his predictions and that he’s always getting the independent and dependent variables right all the time, he has a knowledge of the future that goes beyond prediction. For me, this means that any logical problem solves by the prediction position simply doesn’t go away, in addition to the “bad taste” that this sort of argument puts in the mouth of the McConkie disciples that argue that there isn’t anything left for God to learn.

    Comment by D-Train — March 24, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  52. Jeffrey: (#45) Where is the discussion which you guys had about radical emergence?

    Hmm. We’ve touched on it so many times I don’t think there is a place that discusses it completely. It’s sort of a topic we’ve come back to and expanded upon several times. I initially discussed the issue way back in the early days of my blog. This post where Blake and I once again engage on the issue. He think O’Conner answers all the complaints I have whereas to me O’Conner’s answer is just of the sort “we’ll I can’t see how it could be anything but radical emergence.” Which to me is not a terribly persuasive view.

    I might come back to all this, perhaps a little more formally, now that I’ve got largely caught up at work. Although I promised Ben to finish editing those SMPT podcasts. So I’ll be working on those first.

    Just to add, since Blake answers you on emergence in #46, there are different kinds of emeregence. There is regular emergence that says substances can have properties not explainable by the properties of its parts. However it is explainable by the properties of the parts, the relationships of the parts, and the laws of nature. Radical emergence, which is what Blake espouses claims that the substance has properties not even the properties, relations and laws related to the parts can explain. So when he talks about novelty, it’s important to keep this in mind. Further there is no phenomena outside of consciousness and related properties that anyone claims exhibits radical emergence. Thus my claim that it ends up being akin to the “and then a miracle happens” when someone can’t explain something. I’m almost tempted to make an analogy to the “god of the gaps.” (grin)

    Blake: (#46) I understand your position. I just don’t agree with it. To me you’re quite clearly reading the text with the presuppositions of the libertarian. I honestly don’t see how the compatibilist couldn’t read it without difficulty either. Indeed until I read your book I assumed everyone would take the compatibilist reading as more natural to the libertarian reading. Indeed in the earlier days of LDS-Phil 2 Ne was taken by many (not just me) as evidence for a de facto compatibilist view by Lehi.

    Fundamentally your argument entails “act for themselves” can only be understood libertarian-wise because that’s the only real acting. Yet compatibilists as you well know believe we all act for ourselves and use the same language. The point being that the phrases which distinguish libertarians from compatibilists just aren’t found in the text. You then say Lehi talks about choice, but then so too do compatiblists. One would think it should be obvious that appeals to terms whose very meaning is under dispute is illegitimate. That you feel the libertarian offers the only compelling answer to these meanings is not under dispute. That Lehi did certainly is.

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  53. Just to note Geoff (#48), even if Joseph had heard of the Calvinist/Arminian debate it doesn’t follow that he was aware of all the philosophical nuances that I think Blake ends up attributing to him. Further clearly one can reject Calvinism while not adopting Libertarianism.

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 10:50 am

  54. Clark: I don’t recall the compatibilist reading of 2 Ne. 2 — and I don’t see it. It isn’t merely that we act for ourselves; it is also that the opposition to acting for ourselves is being acted upon — and how that interacts with freedom and alternatives among which to choose. When we are acted upon, we aren’t free. The distinguishing characteristics of libertarianism are present: we act and are not acted upon when we are free; we have alternatives among which to choose that are made options for us by the atonement as a condition of freedom. It seems to me to be the classic Arminian position of libertarian free will in all of its glory!

    Now undoubtedly there is play in the text for different readings as there is in any text (I’m an attorney as you know and I never cease to be amazed at the wild interpretations given to statutes). So I agree with you to that extent. It just seems to me that the most compelling and easily the most explantory reading is the libertarian reading.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  55. Clark: Emergence that is a causal break with lower levels of causal explanation are ubiquitous — life itself being the best case (since dead matter doesn’t have properties of life to add!). The problem I see with your approach is that science for you is physics and chemistry whereas science for me is biology and neuro-science. I see emergence all over the place; if I were to adopt a reductive physics there could be no emergence because it would all be explained by more basic levels of explantion. But saying that there are just natural laws and causal relations that explain doesn’t explain anything on my view because it is an explanatory circle and quite vacuous.

    E.g., why did I do that? Because the laws and past causes were the way they were. What greater level of specificity can be provided for individual human behavior? What does it explain? Nothing so far as I can see.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2006 @ 11:14 am

  56. Blake, I think there are much easier explanations for why dead bodies don’t act like live bodies than postulating something like radical emergence. As I said, radical emergence to me is more akin to a god of the gaps type of explanation. Since I don’t know how something works one postulates an ontological process to make it work. Why not simply acknowledge ignorance and that we don’t know everything rather than unnecessarily multiplying ontological entities?

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 11:36 am

  57. (#26.) I agree that not all human behavior is causally explained by DNA; not even our phenotype is fully explained by DNA. In Blake’s twin example, having identical DNA (genotype) is not the same as having identical phenotype, which is determined by both genes and environmental factors (as well as random variation). Even identical twins have different fingerprints and other physical differences. Does this suggest that their personalities differ for similar reasons?

    I think it does, at least in part. Overlooking or even denying the influence of genetics, apparently out of concern that it would undermine LFW, leads away from the compassionate and nonjudgmental aspect of the Gospel. I tend to agree with those who recognize that much of what makes up “us” is deterministic, while also recognizing that there are critical aspects of “us” that are truly free.

    People are born with traits, tendencies and abilities that are determined first by DNA, then by environment (and randomness), and finally by experience. I see it as a sliver of free agency that, when properly exercised, expands and even crowds out the deterministic aspects of our natures until it overcomes them completely. This is how I interpret King Benjamin’s discussion of the natural man.

    It is in this sense that we create ourselves, but due to differences in our DNA and environment, it is much easier for some to choose freedom than it is for others. The key is how we respond to our individual DNA and environment.

    (#39) Blake, doesn’t your description of the thought process also describe how animals make choices? Perhaps an animal’s choice is partly attributable to randomness, but aren’t many, of not most, of our choices as well? A lot of what you’re saying here reflects randomness instead of free agency.

    I think free agency arises when we overcome our otherwise deterministic natures. Lehi, it seems to me, says precisely that when he explains that unless we choose eternal life, we are by default choosing eternal death according to the will of the flesh. The default is a determinisitic existence, the natural man, that leads to captivity (a completely deterministic state).

    On the issue of prophecy vs. LFW, we’ve discussed that many times. I think the issue of God’s ability to shift among past, present, and future is separate from our free will, and that our free will is preserved solely by the veil. That is, God can actually see what we consider the future, and can reveal it to the prophets, but our ignorance of that future makes us truly free to choose. The alternative you’ve proposed (as I understand it), that God doesn’t know the future (so that the specific prophecies we have are Joseph Smith’s expansions) and intervenes only when necessary to accomplish his broad purposes, in my view is not necessary to preserve free will–but it is contrary to my understanding of both the purpose and nature of prophecy.

    Comment by Jonathan N — March 24, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  58. That is, God can actually see what we consider the future, and can reveal it to the prophets, but our ignorance of that future makes us truly free to choose.

    Jonathan, it makes us free in a compatibilist sense but not a libertarian sense. The ultimate debate is whether this kind of freedom can be reconciled with responsibility.

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  59. Jonathan: I agree that in the absence of atonement we are deterministic — we are stuck in our pasts and cannot escape our mistakes so that the past is the future. So I agree that the natural man is a determined wad of flesh.

    I don’t think that what I describe is random at all — when I choose I choose for reasons that I choose to value and choose to consider –and I believe that we are at choice every moment. However, I agree with you that there are two modes of being spoken of in 2 Ne. 2 — merely acted upon/death and act for ourselves/life. I also believe that most choose to just go with the flow and the determined nature that is so easy to adopt. For example, when we re-act to others without thought and without care, we have been determined to act by causes. In fact, in volume 2 I distinguish between an authentic mode of existence which is in fact deterministic and an authentic mode that is free (as does Buber and as I read him so does Heidegger).

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about the implications of foreknowledge. I have given an argument in which the premises are sound and the argument is, for me, cogent. I haven’t seen anything like a response that I find in the least persuasive.

    However, if we are merely nurture and nature as you parse the issue, determinism follows and we cannot escape it. So I believe that to remain consistent you’ll have to see some other reality for human make-up.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  60. Hmm. I’ll definitely be looking at that as Heidegger’s fairly explicit about his critique of the free will problem. (And yes, I recall we didn’t agree.)

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 2:10 pm

  61. Clark: Why not simply acknowledge ignorance and that we don’t know everything rather than unnecessarily multiplying ontological entities?
    Well, because our knowledge of emergent entities doesn’t arise from ignorance. For one we are among the emergent ontological entities. We know that there is a unity to our experience that is not present in the mere data of experience, and that unity must be explained as something ad extra. If you are interested, I can post about two dozen articles that explain why there is an explanatory gap — and it isn’t merely filling in the gap but predicting the very break with lower levels of organization at issue based upon the properties of the lower levels in relation to the higher levels. For that matter, I could ask equally well of your refusal to posit other ontological entities, whey presume there are other minds at all?

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  62. Blake, I don’t think I asserted that we are merely nurture and nature, but I did assert that these are a major component of who we are and that they constrain our exercise of free will to a greater or lesser extent, depending on each individual’s circumstance. If we choose, we can expand the power of our free will to the point that we completely overcome nurture and nature and become like God. If we fail to so choose, nurture and nature instead take over and as I think you agree, we become the natural man/determined wad of flesh.

    I’m not sure that people choose the deterministic path so much as they fail to choose the other path. Rhetorically, one could say, as Lehi does, that you choose life or death; but I see the deterministic path as the default state. It’s the light of Christ, or the sliver of free will that I alluded to originally, that gives us the opportunity to develop free will, but it requires a conscious choice to actually develop it.

    Another way of putting it is that we can opt out of the deterministic state to the extent we choose to do so. I realize this sounds like I’m minimalizing responsibility, but I think we all recognize that there are some humans who lack responsibility anyway, and I think it’s a matter of degree for each individual, based largely on nurture and nature, how much responsibility there is. But I don’t see another way to explain Mosiah 3:19, which requires us to opt out of being a natural man. Can we say that the “natural man,” or the “determined wad of flesh,” has responsibility? To me, that is the crux of the discussion.

    I don’t think there is responsibility with respect to the many aspects of our being that are deterministic. I’m sure many of us have dealt with humans whose conduct seemed little more than deterministic. For example, the guy who tried to murder me years ago was acting, at least to some degree, in response to his psychosis, and although he did nearly kill me, it is difficult for me to see how he bears “full” responsibility, if any, for his actions. I’m sure many of us have observed similar conduct; if you haven’t, just go to the local homeless shelter or drug rehab center and see how much responsibility you can assign.

    So I think the reason we keep trying to sort out libertarian vs. compatibalist free will without reaching a conclusion is that there is an element of both in each of us, and that mortality is intended to push us toward one or the other. We gain more free will through the exercise of the sliver of free will we start out with, but some have bigger slivers than others (where much is given, much is expected, etc.).

    On the topic of foreknowledge, as I’ve described elsewhere I think physics as we understand it allows God to move back and forth in time, and I think the concept of prophecy requires that to be so; otherwise, the scriptures are at best misleading.

    The reason I don’t find your argument persuasive is that, so far as I’ve seen (or recall), the only way you can explain how God could specifically reveal details of future events, such as the crucifixion of Christ as revealed to Enoch, is by saying that the specific prophecies are modern expansions of the ancient texts and not actual translations. While I agree that your explanation is the only fit for your argument, I don’t believe the scriptures are that misleading. The only other alternative is to believe that God intervened to bring about the crucifixion, but that seems even less plausible.

    Although I believe the future already exists (although we can’t presently perceive it), just as the past still exists (although we can’t presently perceive it), it is not that way because of solely deterministic causation; it is, at least in part, the product of our free will, just as the past is.

    Comment by Jonathan N — March 24, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

  63. But Blake, the fact there is a divide doesn’t necessarily entail some new ontological category. I think Searle makes a compelling case for that. Clearly at a minimum there are alternatives and one can find them in many other philosophers. Yes, I can understand being troubled by physicalism. But to say that the only alternative is radical emergence just seems very problematic to me. I have no trouble seeing it as a possibility. But I just don’t see compelling arguments for it. (And I’ve probably read many of the articles you’d send me)

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

  64. Blake (Comment 16),

    I don’t see how your “free agent” position doesn’t reduce to randomness. If we investigate why I went to church, we can point to lots of factors (Hume’s “inner and outer circumstances”) that play a role, but if you hold all of those circumstances constant, and posit that I can choose despite every inner and outer circumstance, then we have, by definition, admitted that there is *no reason* for my choice. If we ask “but given his exact circumstances, WHY did he go to church?”, anything that we can point to is an inner or an outer cause. Take all the causes off the table, and the only reason (cause) for my going to church is blind chance.

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 24, 2006 @ 8:53 pm

  65. Matt, the reason it doesn’t reduce to randomness is because of that radical emergence that we disagree upon so strongly. Basically you can have a novel phenomena arise out of something that isn’t. So even though what you say about randomness is true, that emergence lets something non-random come out of randomness.

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2006 @ 9:20 pm

  66. Don’t worry Matt, I don’t get it either. I understand that due to Blake’s radical emergence, something gets “there” which didn’t come from the lesser parts. Fine, but where did it come from? If it came from any source other than you, then is certainly seems useless in this conversation. If it did come from you, then why did you give A rather than B to the system? Why did you give it at t1 rather than t2? In other words, what CAUSED you to give whatever the lesser parts cannot contribute to the system? Either there were causes, to which I will claim determinism, or there were not, at which point I will claim useless.

    I’m sure Blake doesn’t see it this way, and will insist that I’m missing something. He’s probably right and perhaps he could tell me what it is.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  67. I am in the agent causal LFW camp, and agree with what Blake and Geoff J have stated in most respects. Radical emergence doesn’t make sense to me, however, and I think there are other reasonable explanations for the quiddity of agent causation.

    For agent causation to make any sense at all it has to be distinguished from randomness. Moral responsibility makes even less sense in the context of random decisions than it does for determined decisions.

    Rather I suggest, that agents (or intelligences) are first class, singular, and irreducable ontological entities at their very core, entities that unavoidably share some but not all of the properties of ordinary material entities.

    The ontological properties that make such an agent unique have to include the ability to do the exact opposite of what a source of randomness would do – instead of injecting statistically predictable disorder into a system, an intelligent causal agent is characterized by (among other things) the discretionary ability to inject statistically unpredictable order into a system. Brownian motion does not an intelligent agent make. The potential to create something truly novel does. Not as a miracle, but rather as a consequence of properties regular and fundamental to their very nature.

    Of course potential is a hypothetical abstraction in the compatibilist world view. There is the concept, but certainly no such thing. Everything is actuality from beginning to end. No first causes, no creation nor creativity – its just the way it is and nothing will every change – the future is merely an alternative perspective of what has always been and always will be, of no independent worth whatsoever.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 25, 2006 @ 2:26 am

  68. s/every/ever/

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 25, 2006 @ 2:27 am

  69. Jonathan N (#62),

    Your first 5 paragraphs are similar to my post from last year called “The Natural Man = Causally Determined Man“. I am in agreement with you on that account and I know Blake has said he concurs too.

    Where we disagree is your idea that God can travel to and foreknow a real future. Blake has argued very persuasively that such knowledge requires that future to actually already exist in a fixed way (like the past). If so then you are stuck with the fatalism and predestination connected with the hypothetical free will of the compatibilists.

    I have concluded that Mormon compatibilists just don’t believe God could pull off his own work with an actually open and unknowable future. I believe he can. Further, I think Blake is right that anything short of libertarian free will hamstrings the entire restored gospel in that it makes freely chosen relationships between us and God predestined and thus not really free in the sense that we could choose otherwise.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 25, 2006 @ 9:56 am

  70. Jonathan #62: I think I agree with what you say regarding determinism just being the natural path and free agency or free will being the path of greater conscious choice. So we agree there. I am amazed that those who are committed to the past being their future don’t see that the past isn’t fate and they are always at choice to co-create reality with God.

    Of course you haven’t dealt with the argument I give re: incompatiblity and it seems to me that you must because you accept a non-deterministic sort of free will. (We’ve discussed it elsewhere and I still beleive that you really haven’t engaged it). So which premise(s) do you reject?

    Further, expansions of the text are one possibility among many others. I can see why you would be reluctant to just say that scripture isn’t true or doesn’t contain prophecies. I don’t say that. But I do see the prophecies related to Christ as being actualized by later understanding. I think you do too.

    But there are all kinds of additional possiblities, e.g., Christ wasn’t free; Christ was inspired to do what he did and the Father could trust that he would always be open to inspiration; God himself did it; the prophecies aren’t as exacting as you say and leave all kinds of room for LFW, Christ in fact did what was predicted but if he hadn’t God had a back-up plan B; the prophecies were merely conditional, etc. I’ve argued for all of these and they are all open and genuine possibilities for me (and maybe in combination they explain all prophetic references).

    Matt re: #64: Free acts aren’t random because they are choices by an agent for a reason — or for a lack of a good reason. Look, sometimes we do just choose without an over-riding reason; but it doesn’t follow that I don’t have a reason for what I do. When I choose chocolate or rocky road I have a reason. I like them both. I just choose. But when I choose, what I choose is under my control because the way that the data are organized into a unified whole and into decisions, choices and actions are up to me. So if I explain that you chose to go church rather than stay home, the ultimate explanation is in the fact that you chose it — but that isn’t random. The fact that you could have chosen otherwise doesn’t show that it is random; it shows that you had other values you could have chosen to value instead and acted on those. Randomness is something that happens without any reason and without your choosing it — and there is a reason and what happens is your choice given LFW on the agent causal account.

    The fallacy in your argument is that the fact that another choice could be made doesn’t entail that what was done was done for no reason. I can have reasons for doing something (like I like chocolate) even though I could have done something else (I could have chosen rocky road because I also like rocky road). I recommend two articles, one by Derk Pereboom found here: http://www.uvm.edu/~phildept/pereboom/AC10.pdf and another by Randolph Clarke found here http://www.phil.uga.edu/faculty/clarke/papq_234.pdf

    Jeff #66: It isn’t true that in emergence that what is there didn’t get there from the lower levels of organization. The lower levels of organization are a necessary condition for the higher levels (thus for example when we get hit on the head and the lower levels of brain and neural function get disrupted we may become unconscious). However, the lower levels are not sufficient to explain the higher level. Life is not just more carbon and oxygen and nitrogen. Consciousness is not just neural cells. Intelligence is not just having a neural structure but is enhanced by dendryte complexity. It is the fact that there is more than the mere sum of the parts, which you have agreed with (see #50), that constitutes emergence. Evolution is the best example of emergence in biological entities. What has emerged is greater novelty and mental capacity from more simple forms of life and structure. Look at Mark Bickhard’s “Emergence of Contentful Experience” available on-line at http://www.lehigh.edu/~mhb0/mhb0.html

    Mark #67: I don’t see how what you propose for intelligences is different from agent causal accounts of LFW. Maybe you could make the distinction more pellucid?

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2006 @ 10:17 am

  71. While I am about to read your link, Blake, I find your statement “the lower levels are not sufficient to explain the higher level” a little ambiguous. I did agree that emergent properties cannot be described by merely summing up the properties of the constituent parts, but in 50 I also said that the properties of the whole ARE fully determined by the properties of the parts. Thus, while I agree that many properties are emergent, I don’t think that I agree with you statement above.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 25, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  72. Blake, which paper from that link am I supposed to read? I don’t really have the patience to go through all of them, and most seem largly irrelevant.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 25, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  73. Jeff: Read Clarke’s paper.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  74. Whoops. Jeff, read this one: http://www.lehigh.edu/~mhb0/EmergMentalExp.pdf

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  75. Blake (#16), sorry to have fallen so far behind on this thread.

    Regarding the Arminian/Calvinist dichotomy and its connections to 2 Ne. 2, two points. First, I think Clark has a good point that adoption by Joseph Smith of the vocabulary of his day does not necessarily mean that he (much less Lehi) was aware of and intended to bring in thereby all the arguments and subtleties understood by theological/philosophical sophisticates (and to the extent he did, it marks the Book of Mormon as a 19th century document). But second and more importantly, Joseph’s later notion of uncreated individual intelligences breaks the Arminian/Calvinist dichotomy and has the potential to render their dispute moot.

    If something is the outcome of causes which occur long before we think about something

    An uncreated backwardly-eternal individual intelligence cannot be said to have “occurred” at any particular time.

    We become merely biological processors of prior causes that pass through us to cause results

    The error in this formulation is that you are divorcing the uncreated intelligence from the ‘self.’ Perhaps the brain does process what ‘bubbles up’ from the uncreated intelligence (along with external environmental inputs), but the input from the intelligence is still part of the ‘self’—and that input could be deterministic.

    However, agent causal libertarian free will is not randomness. If it is asked why I did something freely, the answer is because I chose it.

    I don’t think “because I chose it” advances the argument, because one can then ask “What if anything caused you choose that and not something else?”

    My recollection of skimming links you provided in past discussions on my blog was that serious philosophers were working on the problem of whether libertarian free will can avoid randomness but that it is still considered an unsolved problem. My guess (which of course isn’t worth much) is that this is a philosophical program which is unlikely to succeed.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 25, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

  76. “sometimes we do just choose without an over-riding reason; but it doesn’t follow that I don’t have a reason for what I do.”

    Blake, I understand that there are reasons for what we do, even though they may not be over-riding reasons, but all of the possible factors influencing your decision for chocolate over rocky road are part of the “outer and inner circumstances” that fully explain your choice. If you can point to a reason for your decision, it’s part of the outer and inner circumstances; if you can’t point to a reason, it’s random chance.

    (Let me add that I don’t see how evolutionary theory supports your position, either, given that evolutionary theory posits that all novel phenomena are the result of random and direction-less mutations. I agree that random processes can produce novel phenomena.)

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 25, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

  77. Okay, Christian’s response (which I hadn’t seen when I wrote my response) answers my question. I haven’t read the philosophy, I’ve only come to this dilemma through my own thinking, and I take comfort knowing that philosophers consider it an unsolved problem. I agree with Christian that they are unlikely to solve it.

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 25, 2006 @ 1:02 pm

  78. Blake (#21), I don’t agree that notions of ‘acting’ and ‘being acted upon’ necessarily entail an open future and libertarian free will. An uncreated eternal intelligence could be the portion or aspect of an individual that induces her to ‘act’ autonomously—the “active cause and not merely passive results” in your phrase—and yet that intelligence’s action could be deterministic.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 25, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  79. Christian: Both Geoff and I have been asking you to unpack the various statements you make about intelligences. Virtually every one of them seems to me to require agent causation and libertarian free will. However, what you say is so vague that it is impossible to really tell what you mean. E.g.,An uncreated eternal intelligence could be the portion or aspect of an individual that induces her to ‘act’ autonomously. What does this mean? What is “an aspect of an individual that induces act”?

    You say that such an “active cause” or “autonomous act” could be causally determined. I just don’t know what you mean since it seems internally incoherent to make such claims. How could it be autonomous (act on its own) and yet be caused (acting based on something outside itself, i.e., causes)? To be autonomous means to act based on one’s own determination; causal determination requirfes acts based in heteronomy not autonomy. However, if the explanation for an act remains truly internal to the intelligence’s own acts (as you have insisted in past posts), then we have a form of agent causation. Which is it?

    Now the fact that an eternal intelligence acts based on causes internal to it doesn’t mean it acts for reasons for which it is responsible. If I act the way I do because of reasons I considered in 1979 go to a play and these reasons now causally determine me to kill you, how could I be responsible?

    Further, I want to know what you mean by “deterministic” since you know based on our prior conversations that is vague. Do you mean that there is some law and prior circumstances that entail but one act? Such a view collapses because we cannot specify any such laws and the entire notion is illusory. Do you mean that the prior states somehow sufficiently explain our acts? If so, then the endless string of modifiers as to what the prior sufficient causes are will make such a notion vacuous. So once again, what do you mean?

    Finally, your alternative explanation for the text makes no connection with the cultural and hermeneutic horizon of the text at all. Would you interpret a Hebrew text in light of quantum physics? Of course not, because such notions are not within the horizon of the text. Your interpretation is not plausible in light of this mis-match of horizons.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

  80. Blake said” If something is the outcome of causes which occur long before we think about something then they do not occur for the reasons we think. Christian responded: An uncreated backwardly-eternal individual intelligence cannot be said to have “occurred” at any particular time
    Blake resonds to Christian: You’re missing the point. Your response is just not responsive to what I said (despite Matt’s quip that it somehow answers the issue). While an eternal intelligence may not have a beginning in time, the thoughts of an intelligence do, and it was thoughts and reasons for which an act is done that I was talking about and these clearly do occur at specific times. You have missed a very important point. If causal determinism is true, then every thought we have is caused in us by causes before we had the thought or reason occur to us; and therefore our actions do not occur because of our thoughts or reasons but because of the prior causes that explain them because these thoughts and reasons themselves are explained by prior, non-rational factors. So if determinism is true, what we do is never for the rational reasons we think but because of a-rational causes. We never act rationally or responsibly if determinism is true. Christian’s restatement of the issue in terms of an intelligence’s eternal existence thus obscures and misses the point at issue.

    I stated that if determinism is true we are merely biological processors. Christian responds: The error in this formulation is that you are divorcing the uncreated intelligence from the ‘self.’ Perhaps the brain does process what ‘bubbles up’ from the uncreated intelligence (along with external environmental inputs), but the input from the intelligence is still part of the ‘self’–and that input could be deterministic. But is this really a response? I think he means that since intelligences aren’t biological (not living mortal organisms) what I asserted isn’t true. But that is once again to just miss the issue altogether. For it still follows that what we do is merely processing prior causes that act through us and not for reasons we think or for which we are responsible — unless we add that the reason that referring to the eternal intelligence is relevant is that the explanation of our actions is ultimately explained in terms of the agent causal actions of the intelligence.

    Matt said: but all of the possible factors influencing your decision for chocolate over rocky road are part of the “outer and inner circumstances” that fully explain your choice. Matt, to influence a decision is not to fully explain a decision — what must be added to the explanation is the fact that it was a free decision. A free decision is one that was not inevitable given the prior history of the world. Further, what justifies your assumption that prior factors fully explain the decision? It is a bare assumption based on assertion and nothing more — and it vastly begs the question in this discussion. You cannot simply assume determinism and then argue that determinism must be true because our acts are fully explained by prior conditions. Such reasoning is clearly circular.

    The same goes for Christian’s reasoning when he asserts: “I don’t think “because I chose it” advances the argument, because one can then ask “What if anything caused you choose that and not something else?”. Look, what you are saying is that the reason that bare indeterminism is not acceptable as a view is that if something occurs over which I don’t exercise control, then I am not responsible for it. It is a sufficient response to show that LFW doesn’t entail bare indeterminism because if agent causal libertarianism is true, then the act is under my control because it results from my choices. The uttlimate explanation for the act resides with my rational faculty and act of will. Let me add that we can be responsible for acts that aren’t rational or reasonable. If I run you over with my car because I wasn’t paying attention, I can be responsible for that act precisely because I had an alternative; I could have been sufficiently aware to avoid the action. Because ought implies can (and thus libertarian free will), I could have been aware where I ought to have aware.

    Further, both Matt and Christian just ignore the answers to their randomness rant. Something is random if it occurs for no reasons and is not the result of my choices. But acts of LFW occur for reasons (or where we ought to have reasons) and because we choose them. So they aren’t random. If you think you have a counterexample, I would like to see it.

    Finally, all of you determinists in this discussion have failed to answer or even respond to the argument that if my actions occur because of causes outside my control, or for reasons that are caused by causes irrelevant to the decision, then I cannot be morally responsible. It is time to fess up.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2006 @ 5:28 pm

  81. I wanted to add something important to what I said above. Christian asserted: “I don’t think “because I chose it” advances the argument, because one can then ask “What if anything caused you choose that and not something else?”. This misses the point also because when we are talking about agent caused choices, it isn’t possible to ask what caused such a choice. Agent causal determinism just is the view that agent causation is a discrete type of causation from event causation which is not explained by event causation. Since agent caused choices are not caused by prior events (that is the entire point of agent causation) it doesn’t make sense to ask the question: “what caused the agent to choose?” The answer is, “the agent did,” and the inquiry must stop there. Chrsitian’s response shows pretty clearly that he doesn’t grasp what agent caustion is about — or he just thinks all causation must be event causation. So if Matt thinks this answers the issue, he also hasn’t grasped what agent causation is about. That’s why I’m writing about it — it is a fairly novel and unique concept.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

  82. Blake,

    I have given a version of responsibility, it’s just that you don’t like it. Admittedly the answer needs to be spelled out a lot more before I can run around preaching it to other people, but it is an answer nonetheless.

    As to Christian’s form of determinism, I always assumed that his appeal to the uncreated intelligence was pretty much the same as mine, only with different aspects being highlighted than I did. But then again, I didn’t follow the discussions over at Christian’s blog all that much either so I could be totally wrong here.

    So I guess I’m asking if Christian pretty much agrees with the version of agency which I have always defended against Blake and Geoff, or is yours different? I know that Blake thought that I might be talking about agent LFW for a while, but I don’t think that he attributes that to me any more. I’m curious as to why he still attributes such to Christian.

    I guess I have fallen victim to the crime which I accused Blake of committing in that I correct and argue against Blake and Geoff while letting those “on my side” say whatever they want. ;-p

    Comment by Jeff G — March 25, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

  83. Jeff: As I’ve said for awhile, I believe that when all is said and done we all believe that the locus of choice is resolved in the inherent and buck-stopping powers of choice of the eternal intelligence. To that extent it seems we have an agent causal power inherent in the notion of an intelligence. What I don’t like is that you and Christian believe, if I have properly grasped what you are saying, that the past of the intelligence doesn’t allow for any novelty or anything new, it just follows from what was given forever eternally before. I think that Geoff and Jonathan and I see that is inauthentic existence that is like the unrepentant natural man forever stuck in its past and forever unable to transcend its sinful nature.

    Why insist on such determinism if you grant the buck-stopping agent causal powers of the intelligence?

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2006 @ 12:13 am

  84. Jeff & Christian & Matt: I wanted to make this a seperate post because it will expose a major problem in the deterministic view of LDS thought. As I read 2 Ne. 2 (and the rest of the BofM), the atonement makes us free to choose which nature will be ours — a good nature or an evil nature. If we were evil, we would choose only evil. But the atonement makes us free to choose for ourselves whether we do good or evil. The alternatives in choices are essential and in fact God gave Adam agency in precisely giving a choice between good and evil or life and death.

    On the deterministic view that ya’ll espouse, as I understand it, the atonement causally changes our nature. Whereas I have an evil nature as the natural man, the atonement constitutes the causal input that changes me or causes me to “choose” to accept Christ.

    Now for the problem. If Christ does not act on me with sufficient causal inputs to change, then I will not change. Remember that my nature is evil as a result of the causal past up to the point the atonement is applied, so I will reject whatever Christ offers unless he overcomes my evil nature through some sufficient causal input (which sounds like “force” to me since it must act contrary to my nature and what I would choose for myself given my nature).

    So those who accept Christ do so only because Christ acts on them with sufficient causal input to change them. Those who don’t accept Christ do so because the causal action of Christ wasn’t sufficient to overcome the nature that they had formed through both the input of their prior “decisions” and whatever causal inputs came from the environment. Either way, we end up with Calvinistic predestination because salvation depends on the sufficiency of the causal input from Christ and not based on the causal powers of the agent to choose. Whatever that view is, it isn’t the view of the BofM or other LDS scripture — and it is contrary to the robust sense of free will in salvation and rejection of predestination throughout LDS scripture and thought.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2006 @ 9:16 am

  85. “Finally, all of you determinists in this discussion have failed to answer or even respond to the argument that if my actions occur because of causes outside my control, or for reasons that are caused by causes irrelevant to the decision, then I cannot be morally responsible.”

    I can’t speak for the people who have studied this issue, but here’s the Mormon lay-person’s determinism (e.g., mine): We are uncreated intelligences and will progress or stagnate depending on who we are. Who we are is the crucial element in all moral decisions.

    “The answer is, “the agent did,” and the inquiry must stop there . . . So if Matt thinks this answers the issue, he also hasn’t grasped what agent causation is about.”

    I understand this point, Blake, and it’s why I said earlier there must be “no reason” for my attending church under this theory. After accounting for “causes”, I just do attend church, and the inquiry stops there. There’s *no reason* for my decision to attend. If there’s no reason for my decision, it seems that my decision must stem from something inside me (which can’t be, given that my intelligence is an inner cause), or random chance.

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 26, 2006 @ 9:52 am

  86. Matt: Your response is frustrating because it is internally incoherent and ignores what we have previously discussed. It doesn’t follow that if I excercise an agent causal power that I don’t act for reasons. Look, the agent causal view has been discussed at length in professional journals and everyone agrees and can see how agent causality does not entail that we don’t act for reasons. It is just that having a reason isn’t having an efficient cause or “event cause” that causes the agent causal act. You may have reasons for going to church, reasons for staying home, reasons for going to ride motorbikes etc. You choose which values will be promoted and which reasons you will act upon and which you will consider. Reasons don’t efficiently cause single outcomes; they give reasons weighing in favor of one option or another. The agent chooses which reasons it will value most. How is that acting for no reason?

    Further, when you say that the decision “must stem from something inside me” I agree;, it is your choice and faculty of will inherent in an intelligence that is the ultimate explanation for any choice you make. However, you then say, “which can’t be given my intelligence is an inner cause.” I am just at a lost to figure out how you arrive at such a conclusion. It is one massive non-sequitur. If the intelligence is the inner cause, then it means that you refer to a basic causal power of an intelligence as the ultimate basis for your decision that is internal, inherent in, or just constitutive of you. So not only can agent causality be; it is entailed in the very view you adopt! It seems to me that you both accept that the intellignece is the “inner cause” and also reject that view. That is why your view is incoherent.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2006 @ 10:35 am

  87. “The agent chooses which reasons it will value most.”

    Blake, my point has been that under your theory there is *no reason* for an agent choosing which reasons it values most. Otherwise those reasons are part of the inner and outer causes that explain choices.

    Regarding your second paragraph, if you agree that *intelligence*/*faculty of will* is a cause, I don’t see why you dispute choices being the result of outer and inner causes. If God knows my intelligence and will, he can predict my choices.

    Comment by Matt Evans — March 26, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

  88. Geoff (#24): This sounds just like agent causal libertarian free will to me. … If it is not that, can you explain how your position differs from agent causal libertarianism?

    Blake (#26): What does it mean to be “internal to us”? … If you mean that it arises from our own powers of causation and reasoning, then how does it differ from agent causal accounts of libertarianism?

    As you can see I’m still quite a ways back in the discussion.

    As I have described at least in part here and here, I think of the mind as something like an expert chess computer program but with some crucial differences. Like the chess program, the mind formulates possible future scenarios and selects from among them according to its own definite internal rules. Unlike the chess program, the mind (1) was not initially programmed by anyone, (2) can model its own operations and those of other minds (it is ‘conscious’), and (3) is adaptive (its internal rules can change in response to how its previous choices ‘played out’, with varying degrees of rapidity and varying ultimate limits on plasticity).

    The difference with agent causal accounts is that I think the development of individual intelligences could unfold in this way according to definite rules, with fated/predestined outcomes. Freedom consists not in an open future, but in the fact that an individual mind’s initial ‘program’ and limits of plasticity were not created or set by any other being, and that its ‘selection program’ is allowed to execute without outside interference.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 26, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  89. Christian: Would you hold a computer program morally accountable? If not, why would you hold a person accountable? If you hold persons accountable, how do they differ from software running on hardware in your view? So do you maintain that computers are conscious (since they can fulfill the requirements of consciousness that you set out above)? So do you maintain that computers can repent? That they can trust others? That they can love? As far as I can see, there is no difference between softward running on hardware and persons on your view. As such, it is a deficient account of personhood and what it is to be an accountable agent.

    Matt: Of course there are reasons for choosing values. There are reasons for choosing values like values that lead me to be the kind of person I want to be or I believe that choosing certain values will make me happier than other values. The ultimate choice is choosing what I care about and the kind of person I shall be. Further, you continue to assume determinism and beg the question by saying: “otherwise it is part of the inner and outer causes that explain choices”. What do you mean by “inner” choices. Focus on that and say what it is. I suspect it will end up looking a lot like agent causal accounts of action.

    Further, it does not follow that given all of the “inner and outer causes” God can predict what I will do unless these causes entail determinism. But once again that just assumes determinism without any reason for doing so. If the “inner cause” is an agent who can choose to go church or stay home, even given all of the “outer causes,” then God cannot make any such prediction. You can’t just assume determinism and then pronounce that it entails that God can make predictions — even Christian and Jeff reject that entailment tho they accept determinism. So it is a double non-sequitur.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

  90. Christian: What you have layed out is not consistent with determinism. Consider your first distinction between intelligences and computer programs. (1) was not initially programmed by anyone. At some time the program must be programmed or it isn’t like a program in any respect and the analogy fails. So how and when does the programming occur? If the intelligence programs itself, as I believe that you are constrained to say, you have agent causal, libertarian character like Kane has argued for. If the intelligence doesn’t program itself, it never becomes programmed and your analogy fails altogether.

    (3) is adaptive (its internal rules can change in response to how its previous choices ‘played out’, with varying degrees of rapidity and varying ultimate limits on plasticity If the rules of the program can be changed by the program itself, then the program cannot be deterministic because which rules the program will “choose” as outcome cannot be determined by the prior rules — so the “rules” governing how it chooses which rules it will adopt must be non-deterministic. So there cannot be definite rules based on fated/predestined outcomes as you assert because the rules themselves cannot be based on such fated or predetermined outcomes.

    Further, in what do the “previous choices” consist and how are such choices made? If the outcome just follows a rule, then it is an abuse to call it a choice; however, if the choice allows options at any juncture and which option is not pre-determined, then we can speak of choices in a univocal sense that are not pre-mapped by any rules. So to the extent you analogy differs from an actual computer program, it is not deterministic — and as you know there are non-deterministic algorithms based on probability or quantum logic.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  91. I’m hoping some one can explain to me how omniscience entails the lack of choice on our part. As I’ve stated on other posts everyone I’ve ever discussed this with states their assertion; something along the lines of “Set future = no free will.” Use of the word “predeterminism” is often relied on even though there is never any explaination or even discussion of specifically how knowlege of an even entails or equates with determinism.

    If I know for certain that Jesus will be born of the Virgin Mary in 600 years, give or take, and God shows me this occurance in a vision. How in any way I’m I causing or removing choices from Mary? Imagine for a moment that my name is Nephi and that I see Mary give birth to the Savior and lay him in a manger or wrap him in particular clothing. In what way did I just determine how Mary would act? Where did I force her to act? How did my vision remove from her the ability to wrap the savior any other way? I’m not saying she could have wraped him another way, but my foreknowlege of her CHOICE when to put Him down or what to dress Him in did not have an affect or effect any changes to Mary’s actions.

    As I’ve compared in other posts, the past and future are set, but we are free to act in the present and only the present. For example you cannot control where you are at this moment (unless you can teleport) but that doesn’t mean you didn’t choose to be where you are.

    God has perfect knowlege of the past without having any effect on your agency, why does His perfect knowlege of the set future have an effect on what you choose? You are making a decision to wear a shirt and you decide that since you like purple you will wear the purple shirt. How does God’s foreknowlege affect your decision making process? How does it affect your personal tastes?

    Comment by Heli — March 26, 2006 @ 10:40 pm

  92. Oh and as for Lehi, my anagramonistic predecessor, he never said that freedom to act entailed that God didn’t know what choice we would make. Your decision to call a foreknown decision only hypothetically free is not predicated on fact but on an association that you cannot escape.

    When you make a decision you weigh factors and depending on how much time you have and the other factors involved you pick one of any number of options. You argue that since God knows which option you will eventually pick you can only hypothetically pick the other options without any logic to support such a claim.

    I’ll use a simple example. You’re deciding what to eat for breakfast and since you love eggs and bacon and purchased eggs and bacon the day prior you cook and eat eggs and bacon. Before you ate the eggs and bacon you could have “hypothecially” eaten cold cereal, pop-tarts, or 1000 other foods, but you chose to eat eggs and bacon. It was your choice made based on your internal causes (your love of the taste of eggs and bacon above any other breakfast food) and the external cause (you remembered yesterday to buy some eggs and bacon before you came home) its availability. If you look at the choice after it was made you can see that the choice is set, you can’t go back in time and change it. How in any way does the fact that you can’t change the choice you made in that instant moment entail a lack of free will? Are you arguing that the choice is now only hypothetically free because you can’t change it?

    Every decision you ever made can only be changed in the instant you made the choice, knowlege of the final decision does not make the freedom hypothetical.

    I’ve always thought Lehi was saying we act like any live being and a rock is acted upon. Inanimate objects are acted upon, but if you take a hawk and throw it in the air you can’t determine exactly how high, what path, or how fast it will fly with much accuracy no matter the extent of its training. Yes, we act, we make decisions, somehow we are free to make decisions even with the electro-chemical orgainic quantum computer that is our brain. We have agency and even if God knows what decision we will make we are still responsible.

    Often I can predict the actions of my children and I still fail to see how those occasions when I accurately predict the actions of my child remove the childs decision making power or their responsibility.

    Comment by Heli — March 26, 2006 @ 11:18 pm

  93. Looks like I missed some good stuff…

    Blake – Despite Jeff’s fears that I am teaming up with you just because we’re on the same “side”, I have closely read all of you comments since my last comment and will simply add a hearty “Amen” to them. I am in lock step with you on this subject.

    Matt – I’m thinking that you and Blake are talking past each other in recent comments. My guess is that the misunderstanding is about your term “inner causes”. If you believe that some of our reasons for choosing things come from something inside us and are not entirely caused by previous experiences and external factors then I would say you do indeed believe in LFW — probably the agent causal LFW that Blake and I go for. It is important to realize that if one believes we can make any choices as agents that are not caused by external factors then LFW wins out. No one here doubts there is such a thing as causal determinism in the universe — but some do doubt that there is such a thing as “real” free will.

    Christian – Thank you for attempting to answer our question about your position. I actually think it still sounds suspiciously like agent causal libertarianism. I will look forward to your further explaining why it is something different as you answer Blake’s points in #90.

    Jeff – I’m guessing that you are slightly more committed causal determinist than Christian is. I know that both of you hope to appeal to the beginningless nature of spirits to make us simply cogs in the machine you call the great causal chain, so perhaps you could take a crack at Blake’s #90 questions too. BTW – I’m sure you are not surprised to learn that I also find the compatibilist version of responsibility an example of predestination and thus no responsibility at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2006 @ 12:32 am

  94. Heli: Use of the word “predeterminism” is often relied on even though there is never any explaination or even discussion of specifically how knowlege of an even entails or equates with determinism.

    Actually, there have been massive discussions on the subject. I invite you to read the entire series I have put up and then come back and let us know what nuances have been missed.

    How in any way I’m I causing or removing choices from Mary?

    If Mary or anyone is predestined then she could not choose otherwise. Pretty simple stuff and fine if you are a Calvinist — not so good if you are a Mormon.

    God has perfect knowlege of the past without having any effect on your agency, why does His perfect knowlege of the set future have an effect on what you choose?

    Spoken like a true compatibilist. Of course that means you are currently predestined and fated there is nothing you or God can do to change your predestined future…

    Your breakfast example is simply showing LFW at work. Now if you were predestined to eat that breakfast we’d have a problem. Therein lies the inconsistency with your position (again we have discussed this ad naseum around here)

    Often I can predict the actions of my children

    Yup — and if you can predict the open future pretty well think of how good God is at it. That is what I have been saying all along. Why accept the predestination that accompanies the compatibilist position when we can have real free will instead? Is it too hard to have faith in God to be able to accomplish his purposes even with the future being open?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2006 @ 12:49 am

  95. But Geoff, I’m talking about a specific incident where I successfully predict my childs behavior (I don’t believe in prediction, I believe God knows the “choices” we will make). But for purposes of exploring the concept, if I successfully predict behavior, how does that remove agency? There is no coercion on the child I simply knew what they would do. You say the child could only hypothetically make decisions if I truely know what they will do but no one every says why, I will try and get to your link and hopefully there is an explaination beyond: I assert D and if A = B, B = C, therefore D.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 5:38 am

  96. Oh and omniscience is only faith crippling if you believe it removes free will. Certainly some people will argue that God knew what they were going to do at the judgment, but God will reply you did it. Just because I knew what you were going to do doesn’t remove one iota of your ability to chose what you eventually did. You were free to be kind and loving or to be cruel and bitter (although it appears there are genetic predispositions form some personality triats, a predisposition doesn’t control you–many alcoholics are predisposed to be addicted if they drink, so if they can learn not to take the first drink they overcome that inborn weakness).

    You can’t argue God knew it so I had to do it. That won’t make any sense because God only knew what you yourself chose in any decision making process.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 5:43 am

  97. Jeff & Christian: I would also be interested in your respones to #84 and #90. I am also interested in Christian’s response to Jeff’s question in #82. Does Christian buy into the type of social contract thoery to grounds moral praise and blame in the attitudes of those who make “moral” assessments rather than in the agents who are being assessed?

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2006 @ 7:54 am

  98. if I successfully predict behavior, how does that remove agency?

    It doesn’t — that is why it is the best solution.

    You can’t argue God knew it so I had to do it.

    See here.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2006 @ 8:52 am

  99. As to 84,

    Blake, I think your version of atonement is queer to say the least.

    For starters, I don’t think that Mormon’s should cling too tenaciously to BoM doctrines which later became superceded by JS’s later revelations which were in direct conflict to many BoM doctrines. Nauvoo Mormonism is far more exciting to me than is BoM Mormonism.

    I read 2 Ne 2 as saying that thanks to the atonement salvation is actually an option, whereas otherwise it would simply be an impossibility. The atonement didn’t make us free as in giving us more free will, but rather gave us an actual option to be saved. This ‘option’ created a choice for us to make in that we could accept or reject the atonement and be saved or not, respectively. If the atonement had not happened, this choice would not have presented itself, and there would be no freedom in the matter of any kind.

    I think that the doctrine of the natural man is highly problematic and wasn’t (wonderfully) superceded by the doctrine of our potentially divine nature. While this change still left in place the necessity of the atonement, I think that it does draw a distinction between man’s nature and what has been called the “natural man.” I do not accept for a second that man is by nature evil, though he is without the atonement futile.

    I do not accept that man cannot be “good” without Christ’s grace. This is far too strong a claim which seems to take far too much responsiblity away from the man. However, I do think that if a man asks for or simply is willing to accept Christ’s grace (meaning help) then Christ can and will offer it.

    I think with these differences in context, your final point doesn’t really hold, especially if one allows to God’s selection in which intelligences would be embodied as well as allowing for MMPs.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 27, 2006 @ 11:18 am

  100. I should also add that part of Christ’s grace is also his performing the atonement which allows us the possibility of salvation.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 27, 2006 @ 11:19 am

  101. Wow, a ton of posts over the weekend. Too many to comment on. I make no claims of having read the nearly 50 posts since I last read. A few comments though.

    Jeff (#82). Could you expand upon what you see is a valid concept of responsibility? Perhaps on your own blog in an expanded post? I’m curious. I’m open to revisionist notions of responsibiltiy. But I think the Libertarians basically are right in that the current linguistic sense of responsibility is incompatible with determinism or foreknowledge. Yet beyond pointing out the task of revisionism, none of the revisionists (esp. Dennett) have really provided a workable revision. At least not that I’ve seen.

    Regarding Christian’s appeal to uncreated intelligences, the main difference between that and Blake’s position is that Christian would say that for any time t there is some unchangeable essence that determines responses to any environment. For any time t, this essence is already in place. Blake’s position is similar, but entails that at any time t there is a new uncreated essence. (In effect) So they are different mainly due to the way time is treated. But this place of time is very important to Blake’s concept of freedom and responsibility. Were it not for this issue of time, I think the difference would not be a significant one.

    Heli (#91), basically foreknowledge entails a lack of choice with regards to certain definitions of what it means to make a free choice. Clearly it doesn’t to all definitions of what it means to make a choice. Thus the appeal to responsibility. Responsibility is assignable to some kinds of choices but not others.

    The ultimate reason for the incompatibility of foreknowledge and Libertarian choice is because to know X entails that X is true and thus fixed. But if it is fixed then at any time between when X is known and when X happens there is nothing that will change X. To the Libertarian that ability to change ones choice is an essential component of free will.

    Geoff (#98) The problem with prediction is that if choices are free in the Libertarian sense then they can’t be perfectly predictable. Any such prediction is, to a certain extent, mere coincidence.

    Comment by Clark — March 27, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  102. Dinasaur Comics. I immediately thought of Blake and this thread…

    Comment by Clark — March 27, 2006 @ 5:54 pm

  103. lol That was about the lamest comic I think that I’ve ever read. ;-)

    Comment by Jeff G — March 27, 2006 @ 6:41 pm

  104. Ouch! Hey, I resemble that raptor and the T-Rex is a physicalist slug. So Clark, how come the raptor reminds you of me and the T-Rex doesn’t remind you of the various physicalists round about? I suppose that as long as we’re both extinct it doesn’t much matter. I just like the notion that I have a brain just a little larger than a nut and my interlocutors have brains just a little smaller!

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

  105. LOL. T-Rex could be Godzilla better than a Raptor. And Godzilla has God in it. So the T-Rex must be right. (grin)

    Comment by clark — March 27, 2006 @ 10:19 pm

  106. Of course I should add that I don’t accept type-identity theories – especially not with respect to the brain since I think the spirit has a significant function.

    Comment by clark — March 27, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

  107. Jeff: You assert that my view of atonement is to you, “queer”. What I have laid out is the view of the BofM that you appear to now reject. I suspected that for some time that you would have to reject signigicant aspects of LDS doctrine to accept your view of determinism and Dennett’s arguments. However, your view is not only contra-scriptural, it is simply unworkable. Let me explain.

    You have missed the point of my argument. My argument was that determinism entails that we are stuck in the past unless some new causal input is added to our experience. In the past, you have identified that input as the atonement. So the problem I laid out is not my view of atonement, but a problem I believe is entailed by your determinism — and as such, you have failed to respond.

    Let me make it clearer so that you cannot avoid it. You assert: “However, I do think that if a man asks for or simply is willing to accept Christ’s grace (meaning help) then Christ can and will offer it.” If determinism is true, then our “willingness” to accept grace must be caused in us by something. If it is natural event causes that causes our willingness to accept grace, then salvation is merely random. If it is the atonement or God’s decision to extend grace that causes this willingness to accept grace (as you have suggested), then predestination follows — because whether the causes are sufficient to get us to accept grace is a matter of the causal input provided by God.

    There is a way out of this conundrum. If it is our own will that causes us to accept grace (as agent causation asserts), then you must abandon determinism. In any event, you still haven’t answered this objection.

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  108. Clark: re #101: Your reading of Christian as adopting a view of essences and that all of our acts flow from our essences was interesting to me. In this case, the essence would be an essence of identity because we are speaking of an “intelligence” which is most basically what we are — it is what medievals called a “haeccesity”. It will be interesting to see his response to see if that is how he now understands himself. But I doubt that is his view — and I doubt that it is a plausible view. If all of our acts are essential to us or flow deterministically from our essence, then isn’t the notion of an “essence” stretched beyond any reasonable view of identity? For example, if I go to the store because it is essential that I go, then if I fail to go to the store I am no longer me because something essential to me would be missing. Must I really have gone to the store yesterday to be me? That just seems radically implausible as a view of essences to me. It will be interesting to see what Christian has to say about it.

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 9:01 am

  109. Blake,

    I don’t think that such a doctrine should be called predestination, only determinism. Predeterminism, as I understand it from scripture, is when God predetermins who will receive His irresistible grace and who will not from all eternity. In my model this is simply not the case, though I do confess that in some utterly metaphysic and completely trivial way those who will receive the grace of God were always going to. But without any more information than this, isn’t this statement a tautology of sorts which really shouldn’t concern us? I know that you don’t like this view but I do think that you must understand it by now.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 28, 2006 @ 11:27 am

  110. Blake: If all of our acts are essential to us or flow deterministically from our essence, then isn’t the notion of an “essence” stretched beyond any reasonable view of identity?

    I think the essence (although haeccesity is better and accords with what I take to be the Leibniz parallel) doesn’t determine all the acts. Rather the essence plus the environment does. The obvious analogy is a computer program and its input and output. What I think Christian is arguing for (and what I’ve found many Mormons argue for) is the idea that this essence or computer program is uncreated. It always already is.

    Certainly there are some problems with this view. But is seems a fairly common way of understanding the tripartite view of man in Mormonism.

    Comment by Clark — March 28, 2006 @ 11:42 am

  111. Fabulous cartoon (#102). The T-Rex fits me to a T (!), from physicalist assumptions to ignorance of philosophical jargon.

    Blake and Clark: While I have promised to get into this more later in two posts in coming days, #108 and #110 do come pretty close to what I’m getting at. (And see here for a preview of some of what I intend to say.) I quibble with “all of our acts flow from our essences [intelligences]” (emphasis added). I don’t think going to the store or not yesterday is part of one’s “essence,” but still there may be broader “essential” and uncreated features with varying inherent limits in different individuals (e.g. susceptibility to repentance and the atonement) that make particular eternal outcomes inevitable. Now whether meaningful distinctions can be made between consequential and inconsequential acts and attributes, and whether what I call “meta-determinism” in one of the comments linked above can obtain without strict event causal determinism, are issues I guess I still have to face more carefully.

    Like Clark says, I thought this was a reasonably standard Mormon view, so I have been surprised by Geoff and Blake’s vehemence against it.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 28, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

  112. Jeff: You’re right. Not even God ultimately chooses who is saved and who is not on your view as I understand it because God too us subject to the all-determining chain of event. However, one thing seems clear. It is not up to us whether the causes that act on us are sufficient to result in our salvation. So not only is our salvation a crap-shoot, but God doesn’t ultimately choose either. That doesn’t make it any better — in fact, it makes matters infinitely worse as I see it.

    Have I understood you?

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

  113. Christian and Clark: If the intelligence plus the environment “determine” what occurs, what is the role of the “intelligence” in the equation? It still leaves open that the intelligence just agent causes outcomes, or that the intelligence organizes the prior data creatively to bring about novel outcomes (which is required if the intelligence can re-program itself or change its software rules). One thing is sure, if the prior states of the intelligence plus the environment entail but one possible outcome, then there was never a time when the intelligence was not simply determined by prior states and so it amounts really to saying the environment just determines what happens and the intelligence has no real input.

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  114. Intelligence in this scheme is just the ultimate agent. The ultimate cause that can be considered the identity of the person. Note that I don’t follow this view, for somewhat complex reasons relating to whether rules can “define” a person.

    I don’t think one can say that the intelligence was determined by prior states. Since in this view the intelligence is unchangeable. Rather its manifestations as a spirit are determined by the environment. But the intelligence is typically seen as static.

    In this scheme (and, as I said a fairly common one in my experience) God is doing the best he can with these intelligences but he doesn’t have the power to make them something they are not. He can at best make them the best they can be. In this scheme responsibility is thus reframed in a revisionist account as simply what something is in itself. That is person A is responsible to the degree that the acts can be assigned to the intelligence and not to stuff outside the intelligence. And God’s attempt at salvation can be seen as maximizing the freedom (conceived externally) of these intelligences.

    Once again, not something Blake (or even myself) will agree with. But a very common, and perhaps on the face plausible, explanation.

    Comment by Clark — March 28, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

  115. Just to add, while I may be wrong since I’m not that familiar with Dennett’s arguments, I suspect this is actually fairly similar to what he espouses. Albeit with a theistic and eternalist twist. As such I suspect it is close to Jeffrey’s position. Given the place of this view in a certain strain of folk tradition within Mormonism, this may be why Jeff sees your position as “queer.” You do tend to take a position Blake, that I think many Mormons would initially see as more Protestant than Mormon. (Yes, I recognize you have good scriptural support within Mormon scripture – I’m speaking more of folk traditions rather than formal doctrine)

    Comment by Clark — March 28, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

  116. Blake,

    While I think that you understand basically what my position is, you should also know by now that I see causally determined choices as still being choices. People, while being composed of “billiard balls” are not themselves billiard balls. “They” do things and some of these things are making decisions. So while I will agree that things are indeed “crap shots” from the physical stance, neither God nor us views people from such a stance. We see things from the intentional stance at only at this level does anything even resembling morality, responsibility or free will even appear to exist.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 28, 2006 @ 1:26 pm

  117. Blake (#113): so it amounts really to saying the environment just determines what happens and the intelligence has no real input

    I don’t think this formulation makes sense, because one could say the same about any and all things that compose the environment—at which point the environment would have “no real input,” a direct contradiction of “the environment just determines what happens.” The right way to think about it is that each element has its place and does its thing.

    Also to note for future reference (though I am not going to engage the question now), I am not persuaded that “organizes the prior data creatively to bring about novel outcomes” requires agent causation or an absence of determinism.

    Clark describes my position pretty accurately, though instead of saying an intelligence is static I would tend to suggest that it has inherent limits on its plasticity. His description in (#114) of what might be called an “isolationist” definition of responsibility is about right, but rather than call it “revisionist” as he does I would prefer to think of it as “restorationist,” in the sense of taking the word back, as I describe here, to its simplest basic meaning. (Damn the philosophers for loading the word “responsibility” with too much unnecessary baggage.) I haven’t read Dennett, but from what Jeff has said I suspect Clark is right: it would be a similar but in an eternal context.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 28, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

  118. Christian: Until you can show how a-rational events can cause rational events, or how we could have control over events that are caused by events before we even thought about what we were doing, it seems that determinism defines what “just happens” without input from an agent. We are just “pass-throughs” for prior causes. So I am not saying that the environment adds any choices, or noevelty, or insight, or rationality or anything like that — it is all just one chain of events caused by other events as far as I can see. How could anything novel occur if determinism is true? Everything is just the upshot of what went before and cannot exceed the past in any real sense.

    As for philosophers loading too much into responsibility, damn those who are just stuck in the past doomed to forever regurgitate the causal input of the past. Come to think of it, that just is damnation {grin}. Damn those who refuse accountability and dessert and don’t believe we ever deserve anything so the sole purpose of any punishment is to operantly condition the responses we want — as if we were outside the causal chain of operant conditioning. That’s a fine view for an atheist like Dennett or the Zoramites or Korihor, but it won’t fly.

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

  119. Blake: How could anything novel occur if determinism is true?

    Every newborn of every sexually reproducing species has a novel genome, and there is no need to suppose that these reproductive processes are non-deterministic. Moreover, if Darwin is correct, extrapolated over geological time this has given rise to considerable biological novelty. (I know this isn’t the topic at hand; I’m just arguing against your grand comprehensive statement.)

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — March 28, 2006 @ 6:18 pm

  120. Christian: Like Clark says, I thought this was a reasonably standard Mormon view, so I have been surprised by Geoff and Blake’s vehemence against it.

    I think you would be hard pressed to find many Mormons who didn’t believe in most of the aspects of libertarian free will. The problem is that most people don’t realize that real free will (libertarian style) is incompatible with a fixed future. IN my experience the most common response for the vast majority of Mormons is to assume the paradoxical co-existencence of LFW and exhaustive foreknowledge is a miracle or mystery and not think twice about it. But you and Jeff and Clark know too much to have that luxury (ie play the ignorance is bliss card). So if you are going to be determinists there are some hard questions that need to be answered about risk and responsibility, etc. I am convinced that without LFW the revealed gospel and the plan of salvation just don’t work or make any sense at all.

    Further, I think Blake is right that this idea that deterministic factors and agent-caused factors work together requires some form of LFW to make sense. Either our spirits are reacting to the causal network exclusively or they are not. If they are not then what?

    Clark: You do tend to take a position Blake, that I think many Mormons would initially see as more Protestant than Mormon.

    You lost me with this comment Clark… what is more Protestant-like?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 28, 2006 @ 6:47 pm

  121. Geoff, I didn’t mean it as a criticism. Just that to many Mormons too much of a move away from Nauvo and early Utah theology is seen as a move towards Protestantism. Thus the criticisms in some circles of Blake’s, Robinson’s and others theology as the Protestantization of Mormon theology.

    I disagree to a certain point. Although I do admit getting a tad uncomfortable from removing too many statements by Joseph and Brigham. But I recognize why this is done.

    As to intuitions, I think most people couldn’t distinguish easily between libertarian and compatibilist views. There is of course all of the interesting results in empirical research on this and how people react differently depending upon the question. That is sometimes they are compatibilists and sometimes libertarian. It’d be interesting for someone to do research to see how Mormons react. Up to that point all we have is anecdotal evidence. My anecdotes tend to imply more people are compatibilists. Even when these discussions come up there are a surprising number who prefer foreknowledge over libertarian free will among bloggers. Not that I think that is terribly significant. I do think Mormons (as opposed to say hard edged naturalists) tend to converge more on Libertarian accounts as they understand the philosophical issues though.

    Just to add, once again, I’m not a determinist. Far from it.

    As to responsibility, I’ve been thinking and reading on that issue for the last year off and on. Despite attempts by folks like Fischer, I’ve just not found a convincing explanation for responsibility. So I’m more that willing to concede that the current meaning of responsibility is incompatible with foreknowledge. I’m just not convinced that the “ideal meaning” will be. That is I’m not sure I wish to accord language the role that I think you and Blake end up giving it. (I should add that this is a tendency I hold in general and held long before the responsibility issue came to mind) So I’ll await the efforts of the revisionists to see what they offer.

    Comment by clark — March 28, 2006 @ 11:52 pm

  122. Clark,

    You describe a scheme in #114 where God is “doing the best he can with these intelligences but he doesn’t have the power to make them something they are not”. The problem with a statement like this in a deterministic context is it either ascribes to God LFW or it is basically meaningless. “doing the best he can” implies God has the potential to do otherwise. But in a deterministic universe that God himself is co-resident in, neither God nor anyone else has any sort of potential – only destiny.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 29, 2006 @ 12:23 am

  123. Christian (119),

    The existence of apparent novelty in various forms is, if anything, evidence against determinism. In a deterministic world information is strictly conserved. Everything is strictly predictable. Why should an enormous amount of biological sophistication appear out of nowhere 500 some odd million years ago, if the die has *always* been cast for every jot and tittle from the dinosaurs to the war in Iraq.

    Not only that if you wait long enough, history will repeat itself in every detail (c.f. Ergodic Theorem). No cute variations – just the same old thing over and over and over and over again.

    Finally, determinism has a very difficult time explaining why time goes forward. How come we do not dig up records of future civilizations? In an LFW world the answer is easy – the future doesn’t exist yet.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 29, 2006 @ 12:57 am

  124. Clark – I was actually jsut wondering what specifically in this conversation you saw as drifting “away from Nauvo and early Utah theology”. Certainly LFW is not an example of that so I assume you are referring to something else…

    Mark – Good points all around. The problem I see with many of these discussions with determinists/compatibilists is that they heist all sorts of libertarian language like “potential” and that confuses things. I completely agree with you — in a deterministic universe with a fixed future there is no “potential” there is only destiny.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  125. Mark, clearly I’m using “can” in terms of our normal common speech. That LFW proponents deny a lot of the meaning of this I fully admit.

    Comment by Clark — March 29, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  126. Of c’mon Geoff, “potential” is a libertarian word? So potential as in potential energy is implying LFW for solic objects?

    Mark,

    Why in the world does determinism imply that novel combinations cannot arise on their own? Isn’t that the whole point of evolution? Isn’t that also the whole point of complexity theory?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 11:53 am

  127. Jeff,

    When it comes to choices of sentient beings (as we are discussing here), yes “potential” is a word that is based on libertarian assumptions.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

  128. Jeff, once again there is a divide over the meaning of words. I admit I find this a tad annoying at times. (i.e. that deterministic and other uses of the words are simply discounted out of hand) Novel clearly is a term with multiple meanings. It can mean novel in the sense of unknown or novel in the sense of unpredictable.

    Comment by Clark — March 29, 2006 @ 12:22 pm

  129. Most Mormons believe in that free will is compatible with an Omniscient Heavenly Father. Most probably don’t give it much thought, but I was in one ward where the Bishop discussed the topic for most of a Gospel Doctrine class during a combined Sunday becuase there was some “false doctrine” being taught and he was inspired to correct it.

    Never has anyone I have ever read specifically explained how a fixed future removes agency. I can see the two ideas are associated, but there is no direct connection.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

  130. Read my most recent comment to you at the other thread, Heli. It explains a connection I think.

    BTW — Did your Bishop dispel the false doctrine that real free will and exhaustive foreknowledge are compatible in that meeting or perpetuate it?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

  131. Now, now, now. Let’s not get all pejorative and add labels like “real.” Clearly the Bishop was just inspired to point out LFW wasn’t real. (grin)

    Comment by Clark — March 29, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  132. Hehe.

    Of course my Bishop taught the doctrine from the scriptures. God knows the past, present, and future and at the same time, we are agents and responsible for our actions. I know you can find other scriptures that sound like they contradict, but in context it is clear that Joseph Smith believed and taught, with little exception, that we are free and God knows it. It being all knowable things.

    I put the comments about free will here because I was responding to the comments here.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

  133. lol. Niiice Clark.

    Although I have been recently wondering what it is that supposedly exists between determinsm (or other fixed future beliefs) and LFW. Even if you don’t believe we have LFW here on earth you do postulate that we have exercised open (libertarian style) choices in the distant past, right Clark? Doesn’t that make you a sort of modified libertarian?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 1:29 pm

  134. Well, remember that those thoughts were very tentative thinking out possibilities. My inclination though is a kind of emergence where you have a primordial freedom and then a phenomenological freedom. My feeling for the last year or so has been the the underlying error in LFW is that they conflate the two.

    Comment by Clark — March 29, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  135. Just to add, I think the LFW folks are right that our folk metaphysics also equates them and thus I’d say our language is somewhat muddled. The problem is that the LFW folks take this language too seriously.

    Comment by Clark — March 29, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  136. Now this idea concerning “potential” is an interesting one which I think might help forward the debate a bit. In what sense does LFW have potential which Compatibilism does not? I imagine the answer will be the potential to do otherwise. The question I would like to know is “Other than what?” I simply don’t see any potentiality which LFW offers and Compatibilism does not.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 29, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

  137. Interesting point Jeff. That is, if we distinguish actuality from the possible, can LFW offer any more possibilities? It seems that the debate is over the nature of the actual, not the possible.

    Comment by Clark — March 29, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

  138. Jeff,

    Isn’t it the difference between traveling by horse vs. by train? Compatibilists are on a train and there is only one direction from that train to go — down the track (even if it feels to them like they are really steering — they argue that we can’t trust our LFW intuition). LFW assumes we can move in any direction at any time. Compatiblists see a fixed future and LFW argues for an open future. So of course there are vastly more possibilities and potentials in LFW than there are for fixed-future believers (determinists and the rest). Am I missing something?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 2:31 pm

  139. I don’t know. In that comment I was thinking about the ol’ determinist’s trick of asking what was it that could have been avoided. We can’t say that in LFW we can avoid what was going to happen, because if it didn’t happen then it wasn’t going to happen. However, Geoff can simply answer “LFW allows one to avoid doing what all internal and external causes together would have had them do otherwise.” This answer simply throw us back into the mess.

    Re: “Real” Freewill

    It isn’t at all fair to call LFW real while compatibilism is somehow fake. I can simply call my position “real” freewill and call yours a convenient fiction on par with fairy dust and the like. The only reason why I don’t do this is because it is offensive. While I view LFW as being non-existent fake, they accuse mine of being not-good-enough fake. Quite frankily, I’d rather risk the latter over the former.

    In my model, to state what should be perfectly clear by now, ignorance is the hero. It is because of our ignornace (broadly construed) that people exist at all, for it is due to our vast ignorance at the physical level than we jump to the design level, or when we are simply too ignorant at this level we jump to the intentional level. It is only at the intentional level that freewill exists, along with minds, beliefs, desires and the like. I think we will all agree that freewill does not exist at the physical level (right?). I guess the question might be whether it exists at the design level. I say no, only mechanism really exists at that level and mechanism is not “free” in any way.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  140. Geoff,

    What about the horse itself? Surely you do not want to say that it has LFW do you? And yet it seems to be able to make decsions and steer around. WHat gives? If the issue if control then I see no difference between our positions.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  141. Geoff,

    I think that your criticisms would be a lot more charitable, and therefore more potent if you didn’t confuse the 3 levels which I mentioned in 139. When you keep comparing people to trains that can’t steer anything it just makes you sound like you have no idea what my position really is.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  142. Continuing with your comment, if something is never actually realized, was it ever REALLY possible or potential? Isn’t it more accurate to say that all the seemingly open futures appear possible until the time comes and goes. Can one ever really separate possibilities from mere appearances and speak of totally objective possbilities? I’m very suspicious of such a thing, and this independently of my compatibilism.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

  143. In light of my last comment, what exactly are these LFW intutions you speak of? You seem to think that our intution is that we can do whatever we want, but I would arge that this is instead a conclusion drawn from our intutions. Our experience or intuition is that we makes decisions and that various decisions seem like open possbilities while others do not. (The idea that we can do anything is absurd, and I won’t hold you to that comment.) We don’t know what we will decide for absolutely sure until the time has come and gone. Once it has, we aren’t ever totally sure what made us decide one way or the other except that “we” did it. But what, exactly, this “we” is, is a question which our intution are VERY poor at answering.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

  144. Oh I really like the train horse analogy or metaphor. I think it lends itself to explaining my theory of free will. We are driving a train with wheels that turn and God, knowing what is ahead and where we will turn is laying track that swerves and curves along whatever path appeals to us. I’ll call this the iron track theory.

    He still lets us choose our path, but he prepares the way ahead.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

  145. Heli re #144: “he still let’s us choose our track” — no he doesn’t — he both dictates the track and the turns the track takes. In fact, not even a compatiblist could accept your view because the train careens down the track as a result of external coercion. Even compatibilists recognize that external coercion is incompatible with free will and responsibility.

    It is frustating to dialogue with you, Heli, because you ignore what is said in response to you. You have asked why Geoff and others believe that free will and foreknowledge are incompatible. In response, he has pointed to an argument that logically entails that humans cannot have open alternatives. It is logically valid. So you must reject one or more of the premises. Yet you have ignored it and continued to argue that there are open alternatives and press points that have been adequately responded to several times. For the discussion to go any further, you have to suggest how you would respond to this argument (i.e., which premises you reject or that you accept it as persuasive).

    Jeff. One of the things that I find frustrating is that sound arguments are given against your view and you ignore them. Take my argument that if our reasons are themselves caused by a-rational events, then any sort of rationality is impossible. A more complete elucidation of this argument is given here: http://www.johndepoe.com/MindnotMechanism.pdf

    What is frustrating is that people like Dennett and you insist on rationality and yet adopt assumptions and a view that doesn’t allow for rationality. Yet Dennett has avoided this argument and so have you.

    Further, I’ll just note that your rejection of the Bofm view of atonement because it is somehow inconsistent with Joseph’s Nauvoo teachings is just so much muck. You haven’t shown any such inconsistency and I cannot even begin to fathom why you believe there is such an inconsistency. (I am mystified by Clark’s comments as well, but they are so vague I just don’t know what he’s talking about when he refers to my views as somehow “more Protestant” than some Mormons accept). In vol. 2 I give a view of atonement derived from the BofM and D&C which is fully in accord with Joseph’s Nauvoo teachings, so I would suggest that what you really do is just reject basic tenants of LDS belief to suit your determinism. That is a price that is just too high to pay. However, I agree with Jeff that labelling one view as “genuine” and another as somehow not genuine gets us nowhere — but when we suggest reasons why what he suggests doesn’t give us the kind of control or responsibility for acts required of moral responsibility, it is not enough to say that we are just calling his view names.

    Further, Jeff, you are quite right that I don’t find your version of moral relativism based on social constructs in the least acceptable. For one, once I’ve recognized the “moral demand” as a mere social construct, it no longer makes any demand and can be disregarded the moment I believe social “normativity” has no moral content. Jeff, explain why I should care what social constructs suggest — it seems that I am free to reject all social constructs as immoral or just misled (as I often do).

    Comment by Blake — March 29, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

  146. Blake, yes I have been responded to, but never has Geoff or you or anyone addressed specifically what I ask. They always restate their basic assertion as if it is a conclusion. I read the argument he and you direct me to and stated how it is illogical and offered to go through each of the statements 4-9 and show how they were simply restating the same thing, there was no response.

    I am happy to respond to any question, but find that I get no response to mine, instead I get restatements of the same line. I agree it is frustrating, but I am willing to continue any discussion.

    Please show me where I have ignored response to my arguments. When you and Geoff and others simply say it has to be this way I am not convinced. Maybe you have convinced others that if you say something enough times they will believe you, but all I ask is that someone, you or Geoff draw a direct connection between God’s foreknowlege and the loss of free will, or LFW.

    If you are suggesting that I go through each step of the argument I am more than willing, again I offered to do so 10 posts ago.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 6:09 pm

  147. Blake,

    I’ll look into that link that you provided, but I don’t see how determinism could possibly be inconsistant with rationality. Of course the question is “What is rationality?” On this point one wonders how right Gibbard might have been in his idea that rationality is mere norm expressivism. I think that that might be a little too far, but I don’t think it’s totally wrong either.

    I guess that’s why I ignored this argument of yours, because I think that it is utter poppy-cock, at least from what you have said about it. I’ll look into that link though and see what I come up with.

    Now who ever said anything at all about moral relativism? While I strongly suggest that moral properties are ontologically subjective, I have no reason at all to doubt that they are epistemically objective. Rawl’s constructivism certainly wasn’t any form of relativism. Sure, the open question argument can certainly apply to a constructivists account of morals and responsibility, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t apply just as well to a naturalistic account, or whatever form of metaethics you actually embrace.

    Personally, I think that W.D. Ross’s account of prima facie duties grounded as social constructs rather than non-natural properties is probably the best account of metaethics.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 6:29 pm

  148. Blake

    Here are my thoughts in regard to that paper:

    What, exactly, is a “reason” ontologically speaking? Is it somekind of Cartesian mind-stuff?

    I worry that he is confusing two levels of discourse. Mind is an emergent property from biological mechanisms are emergent from mere chemistry. It seems that he is claiming by analogy that there can be no such thing as life or biology since biology is made up entirely of chemistry. Of course such a thing is absurd and just as there is no “life stuff” which is added to chemistry to make it biology, so too there is no “mind stuff which is added to biological mechanism to make freewill.

    But isn’t he saying that a purely physical world entails a purely mechanistic account of the mind? Since I am a physicalist, isn’t this promoting my view of determinism?

    I take issue with his claim that if a non-physical could cause or explain something then this means trouble for physicalism. I would agree, but only if this non-physical explanation could not itself be explained in terms of ultimately physical properties. Furthermore, this point of his sounds an awful lot like “if I can explain something using non-physical mind stuff, then…”. Positing non-physical mind stuff without allowing that it likely is merely an emergent property of physical non-mind stuff seems to be begging the question.

    (I’m commenting as I go remember)

    Yep, he conflates intentional levels of explanation with design levels. Why couldn’t entirely non-purposive mechanisms form a system which is itself purposive? Why can’t a system of fore-sightful mechanisms form a fore-sightful whole?

    Alright, I flew through the rest, but I must confess that that was a terrible article. Aside from the conflating of ontological levels (chemistry, biology, mind), his argument against the evolutionists response was REALLY weak. While a mind is certainly not a perfectly rational machine, there is no reason to doubt that evolution could produce a largely rational machine.

    Appeal to such anti-evolutionists such as Plantinga is not a way to score points in my book at all. If this is article is at all representative of the argument you are placing against me, Blake, I remain thoroughly unconvinced.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 29, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

  149. Heli: If you are suggesting that I go through each step of the argument I am more than willing.

    Yes, please do that for us at the other thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

  150. Blake, as I mentioned earlier, the Protestantism comment wasn’t one I agree with. But I’ve been in electronic discussions where people have made it to you, so it shouldn’t be surprising. There are many people who see moves away from too many unique Nauvoo doctrines to be the Protestantization of Mormonism. Primarily due to some of the similarities as well as I suspect Robinson’s book.

    Comment by clark — March 29, 2006 @ 7:58 pm

  151. Clark,

    I don’t think there is anything at all that Blake has argued for in this conversation that could be referred to as moving away from Nauvoo Mormonism and skewing toward protestantism. As far as I can tell the only parts of his theology that might fit that accusation have to do with his position on the Godhead. That is why that comment of yours seemed so out of left field to me in this thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 8:04 pm

  152. Jeff: It isn’t at all fair to call LFW real while compatibilism is somehow fake.

    Alright, if it hurts your feelings I’ll refer to LFW as “robust” free will instead of “real” free will going forward. In my defense, please remember that this is a discussion among Mormons and I believe that 99%+ of Mormons would, if someone described what libertarian free will is, say they believe in it. The only snag would be the implications on foreknowledge. Even when learning those implications though, my experience has been that most continue to believe in LFW but just assume that exhaustive foreknowledge is still magically possible (I think Heli is among these as evidenced by his recoiling at being described as a compatibilist who really believes in hypothetical free will.) Therefore, I think LFW is appropriately described as “real free will” among Mormons. Having said that, I’ll call it something else for you. (BTW — I have counted a full three times where you have complained of uncharitable attitudes in this thread. I have charity for you, Jeff. But charity is for people not ideas. I think the idea that there is no form of LFW in the universe is a false and pernicious doctrine and I have no love for it.)

    I think we will all agree that freewill does not exist at the physical level (right?).

    Not necessarily. (Is this physical/design/intentional level thing another Dennetism? You quote it as if we should be aware of what you are talking about… ) I assume the physical level is the irreducible level of matter/existence or something? The ultimate nature of spirits comes into play here (we have talked about that here in the past with the various theories that have been floated.) But regardless of the details our scripture does say we are made up of “intelligence” in several places. Yes, this is vague, but it remains a revealed clue for us. So if we are made up somehow of intelligence we must consider this passage in the D&C:

    29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
    30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
    31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.

    However our free will as we know it now emerges or exists it seems like there is scriptural warrant to assume there is something about it that is fundamental and irreducible.

    Regarding my analogy — I assume you got the point (about one track vs the “open range” of choices) so asking whether the horse has LFW is missing the point.

    if something is never actually realized, was it ever REALLY possible or potential?

    If the future is open, yes; if the future is fixed then no.

    but I would arge that this is instead a conclusion drawn from our intutions.

    That is what I meant as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

  153. Geoff,

    By a charitable reading, I meant giving me the benefit of the doubt when a phrase might be ambiguous. It mean anticipating what my response will be to your objections and so on. I don’t mean “be nice to the idea”.

    I have spoken with you before about the physical/design/intentional stance. I mean the exact same thing when I speak of the chemical/biological/mind levels. I’m sure you can figure out what I mean by these things (actually I’m sure that you can remember what I mean by these things.)

    See now your response to my question regarding freewill at the physical level in interesting. We all agree that “intelligence” is free to do whatever it chooses within reason, however intelligence does not exist outside of the intentional stance/mind level. Thus there is no such thing as any kind of freewill in all the world when the world is considered at any other level/stance.

    Thus I must ask whether “intelligence” as you use it is reducible to lesser parts. I had been assuming that your answer to this was “no” until you denied this in 34 and 36. Your recent response, however, makes me doubt that you really understood what I was asking earlier.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 29, 2006 @ 9:11 pm

  154. Yes, I do remember you explaining basically the three stances to me. I guess my issue is that you are intimately aware of what you mean when you refer to them and I am only vaguely aware of what they refer to. Therefore I fear I am missing nuances that you are aware of but I am not.

    As for “intelligence” — you are well aware that the word means more things in Mormonism than it does elsewhere. Therefore we can be intelligent, but we can also be fundamentally “Intelligences”. In other words our scriptures indicate that another name for our souls/spirits is Intelligences. My point is that if the irreducible “spirit stuff” that the essential part of us is made up of is called “intelligence”, and if such intelligence-stuff is fundamentally connected or endowed with something related to free will, then the indication of that D&C passage is that free will indeed does arise from the irreducible “physical” level.

    So in one sense intelligence is reducible to parts, but in another (Mormon) sense, intelligence (or intelligence-stuff) seems to be irreducible. Because of this I’ll need you to be precise about what you mean when you refer to intelligence if we are to understand each other.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

  155. Jeff: I am amazed that you blow off the argument against rationality if determinism is true without even engaging it. You basically say that you just refuse to take it seriously and assert that it conflates levels of explanation. I would like to know how it conflates these issues. Your mere assertion doesn’t make it so and I can see no basis at all for your assertion — and you certainly don’t give any here.

    The argument is so simple: if determinism is true then all of my thoughts are caused by prior events and these prior events are not based on any rationality. It follows that the causes of my thoughts are not based on any rational factors and are a-rational. The fact that you think we are mere evolved machines is enough to show you really see the point. What machine is rational or has goal directed activity on your view (except to the extent such machines are created for rational ends by rational agents like ourselves)? So here is the simple argument:

    (1) If I have a rational thought it is the result of a rational process of considering reasons.
    (2) If determinism is true, then all of my thoughts are caused by prior events that are a-rational because mere events are neither rational nor irrational in themselves.
    (3) Premise (1) is false if premise (2) is true.
    (4) Therefore, not both (1) and (2).
    (5) (2) is true based on your commitment to determinism.
    (6) Therefore, (1) is false and we never have a rational thought.

    Take a more expressive version:

    (1*) Rational actions are those that are directed toward accomplishing some rational purposes or ends.
    (2*) If determinism is true, then my acts are caused by prior events that are blind as to the purposes caused by them.
    (3) What is caused by a prior event is not directed toward accomplishing a rational end.
    (4) There, if determinism is true, then none of my actions are rational.

    And yes, if you are merely a physicalist then I suppose that you are a determinist unless you also accept agent causal powers that are emergent from the physical. But then, the high price for “mere physicalism” is that it makes no sense to talk to you or dialogue with you because the assumption of such dialogue is the possibility of rationality, and your starting assumptions preclude rationality. Rather, you don’t hold your views because of having considered the rational reasons and basis for such a view, but because of the collocation of atoms long before you thought about — and that collocation of atoms has nothing to do with rationality or beliefs you now hold that you think are based on rationality. You are caused to beieve what you do by events that occurred long, long before we had this conversation and long before I attempted to have a rational conversation with you — and the entire endeavor to have a rational conversation with you is futile if determinism is true. That is a very high price to pay for your unwarranted commitment to deterministic physicalism. The view that we are in fact predetermined to salvation or damnation before we ever did anything in this life is another high price (one which have admitted). Such a view just makes non-sense of the most basic commitments to agency and free will in our salvation that is essential to LDS thought. How much are you willing to pay for such a view?

    Comment by Blake — March 29, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

  156. Jeff re: # 153. Just how can you avoid emergence of free will if at one level of explanation (the chemical or biological) there is no free will and we cannot even express any notion of organismic action and yet at the level of the intelligence we have free will? It follows that the intelligence is not just the sum of its parts and with the whole new causal powers and abilities emerge. If that is not strong emergence of free will I don’t know what it is — and no, it isn’t just double aspect theory because the double aspect theory is two ways of expressing the same level of reality. You have a level of reality, the intelligence, that is not reducible to the merely biological or chemical. It has basic causal powers that are not derived from anything outside of itself. It is the locus of responsibility and reason. Man that sounds like agent causalit to me.

    Comment by Blake — March 29, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

  157. Geoff, if it confused rather than enlightened (as it apparently did) then it probably wasn’t worth saying. My point was simply that there are some strong folk traditions in Mormonism that I think LFW tends to go against. Nothing really more than that. My objection to this was that there are other strains that can be seen as supporting LFW. But forget I brought it up.

    Blake, I think Jeff has a good point about asking what reasons are. I need to reread the paper, but it seems that avoiding this issue ends up leading to problems. It’s an interesting question I ought right on. It’d be good to get me back into Peircean mode. I think the problem is, as you suggest, the issue of emergence. The question is what kind? While I disagree with the determinist, I think they can answer this fairly well. I’d note that the argument is near identical to the old argument of design against evolution.

    Comment by clark — March 29, 2006 @ 11:54 pm

  158. Clark: For the argument I give to work, reasons only need to be some form of reasoning based on rational considerations rather than mere events that are a-rational as the basis of our actions and thoughts. So the reasons are not “reasons” with a capital R, but merely reasons that we consider as a basis for action. In this sense, our reasons may even be irrational. What they cannot be is a-rational. We act for the reasons we consider rather than mere events which always underlie our thoughts if determinism is true. For our actions to be rational in this sense, in the sense for which we could morally or otherwise responsible for them, they must be “reasons responsive” rather than merely prior events responsive.

    Just what you believe the tie is with some design argument against evolution is just maddeningly vague. What the heck to do you mean? I happen to believe that evolution isn’t blind and that it is impossible as a blind chance. I am a theistic evolutionist. As a Deist, Jeff is a sheer chance evolutionist. Frankly, I don’t see much difference between such a view and blind chance atheism. Is that what you have in mind?

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 12:05 am

  159. Blake, there are two hidden assumptions. First is that the ontology of reasons is not reducible to non-reasons. That is that the notions of reasons and causes are orthogonal in ultimate meaning. The physicalist will not accept this. The second assumption, and more interesting one, is the issue of whether a continuum of changes between reasons and non-reasons are possible. This is the move that Peirce makes explicitly.

    The first assumption is more troublesome as it really ends up in a kind of begging the question. Physicalism is impossible simply because your hidden assumption is that physicalism is false. i.e. that reasons (teleological causation) isn’t reducible to physical causes (efficient causation). That’s very persuasive if you already believe that (as you do), but very uncompelling to the physicalist.

    The tie in to evolution is to the well known design argument. I assumed you were familiar with it. Basically it’s Paley’s argument in regress. A thing with a purpose has to be made with a purposeful action. But that in turn requires a purposeful action. Therefore there must be a regress of purposes. Therefore evolution couldn’t have created us since evolution is purposeless.

    Same argument with exactly the same problems. (1) infinitesmal change can move from purposelessness to having more purposefullness on to having purpose. (2) purpose is reducible in meaning to efficient causation.

    Perhaps you accept the view of intelligent design, in which case you won’t find the arguments against evolution problematic. I certainly do.

    Comment by clark — March 30, 2006 @ 12:45 am

  160. Just to add, a theistic evolutionist (as I understand it) merely thinks God was involved with bit and pieces. It doesn’t necessarily embrace ID and say that evolution is only possible in method with God. Certainly I’m not an evolutionist in that sense. I think evolution is a natural physical process like gravity that God makes use of.

    Comment by clark — March 30, 2006 @ 12:57 am

  161. Clark: I have answered somewhat on your blog. Howeve, equating evolution with gravity is surely a basic category mistake. Evolution is a theory that explains a number of events; gravity is a property in relation to matter in space-time.

    The issue is not physicalism — it is determinism. It is based on the notion that before we ever thought about anything the results of our thinking were already fully implicit in the causes. The event causes are a-rational and therefore so are the effects. I shouldn’t have quoted DePoe who is actually arguing against physicalism per se. I am not. My argument works even if the prior causes are not mere physical! All that is required is that the causes imply the effect and the causes antedate the rational considerations. So don’t misdirect this discussion or my argument.

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  162. Blake,

    You have defined “reasons” in terms of rationality, but what is rationality? Why cannot it be reducible to a fully physical process? If animals without LFW or rationality can act with purpose (as they certainly seem to) then how are we going to deny that purposive action can come from purposeless mechanism?

    Of course I think that mind is emergent from the biological, in the same way that the biological is emergent from the chemical. Just as the biological is totally reducible to the chemical, so too is the mind totally reducible to the biological (mechanism).

    By any account, rationality and reasons exist at the mind level, but this does not at all preclude them from being completely reducible to a-rational biological mechanisms.

    Here is how I see the argument conflating levels of explanation:

    (1) Rational actions are those that are directed toward accomplishing some rational purposes or ends.
    (2) If determinism is true, then my acts are caused by prior events that are blind as to the purposes caused by them.
    (3) What is caused by a prior event is not directed toward accomplishing a rational end.
    (4) There, if determinism is true, then none of my actions are rational.

    (1) is a statement which appeals to the mind level for there are no such things as rationality or purpose at the biological or chemical levels.
    (2) is a statement which is referring to the chemical level, for the biological level and mind level are merely heuristic short cuts to understanding vastly complex chemical systems. The causation of the chemical level gets substituted by purposive designs at the biological level and reasons at the mind level. They are short-cuts in that considerations at these higher levels ignore strict causation due to the overwhelming complexity of the system in favor of a stance which is certainly less accurate but far easier to deal with.
    (3) is where the two levels of purpose and causation begin to get confused. Purpose is, in principle, totally reducible to blind causation and thus are not compliments to each other in any way. Purpose is simply a very special kind of causation.
    Thus, (4) does not follow.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 30, 2006 @ 10:57 am

  163. Jeff: As I see it you’ve actually demonstrated what the argument shows. The First argument begins by noting that reasons-responsivness (which all compatibilist agree is required for moral agency — except it seems you) or rationality cannot be reduced to talke about causes. You agree with that so you’ll have to deal with that argument.

    The second argument is one that you have now conceded. Look, you admit that our way of speaking of the “mind level” — the level where we think, use words, symbols, mathematics, etc. — is “totally reducible to blind causation”. But that is just what the argument purports to show! Blind causation, however, is not rational nor does it allow for a rational stance in the world. So what you say, as I understand you, is that the “mind level” is just confused talk and frankly not merely irrational but totally a-rational because the chemical level is what is real — i.e., it is what we can reduce the so-called mind-level to. There are not different levels of causation; just muddled discourse at levels other than the chemical level.

    But your very engagement in this discussion assumes that we are not just effects of blind causes. So your project is internally incoherent. Further, I believe that biological systems are purposive and to that extent cannot be deterministic! Remember, I deny determinism, so referring to animals having freedom of the will (like a spider that is free to move its legs this way or that, or to spin a web) are free but not morally responsible because they lack control over the non-deterministic causes that give rise to their actions. On your view, however, how can you distinguish between animals and humans? It seems that you have to admit that if humans are morally responsible then so are animals and for the very same reasons. In fact, given the division of labor in bee and ant colonies, aren’t they essentially morally responsible on your view of “morality”?

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 12:13 pm

  164. 1) I do agree that reasons and responsiveness is required for moral agency. However these are entities and relationships which only exist at the mind level.

    2) I beleive that rationality IS reducible to talk about causes if we merely switch from an intentional explanation of something to the lower, more complex levels of biology and chemistry.

    3) Of course blind causation is not rational, but rather complex systems of blind causation create or make up rationality.

    4) Explanations at the mind level are not at all a-rational in any way, indeed, explanations at all levels except at the mind level are a-rational. The mind level of explanations is by far the most rational given the complexity of the phenomena which we are attempting to explain. Given our limitations, we are simply swamped by complexity at any other level of explanation.

    5) Determinism only holds for causes and explanations at the chemical level, though we do speak meaningfully of causes and explanations at the other levels as well. Of course all three levels are describing the same reality so there cannot actually be determinism at only some levels and not others. Instead, the apparent lack of determinism at the other levels of discourse results from the epistemic short cuts which are taken to clear away the immense complexity of the chemical level. There are VERY good reasons for why evolution would have favored such a move.

    6) I am rational at the mind level, the level which we treat pretty much all animals and humans in particular. And yet I am also a huge system of incredibly complex biological systems which are simply doing their jobs in the context of each other. And still more, I am simply a bunch of chemical interacting with one another. All 3 of these explanations are describing the exact same thing (me) and it should be perfectly clear by the language which is used to describe me how explanations at different levels are simply done on different levels of discourse which really do not meet up with each other.

    7) There is a significant difference in human cognitive strategies and other animal strageties. We have symbolic animals capable of vast amounts of symbolic iteration as well as a large memory. Animals don’t really have any of these capacities except to a very limited extend under fairly contrived contexts. It is due to these cognitive capabilities that we are able to produce institutions such as language, rationality, morality and responsibility.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 30, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

  165. Jeff: I just don’t see how asserting that we are talking of two different levels of discourse addresses the issue. It appears to me that you simply refuse to acknowledge the incoherence and conclude that since you accept two different ways of seeing reality that cannot be described in ways that are coherent with each other means that they must be compatible but incommensurable ways of speaking. That certainly doesn’t follow.

    To assert that the mind level is reducible to the chemical level of a-rational event causes, and that the mind level is just a convenient way of escaping the complexity of the chemical level that is completely a-rational, and yet to claim that at the mind level the very same a-rational reality is somehow rational is just to miss the entailment and to refuse to see what is entailed by determinism at the mind level. The very fact that you can assert that the mind-level is the same reality as the chemical level entails that your assertions that the two levels don’t “meet up with each other” is just false. They meet up in the same reality if what you say is true.

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  166. I can’t see why you insist on disagreeing on what seems to me to be an obvious point. I’m not simply refusing to acknowledge the incoherence, but I am actually denying that there is any incoherenece in the determinists view.

    I am still waiting to hear a description of the ontological status as well as a definition of rationality. I have proposed mine (though admittedly I haven’t really defined it).

    “The very fact that you can assert that the mind-level is the same reality as the chemical level entails that your assertions that the two levels don’t “meet up with each other” is just false. They meet up in the same reality if what you say is true.”

    While I don’t want to say that the two views are totally incommensurable (that’s a dangerous claim to say the least), I do want to assert that the two levels are largely incommensurable. The two levels are not merely ways of describing the world, but are actually ways of seeing the world and as such in our human minds do not meet up with each other for the mere fact that we cannot really get beyond our views of the world to that actual reality, the point at which they are supposed to meet. Again, our epistemic limitations are the source of our confusion regarding freewill.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 30, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  167. Blake, it seems to me that Jeff’s point is largely the same one I made over at my blog. If reasons are reducible to events, then your argument fails. It is only because you assume they aren’t that you can make the argument. Admittedly it’s not quite the same as what I said, in that I mainly focused in on physicalism. But it’s fairly close since one just brings in physicalism + determinism. i.e. the presumption that reasons are reducible to determined physical states and processes.

    Comment by Clark — March 30, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

  168. ‘Tis true Clark. I felt like shouting an “AMEN BROTHA, PREACH ON!” to your comment 159. It’s nice to have somebody who can articulate what I’m thinking on some of these issues with which I am not as well trained as you are.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 30, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  169. Jeff: If we have the epistemic limitations you assert, then it cannot be asserted that the reason the two worlds are incommensurable is that we cannot reduce one to the other. We could never know whether that is true if your point is based upon our epistemic limitations. So your argument is really an argument based upon mystery and ignorance — and I know how fond you are of such arguments.

    Clark: Look over at your blog where I give a fuller response. Reasons cannot be reduced to events because reasons are done to accomplish some further result that is not yet in existence. For example, I make a sandwich so that I can eat it. Mere events don’t cause something for the reason of causing something else. They merely cause what they do. So the two concepts cannot be reduced to each other and your assertion that reasons can be reduced to events fails to capture this additional meaning in rational action or reasoning. For this very simple reason, your “ontological” and “orthigonigal” arguments fail.

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

  170. Re #84 (Blake) “So those who accept Christ do so only because Christ acts on them with sufficient causal input to change them.” Contrary to Blake’s characterization of this statement, I think it’s a fair statement of the reality we know, due mainly to the impact of the preexistence. John 10:27 is a good example: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

    Many of the differences expressed in this blog involve what I think is a limited free will we enjoy in mortality, compared with the fuller free will (possibly LFW as Blake defines it) we enjoyed in the preexistence. There, as Alma says, we were left to choose good or evil (Alma 13:3, which I believe is the only scripture that explicitly states this); here, our choices are constrained by many factors, including the limitations of mortality summarized by the concept of “natural man,” as well as the opportunity to hear the gospel, social and family influences that preclude a fair hearing of the gospel even when presented, etc. The result is a largely, but not completely, deterministic existence. And that’s okay, because within that existence, we can have joy (just as the animals and plants do).

    Stripped of the preexistence, LFW cannot explain the concept of a “chosen” people or a favored lineage. With the preexistence, LFW in mortality is an illusion. Our free will is instead limited to the highly specific conditions each of us lives under. The judgment of our responsibility for our actions is likewise highly specific, and is measured against our specific mortal condition (including heredity and environment).

    Along these lines, there was an interesting article in today’s NYTimes about the discovery that “the brains of highly intelligent children develop in a different pattern from those with more average abilities.” “[P]arts of the frontal lobe of the cortex are larger in people with high I.Q.’s,” the study said. Here’s the link:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/30/science/30brain.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

    How does one’s biological intelligence affect LFW? I think we agree that greater intelligence tends toward greater freedom to choose. We can see this clearly at the lower end of the continuum, where we assign no responsibility. If biology fundamentally determines intelligence (at least within a range), how does LFW explain the varying levels of actual freedom to choose?

    When Geoff started the blog, he expressed surprise at the extent LDS people seem to accept determinism. I don’t find this surprising at all. From the mortal perspective, much of our life is determined in advance. Even statistically, we can largely predict what will happen in many categories, and the ability to predict expands constantly with better understanding of the influences of DNA, environment, and other factors.

    Maybe the predictability of human nature does allow God to offer specific prophecies of the future, without that future actually existing yet (although I think it does). After all, if we’re already getting to the point where we can predict what diseases a person will get based on the person’s DNA and environment, what level of intelligence a person will have based on the physiology of the brain, and what personality traits a person will have based on DNA, God who knows all of this and more should be able to predict it even better.

    But ultimately, LDS people ought to tend toward determinism because the scriptures teach that the inheritance we hope to receive is in a place that is already prepared (although future to us), and because even the specific prophecies of the future that have been fulfilled are but a small portion of all the prophecies that have been given, including several who have seen all things through the end of the world.

    If I understand the LFW approach, it focuses on responsibility and, I suppose, motivation (i.e., if all things are predetermined, then what difference does it make what I do?). I think we all agree that, to some degree, people have responsibility for their choices, but we overestimate how responsible we really are when we ignore the deterministic aspects of our existence. The motivational aspect that the scripture so often teach is provided by the veil, which prevents us from knowing what the future is. So I don’t see a need for a robust LFW.

    Comment by Jonathan N — March 30, 2006 @ 10:44 pm

  171. Jeff (126),

    The theory of evolution is an explanation of the observed time-asymmetry of biological complexity. In a deterministic, energy conserving universe, information is strictly conserved. One can calculate any future state from any past state, or any past state from any future state.

    So lets say we flip the arrow of time and run history backwards from our present position. If evolution and determinism are jointly valid, history in reverse – a history of complex organisms evolving backward into simple organisms – has to be an acceptable sequence of events. And if that is the case, the theory of evolution is no explanation at all.

    Basically, Neo-Darwinian evolution lacks a theoretical basis for why it should run forward instead of backward, and determinism, as a strictly time symmetric, information conserving metaphysic – e.g. no random perturbations allowed – makes the problem worse.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 31, 2006 @ 12:24 am

  172. Jeff (142),

    Of course in a deterministic universe the set of all possible states is the same as the union of all actual states, given some starting condition and tracing the state on a perfectly defined path through time. By comparison, in a conventional quantum mechanical universe, the trajectory of possible states blurs with time due to wavefunction collapse.

    But in an LFW universe, (while not denying the possibility of random perturbations), agents perturb the state trajectory as well, in a manner that is statistically unpredictable over long time scales.

    My point here is that “possible” is a well defined concept with a long analytical history – in physics usually as a fuzzy and expanding domain in phase space, the prime focus of chaos theory.

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 31, 2006 @ 1:09 am

  173. I don’t know whether we have robust free will or not. I tend to believe that if we did, there would be no such thing as obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, but one could always argue that obsessive-compulsive personality disorders are just problems that are designed to strengthen us as we overcome them. In fact, one could rationalize the existance of any problem by saying that, and perhaps we do. I tend to think that a person would be strengthened more by dealing with other issues, rather than wasting his time on something like that, but who knows.

    I speculate that one reason many people choose to believe that we don’t have robust free will is that it looks too dangerous to them. (Someone may have suggested this above, but I didn’t read all 172 comments.) If we look at our society as a whole, we see most people virtually screaming at our government, “Please take away my freedom and give me safety!” Why should we as Mormons be totally above this? We are still “natural men”, at least to some extent, and this is the cry of the natural man, “Give me safety!” (Saddam Hussein called himself “The Great Survivor”. And his main goal in life was to survive–even if he had to kill everyone else on the planet to do it.) Robust free will looks dangerous to us, because it means everything is up to us. It’s our responsibility if we fail, because there is nothing stopping us from suceeding–except ourselves. I think we would much rather believe that there are some problems we can’t overcome (namely the ones we have).

    After years of struggling to overcome my own inadequacies and mostly failing, I find myself agreeing with Steve S’s brilliant former high school girlfriend (in #43) that “the purpose of life is to allow God to show us our selves so that we will acknowledge that his judgments are just.” With the exception of infants who die at birth, and are thus not subject to judgement, this is the one thing that we all have in common in this life–the ability to watch ourselves struggle and fail, or succeed. Most of us will not come out of this life with the gospel, but we will all come out of it having watched ourselves under stress. As Brigham Young said, “… life is designed to kick the tar out of you.” And it will. But cheer up. Whenever you get depressed by life, remind yourself that very few of us will be eaten by cannibles. (I just finished reading Michael Crighton’s book, “State of Fear”. I wouldn’t recommend it to any of you who are squeemish about cannibles.)

    Comment by Bill B — March 31, 2006 @ 3:00 pm

  174. Geoff, I don’t believe in hypothetical free will, I believe that hypothetical possibilities exist. I also believe God knows all the possibilities and what will actually happen. The point is you believe that free will and foreknowledge are incompatible. That the one may not exist if the other exists. Don’t you at least think its possible that both could exist? If the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle exists and all the intuitive expectations don’t work on the sub-atomic level, isn’t it possible that God can do, see, and understand things that you can’t even understand how He understands them, much less wrap your mind around the inifinte that He understands?

    Don’t be like Laman and Lemuel in this context, limiting God because you can’t understand how God could beat a man with 50 men. Just because you don’t see how both things can coexist doesn’t mean they don’t.

    Comment by Heli — May 1, 2006 @ 9:07 pm

  175. I believe that in the context of reasons, causes, and inner causes that LFW exists. To give a simple example if you own 3 ties: red, blue, or green, you have 4 choices. You can wear one of the ties or none at all. If you want to get really technical you have an infinite number of choices but that is problematic to discuss (you could decide to wear 2 ties, OR go back to bed OR walk to a million different spots within a days walk OR buy a new tie, but we’ll stick to the 4 choices). Your experiences may include hearing that red is a power tie, blue shows you want to be part of a team, and green indicates you want to be different or stand out, and finally no tie indicates you don’t want to follow your office policy of wearing ties. Depending on what events you are aware of your decision can be influenced. You may be going to a job interview so you wear the red tie, but you really want to be seen as a team player and decide to wear the blue. If we have LFW then arguably if you put 1000 people through the same life as our example then some would choose red, some blue, and even some green or no tie. Because each person has the free will to associate value with the experiences they go through.

    I was sitting in a class where the teacher was discussing PMA (positive mental attitude) and I thought it was the best concept anyone had ever taught me in school and always tried to have a PMA. The girl sitting next to me thought the lesson was boring and I paid attention to her and noticed that she rarely exhibited happiness. You may say that nature and nurture had prepared us differently and while that is partially true the inner cause for our opposite reactions was a choice we both made.

    Simply if you took a class that taught you to wear red ties to interviews and you have a job interview, LFW is the ability to say no, I will wear a blue tie or green. Determinism is if you are only able to choose red because your experience and the situtation precludes any other rational choice.

    Comment by Heli — May 1, 2006 @ 9:20 pm

  176. Jonathan said: “With the preexistence, LFW in mortality is an illusion.” Actually, Jonathan, you have it backwards. It is in mortality that God gave to Adam and Eve to choose for themselves. They are free to choose between right and wrong and not to act for themselves and not merely to be acted upon.

    Your assertion that we can predict human conduct is simply not supported — we cannot predict the conduct of individual humans.

    Jonathan says: “But ultimately, LDS people ought to tend toward determinism because the scriptures teach that the inheritance we hope to receive is in a place that is already prepared (although future to us), and because even the specific prophecies of the future that have been fulfilled are but a small portion of all the prophecies that have been given, including several who have seen all things through the end of the world.” The fact that the righteous will receive reward for what they do doesn’t require any kind of determinism of actions, but only a conditional: “If A does X, then A will receive q; if A does B, A will receive p.” In fact, the conditional itself is inconsistent with LFW and with the kind of determinism you now advocate.

    As for the prophecies that supposedly require determinism, if the world were deterministic then there wouldn’t be any conditional prophecies (which are by far and away the most common). There would not be any “if A then p, and if B then q,” but only “A will cause p.” So you claims is simply contrary to what we actually find in prophecy. However, I do agree that the greater the intelligence, the greater the options open to us and the greater the degree of LFW. I also agree that there are people, many of them, who live their lives stuck in the past forever making the same mistakes, forever chained to their addictions and sins and already dead but just not buried yet. These are they who are determined by the past. Those made free in Christ through atonement have LFW and God does not know what they will freely choose (because it logically impossible to know that), but he does know that if they keep his commandments, they will receive according to their works and what they send out will be returned to them.

    Mortality opened up more options to choose; not less as Jonathan claims. However, it also entailed the risk that we could choose to give away the freedom bequeathed to us by becoming slaves to sin. The natural man is in fact causally determined; those alive in Christ are not. However, Jonathan, we disagree drastically on the view that the difference between those who accept Christ and those who don’t are determined by the degree of grace Christ chooses to give. Your view entails predestination of the kind that would make it up to God alone who is damned — and that is a damnable doctrine.

    Comment by Blake — May 1, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.