Here’s a hard problem that I’ve been thinking about and making very little progress. I was reminded of it reading Hugh McCann’s reply to Rowe in the January 2001 issue of Faith&Philosophy. Rowe took a Reid line against McCann’s version of Thomism about the way in which God concurs with human beings in acting, claiming that “God leads us around by the nose.” The criticism seemed appropriate, since what God wills is logically sufficient for us doing the actions we do.
McCann’s reply? That logical sufficiency doesn’t undermine even libertarian free will, because the logical relationship between our wills and God’s will is symmetrical: God’s general concurrence is sufficient for us acting as we do, but our willing as we do is also sufficient for God’s concurring as He does. (This is a bit mysterious, but I’ll let it pass for now.) So if logical sufficiency undermines free will (here I mean by that libertarian free will), then God can’t have free will either. McCann’s resolution of the issue is that the loss of free will has to be tied to causal or nomological implications, not logical ones.
This same issue arises in the literature on freedom/foreknowledge. Bill Craig and David Hunt both claim that the mere fact that some event or state of affairs logically implies that I will mow my lawn tomorrow is irrelevant to whether I will freely mow my lawn tomorrow, even if that event or state of affairs is one strictly about the past. For both, the question of freedom here is tied to causal or nomological implications, not logical ones.
On the face of it, this is an interesting move. Libertarians differ from compatibilists and hard determinists on the question of causal determinism, so the relevance of causal and nomological implications is obvious and the relevance of logical implications less so.
On the other hand, logical fatalism can be understood as the position that there is only one logically possible world, leaving everything that happens logically necessary. Logical fatalists take it as obvious that their position threatens free will of the libertarian sort, since there is not even a weak sense in which one could have done otherwise.
Then there is Frankfurt freedom, which can be libertarian without allowing the possibility of having been able to do otherwise, so the logical fatalist position is not as compelling as it might have been apart from Frankfurt-style counterexamples.
So the question I’m interested in is this: is a logically sufficient condition for some action of mine an underminer of free will, libertarianly conceived? The only argument I can think of for saying “yes” involves appeal to the principle of alternative possibilities cited above and which Frankfurt constructs counterexamples to. Those counterexamples can be avoided by going internal: instead of saying you have to have been able to do otherwise, you can say you have to have been able to try to do otherwise (or choose to do otherwise). Yet, if these internal options are themselves actions, variations on Frankfurt’s counterexamples can still be used–once we let in possible evil demons who watch to see what we’ll do, we can let in such demons who monitor our internal states and will block any alternative choices or tryings (after all, even choices and tryings have beginnings and take time, and a smart demon can see the beginning of a choice or trying and prevent it, since the beginning of a choice or trying is not itself a choice or a trying).
So I remain puzzled. I think Frankfurt-style counterexamples are much more powerful than rebutters have realized (see, e.g., Tom Flint’s rebuttal in his book on Molinism, which takes the line I argued against in the last paragraph), just as Gettier’s original counterexamples contained the seeds of something much more powerful and overwhelming than originally thought. Yet, the best argument I know of for insisting that logically sufficient antecedents of an action rob it of libertarian freedom have to appeal to the principle of alternative possibilities. So maybe McCann, Craig, and Hunt are right: only causal or nomological antecedents are relevant to the question of libertarian freedom.