Paper on Free Will in Heaven
August 1, 2007 — 18:37

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: Free Will  Comments: 21

On the Papers in Philosophy of Religion sister site, I've posted a draft of a paper that Tim and I have written on free will in heaven.  Comments welcome encouraged.

Comments:
  • Good! I really wanted to see you present this paper at the Pacific SCP, but it was at the same time as my own. I’m excited to read it!

    August 1, 2007 — 23:32
  • Hey, you guys seem to have a view of this issue almost identical to mine! It’s the sort of view that for the past five or six years I’ve thought must be true. Check out some old notes of mine on my blog:
    http://philosophicalorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2007/05/notes-on-self-formation.html

    August 2, 2007 — 0:01
  • Interesting paper, and puzzle.
    I’m afraid I have nothing to add, but compliments.
    Cheers
    David

    August 2, 2007 — 4:41
  • Kevin

    Brad,
    Glad we could accomodate.
    Ian,
    Yes, the position that we develop does seem similar to what you suggest. Not to speak for Tim, but I think that this view could then be further developed to show how heavenly freedom is similar in its ability to choose sin to God’s freedom. This is what Augustine refers to as genuine freedom; Tim O’Connor’s “Freedom with a Human Face” is along these lines too.
    David,
    We’ll take compliments. In fact, we like them.

    August 2, 2007 — 11:51
  • Kevin,
    That’s a tough problem and interesting solution. You’re view of the indirect (derivative)freedom of those redeemed seems to entails that I’m free wrt forming my character but not wrt performing the sinless actions. I wonder why I’m praiseworthy for performing them in heaven? (I mean, assuming anyone other than God is praiseworthy for anything in heaven).
    Two other questions. Assume that my character C determines in heaven that I do not sin. First, does C also determine in heaven that I always do my best there? It seems like your view is one on which we do not always do our best, rather, we always avoid sin. Second, if I don’t always do my best, can my character improve in heaven? Can I freely do things to improve my character or diminish my character there? And are these all consistent with acting sinlessly? (sorry, I guess that’s a third question).
    Anyway, thanks for posting this!

    August 2, 2007 — 13:22
  • Apologies. Those questions are of course addressed to both authors: Kevin and Tim.

    August 2, 2007 — 13:28
  • tim pawl

    Mike,
    here are some answers to your questions, though I don’t speak for Kevin.
    I think that in the cases of derivative free willing the blessed are free wrt to those actions, and not just wrt to character formation. Why think that the blessed aren’t free wrt the derivately free actions?
    I think it is an interesting question whether the redeemed in heaven are praiseworthy for their good actions in heaven. I’m not sure whether they are or not.
    To the first of your second two (three!) questions:
    You ask whether a redeemed person’s character C determines that he always does his best. That depends, I think. Suppose you think that there are some situations in which, if you can do your best but refrain, you sin in your refraining. If you think that, and you think that the heavenly cases are such that you sin in not doing your best, then our view would be that C determines that the redeemed does his best. However, even in that case one can have interesting and important possibilities open to him, provided that two or more things tie for best.
    I see your point about our view not being clear about whether the redeemed always do their best, or whether they do the weaker and just always avoid sin. Personally, I’m inclined to think that they always do their best (but, as I said above, there are often ties for the best). For the paper, I’m happy to leave the matter open, allowing the redeemed merely to avoid sinning. That is, unless someone sees a good reason for us to affirm the stronger claim.
    Since I’m happy not taking a stand on whether the redeemed always do their best (at least for now), I think that your second question about whether they can improve their characters is open as well (though I’m inclined to think they can’t).
    Finally, I partially answered your last question in my response to your first of the two questions. If you think that one can sometimes sin by not doing one’s best, and that Heavenly situations are some of those cases, then the redeemed must do their best in heaven.
    Kevin and I have been thinking about the idea of deification for a long time now (also called theosis by the greeks). The basic idea is that the redeemed partake in the properties of God in heaven. The redeemed aren’t just smart, they participate in God’s intelligence. They aren’t just strong, they participate in God’s strength, and so on. We see this has having important ramifications for the Problem of Heaven. For instance, it may help us get a handle on why the redeemed can’t backslide, or why they must always do one of the best actions available to them, or how the saints can hear thousands of prayers in thousands of languages at the same time.
    Again, I’m just speaking for myself here.
    Also, I’ll be without internet access for the better part of the next four or so days. So, I’ll be slow in responding. But, I’ll be sure to get back to this discussion ASAP.
    Thanks for the great questions!
    Tim

    August 2, 2007 — 14:18
  • How about some heady metaphysics? Maybe our heavenly choices are not distinct from our earthly choices, or are partially constituted by our earthly choices, so that our earthly choices have a meaning that we do not grasp. This kind of fits with Jesus’s idea that actions like feeding the hungry–“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers…”–have a theological significance that the agent is unaware of.
    Of course this will require a heady theory of time…

    August 2, 2007 — 14:50
  • I posted this on the paper page, but the discussion is here, so I am reposting:
    Your solution looks exactly right to me, and is well explicated. Excellent work.
    Four thoughts.
    1. Among your survey of rejected solutions, you should probably consider Aquinas’ semi-compatibilist solution. On Aquinas’ view, it is essential to freedom that we have alternate possibilities when we are choosing between incommensurable goods. Our earthly choices are always between incommensurable apparent goods, say to enjoy a minute of satisfaction or to refrain from a cutting remark. The will seeks the good, but when it faces incommensurables, it is not determined for any particular incommensurable, and so there are alternate possibilities. However, if one has a vivid presentation of a good which outweighs every other good, then one cannot but choose that good. In heaven, we have the beatific vision, which is a good which outweighs every other good, since the vision is constituted by God himself–we see God through God. Given the beatific vision, we cannot but choose the good.
    So, on Aquinas’ view, freedom is the will’s ability to act on its own, or something like that. When choosing between incommensurables, this requires the will to have alternate possibilities. When choosing between the beatific vision (not just as a theoretical possibility but as something possessed) and another good, this requires the will not to have alternate possibilities. Hence we get incompatibilism on earth and partial compatibilism in heaven (i.e., in respect of choices to refrain from doing something incompatible with the beatific vision). The solution works just as well for God as for the blessed: it ensures that God is both free and cannot do wrong.
    However, this view is subject to exactly the criticism you make of the compatibilist view: Why doesn’t God just create people already in the state of the beatific vision, so they could freely continue in that state?
    2. It seems to me that the crucial thing about libertarian free will is that one’s choice be determined by oneself and not by any cause entirely outside the will. This entails incompatibilism in the case of beings like us that have causes, but is certainly fully compatible with “derivative” freedom. In fact, seeing things this way shows that “derivative” freedom is not somehow an inferior sort of freedom–rather, it is a case where the action is temporally extended (perhaps over many yeas).
    3. Something that may be worth discussing a little is the following problem for derivative freedom accounts, of which yours is one. Not every way by which a primarily free choice determines future decisions is compatible with the freedom of those future decisions. Suppose that doing a generous action causes an excitation of a particular neuron, and this excitation incites a brain cancer, and the brain cancer eventually causes me to be mean to my mother. In that case, my primarily free choice has let to my having a particular brain-damaged character, which in turn led me to be mean to my mother, but the meanness to my mother is unfree.
    So we need an “in the right way” condition. I’d love to hear a bit more about what that condition would have to be like. What links between choice and character are of the right sort?
    Maybe ultimately it doesn’t matter. For ultimately, we are saved by grace and not works. Thus the relevant free choice is the choice not to resist grace. And that choice leads in what is fairly clearly the right way to the transformation in the unresisted (or only somewhat resisted) grace, and it is that transformation, when complete in the beatific vision, that makes it impossible for us to sin in heaven.
    4. The category of “morally significant freedom” is helpful. The choices between goods in heaven do not fall into that category, arguably.

    August 2, 2007 — 14:51
  • Tim, thanks for this! A few quick thoughts. It’s probably best to say (but I did not put it this way) that one’s character always (say, strongly) inclines one to do what one believes is best or what one believes is not sinful. I gather that we do not become omniscient in heaven, so I imagine we can have false beliefs. If that is possible, then it is presumably possible to perform blamelessly wrong actions. Maybe you would not call those blamelessly sinful actions. In any case, it does seem that, given their epistemological limitations, the less-than-omniscient-and-saved can go wrong. The second quick idea is that you’d probably want to let character improve in heaven. It’s terrible and strange to think that every less-than-perfect being in heaven–that is, every human being in heaven–must abandon all hope of becoming more like God in every way that matters. But if that’s true, it seems there must be ways of falling short. That is, if I’m actually making morally important choices that improve my character in heaven, then those choices are not determined by my as-yet-unimproved character. Iinstead, I recognize this imperfection in C and choose to act in ways that remove that imperfection. I am patient, say, but I am not perfectly patient. I can always be patient at least a moment more than I in fact am. Since my character has this imperfection that I am trying to remove, it is possible to act from that unwanted imperfection instead. If it is possible for me to give in to that imperfection, then it seems like I can mildly sin.

    August 2, 2007 — 15:24
  • tim pawl

    Alex,
    Thanks for the great comments and nice compliments. The first comment about Aquinas’s view of freedom is something close to what I wrote of when I wrote about deification in my above comment (not the compatibilist aspect you mention, but the being unable to choose the evil b/c of the awesome goodness of God).
    As for the “in the right way” condition, I know Kevin was recently working on that for his new book (parts of which I’ve had the pleasure to read). I’ll tag him in on this point, if he has something he’d like to share about it (not to put you on the spot, Kevin πŸ™‚ ).
    Mike,
    Thanks for the additional comments. I think we see the nature of heaven differently. I take it that everyone in heaven is totally perfect and deified to the extent that it is possible. So, for instance, I think that the blessed participate in God’s knowledge, and that they may, in fact, be omniscient. But, for those that aren’t (if such there be), I think that they still don’t go wrong. that’s b/c I think that there’s a purgatory for getting rid of those character faults you mention (like being less than perfectly patient). So I’d say that in purgatory one does all that character formation that you think one may do in heaven, and I’d say that any sin –even mild ones– are contrary to the nature of heaven.
    And you are right that I wouldn’t say that a blameless (bad) action by one of the redeemed is a sin. Here’s why. Either the redeemed person knew it was a bad thing to do or he didn’t. if he did, he sinned. But we’re talking about a blameless action that isn’t sinful. So, it can’t be that he knew he was doing wrong and did it anyway.
    So, he didn’t know it was wrong. He was ignorant. He is either culpable for his ignorance or he isn’t. if he is culpable, then we get the redeemed doing something blameworthy, which I think is repugnant to the nature of heaven. So, the redeemed is not culpable for his ignorance (in your example, it looks like this is the state of affairs you had in mind).
    I’d claim that anyone who is not culpable for his ignorance is not culpable for not acting according to the thing he doesn’t know (now there’s an ugly sentence!). I mean nonculpable ignorance removes sin. If one doesn’t know something but wasn’t obliged to know it, then he doesn’t sin in not acting in accord with what he’s ignorant of.
    Thanks again to both of you for your great comments.
    Tim

    August 2, 2007 — 16:41
  • Kevin

    Wow, I take a day off and look at the flurry of comments! I’ll try to address everything raised so far. But as a head’s up, I leave for a week’s worth of vacation tomorrow, so unfortunately won’t be able to respond to many further comments for a while. I will, however, catch up when I return—though I am aware that such delays often kill conversations.
    Mike,
    I don’t see why having derivative freedom in heaven would mean that we aren’t free and for (at least) two reasons. As we say in the paper, I still very well could have alternative possibilities in heaven—between signing in the choir or the all-harp-orchestra. This may not be, as Alexander notes, ‘morally significant’ freedom, but it still seems like freedom nonetheless. Second, on the version of incompatibilism that I favor, what is fundamental is having the agent be the source of that choice, and not having alternative possibilities. (I’ll note in passing though that I think that being the source of one’s choice does require having alternative possibilities at some point, but perhaps they are found in the choices in which we set our character. I try and spell out the issues in greater detail in the book I’m finishing up.)
    As to whether or not we’re praiseworthy for those actions that we do in heaven, I’m inclined (though not committed, I don’t think) to saying that we are as praiseworthy for those actions as we are for the morally good actions we do in this life as a result of whatever good character we may form. Should Tim be praised for loving his son as he does? Yes, I think so—though of course without God’s grace he couldn’t do so, and so Tim doesn’t get all the credit. God makes Tim’s good acts (in this life and the next) possible, but insofar as I reject that God’s contribution is sufficient for Tim’s moral actions, I think he should get some praise. So, good job Tim.
    Regarding the issue of doing our best, I see nothing in Tim’s response that I don’t second, and can’t think of anything else to add. So I’ll go with what he said untill somebody proves him wrong, and then I’ll distance myself from what he said. πŸ™‚
    Regarding the possibility of improving our character in heaven, I’m of two minds. Something in me likes C.S. Lewis’ idea of “further in, higher up” for all eternity. But the more I think about these things, I’m inclined to say that our moral character will be as perfect as it is possible for it to be in heaven, and thus couldn’t improve. This would tie in with the idea of deification that Tim mentions, and which we both have in the back of our minds in this paper (though I also admit that I can’t really get my mind around the idea yet). Regardless of which of these ends up being right, I don’t think that one’s character could ‘diminish’ in heaven.
    Alexander,
    I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘not distinct’ in the following comment: “Maybe our heavenly choices are not distinct from our earthly choices, or are partially constituted by our earthly choices.” If you mean numerically distinct, I think they are. But certainly on the view we advocate, those heavenly choices are greatly informed and guided by our earthly choices (and perhaps those choices in purgatory as well). I certainly agree that our choices here may have a theological significance we’re not aware of at the time.
    Regarding (1), I guess I don’t see why what you say about Aquinas’ view makes it a semi-compatibilist view (any more than I see Sennett’s view as being a compatibilist view). In fact, I think that something like this is precisely the kind of source incompatibilism that makes the most sense of both our freedom and God’s.
    Regarding (2), I think that your comments here fit nicely with our view. We mention Augustine’s “genuine freedom” in a footnote. Not only do I think that such freedom isn’t an inferior sort of freedom, but I think that it’s a superior sort.
    Regarding (3), yes certainly more does need to be said here. In addition to the book Tim mentions in which I address some issues of the relationship between non-derivatively and derivatively free actions, I’m also working on a paper right now about some of the issues involved in ‘tracing’ freedom (and moral responsibility) back to earlier choices in such derivative cases, but I’ll admit that I’m not directly engaging the ‘in the right way’ clause that you mention. Something I’ll have to think more about.
    Mike again,
    Regarding the first issue in your 3:24 PM post, why think that the redeemed in heaven will be able to have beliefs about morally relevant issues? To put it loosely (and following Augustine), they will have perfectly ordered intellects which always rank the various goods properly. If the saved can go wrong with respect to moral issues, then it looks like we have the possibility of another fall. And if they can go wrong but only with respect to non-moral matters (perhaps they have false beliefs about the number of angelic species, for example), I don’t see how this would relate to their moral character.
    As to the second issue about improving our character, my guess is that Tim and I would agree with the general idea, but say that this is part of what happens in purgatory (Tim’s follow-up suggests that I’m right about this). On Dante’s picture of purgatory (with which I am quite sympathetic), all the perfecting that needs go on does go on before one enters heaven. As Virgil says to Dante upon leaving the last cornice:
    Expect no more of me in word or deed:
    here your will is upright, free, and whole,
    and you would be in error not to heed
    whatever your own impulse prompts you to:
    lord of yourself I crown and mitre you.
    Also, at the end of Canto 33, Dante is described as “perfect, pure, and ready for the Stars [i.e., heaven].” Insofar as having a perfect moral character would involve being perfect with respect to the virtues, I take it that the redeemed will be perfectly prudent (which then ties back to the previous issue as well).
    Like Tim, I’d like to thank you all for the feedback, questions and conversation thus far.

    August 3, 2007 — 12:45
  • Kevin,
    Thanks. When you say that my moral actions in heaven are deriviatively free, I read that as saying such actions are not directly free. That is, they’re free in the sense that they are derived from the directly free actions that formed my character. But I think you want to deny this, if I’m reading the comments right. You want to say that the person with derivative freedom is just as free as the person with non-derivative freedom. Is that right?
    Let me raise a quick question about character/actions. I don’t see clearly how one’s character could determine right actions in heaven rather than very strongly incline right actions. This is probably because I don’t think it is possible that I or anyone else become perfect in any virtue. There is no world in which I am perfectly kind. I am essentially flawed with respect to every moral virtue. I know, “speak for yourself, Almeida”. I am also essentially flawed with respect to knowledge, even moral knowledge. Suppose for reductio that I did not have such flaws: God has an important moral decision to make regarding the direction of salvation history. Do you figure he can get any saved person to make the call? If they have perfect moral knowledge and act perfectly morally, then they could certainly make the call concerning the direction of salvation history. That strikes me as wildly implausible.
    You say,
    And if they can go wrong but only with respect to non-moral matters (perhaps they have false beliefs about the number of angelic species, for example), I don’t see how this would relate to their moral character.
    I’m not sure I follow you. Suppose I can go wrong only with respect to the number of students in my class. Can that affect my moral character? Sure, I can enroll more than is safe (given fire ordinances) to enroll in a classroom. So going wrong wrt all sorts of non-moral facts can affect my character, it seems to me, since it can seriously affect my moral deliberations.

    August 3, 2007 — 13:56
  • Kevin and Tim: let me see if I have this right, and suggest a problem if I do:
    You accept incomaptibilism, but ‘source’ incompatibilism, not ‘leeway’ incompatibilism. Actions that are causally determined by my present character are free (‘derivatively’ free, but still free), as long as my past actions are the causal origin (in the proper way) of my present character, where the sense of ‘causal origin’ at issue is incompatible with causal determinism. So these originating character-forming decisions require open options; i.e., PAP applies to them at least, though not for free actions generally speaking. These actions are ‘directly’ free. So the blessed in heaven may be unable to sin, and their actions may be determined by their perfected character, but that’s OK, as their past directly free actions are at least part of the causal origin of their character.
    Kevin also suggests that some actions in heaven may be directly free, in the sense that the blessed have open options between good actions, even though their perfected characters preclude them from choosing to sin.
    But if that’s right, why couldn’t we have agents with characters that preclude them from sinning still have ‘open options’ in the same sort of way, so that they’re the causal origin of their later acts (whether or not they have open options later)? You could even have those earlier actions, which are directly free, help shape the person’s character (being precluded from sinning need not mean perfect and fully-formed in every way). That is, God could guarantee that all people will end up ultimately making choices that get them eternal salvation, even within this incompatibilist theory.
    To get around this, you’d have to assume that the ‘open options’ available in the cases of the character-forming actions include options to sin. But is there a reason to assume this? After all, if you think that God is free because he is the causal origin of his acts, and you even assume that he has open options in a libertarian sense (NB: I don’t assume this myself), presumably his open options are like those you describe as available to the blessed; i.e., they’re all good choices.

    August 3, 2007 — 15:05
  • Kevin

    Mike,
    I want to say that both derivative free actions and non-derivative free actions are free. To use Dennett’s example, Luther was free when he nailed the 95 theses on the door despite it being true that “Here I stand; I can do no other”. And Luther was free when he chose to develop that kind of character, even if he could have done otherwise. Though we don’t make the point this way in the paper, if what makes a choice/action free is that it has its source in the person in a particular way, then choices/actions could have their source in the person in that way even if they couldn’t do otherwise than make that choice.
    What do you make of our (that is, Tim’s!) example in the paper regarding his son? Given Tim’s current moral character, he just couldn’t choose to bit his son’s cheek off. Do you think that Tim is either lying or mistaken when he says this?
    When I (and perhaps Tim?) say that a human agent has perfect moral knowledge, I mean that the agent has as perfect a moral knowledge as an agent of that type to have. So assume that a person is perfected in her prudence. She still perhaps couldn’t know as much as God could know, insofar as the former is essentially finite and the latter essentially infinite. (Perhaps Tim and I part here regarding the implications of deification. I know that I haven’t sorted this stuff out yet.) I guess I don’t see anything implausible about God letting St. Peter ‘man the helm’ of heaven for a bit. Granted, Peter can’t carry out the relevant calculations/deductions regarding the unfolding of the future as well as God since he has more limited processing power (to use a bad analogy).
    Finally, it seems to me that the number of students enrolled in a class is a moral issue (not just for safety reasons, but for pedagogical issues too)—though perhaps you’d just then want to make the same point with a different example. So let me through one out. I don’t see how my belief regarding whether the current number of USD faculty is odd or even is morally relevant. Say that I believe it is odd. Say also that somebody really needs to know the answer (for some government consensus or whatnot) and that person asks me. My belief per se doesn’t seem to be relevant to my moral character. What would be relevant is if I told them my belief that the number is odd without also telling them that I have no good reason for this belief. But that would seem to be to be a different kind of moral failing—not one about my beliefs. But I worry that I’m not quick tracking your objection here.
    Tim,
    I agree with what you say in the first two paragraphs of your question—it looks to me like you have our view right.
    The different between human agents’ freedom and God’s freedom (well, one difference—there are surely others as well) is that while God is essentially morally perfect, humans are not. God at most has ‘good’ options open to Him (I say ‘at most’ because I don’t want to get into the issue of whether or not God had to create the best world here—that’s a good issue though) given His essential nature. Given that we don’t have our moral character essentially, we have to form it one way or the other. And if incompatibilism is true, then the process of so forming will involve alternative possibilities at some point or other. To put the same point a slightly different way, if the freedom that we human agents have is morally significant freedom, then this does seem to require that we have options to sin at some point in our lives.

    August 3, 2007 — 16:56
  • What do you make of our (that is, Tim’s!) example in the paper regarding his son? Given Tim’s current moral character, he just couldn’t choose to bit his son’s cheek off. Do you think that Tim is either lying or mistaken when he says this?
    Of course I don’t think he is lying! But I do think Tim might have put it more cautiously and make a similar point. He might have said the chances are extremely low that he, you know, does that. There are worlds in which Tim cracks under pressure, and bites the cheek: perhaps those are worlds in which he is given the opportunty to prevent horrendous and eternal torture to thousands of people by doing so. In such a world, perhaps Tim does that. There are worlds in which the only way to prevent a worse event befalling his son, he must do it. So there is no doubt that he can do it.
    There are also worlds in which he does it for no good reason. Presumably there are worlds in which Tim has his same good character, but suffers from a chemical imbalance against which his character is not availing. There are also worlds in which he is so bady decieved by a demon, that he believes the action is right. I would add that there are worlds in which he has a good character and simply acts very badly out of character. (Now I’m sure I’ve Tim angry at me!).

    August 3, 2007 — 17:20
  • Kevin

    Mike,
    My “Do you think that Tim is either lying or mistaken”” comment was tongue-in-cheek. Sorry if it didn’t come across that way.
    We perhaps should have been more explicit–given his current character and the fact that he’s not in a Jack-Bauer save-the-world situation and that nothing even worse will befall the child by his not doing so…, Tim literally cannot freely bite his son’s cheek.
    With respect to the chemical imbalance scenario, this wouldn’t be a free action on Tim’s part. For the deception case, I think Tim’s earlier comments about ignorance work as a reply. And while I think that it is possible to act contrary to one’s moral character, I also think that there are limits to doing so. Of course, specificying where the limits are is tricky. But perhaps here the analogy with God’s freedom helps.
    I’d really like to pursue this later, as I think it’s a worthwhile issue, but do have to finish some page proofs before I leave for vacation. Sorry to have to back out for a bit just when the discussion really picks up.

    August 3, 2007 — 19:50
  • Kevin:
    “I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘not distinct’ in the following comment: “Maybe our heavenly choices are not distinct from our earthly choices, or are partially constituted by our earthly choices.” If you mean numerically distinct, I think they are.”
    I did mean “numerically distinct”, which is why I was talking of heady metaphysics. Here’s one model, surely too simple to be true. Each of our significantly free choices is, at base, simply an exercise of choice between good and evil. There is an exercise of the power of choice, choice between good and evil, that is the metaphysical kernel of every free decision.
    So maybe there is some such kernel which has at least two effects: one of them is that on earth I am handing a sandwich to a homeless person, and the other is that in heaven I am singing Alleluia. One choice between good and evil, multiple effects.
    This would be kind of like the strong metaphysical reading of the Catholic doctrine that the sacrifice of the altar and the sacrifice of Calvary are mysteriously one and the same sacrifice: the sacrifice is literally present at two times at once, just as in the above model, the choice-kernel is present at two times at once.
    (I am not endorsing this metaphysical model of the sacrifice of the altar (it is not the only Catholic reading of the doctrine) though I am attracted to it.)
    But, yes, indeed this view is not so plausible.

    August 3, 2007 — 20:30
  • Justin Capes

    Kevin,
    Why exactly do humans need alternative possibilities involving sinful acts? If I understand your personal views on free will, the sort of alternatives needed for free and responsible action are not necessarily the typical sort. By that I mean, an agent could be in a Frankfurt scenario, and as long as there is a flicker of freedom, his free will (and moral responsibility) remain in tact.
    So in theory we could have character forming free actions even if it were not possible for us to actually sin. If, as I say, I understand your position correctly, the flickers of freedom are “robust” in that their presence precludes the truth of determinism. So as long as such flickers are present we could have free actions in which the agent is the source of her action, there are “robust” alternatives possibilities, but no possibility to sin. Have I missed something?

    August 4, 2007 — 1:56
  • tim pawl

    I’m sorry to have been gone from this conversation so long. Today is my first day back at work since my last post. Here are a few thoughts to the comments here. If there is a comment that I don’t address and you’d like an answer to, please email me or post here asking for more. I’m not trying to ignore anything, and I’m happy to have all these comments. If I miss commenting on it, it isn’t that I think it is stupid; I just missed it.
    first comment: We’re dropping that example with the cheek biting. I don’t know what I was thinking including it, but seeing the discussion of whether I’d bite Henry’s cheek off is too much for me! And I think you are right, Mike, that there are better ways to put the example. For instance, we need to include mention of the reason why I’d bite his cheek (henceforth, I’ll just talk of torture). I agree with Kevin that the chemical imbalance scenario (if it indeed is enough to make me go so far as to torture a person I love more) isn’t a case of my freely willing to torture Henry. I think Kevin’s caveats about not being in a save-the-world scenario are good ones. Perhaps we could put the point more clearly like this: I couldn’t will to torture a person I love most in the world for a nickel. That is, the only good I see in it is that you would pay me a nickel to torture the child. [Actually, let’s say that Mike is the one offering the nickel πŸ˜‰ ]
    If Mike were to offer me a nickel to torture Henry to death (and that’s the only good I see in it) I just couldn’t choose to do so. Does that put the point better?
    Alex,
    I don’t know what to say to your heady metaphysics example. It looks to me like we’d need to say a lot more about what it is for a choice to be at two times at once. But, I think I agree with you that, as far as I understand the point, I think it is implausible.
    As for your question, Tim [O.], I think that Kevin’s answer is a good one.
    Justin,
    I don’t want to speak for Kevin here, in part because I don’t think I know his personal views on free will as well as you do. So, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a bit longer for a response to your question. But, I do think it is an interesting question.
    Best,
    Tim [P.]

    August 8, 2007 — 14:11
  • I just don’t know if there even will be free will in heaven. I know we won’t want to leave and be tempted to leave. We can appreciate Gods goodness in the presence of evil. Unlike Adam who didn’t know evil, Satan who didn’t know evil, until they fell. We do! Because of it, we so appreciate his goodness and no matter what temptation that will come our way in heaven, if that could even happen, there would be no way, why? Because we knew how horrible evil was and now we can fully appreciate his goodness.
    The presence of sin allows God to demonstrate his righteousness, the presence of sin allows God to demonstrate his love, and how else could he show the character of love that loves enemies and sinners if there were none? God endures this horrible assault on his everlasting holiness; he endures the horrifying blaspheming, history of fallen beings, he suffers it, the imposition it is on his purity to display his wrath to the fullest extent, to put himself on everlasting display.
    Why are we here? What is the theological answer? To give the text book answer, to glorify God and enjoy him ever more. How do you glorify God? Here is how, you sinner, go get saved. Get saved so God can be glorified, that’s it; this is the purpose of this entire universe.
    God knew we would sin, He knew we would rebel, He knew we would introduce evil, He knew it. So that he can send forth a savior born of a virgin, to live under the law to save us under the curse of the law so that, we can be a little trophy of his grace, he can always point to us as a testimony to his goodness. Ephesians 2:7
    We wouldn’t know how God is righteous as he is, everlastingly, and give him glory for it if it hadn’t had of been for unrighteousness, we wouldn’t know he’s loving as he is if it hadn’t been for sin, we wouldn’t know he’s holy if it weren’t for judgment.
    How holy is God? So holy that he must send out of his presence, everlastingly, anyone who is not fit. Why of all this? That he might make known the riches of his glory, that is, he did all of this in order that he might gather into heaven a redeemed humanity who would forever glorify him for all that he is.
    *paraphrased from Todd Friel and Dr. John Macarthur

    August 23, 2007 — 16:50