Another argument against Molinism
January 25, 2010 — 11:16

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Molinism  Comments: 9

I shall use the phrase “non-derivatively libertarian-free” (NDLF) to describe a libertarian-free choice that does not inherit its freedom from earlier free actions. This corresponds to Kane’s Self-Forming Actions. Now consider this plausible principle:
Thesis 1: If x NDLF-ly chooses A in circumstances C, and p is a proposition explanatorily prior to x’s choosing A, then were x not to have NDLF-ly chosen A in C, p would still have been true.

A consequence of this is the following PAP:
Thesis 2: If x NDLF-ly chooses A in C, then x’s failing to NDLF-ly choose A in C is logically compatible with any proposition that is explanatorily prior to x’s NDLF-ly choosing A in C.

(The argument from Thesis 1 to Thesis 2 is this. Suppose Thesis 2 is false. Then we have a proposition p explanatorily prior to x’s NDLF-ly choosing A in C such that p entails x’s NDLF-ly choosing A in C. But then x’s failing to NDLF-ly choose A in C entails ~p. It is obvious that if x NDLF-ly chooses A in C, then x’s NDLF-ly choosing A in C is not logically necessary. But if u entails v, then at least if u is contingent, were u to hold, v would hold. So, were x to fail to NDLF-ly choose A in C, then ~p would hold. But by Thesis 1, it follows that were x to fail to NDLF-ly choose A in C, then p would. But these two conditionals cannot both be true if the antecedent is possible, as it is. So Thesis 2 cannot be false.)

Now on to the argument. If Molinism holds, then the following scenario is possible:
Scenario 1: God believes that were he to place agent x in circumstances C, the agent would NDLF-ly choose A in C, and for that reason God in fact places agent x in circumstances C.

Now, assume that if p and q are explanatorily prior to r, so is the conjunction p&q. Suppose Scenario 1 holds. Let p be the proposition that x is in C, and let q be the proposition that God believes that were God to place x in C, x would NDLF-ly choose A in C. Then p and q are explanatorily prior to x NDLF-ly choosing A in C. Hence so is their conjunction. Hence, their conjunction does not entail x’s NDLF-ly choosing A in C (by Thesis 2). But, necessarily, God believes only truths. So, q entails that were God to place x in C, x would NDLF-ly choose A in C. By modus ponens, p&q entails that x NDLF-ly chooses A in C. Hence, p&q both does and does not entail that x NDLF-ly chooses A in C, which is a contradiction.

This is, of course, a version of Adams’ circularity-in-the-order-of-explanation argument. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t show that God can’t know conditionals of free will, but only that it is incoherent to suppose him to act on that knowledge in the way indicated in Scenario 1. Thus, the argument is compatible with a weak Molinism on which God knows the conditionals but must bracket that knowledge when choosing to act.

I actually don’t quite buy the argument because my current view of counterfactuals does not support Thesis 1 (but neither does it support Molinism).

Comments:
  • Mike Almeida

    But, necessarily, God believes only truths. So, q entails that were God to place x in C, x would NDLF-ly choose A in C.
    Yes, but this is consistent with x acting libertarian freely in the circumstances. Had x done otherwise, God would have (to have) believed otherwise. So, where does the incoherence come in? God’s so believing and so acting on his belief does not preclude the free action. If x does other than A, then some other proposition would have been explanatorily prior.

    January 26, 2010 — 7:15
  • Mike:
    “Had x done otherwise, God would have (to have) believed otherwise”
    This violates Thesis 1. 🙂

    January 26, 2010 — 12:27
  • Mike Almeida

    Right. Here’s why T1 is false. In different worlds, different, incompatible, propositions are explanatorily prior. Suppose in W God utters p = Almeida does A at t and I freely do A at t. It is possible that I do ~A at t and actualize W’. In W’,God utters p’ = Almeida does ~A at t. And suppose W’ is the closest world to W in which I fail to do A at t. Surely different worlds W and W’ might have different and incompatible exlanations of what I freely do. I conclude, T1 is false.

    January 26, 2010 — 15:45
  • Mike:
    Are God’s utterances explanatorily prior to your action? If not, there is no counterexample. If so, it seems that there is a circularity in the order of explanation: God asserts p because p, but God’s asserting p is prior to p.

    January 27, 2010 — 9:18
  • Mike Almeida

    Are God’s utterances explanatorily prior to your action? … If so, it seems that there is a circularity in the order of explanation: God asserts p because p, but God’s asserting p is prior to p.
    What could the problem be? God’s utterance entails that I do A at t (and does not preclude my freely doing A at t). So clearly God’s utterance is explanatorily prior in both worlds.
    1. In W, [](God utters A -> I do A) & [](God utters ~A -> I do ~A)& God utters A
    2. In W’, [](God utters ~A -> I do ~A) & [](God utters A -> I do A) & God utters ~A
    In each world it is God’s utterance that explains what I do, not the other way around. There is no world at all in which what I do explains what God utters. So I see no circularity in explanation.

    January 27, 2010 — 10:51
  • But (typically) a truthful speaker asserts that p because in fact he believes that p.
    So, God asserts that p because he believes that p.
    But God believes that p, presumably, because in fact p.

    January 27, 2010 — 12:06
  • Mike Almeida

    But (typically) a truthful speaker asserts that p because in fact he believes that p.
    Unless of course the truthful speaker S knows (1), [M] for metaphysically necessitates.
    1. [M](S asserts that p -> p is true). 🙂

    January 27, 2010 — 13:42
  • Alexander, I see you tend to make arguments against molinism. What is the position that you currently adopt on this issue, are you a Calvinist or an Arminian or something else?
    Thank you.

    February 9, 2010 — 7:43
  • What do I think? Well, God foreknows all free actions. Moreover, his will does not determine the free actions, but he does concur in every instance of creaturely causality, including free will causality.

    February 9, 2010 — 8:08