Begin with this plausible principle:
- If x is necessitated by his internal state and the circumstances to do something wrong, then either (a) x’s character was in some way vicious prior to the action or (b) x is not culpable for the wrong (or both).
This principle is one that both compatibilists and incompatibilists can accept. Hume certainly accepts it, because he thinks we are culpable insofar as our actions reveal our vicious character. We can imagine cases where an internal state that is in no way vicious necessitates a wrongful action. For instance, one might justifiably believe that some action A is right, and one’s virtuous character might necessitate one to do what one believes to be right, but objectively A is wrong. However, in that case, one is not culpable for A. If there is nothing vicious in x’s character, and the character necessitates an action, it is hard to see how the action could be a culpable action.
But now add these premises:
- The first sin was culpable.
- The internal state of the first sinner was in no way vicious prior to the first sin. (The goodness of creation)
It follows from (1)-(3) that:
- The first sinner’s first sin was not necessitated by his internal state and the circumstances.
This has implications for Calvinism. There are two stories about free will compatible with Calvinism. On the first story, given by Jonathan Edwards, free actions are determined by finite causes. On the second story, according to some interpreters given by Thomas Aquinas, free actions are not determined by finite causes, but God’s primary causality causes the particular outcome. The Edwards story has a significant advantage for theodicy: the finite causes of our actions help to “isolate” God from our sins (see this discussion). But the Edwards story cannot be true in the case of the first sin–and yet it is the first sin where theodicy is most needed. This means that the Calvinist should opt for the maybe-Aquinas story, at least in the case of the first sin.
The libertarian has an advantage here, because she has a story as to how a person in a non-vicious state could sin–for a non-vicious state need not determine one to sinlessness.
Objection 1: If someone yields to temptation in extreme circumstances, under necessitation by internal and external causes, we would not say that that is a sign of an antecedent vice.
Response: If the circumstances are sufficiently extreme that we would not say that yielding is a sign of an antecedent vice, and the agent is necessitated by internal and external causes, we should not say that the agent is culpable. Or, more weakly, one might concede some culpability, but say that in such cases the agent is not very culpable. Then in my argument we modify “culpable” to “very culpable” in (1) and (2), and the argument continues to work, I think.
Objection 2: Both biological entities and artifacts have a range of normal operating conditions. Thus, there is something wrong with a whale that can’t stay under water for five minutes, but there is nothing wrong with a human that can’t do it. The same is true of finite persons, whether or not they are biological entities (the argument is neutral on whether the first sinner is an angel or a human). There is nothing wrong with a character that necessitates vicious actions in abnormal operating conditions for that kind of a person.
Response: Two responses are available. The first is that one is not culpable, or very culpable (see the response to Objection 1), for a wrong action when that wrong action is necessitated by a non-vicious character and circumstances outside of one’s normal operating conditions, if the character would not necessitate culpably wrong actions within one’s normal operating conditions. The second is to concede the point and qualify (1) by adding the disjunct: (c) the circumstances are abnormal to one. In this case, the argument would need the added premise that the first sinner was not in an abnormal circumstance. For it is an evil to be in abnormal circumstances that result in a malfunction despite oneself functioning well, and creation did not contain evils.