Libertarianism and Theism?
December 4, 2014 — 11:04

Author: Michael Almeida  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Concept of God Problem of Evil  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 14

Many theists are libertarians about free will. I take it as a minimal implication of libertarianism that at any time t at which an agent S freely chooses A, S might have chosen ~A instead. The future branches into many genuinely possible alternatives. I want to make a few observations.

1. Note first that the free will defense (FWD), as Plantinga offers the argument, simply assumes that we have libertarian freedom. It is the assumption of libertarian freedom that makes it possible for (what I’ll call) bad CCF’s to be possibly true: recall we are invited to consider a world in which CCF’s of the sort, God creates S in T ☐⟶ S goes wrong, are true. Such counterfactuals could not be true unless we assumed that there are worlds in which God exists and agents produce evil. He could have ended the argument right there, after affirming that at least one of these is true somewhere in metaphysical space, since that is the conclusion we’re after.

2. That brings me to my second quick observation. For all of the fuss in the FWD, all we really need, for Plantinga’s purposes, is one counterfactual of the sort, God creates S in T ☐⟶ S goes wrong, to be true in some possible world. The rest of the argument is unnecessary for the main purpose. If there is such a true counterfactual, then God exists in some world where there is evil, contrary to the logical argument from evil. So ends the dispute.

My main point is that atheological opponents might reasonably balk at the idea that libertarian freedom is compatible with theism. Here’s why. Assume we have libertarian freedom. For any rational agent S, if S has libertarian freedom with respect to action A, then S can perform ~A. For actions A with moral significance, libertarian freedom entails that you can perform the morally wrong action ~A. But the modal claim that you can perform the wrong action ~A entails the further modal claim that God can actualize a world in which you go wrong. So far, I assume, so good. Now, unless it is true that you and everyone else is universally transworld depraved in every possible world in which you go wrong, which is simply not credible, this means that God can actualize a world in which you go wrong when he might have actualized a world in which you go right instead. Certainly, there is some world like that under the assumption of libertarianism. But why should an atheological opponent accept that? He shouldn’t. Why wouldn’t an atheological opponent urge instead that God cannot actualize a world in which you freely go wrong when he might have actualized one in which you freely go right. He would. But then it’s reasonable to believe that libertarianism is not compatible with theism.

Comments:
  • Kevin Corbett

    It is a very interesting question. I’m not entirely sure about libertarian free will – I’m not sure, for example, that Aquinas was referring to such a thing in his discussion of free will. Maybe there is some alternative between compatibilism and liberterianism that we have not hit on yet. For example, as you say “this means that God can actualize a world in which you go wrong when he might have actualized a world in which you go right instead.”

    So if we take, say, the Fall – we could suppose there possible worlds where Adam freely went right, so why didn’t God actualize that world? The answer that most satisfies me is something like “Because that isn’t what really happened”. But does that mean Adam really wasn’t free when he chose to eat the apple, because it was always going to happen? I think he was free, but I don’t know how to explain it. I want to say something like “Even if his choice was predetermined, he himself was the origin of that choice”. That is the best I can explain it.

    December 4, 2014 — 22:25
    • “So if we take, say, the Fall – we could suppose there possible worlds where Adam freely went right, so why didn’t God actualize that world? The answer that most satisfies me is something like “Because that isn’t what really happened”.”

      Not only does not such a sentece saisfies me (and I even can´t understand how it could possobly satisfy anyone), but I am even not sure if I understand the sense of such a sentence. Most it seems like begging the question: “Why God hasn´t actualized such a word?” “Because He hasn´t actualized it”

      “But does that mean Adam really wasn’t free when he chose to eat the apple, because it was always going to happen? I think he was free, but I don’t know how to explain it. I want to say something like “Even if his choice was predetermined, he himself was the origin of that choice”. That is the best I can explain it.”

      You express very well why I from particular time started dislike a free will concept. Here is another formulation of your sentence: “Even if his choice was predetermined, he himself is morally responsible for that choice (and so should be punished)”. It seems to me that Christians generally do not seek to vindicate the free will theory, they in fact seek to keep humans morally responsible for evil they did, doesn´t matter how high the price is.

      December 6, 2014 — 5:52
      • Kevin Corbett

        First, you should note that I am advocating a position different from what Plantinga is advocating. Actually, I think most secular philosophers would advocate the same position as me, since the PhilPapers survey, for example, showed something like 60% support for compatibalism – so if you dislike free will, you have a beef with more than just Christians. Indeed, “no free will” is the least popular response:

        Accept or lean toward: compatibilism 59.1%
        Accept or lean toward: libertarianism – 13.7%
        Accept or lean toward: no free will 12.2%

        Secondly, I was only presenting some broad musings, not a definite sense. I was merely stating the sentence that has the most therapeutic value for me to a question that I think can’t really be definitively be solved.

        But I don’t think, at least, I am begging the question, though I could be. What I am trying to suggest is that if there are two worlds, one in which you freely go right, and one in which you freely go wrong, and God simply always actualizes the world where you freely go right, that you aren’t really “freely” going right at all.

        December 6, 2014 — 20:07
        • “What I am trying to suggest is that if there are two worlds, one in which you freely go right, and one in which you freely go wrong, and God simply always actualizes the world where you freely go right, that you aren’t really “freely” going right at all.”

          Two points:
          – if God actualizes worlds in which I do something – and this actualization necessary in some sense precedes my existence and my decisiions (and these “decisions” wouldn´t happen without this previous actualization) – is libertarian freedom really possible? Yes, it´s the problem of compatibility of God´s omniscience and libertarian free will …
          – “and God simply always actualizes the world where you freely go right, that you aren’t really “freely” going right at all.” – and would you mind it? I really would NOT 🙂 Freedom of doing wrong is really not something I would prefer, so to say …

          December 7, 2014 — 2:03
          • Kevin Corbett

            I think I’ve already said, I don’t know that the idea of libertarian free will is correct, and in fact I would be more likely to say that compatibalism is correct. But I haven’t really read enough on the topic to do anything more than offer my impressions.

            “And would you mind it? I really would NOT 🙂 Freedom of doing wrong is really not something I would prefer, so to say …”

            If I was able, in some sense at least, to do wrong, then I don’t know that my doing right would mean anything, even on a secular level. There are plenty of sci-fi novels about states that create a situation in which no one can actually do evil (there is an anime I am currently watching called Psycho Pass that has a similar premise as a scenario), and as a result, people lose their sense of personal agency. I don’t know if liberterian free-will exists, but I think this kind of freedom is part of what gives us our dignity as humans.

            December 7, 2014 — 2:25
          • Kevin Corbett

            That should read “if I was unable…”

            December 7, 2014 — 2:26
          • “I would be more likely to say that compatibalism is correct”
            Me too, haven´t the hell existed …

            ” as a result, people lose their sense of personal agency.”
            I think we couldn´t say this unless we experienced it personally. Otherwise it´s only a speculation. I think it is somehow similar to the case when we would say how humdrum would be our world if all the people had only black hair. Because all the life we are used to different hair colors, we would be prone to see it this way; but what if from the beginning of the world all the people had only black hair? We wouldn´t find anything “boring” on it
            More, there is always a possible world in which all the people always know what evil choice is and have a chance do do evil, but in every single case they choose to do good, so personal agency would be kept.

            December 7, 2014 — 8:52
          • Kevin Corbett

            “I would be more likely to say that compatibalism is correct
            Me too, haven´t the hell existed …”

            I’m not sure what you’re saying here.

            “I think we couldn´t say this unless we experienced it personally. Otherwise it´s only a speculation. I think it is somehow similar to the case when we would say how humdrum would be our world if all the people had only black hair. Because all the life we are used to different hair colors, we would be prone to see it this way; but what if from the beginning of the world all the people had only black hair? We wouldn´t find anything “boring” on it”

            I think the importance of hair color isn’t an apt comparison. Not to mention, just because we wouldn’t moral choice it if we had never known it isn’t a strong argument that we would be better off without it, like in the Chinese proverb about the frog in the well (you’ll have to google it though).

            “More, there is always a possible world in which all the people always know what evil choice is and have a chance do do evil, but in every single case they choose to do good, so personal agency would be kept.”

            That is true, but that’s not the world in question. But world in which God always actualizes our going-right over our going wrong, we don’t actually have moral agency.

            December 7, 2014 — 17:31
          • “I’m not sure what you’re saying here.”
            If compatibilism is true, I don´t see the way how to escape from (calvinist) predestination to hell … (if we do not deny the existence of hell at all)

            “But world in which God always actualizes our going-right over our going wrong, we don’t actually have moral agency.”
            – I do not see why
            – maybe I even do not see why should moral agency be of so high goodness/importance …
            – if it is God who actualizes our choices including their moral quality, then determinism is true

            December 8, 2014 — 3:43
          • Kevin Corbett

            “I compatibilism is true, I don´t see the way how to escape from (calvinist) predestination to hell … (if we do not deny the existence of hell at all)”

            I admit, my understand of free-will philosophy is not that robust, but I would suppose combatibalism to mean that even if our choices are are pre-existing in some sense, we are the origin of them and carry the responsibility for them.

            ““But world in which God always actualizes our going-right over our going wrong, we don’t actually have moral agency.”
            – I do not see why
            – maybe I even do not see why should moral agency be of so high goodness/importance …
            – if it is God who actualizes our choices including their moral quality, then determinism is true”

            I won’t respond to the second, since it amounts to a difference of opinion, or at least a separate topic. As to the first and the third, I admit, I’m only offering a vague impression, but I think God actualizes the world and he actualizes us, but he doesn’t actualize our choices. If God alone actualized our moral choices, all moral good or evil would amount to irresistible grace or a lack thereof, which I don’t accept, though I know Calvinists do. I am sure there is a more clever response to this, but that is my impression.

            December 8, 2014 — 4:39
          • ” I would suppose combatibalism to mean that even if our choices are are pre-existing in some sense”

            Neither I am “proffesional” in free will philosophy, but AFAIK, the definition of compatibilist free will rests in that I am (compatibilisticly) free when I do what I want to do. But what I want to do could be after all determined, otherwase it would not be compatibilism. And if there is a determination, calvinism could be true.

            ” I think God actualizes the world and he actualizes us, but he doesn’t actualize our choices.”

            That´s a problem I think. When we say that God actualizes possible world, then this¨world has to be complete and complete world must contain all its features, so also our choices. I doubt that incomplete world is actualizable at all. It is similar to fiction: fiction qua fiction is impossible because of its intended incompletness (Shakespeare hasn´t written what exactly Hamlet had for breakfast – he could have different meals)

            December 9, 2014 — 5:57
          • Kevin Corbett

            “Neither I am “proffesional” in free will philosophy, but AFAIK, the definition of compatibilist free will rests in that I am (compatibilisticly) free when I do what I want to do. But what I want to do could be after all determined, otherwase it would not be compatibilism. And if there is a determination, calvinism could be true.”

            All I know is, Aquinas, for example, is considered a combatibalist, and he disagrees with the Calvinist account of free will, particularly in that he denies irresistible grace.

            “That´s a problem I think. When we say that God actualizes possible world, then this¨world has to be complete and complete world must contain all its features, so also our choices”

            I don’t see why it has to be so.

            Though in all honesty, I’m kind of tired of this discussion, since I think its just going in circles. Not to mention that its drawing me away from other work I need to be doing – so I hope you’ll forgive me for disengaging at this point.

            December 9, 2014 — 7:12
          • Of course, no problem

            December 9, 2014 — 9:05
  • Michael Almeida

    I don’t know about specific cases, but I do know that, if libertarianism is true, then there is some world w at which free agents go wrong and they are not all transworld depraved. The alternative view–that at every world at which agents freely go wrong, they are transworld depraved–is an incredible position to take. So the problem arises for Molinism too. There is certainly some galaxy of worlds (to use Tom Flint’s terminology) in which the set of feasible worlds includes free agents going wrong and not suffering from transworld depravity. If so, then it is possible for God to actualize a world in which free agents go wrong when he might have actualized a world in which they do not.

    December 5, 2014 — 9:11
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