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Monday, March 21, 2011

What is Determinism?

I'm going to quote a few books and websites about the issue:

Hard Determinism

With this scenario in mind, let's define hard determinism. First, the fundamental assumption of hard determinism is the principle of universal causality: every event has a sufficient cause and is part of an unbreakable causal chain with a very long(perhaps infinite) history. Second, hard determinism has a distinctive understanding of a free act: namely, a free act is one that has no cause and thus no causal history.

It takes very little logical skill to see what follows from these two claims. If every event has a cause and a free act has no cause, then clearly there are no free acts. And this is exactly what hard determinists readily conclude. We are not free, they claim; and moreover, we are not responsible for our actions. Consequently, one deserves neither blame nor praise for one's actions, since all actions are the necessary result of natural law.

We can put the argument connecting freedom and moral responsibility more explicitly:

Premise 1: If we are morally responsible for our actions, then we must be free.
Premise 2: We are not free.
Conclusion A: Therefore, we are not morally responsible for our actions.

This is a valid argument. That is to say, the conclusion follows logically from the premises by way of the valid argument form modus tollens. If the premises by way of the valid argument form modus tollens. If the premise are true, then the conclusion must be true as well. It is important to emphasize that the conclusion is true if the premises are true. If the premises are true and the argument form is a valid one, then the argument is sound. Note that all sound arguments are valid, but not all valid ones are sound. Hard determinists believe both premises to be true, so they take this argument to be both valid and sound. In denying that we are free, the hard determinist does not mean to deny that all of us have a subjective sense of freedom-we feel we are free. So in the scenario described above, Jonny and his friends experience certain psychological states such as thoughts and feelings, including the feeling that they could have chosen not to vandalize the cars. But the sense of freedom and the feeling that the choices they made were up to them are illusory. In reality, all of their feelings and the resulting choices were determined by factors long before Jonny and his friends were born. Their actions are part of a causal chain that stretches back indefinitely into the past and unbreakably forward into the future. They could not have made any other choice than to steal the hood ornaments. In view of this, the hard determinist will insist, the police chief has no rational grounds to blame them morally or to scold or punish them. Of course, the chief is also determined in his thoughts, feelings and actions, and it may be that the causal chain is so constituted that he inevitably will punish them. After all, if no one is free and responsible for his her actions, then the chief is no freer to behave differently than are the young hoodlums he is determined to punish. [1] pages 102-103

Soft Determinism (Compatibilism)
Now let's turn to soft determinism. The driving motivation behind this view is twofold. First, this view accepts the principle of universal causality and therefore holds that all things are determined. Indeed, the soft determinist is no less committed to determinism than the hard determinist is. It's important to underscore this point because the term "soft determinism" can be misleading to readers unfamiliar with it. The term suggests to them a partial or halfhearted determinism, a sort of quasi-determinism. These impressions need to be put aside so the reader can clearly understand that all things are rigorously determined according to this view.
So what is the difference between soft and hard determinism? The difference is in the second motivation that drives soft determinism. In addition to affirming universal causality, soft determinists also believe that we are responsible for our actions, and they agree that we must be free in some sense if this is the case. In other words, soft determinists want to affirm both complete determinism and freedom. The position is also called compatibilism because it holds that freedom and determinism, contrary to what hard determinists and libertarians claim, can be compatible. It is easy for the reader who has never encountered these concepts to get confused and to be misled. To avoid this confusion, the reader must realize that soft determinists define freedom differently than both libertarians and hard determinists. Clearly, if a free act has no cause, as hard determinists claim, then we cannot coherently affirm both that there are free acts and that everything is causally determined. Just as clearly, if a free act has no sufficient cause prior to its occurrence, as libertarians say, then we cannot coherently hold both that there are such free acts and that all things determined by prior causes and conditions.
Fortunately for soft determinists, they are guilty of no such incoherence. They offer a very different account of freedom, one that is carefully crafted to ensure that it is compatible with determinism. More specifically, they define an act as free if it meets there conditions:

It is not compelled or caused by anything external to the agent who performs it.
However, it is caused by something internal to the agent who performs it, namely, a psychological state such as a belief, a desire or more precesely, a combination of these two.
The agent performing it could have acted differently, if the agent had wanted to do so.

Although this definition seems rather straightforward, we will offer a few more words of explanation. First, to say an act is compelled or caused by something external to the agent is to say that the act was forced against his will. For instance, suppose someone picked you up, carried you into a voting booth and forced your hand to push a button indicating a vote for the notorious politician Mack E. Velley. This would not qualify as a free act because it would violate the first condition.

Second, an act is free if it has the right sort of immediate cause - in particular, a psychological state internal to the agent. Now given the thesis of determinism, these psychological states are themselves caused by prior conditions and states of affairs. Indeed, given those prior conditions and states are even possible. Something external to the agent ultimately caused these internal psychological states, but at the time of the act, these thoughts, desires and so on are owned by the agent in such a way that she willingly acts on them. In other words, the agent is merely acting in character when she chooses as she does. Her character determines her choices, and she could not will or act otherwise, given her character. But it is still the case thast she acts as she wishes, out of the beliefs and desires that she has been caused to have and the character that has accordingly formed.

Finally, we must keep these points in mind to understand the third condition for a free action in the soft determinists definition, or else we may be misled by the condition concerning the agents's ability to have acted differently if she had wanted to do so. The crucial point to keep in mind is that the agent could not want to do otherwise than she in fact does. If the agent had wanted to do differently, she could have done so, but it was impossible for her to want to do differently, she could have done so, but it was impossible for her to want to do differently, given the prior causes and conditions that strictly determined her psychological states and character. Still, soft determinists have formulated a definition of freedom that is compatible with strict determinism. So they can't be fairly faulted on this score. The question is whether their view of freedom is an adequate one. Is it enough if the three conditions spelled out above are met? [2] 107-109

To be continued............

[1] pages 102-103,[2] pages 107-109 from the book Why I am not a Calvinist by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell


Drake Shelton said...

What book was that from?

Drake Shelton said...

Methinks the issues in this debate falls back on the view of the atonement which reflects the quantitative nature of the incarnation. Did Christ take all of generic human nature as a platonic idea in order to raise it in the incarnation or was his incarnation something more localized? When Maximus is cornered and has the options of a will at the level of nature implying a raised nature and a compelled natural will and all wills with it, ergo universal salvation, or will at the level of hypostasis and the same conclusion, he has to make the gnomic disticntion. But what if Christ's incarnation only ontologically effects a few and eschatalogically effects all? Then the Monothelete dilema is squelched.

Jnorm said...

The book is from a protestant Arminian source. "Why I am not a Calvinist" I could be wrong but I think one of the authors teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary......near you. I was trying to find another book by a free will Baptist, but I'm not able to find it.

He defines the term as well. Then the other book "Why I am not an Arminian" might....I didn't look at it yet. Then there was gonna be a bunch of web links I was gonna post from as well.

How would it eschatologically effect all in your view? And why would the Incarnation only ontologically effect a few? How would that work? I know you are trying to avoid universalism, but how would that work ontologically?

For us, the difference between the few and the all is the Church. When we look at Ephesians we see that Jesus is the head of the Church, and so not only are we connected with Him by way of the Incarnation, but in a much deeper way we are connected in Him by way of Water Baptism (Union with Christ / Being In Him)

And when we feed on Him with the Eucharist. This is the difference between the few and the all.

What I'm about to say next maybe flawed, but at this point in time it would seem as if the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ is for all. While the application of the Death of Christ washes away the sins of the repentant and believing community...and since this is linked with goes back to the issue of the Church and Christ being it's head. Don't hold me to this for it's possible that I might adjust this in the I learn more. But at this point in time.....this is what I'm seeing.

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