Creating a Calvinist T-Shirt

Introduction

My friend James Anderson recently wrote two nice posts on theological determinism and compatibilism. I direct the reader to those posts for all the nitty-gritty details. The purposes of his two posts were to chop up the conceptual space surrounding the theses of divine determinism and compatibilism. In this post I want to add to his work of conceptual carving. I will add to the distinction between hard and soft determinism that James drew, the further distinction between hard and soft compatibilism. Before continuing, I want to add a caveat up front: I don’t take it that I’m offering any substantive criticism of James’ posts. I merely hope to add to his project of carving conceptual space. However, as you’ll (hopefully) come to agree in the end, I think my t-shirt will be both conceptually and aesthetically superior to James’! (more…)

The use of 1 Corinthians 10:13 as an Argument for LFW: Caught between a rock and a hard place

Introduction

I’ll make this quick. I won’t document my claims, though I can document them with ease. Consider:

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Some Christians have suggested that this text teaches that we have libertarian free will. Given a certain flat-footedness, this is plausible. The idea is that, for every temptation you may face, God provides a way of escape such that you do not have to give into the temptation. You can endure it or not. This is supposed to suggest that the principle of alternate possibilities is true. It is then argued that this would be false given theological determinism. Then, on the assumption we either resist or succumb to the temptation freely, and the text entails the falsity of determinism, then the text implies the freedom we have is libertarian. (more…)

Be Good for Goodness Sake

A frequent debate between theists and atheists is over whether one “Needs God to be good.” I think there are several problems when the theist phrases her point this way, but discussing them is not my concern. I want to focus on one fairly popular atheist response. One will frequently hear atheists say, “We don’t need God to do good. We don’t need the threat of heaven or hell to do good. We do good things because they’re the right things to do. We feed the homeless because that’s the right thing to do. In other words, be good for goodness sake.”

Here, what is being addressed is the moral reason for action. A moral reason, we might say, is a fact that is capable of generating a moral ought, capable of determining (absent outweighing
considerations) what the right thing to do is. So, the theist asks what moral reason for acting the atheist appeals to, and the atheist responds, “Simply the fact that it’s the right thing to do.”

I want to suggest that this popular answer fails to do what it purports to, i.e., present a moral reason for action. The reason is simple: “That X is right” cannot be a moral reason for doing X. For assume that it were, it would then have to supply an additional moral reason to do X, once we had gathered all of the other particular moral reasons for doing X. But that doesn’t seem right. The fact that X is the right thing to do simply consists of all those moral reasons (facts) that make X the right thing to do. So if you think that X’s being the right thing to do constitutes an additional moral reason to do X that is over and above all the more particular facts that make doing X right, then you think that X is right is a separate fact from all the more particular facts that make X the right thing to do. Thus, when the atheist says that he does X because it’s the right thing to do, he’s not given us the moral reason for why he X’s; instead, he’s given a pragmatic or prudential reason. If the atheist responds by saying, “No, I was just giving a summary statement, I meant the moral reasons I do X are all those facts (moral reasons) summed up by “because X is right,” then we may ask what those reasons are—but that is what the atheist was trying to bypass by saying “I do X because it’s right.”

Modality and Probability

On p. 51 of Where the Conflict Really Lies, Plantinga says: “[T]he probability of a contingent proposition on a necessary falsehood is 1.”

So, where C = a contingent proposition and F = a necessary falsehood, Plantinga is saying P(C|F)=1.

This seems false. How are we getting our values? If we understand conditional probability to be defined as:

p

and we grant that a necessary falsehood has the probability of 0, then P(C|F) ≠ 1, rather, it is undefined. Shoenberg, “If P(A) = 0, then P(B|A) is undefined, just as division by zero is undefined in arithmetic. This makes sense, since if event A never happens, then it does not make much sense to discuss the frequency with which event B happens given that A also happens” (Introduction to Probability with Texas Hold’em Examples, Chapman and Hall, 2011, p.40). After some further investigation, I noticed that Tyler Wunder gives a similar objection here.

However, the above is too quick.
(more…)

God’s Freedom

Sometimes it is said that God has libertarian freedom. The argument for this often goes like this:

  1. God freely chose to create the world.
  2. The world is not necessary.
  3. Therefore, God’s free act of creating of the world was not determined.
  4. Therefore, God has libertarian freedom.

This argument is actually quite popular, but it is invalid. For the sake of the argument, I’ll grant we can validly get to (3). However, the jump to (4) assumes a suppressed premise, something like:

    3a. If a free act A is not determined, then A is libertarian free.

But that is false. It assumes that indeterminism is sufficient for libertarianism, when it’s actually only necessary for libertarianism. What is needed instead is something like this:

    3a′. Freedom is incompatible with determinism.

But with this addition, the argument would then assume incompatibilism. (1)–(2) at best get you indeterminism, but what is needed to secure the conclusion that God’s freedom is libertarian is an argument for incompatibilism, not an argument that assumes incompatibilism.

From Skeptical Theism to Skeptical IBEism

Skeptical theism is, roughly, a strategy that employs would-be facts about our cognitive limitations and applies them to various atheological arguments from evil against the existence of God.

Inference to the best explanation (IBE hereafter) is, roughly, the type of inference in which one derives the conclusion that explains the available evidence best.

Skepticism about IBE, is, roughly, the view that the above type of inference is not trustworthy to lead us to truth.

I wonder if accepting skeptical theism puts any pressure on the one who accepts it to also accept skepticism about IBE. That is, should the skeptical theist become a skeptical IBEist? In this blog I’ll try to sketch some flat-footed reasons for thinking so. The literature on both topics is large and complicated, and so I’m really wondering if the below argument warrants further inspection, that is, whether there is even a prima facie push for the skeptical theist to become a skeptical IBEist. Of course, some have argued that skeptical theism implies something like Cartesian skepticism. If that’s true, then skepticism about IBE follows quickly enough. But that’s a strong claim, I’m going for something far more modest—though, as I will suggest, if my worry is real, there will be unpleasant enough consequences, at least for some Skeptical theists. (more…)

Jonathan Edwards and Necessity

I. Introduction

A friend wondered if I could say something more about the charge that Edwards commits a modal fallacy—in this case, it is alleged that from 1. necessarily, if α then β, 2. α, he concludes, 3. necessarily β—in the course of his argument for determinism (see this post for context). Specifically, he wondered if I might cite more from Edwards. In this post I’ll quote one of Edwards’ arguments for the necessity our actions have, and his reasoning should make clear that the charge leveled by some—namely, Richard Muller, some associated with the Uterecht school, and (some of) their students—is simply not viable. Some of this will be a repetition of my last post, but I view what follows as a more decisive response to Muller et al., than my previous post. (more…)