Testing Mill’s Maxim

Arminians often cite a claim from John Stuart Mill as a sort of test we can apply to see whether the God of Calvinism is “good”. I’ll call this claim, Mill’s Maxim (MM):

MM:”I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.”

MM is popularly used in something like this fashion:

RAPE: The God of Calvinism determines that a rapist rape a woman. If any human were to do the same, we would not call them good. Hence, by MM, God is not good.

The general idea behind RAPE (and similar cases) seems to be this:

PRINCIPLE: if S does an action A that, if human H were to do A then we would not call H good, then S is not good.

I think the way PRINCIPLE is phrased goes wrong in all sorts of ways. It stands in need of many qualifications that, once made, in my judgement render its use in calling the God of Calvinism “not good” of dubious merit. However, I do not have the time to do that work at present.

I will, though, make one point about PRINCIPAL. As it stands, PRINCIPAL is about actions. It is common to distinguish between acts and omissions. But, it is clear that what we fail to do can be just as morally weighty for judging the quality of another’s will as what we do. Thus, I will divide PRINCIPLE into its action and omission forms: (more…)

Akrasia and Compatibilism

Akrasia, or weakness of will, is a complicated phenomenon. It may be best to describe it with an example than to offer a philosophical definition of it, which is sure to be controversial.

(WW) Merrie is convinced that is it, all things considered, better for her to study than to go to the party. Merrie freely goes to the party.

Some people have argued that, in light of the actuality of akrasia, compatibilism is false. “Compatibilists can’t handle cases like (WW),” it is said, “therefore, compatibilism is false.” I’m not sure these typical arguments succeed. The reason is simply due to a technical matter. Let me make that point first, then I’ll table it and address a contemporary expression of the argument against compatibilism from akrasia.

Here’s the problem with the above form of reasoning: (more…)

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…)