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McCall on Theological Determinism & Compatibilism part 2b

(This is part 2b in a series on Tom McCall’s arguments against determinism and compatibilism in his recent book, An Invitation to Christian Analytic Theology (IVP 2015). Part one is here and part 2a is here.)

Last time, I looked at McCall’s objections to classical compatibilism. In this post I am going to interact with McCall’s criticisms of Frankfurt-style compatibilism. I was going to look at his evaluation of semi-compatibilism in this post, but this one became too long. In the previous posts I have described the nature and goal of McCall’s project in his book, readers may consult those posts for the relevant background. I also presented McCall’s two arguments for incompatibilism—what I called “the standard arguments”—in the previous post (2a), and I won’t repeat it again in this post, though readers are encouraged to go back and reread it.

Compatibilisms and the Standard Arguments: Frankfurt-Style Compatibilism

We saw last time that classical compatibilists tend to respond to the standard arguments by rejecting premises which state that if determinism is true, agents cannot do otherwise. Other compatibilists, notes McCall, object to other premises. McCall notes that these other compatibilists typically reject premises (1) and (5) of the standard arguments. I restate them now: (more…)

McCall on Theological Determinism & Compatibilism part 2a

(This is part two of a series that began here. In this series I am interacting with Tom McCall’s section on theological determinism and compatibilism in his book, An Introduction to Analytic Christian Theology (IVP 2015).)

Key: I will let FW&MR stand for Free Will and Moral Responsibility. I will let TD stand for the Theological Determinism, where God is said to, in some sense, determine all human actions.

In my last post, I made the point that the standard approach to dealing with the claim that FW&MR is compatible with TD is to cite some standard arguments against compatibilism. As I understood it, the standard arguments refer to those arguments that employ the standard definition of determinism as a premise. As I understood it, and as I demonstrated from the definitions McCall enlisted, the standard definition of determinism includes, as an essential component, among other things, the claim that the determining conditions lie in the “remote past.” Call this determinism, D+P. I then argued that many theological determinists—Calvinists, say—would not count as determinists at all on this understanding, since God’s determinative decree is timeless. However, once we allow this feature of classical TD to enter into the picture, the standard arguments are otiose for the purpose of showing that FW&MR is incompatible with TD. One upshot here is that those who argue against Calvinists (of the sort envisioned above) need to restate their argument for it to be relevant.

In the light of this, one might get the impression that I think the standard arguments for the incompatibility of FW&MR with D+P are good (sound and persuasive), while allowing TD to escape out the back door. However, this is false. Even here, I don’t think incompatibilists have made their case. So in this post and the next, I would like to comment on some of the arguments that McCall employed for the incompatibility of FW&MR with D+P. (more…)

Libertarian Calvinism – 3

This is the third installment of a series on Oliver Crisp’s “Libertarian Calvinism,” a chapter in his new book, Deviant Calvinism. Part one is here and part two is here. In this post I’ll engage directly with libertarian Calvinism. I hope to show that even if the issues I raised in the first two posts could be addressed—which, I think, is by no means an easy task—libertarian Calvinism faces problems that not even Hal Jordan (a.k.a the Green Lantern) could overcome.1 (more…)

Creating a Calvinist T-Shirt


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…)

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.

Not Another Argument

Part five of a series on arguments for/against incompatibilism.

(part one)     (part three)

(part two)     (part four)


In this final post of the series I’ll argue that Andrew Bailey’s (2012) Another Argument (for incompatibilism) fails according to the standards it sets for itself. Recall that the “original” consequence argument, CA, failed as an argument for strict incompatibilism because it relied on a contingent premise to get a necessary conclusion. Joseph Campbell illustrated this nicely via his “Adam” example. Adam is a being who has no past and does a free action in a determined world. Incompatibilists will say Adam’s action couldn’t be free. But how can they show this? Not by the CA. Call this objection, The No Past Objection, NPO. (more…)

Another Argument (For Incompatibilism)

Part four of a series on arguments for/against incompatibilism. 

(part one)     (part three)

(part two)

In this post, I’ll provide the gist of Bailey’s (2012) argument for strict incompatibilism; thus, there will be details left out, but I don’t think passing over them will hinder us as we move forward. It’s important to remember that Bailey’s argument is intended to do three things: (1) get us strict incompatibilism, (2) get us strict incompatibilism without cost (cf. my previous post), and (3) avoid Joseph Campbell’s No Past Objection.

Another Argument


Against the No Past Objection

This is part three of an unnamed series. I guess it’s generally on arguments for strict incompatibilism.

(part one)

(part two)



Incompatibilism, The Consequence Argument, and the No Past Objection


Suppose you believe that free will is incompatible with determinism. It is likely that among your reasons for believing this, you will cite the “Consequence Argument” as chief among them. The Consequence Argument (hereafter, CA) is widely regarded as the best argument for the conclusion that determinism is incompatible with freedom to do otherwise.

In the early 1980s, Peter van Inwagen (1983) developed influential versions of this argument. Influential replies to the CA also appeared, most notable being perhaps David Lewis’s (1982) reply. Eventually, however, debates over the CA became stagnated. Robert Kane (2005, 30) notes that key segments of the debate “tend to reach an impasse.” Likewise, John Martin Fischer (2012, 156) claims that those responses to the CA that make the debate “a real debate” have reached “a Dialectical Stalemate.” This is not to say that no new moves were being made, but much of the debate now seemed largely confined to highly technical discussions surrounding certain contentious modal principles employed in the CA (Kapitan 2011, 131).[1]

Recently, new life appears to have been breathed into debates over the CA with the publication of Joseph Keim Campbell’s (2007) paper, “Free Will and the Necessity of the Past.” As Daniel Speak (2011) notes of Campbell’s objection to the CA: “Although [Beta-blocking and Finessing Fixities] have something of a tradition, [Joseph Campbell’s criticism] appears to be a newcomer to the debate” (124). In this series of posts, I’ll discuss Campbells objection the CA, and then a recent argument by Andrew Bailey (2012) against Campbell’s objection to the CA. (more…)

Coyne on Free Will and Incompatibilism

I’ll make some comments on some of Jerry Coyne’s thoughts on free will and incompatibilism. Some of the issues I raise here will be taken up in my next series (which won’t be nearly as long as the previous one on God and blame!). I haven’t read any responses to Coyne, other than some stuff by Eddy Nahmias, so forgive me if these points have been made elsewhere (which they probably have).

Coyne writes, “I construe free will the way I think most people do: At the moment when you have to decide among alternatives, you have free will if you could have chosen otherwise.” Notice the bolded word, ‘if’. Coyne is giving us a sufficient condition for having free will, that is, if one meets this condition, then one has free will. But surely Coyne can’t be right. For example, (more…)