In Defense of PVI (Or Steve Hays’ Epileptically Induced Belief States on Freedom and Determinism)

Some time ago, Steve Hays wrote some comments on Peter van Inwagen’s arguments showing that free will and determinism are incompatible. (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_triablogue_archive.html)

I want to use Hays’ comments to illustrate some mistakes people (particularly Calvinists like Hays) make when thinking about free will and determinism.

The first general problem is in the definitions that Hays provides. He says that if libertarian free will existed then there are only three logical possibilities: Hard Determinism, Soft Determinism, and Indeterminism. As I make clear if libertarian freedom existed the first two options are logically impossible. Hays attempts to pick out the concept of Hard Determinism by saying that it is the idea that “We are not free to do otherwise even if we wanted to do otherwise.”

This isn’t the idea of Hard Determinism. Hard Determinism put forward by the likes of Derek Pereboom is in part the idea that Determinism is true and Libertarianism is false. If Libertarianism is false, then there cannot be libertarian free will. Hard Determinism is furthermore the idea that since determinism is true we have to modify our ascriptions of freedom and moral praise/blame and moral responsibility accordingly since our everyday or pre-theoretical notions of moral responsibility and freedom are not compatible with determinism. Consequently it is hardly informative to say as Hays does that Hard Determinism is compatible with the idea that freedom is an illusion since that is exactly what the position maintains. Hays is clearly confused as to what is Hard Determinism.

How does Hays fair when trying to grasp the idea of Soft Determinism? I am afraid not much better. He glosses Soft Determinism as “We are free to do otherwise if we want to do otherwise—although we are not free to want to do otherwise.” The problem is that this is not Soft Determinism as much as a gloss on what Compatibilist freedom amounts to. Soft Determinism is the idea that determinism is true, we have freedom and determinism is logically compatible with freedom where such freedom does not include being the ultimate source or terminus of one’s actions and having alternative possibilities. Soft Determinism excludes even “wanting” to do otherwise since it excludes any form of alternative possibilities simpliciter. Alternative possibilities are the exclusive domain of Libertarianism.

What Hays is trying to say is that Soft Determinism which entails the Compatibilist notion of freedom can make sense of our every language of doing otherwise by what has been dubbed conditional analysis. The main idea is that statements of the form “x could have done y” can be explanatorily reduced to statments of the form “x would have done y.” If antecedent causal states had been different than Jones would have done other than he did do. Conditional analysis has been pretty much been shown to be a philosophical flop. (See Gary Watson’s anthology on Free Will from Oxford, specifically Chisholm and Austin’s essays.) Generally it is a flop because it fails to capture the necessary and sufficient conditions of concept of the ability to do otherwise. What an agent can do is not exhausted by what does do and noting what an agent would do doesn’t imply that they could do otherwise.

Soft Determinism is built off a Compatibilist notion of freedom which can be thought of either hierarchically (Frankfurt) or historically (Fischer). Compatibilism is the idea that determinism and freedom (and perhaps moral responsibility as well) are logically compatible while being silent as to whether we have freedom or determinism is true. Soft Determinism is therefore a stronger claim than Compatibilism.

Frankfurt’s hierarchical view is roughly that an agent is free (and an agent/person) if they can have second order volitions. So if I can will what I will in a self reflexive way then I am a genuine agent and therefore a suitable candidate for praise or blame regardless of how I got to be the way I am. Fischer’s historical account is that an agent is free if their actions are formed by reasons in the appropriate way-if they are “reasons responsive.”

As to Indeterminism Hays interprets it as “We are free to want to do otherwise.” Here again he seems to miss the mark. Indeterminism isn’t a thesis about desires or willing at all because it isn’t a thesis about agency. Indeterminism like determinism is a thesis regarding causation. Logically it is possible to be an indeterminist and not believe that there are any agents at all. Libtertarians and Incompatibilists in general take Indeterminism to be a necessary condition for libertarian free will but it is not a sufficient condition and certainly not a thesis regarding agency per se. To his credit Hays correctly notes that the Westminster Confession opts for a kind of Soft Determinism but this is hardly news.

Perry Robinson

Next Hays takes up the challenges of deploying the famous Frankfurt Counter-examples. I take Hays’ discussion of Frankfurt Cases to be the “cleft pallet” version of Frankfurt Cases. It is a clear a deformity. Hays writes,

“An example of hard determinism would be Frankfurt-cases. A Frankfurt-case is a thought-experiment in which the subject, unbeknownst to himself, has a failsafe device implanted in his brain which would prevent him from making a certain choice. Frankfurt-cases are generally deployed to show that LFW is not a necessary condition of moral responsibility. But aside from their relevance to the ethical issues raised in the debate between compatibilism and incompatibilism, they are also relevant to the epistemic question of what would count as evidence for LFW, were it true.

The problem which Frankfurt-cases pose for libertarians is that the subject of the experiment believes himself to be free, even though he isn’t. There is nothing in his experience to falsify his belief that he is other than free, even though his belief is false. On this view, not only is hard determinism compatible with moral responsibility, it is also compatible with the illusion LFW. It is not my purpose to make a case for hard determinism. Rather, I’m arguing from the greater to the lesser. If the indeterminist can’t even disprove hard determinism, he can scarcely disprove soft determinism. The problem is that an agent is in no position to know, from the inside out, whether his actions are determined by an external source. As such, this question can only be resolved by revelation rather than reason.”

To be thorough I must note that off the bat that Frankfurt cases are not cases of Hard Determinism. Frankfurt cases were taken to show that alternative possibilities are not necessary for freedom and/or moral responsibility without the assumption of the truth of determinism. Hard Determinism is in part the idea that determinism is true and is incompatible with freedom thereby precluding freedom. Clearly Hard Determinism and Frankfurt Cases are not expressing the same ideas.

Frankfurt argued that his cases show that alternative possibilities aren’t necessary for freedom and/or moral responsibility because the counter-factual covert controller could flip the switch and alter the subject’s choice if the subject chooses B instead of A. In the actual course of the events, the subject chooses A and the covert controller does nothing at all except observe. Frankfurt argues that the subject appears to be free and to be morally responsible for choosing A even though he could not have done otherwise.

Others, like Stump, have argued that the lesson of Frankfurt cases is not that freedom and moral responsibility are compatible but that freedom and moral responsibility don’t require alternative possibilities and only that the agent be the source of their act. On such a view alternative possibilities wouldn’t be necessary for freedom and moral responsibility but the latter two ideas would still be incompatible with determinism.

Others, like Kane and Widerker, have argued that Frankfurt cases either presuppose determinism since the prior sign that tips the controller off as to what the subject is going to do can only indicate what the subject is going to do if it is a causally sufficient condition for the subject’s action. If there is no antecedently sufficient prior sign, then the controller can’t preempt the subject’s choice. The current discussion concerning Frankfurt cases has pretty much reached a philosophical stalemate. That being the case I am not clear on what value Hays thinks that they have contra Libertarianism.

Is the problem for the subject in Frankfurt cases that he believes himself to be free but isn’t? If he isn’t free, then this certainly not what Frankfurt aimed to show. Rather Frankfurt aimed to show that the subject was free even though he could not have done otherwise. Here Hays gets it wrong. (This is the polite way of saying that he can’t seem to accurately reproduce the ideas of others reliably.) Moreover, since Frankfurt cases were designed to help grasp a concept in metaphysics, the subject’s knowledge or lack thereof plays little or no explanatory role as to whether libertarian freedom is a coherent concept or alternative possibilities are necessary for free will or what the concept of freedom is.

As to epistemology, I am not sure as to what the problem is supposed to be. I grant that in cases of say Descartes’ evil demon, the god of Calvinism (is there a difference?) or other covert controllers of exceeding power that the subject in question either can’t or probably can’t, find out that their alternative possibilities have been counter-factually and covertly eliminated. So what? The only thing of significance that appears to follow is that the agent doesn’t know what they took themselves to know and that is hardly a big deal. What we need is an argument to show that such a situation is analogous to the situation we are fact in and this is an argument that Hays doesn’t suggest let alone give. In any case, Frankfurt cases aren’t about if you can tell if you have free will or not, but what constitutes freedom. That is to say, it isn’t a question about how we know something but about what that something is.

Furthermore, even if we were in such a case and all our actions were predetermined by God, how would say a professing Calvinist be in a position to know that they were elect or had genuine faith? To appeal to self authentication or an inner witness bakes no bread since one could be determined to think that they had the experience of self authenticating faith or an inner witness without in fact having it. How could the professing Calvinist tell the difference? How could they find out if God had determined them to have genuine or spurious faith and hence a reprobate? By Calvinist lights God does either infralapsarianly or supralapsarianly predestine people to be reprobate. How are they to know if they are elect or reprobate? What could possibly function as evidence that one was one or the other? What evidence could the Calvinist give for any of his beliefs being true? If God determines that most of the Calvinists’ theological beliefs are to be false and that all of the data that the Calvinist appeals to is determined to serve that end, how is such a person in a position to find out and know that any of their theological beliefs, including their Calvinism is true? If it is equally possible that God could determine most of their theological beliefs to be true or false, then this would presumably imply that first, none of their theological beliefs have any greater probability of being true than 50% and second, that their belief in theological determinism is just as probably false as well as true. Consequently, I don’t see how the Libertarian is in any worse position (and probably better) than the Calvinist in cases of covert controllers of exceeding power. At least the Libertarian only has to worry about the Devil and self deception, neither of which determine the agent’s actions or beliefs. And the libertarian wouldn’t be responsible or so I would argue in cases of pervasive and exceedingly powerful covert counter-factual control. He would just be a sad and helpless victim. The Calvinist has to worry about the Devil, self deception and God as potential obstacles to finding out if they have any sort of freedom (compatibilist included) or if any of their beliefs are true. They also have to worry about being responsible for acts that they are not the source of. It seems hard to differentiate cases of predetermined control from cases of manipulation and people certainly aren’t (fully) responsible in the latter cases and so not on the former either. If the Calvinist god is the source of evil acts it becomes difficult to see at worst how he is not evil, Calvinist protestations aside, or at best innocent.

And per Hays does the “Indeterminist,” by which I think he means Libertarian, have to disprove Hard Determinism? Remember that Hard Determinism is in part the thesis that determinism is true. From my reading, determinism is thought to be false by most scientists. As to who has to show what in the theological realm the burden seems born by the Calvinist just as equally as the Libertarian. I admit that if there is such a controlling deity then it is hard to see how there could be any epistemological basis for thinking that we had libertarian freedom. But is there such a deity? Has Hays shown that there is? Moreover, as to what could serve as theological evidence for Libertarian freedom I think there is a strong case to be made from the Biblical corpus for it. In a nutshell God has libertarian freedom and we are made in God’s image and therefore enjoy a measure of his kind of freedom. The same language that is employed concerning God’s choices is generally employed with respect to human and angelic choices plausibly giving us grounds for thinking that the freedom is at least of the same kind even if not of the same measure or degree. To deny that such language implies libertarian freedom to humans by the same token denies it to God contradicting every major Christian theological traditon, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox.

Moreover, it seems hard to see how there could be any basis for any of our beliefs if there were such a deity which entails beliefs about having compatibilist type freedom as well. Certainly Calvinists want to hold to Soft Determinism which entails compatibilist freedom. The reasons that Hays gives as undercutting any possible evidence for libertarian freedom also undercuts any possible evidence for compatibilist freedom as well and therefore undercuts the Westminster Confession’s adherence to Soft Determinism. (It really sucks when you cut off the branch you are sitting on.) Calvinists and Libertarians already agree that Hard Determinism is false so I fail to see why the “Indeterminist” has to prove the falsity of Hard Determinism any more than the Soft Determinist Calvinist. Again, Hays is confused.

In short I agree that if determinism is true, then there seems to be no way for the agent to know if his actions are determined by an external source. But this is given the truth of determinism and I am not sure why a Libertarian has to grant that determinism is true. Moreover, the Libertarian seems to be able to argue that since determinism would render any knowledge claim, let alone a claim about having freedom so problematic, that it is a reason to think that determinism is false since the knowledge we have isn’t that problematic to attain. In any case, Frankfurt cases aren’t intended to presuppose determinism which is why Hays’ understanding of them is muddled and epileptic.

Time travel

Hays then moves to construct something like an argument against Libertarianism by claiming that Libertarianism implies the same kinds of absurdities as “retrocausation.” Without reproducing Hays comments here I don’t think he is right. Libertarians can and do quite easily agree with the majority of philosophers today that time travel is impossible and that the past is fixed and hence accidentally necessary. (For a helpful discussion of accidental necessity see http://www.nd.edu/%7Eafreddos/papers/anld.htm ) Since the past is fixed time travel is impossible.

Second, on Libertarianism it is false that if you replayed the past you would alter the future. On Libertarianism it is possible to alter the future but it is not necessary that given the same past circumstances an agent will do otherwise but only that they could do otherwise or at least will to do otherwise. It is important to keep in mind that Libertarians are minimally committed to the idea that the agent could will to do otherwise regardless of the success of those volitional acts, that is regardless of whether I do in fact do otherwise. It doesn’t follow that because an agent is free to do otherwise given the same past circumstances prior to some volition that they will do otherwise. So it is possible that if we could replay the past a million times prior to Jones choosing A as opposed to B that for every time that Jones chooses A. This doesn’t imply that the past determines Jones choosing A but only that the past isn’t causally sufficient to explain Jones’ choice. It might be that Jones always has good reasons to choose A and never has (because say, there aren’t any) good reasons to choose B. Hays seems to be confusing “could have done otherwise” with “would have done otherewise” and conceptually these are not identical. It is possible that Jones could have chosen B some of the times but it doesn’t follow that since Jones had the power to do otherwise that as Hays writes, “If LFW were true, and you kept replicating the past, then, of necessity, the same agent would do otherwise in the same situation. If he really could do otherwise, and you keep giving him enough chances to do otherwise, he would do otherwise—sooner or later.” If Jones has libertarian freedom, he doesn’t do anything, A or otherwise “of necessity.” Hays has adeptly created a strawman.

Libertarians are committed to the idea that the future is in some sense open to free agents. Like Tolkien they believe that the smallest person can make a difference to how the world comes about which is why Libertarians have been concerned (at least should be) about public acts and social policies that eliminate large members of the human community (abortion/euthanasia). Eliminating 40 million children in the US certainly seems to have contributed to altering the way the world would have gone. I don’t see what is so problematic about such an idea and it certainly doesn’t commit us to the idea that the past can be altered but only that the past and the future can be understood counter factually. If Jones in world W had willed B at time T, the future would be X. If Jones in world W1 had willed A at time T, the future would be Y. Where is the supposed implication to retroactive causation here?

Furthermore, if the future ended up being different, it wouldn’t render the initial choice to do otherwise impossible or paradoxical since the different choice or the same choice would still be the antecedent state and contributing but not sufficient cause for whatever future came about. Libertarians don’t deny that the past influences or contributes to the future. A different choice, say for B by Jones isn’t analogous to retroactive causation since the Libertarian isn’t claiming that Jones’ choice for B changes the fixed future or the fixed past.

In sum, it seems to me that Hays needs to do some more reading in the current philosophical literature concerning freedom and determinism. His comments on divine freedom in the comments section would take too long to dissect here but they seem just as confused and contrary to his own confessional tradition.

26 Responses to In Defense of PVI (Or Steve Hays’ Epileptically Induced Belief States on Freedom and Determinism)

  1. “By act I mean the same thing as activity. For example when Aquinas says that God is pure act, he doesn’t mean anything static by it but pure activity.”

    Right, but he means pure activity qua existence, whereas Zubiri means it qua reality. In Zubiri’s metaphysics, being is a way that reality expresses itself, so the activity of reality is in the manner in which the reality “is,” not a manner of acting within existence. In the case of God, God’s freedom is precisely His ability to choose to express Himself in being in an infinite number of ways; this is what He means by God being pure “activity.”

  2. Fr. Oliver says:

    “From God’s being temporal.” If this is true, then there is a time when the Son was not.

  3. Perry Robinson says:

    Tom,

    I don’t know why one would think that atemporal activity is meaningless or contradictory. Can you give me an idea as to why you would think so? By mysterious I just meant unique or out of the ordinary and not to be understood as one would say understand say a creature. Imagine that! I have a principled reason I think why it is so because on my view God is not esse. I don’t think it is a question of being able to explain to anyone’s satisfaction but whether the concept is coherent. The concept may be coherent but strike us as weird similar to say, contra Kant and Quine existence as a property. In any case if there is contingency in God, I think Aquinas and Co have a legitimate gripe, namely what then is the ultimate explanation of reality?

    As to how to apprehend irreducibly temporal facts without it implying temporal knowing, I don’t see what the problem is. I would think that irreducibility meant that they cannot be explained fully by some non-temporal cause and this I think is preserved by seconadary causation. I don’t become a frog by understanding a frog so why would God be temporal by knowing a temporal fact? If there is an argument here as to why God can’t atemporally epistemically access temporal facts then you need to make it for me.

    I don’t see what the problem is with you not knowing what God’s accessing temporal facts timelessly would mean. If there is a problem here then you need to spell it out. What is more, I could argue that this is exactly the point-God is not fully explained by nous or reason. If you want a God that is, then you seem to sacrifice the doctrine of incomprehensibility. As the Cappadocians said, we worship that which we do not know.

    In any case, I never said that timeless facts obtained timelessly. They obtain temporally but God’s knowing of them never “obtains” in the sense of coming about. Why would the fact that they “come about” temporally imply that God has to know them temporally? Does God have to have sensory mechanisms as well? A timeless knower would be in the best position to know temporal facts since all of them would be accessible to him. He wouldn’t have to wait to find things out or to execute his intentions. Nor would a timeless knower jumble the extended events in a single present.

    If God’s knowledge is created, then why isn’t God created too?

    “Moving up” would mean timelessness because the next stop up from simultaneity. I meant moving up along something like a platonic scale of esse. What terrible thing do we avoid? Well I think we avoid losing theistic explanation for one thing. What explains why things are the way they are? Why is there something rather than nothing? We also seem to weaken or lose God’s perfections and open the door to rationalism. It isn’t for no reason that Socinianism came onthe heals of the Reformation.

    As to emotion or more specifically responsiveness I think say Thomists and Scotists have adequate resources to rebutt Open Theistic complaints. Most OT treatments of Thomas are hardly fair or accurate. Thomas doesn’t deny that God is responsive to say our prayers. That is the whole point of the distinction between antecedent and consequent willing in God. God wills things for reasons in logical response to his creatures. Thomas admits that God has “emotions” in a very strict sense without the disturbance we undergo. Oh, and we also avoid being formal heretics. 😉

  4. tom says:

    Arianism follows necessarily from God’s being temporal and experiencing changing states of mind and emotion?

    How so?

    Tom

  5. Fr. Oliver says:

    Tell me, Perry, what horrible thing about God do we avoid is supposing God to be timeless and void of all contingency?

    Arianism.

  6. Tom says:

    Perry: Libertarians think that the future is “wide open.”

    Tom: I have no idea just how open it is, though I’m sure God, being omniscient, does.

    Perry: This does not imply that the future is wide open to God epistemologically.

    Tom: I of course disagree, but you already knew that. ;o)

    Perry: God’s knowing on my view isn’t temporally conditioned…

    Tom: Another point we disagree on, as you know.

    Perry: This means that God acts atemporally in accessing temporal moments. Is that mysterious? Odd? or Unique? Sure but so is God.

    Tom: Mystery I can handle. Odd and unique as well. But ‘atemporal acting’ looks more ‘meaningless’ to me, as in contradictory.

    I often wonder why I can’t play this trump card. I mean, somebody claims what the truth is about God and admits it’s inexplicably mysterious, even paradoxical. They don’t have to make any further sense of it. What if I were to claim that God is, say, temporal, that he temporally apprehends temporal truths, and that in contingently knowing contingent truths we are led to posit contingency in God and then simply dismissed your objections in the end by admitting that I can’t explain it to your satisfaction because it’s a mystery and it’s being mysterious out to encourage us to believe I’m right since God is also mysterious. Very frustrating.

    Perry: Furthermore, I can agree that there are irreducibly temporal propositions but I don’t see a reason to think that this implies that they are necessarily temporally apprehended.

    Tom: How would they be apprehended given their irreducibly temporal character?

    Perry: If God’s knowledge of the world is contingent on the world and is therefore contingent, doesn’t it follow that God’s knowledge of the world is contingent on what he wills…

    Tom: Only if God is the only one deciding how future contingents turn out. But if endowing creation with libertarian freedom means giving it some “say-so” in determining itself visa-a-vis God, then his knowledge of some things would not be contingent upon him.

    Perry: If God is eternal in the sense of timeless then God’s knowing temporal events is a timeless act of accessing temporaly grounded facts. If it’s timeless then it is immediate and direct. There is no temporal moment to “go through.” God simply doesn’t have to wait.

    Tom: I have no way of making sense of this. It’s entirely meaningless to me, Perry. I don’t mean to be difficult or evasive. If God is timeless in the sense you mean I have not the slightest idea how he would know temporal facts. Timelessly? Contingent states of affairs don’t obtain timelessly. Knowledge of them wouldn’t be accessible to a timeless knower (in my view).

    Perry: What I want Tom to think about is this, on his view how is it that God’s knowledge isn’t created?

    Tom: If by “created” you mean God experiences changing states of mind, that is, he comes to know some things and ceases to know others, then yes, I’d say that God’s knowledge of contingent states of affairs is created when those states of affairs obtain.

    I’m all for “moving up.” But why should “up” necessarily mean timeless and unchanging? Why should moving up necessarily lead us to an absolutely timeless God in whom there is no contingency whatsoever, no changing states of mind or emotion? Tell me, Perry, what horrible thing about God do we avoid is supposing God to be timeless and void of all contingency?

    Does this mean I’m not orthodox? ;o)

    Blessings,
    Tom

  7. Perry Robinson says:

    Jonathan,

    By act I mean the same thing as activity. For example when Aquinas says that God is pure act, he doesn’t mean anything static by it but pure activity.

    Fr. Oliver,

    I don’t take your presence here to be unnecessary as I can use all the help I can get working through these issues and ideas.

    The problem with most ppl as far as I see it, with respect to working up and working down is that they take simultaneity as the limit at the top. This is why they see their only option as going “down”.

    Proclus,

    I have been reading Gerson’s stuff along with Lloyd and a bunch of other ppl. While it certainly was the Platonic line that Aristotle was Plato’s best student, I am not sure if that is what Aristotle had in mind. Plotinus and others certainly do seem to alter Aristotle and Aristotle does seem opposed to Plato in his writings. I for one am not clear on Aristotle or at least not as much as I would like to be.

    As things stand now I see Nominalism part of the Platonic tradition as a position to be ascended from. (Terry Penner’s work) Nominalism is a philosophy constructed at the level of matter, that which is ultimately many and minimally one or maximally other and minimally the same, where other and same denote platonic forms, which is why I think matter is not “nothing” for say Plotinus though it is not “something” in its most proper sense since it lacks causal power.

    Since you seem to have a grasp on these things it would be nice to say a bit about yourself.

    All,

    As this thread has moved to other issues I would like to invite others to comment on my interaction with Hays on the concepts of freedom and determinism. I know Fr. Oliver has some questions about compatibilism.

  8. “The part that I found the most impressive, was your noting that Craig and others move down rather than up. That is precisely what Tom does as well. Most do it. Most Calvinists I’ve spoken to (ok, all Calvinists I’ve ever spoken to) also do it.”

    Yep. “Reasoning up” to God’s nature is guaranteed to violate His transcendence, which is exactly what Calvinists do in their exegesis (often being unapologetically anthropomorphic in doing so). IMHO, every sound theological method goes in reverse, affirming the transcendence of God and figuring out what can be said to protect it. That’s why I think Zubiri is right, and Craig isn’t. Both acknowledge the fact of God being in temporal relationship to creation, but only Craig reasons from that point to a change in God’s nature, while Zubiri only uses his observations of creation to affirm the transcendence. That’s what the Cappadocians did, it’s what the Catholic phenomenologist Blondel and Zubiri did, and it is the basis of the apophatic method of Eastern theology.

  9. Fr. Oliver says:

    Wow, this has quickly moved beyond where Tom and I were, though all for the good, I believe. Jonathan, I think this line gets at what I was getting at in response to Tom:
    To confuse God’s activities with God is to confuse being with reality.

    I was going to respond to Tom by stating that he was conflating God and God’s activities within a temporal world (certainly according to the Greek Fathers he would be).

    Perry, your post to three people (Tom, Jonathan, and Daniel) was brilliant. While I do, as you know, allow room for “simultaneity,” I do so only by way of analogy and so I agree with all that you said. I needn’t even post on this site! 🙂 Then again, I knew that when I started posting here! Looks like the only help I may offer may be more along the “patristic” or “historical theology,” should the occasion arrive. Still, this is a fun site and I enjoy puting in my own unnecessary $.02. 🙂

    The part that I found the most impressive, was your noting that Craig and others move down rather than up. That is precisely what Tom does as well. Most do it. Most Calvinists I’ve spoken to (ok, all Calvinists I’ve ever spoken to) also do it.

    Move up, indeed. That is the answer. Whatever one may think of Augustine and Boethius, and I know your perspective on them, at least they had the instinct to do that. This is just one more reason that I find modern and post-modern reflections on religious and philosophical-religio topics to be of a lower order than those in late antiquity and the “medieval” periods.

  10. “Eternity isn’t a mode of God’s existence because it isn’t a ‘mode’ of being because God is not being (esse). [If Zubiri] rejects that the plurality of the divine initiatives impugns the divine simplicity then how would he fair on my argument that ADS renders creation necessary? Are God’s initiatives identical with God or no?

    From what you have written it seems as if he is using the classical scholastic language but redefining it. If God’s reality isn’t esse then great. I am just concerned about applying the category of ‘act’ to non-being. Why bother?”

    Briefly, it’s because Zubiri defines what reality is in contrast with being. Reality is not act but activity; God’s freedom consists precisely in the infinite number of ways in which God can express His reality in being (divine energies, anyone?). To confuse God’s activities with God is to confuse being with reality. Zubiri explains:
    “This God has to be a supreme reality, but not a supreme being. The identification of what is real with being is an important consequence of the acceptance of Greek philosophy. It is what I have termed the entification of reality: things are not entities unless they have being. Now, to be is always but an ulterior act of the real. Whatsoever a being may be, it is always and only being “of” the real. Ulteriority is the precise meaning of this “of”. Therefore, reality and entity are not formally identical. Prior to being entities, and precisely in order to be able to be so, things begin by being real. The fundament of being is reality. And this is still more true, if it is fitting, when we are dealing with the reality of God. God is not the subsistent being, is not the supreme being, not even when festooned with the attribute of infinitude. God is not a divine entity, He is supreme reality. The important assumption common to St. Thomas and Duns Scotus, to which I referred above, is just the entification of reality and, therefore, the identification of God with the supreme entity. No. God is beyond being. God has no being; only worldly things have being, which by virtue of “already” being real, “are” in the world. As fundament of the power of the real God would formally be supreme reality that is ultimate, possibilitating and impelling.”
    http://crimsoncatholic.blogspot.com/2005/07/zubizantine-theology-transcendence-of.html

    If you don’t correct the concept of reality, then you don’t fix the problem inherent in Greek philosophy of viewing entities as “subjects,” which the Eastern Fathers got around by the concept of hyperousios ousios with respect to God (but nothing else). In Zubiri’s metaphysics, you don’t even need to resort to this strategy, because you don’t make the mistake of confusing reality with being in the first place.

    See also this article on creation and the freedom of God:
    http://crimsoncatholic.blogspot.com/2005/07/zubizantine-theology-creation-and.html

  11. Proclus says:

    There are three fundamental versions of Christianity: Nominalist, “Aristotelian,” and Platonist.

  12. Proclus says:

    Perry,

    Check out Lloyd Gerson’s “Aristotle and Other Platonists” for additional help in your deconstruction of Thomism. Gerson cogently argues that Aristotle cannot philosophically survive outside the metaphysics of the Platonic tradition, nor did he intend to, nor did subsequent platonic exegetes think he could. The attempt to read him out of that tradition leads directly to nominalism, the inability to defend the existence of a true “many”, and we all know what that produces because we live in it. Although Gerson never gets to it, the key for philosophically minded Christians is Dionysius and his acolyte Maximus.

  13. Perry Robinson says:

    For those of you who don’t know, Steve Hays has responded on his blog to this post. You can find it under the heading “Loaded Dice.” I thought the name was appropriate give the argumentative stratagy Steve employs there. I think anyone thinking about what I wrote will see that Steve…well..doesn’t understand the concepts or ideas. I will respond in depth when I get the time. Perhaps the Ogre god of Calvinism has determined him to misunderstand philosophical ideas. If so, there is nothing I can do to persuade him otherwise. Perhaps it is liek the Despair.com picture, perhaps the purpose of Steve’s post is to serve as a warning to others. 😉

  14. Tom,

    By “open” I mean accessible. And by accessible I mean able to bring about or able to not bring about. Libertarians think that the future is “wide open” (Thanks Tom Petty.)This does not imply that the future is wide open to God epistemologically. God’s knowing on my view isn’t temporally conditioned and doesn’t fall under the category of being so that ideas of “change” and “fixity” don’t apply to it. Every point in time for God is “open” because God can bring about events at every moment. This means that God acts atemporally in accessing temporal moments. Is that mysterious? Odd? or Unique? Sure but so is God. 😉

    Unless Craig denies ADS he is talking out of his philosophical rear. God cannot have any contingent/temporal attributes given ADS since they are identical. You cannot have contradictory aspects (temporal/atemporal, contingent/non-contingent) being identical.

    Furthermore, I can agree that there are irreducibly temporal propositions but I don’t see a reason to think that this implies that they are necessarily temporally apprehended.

    If God’s knowledge of the world is contingent on the world and is therefore contingent, doesn’t it follow that God’s knowledge of the world is contingent on what he wills because the world is contingent on God? So God’s knowledge is contingent on God through what God wills, namely the world. Sounds like Scotism or maybe Thomas to me. If God is eternal in the sense of timeless then God’s knowing temporal events is a timeless act of accessing temporaly grounded facts. If it’s timeless then it is immediate and direct. There is no temporal moment to “go through.” God simply doesn’t have to wait.

    What I want Tom to think about is this, on his view how is it that God’s knowledge isn’t created? And is God’s knowledge identical with God in any sense? The problems here are obvious.

    Jonathan,

    On my view it is just simpler to deny simultaneity. Simply put, God just knows. Even the present tense has to be transcended. If God is atemporal then he doesn’t exist at a “now” since “now” is a temporal designator. I don’t think that God acts temporally but atemporally with temporal effects. Hence I think Craig and others are going in the wrong direction. They find simultaneity problematic and instead of ascending to the One past Nous the fall into Soul and Matter thinking that they can find a solution there. What they do, IMHO is make matters worse by congealing the dilemma. They need to go up and not down.

    As to God’s relations with the world this depends on if we gloss these as real or formal. If the former then this picks out a depedence relation whereby A relates to B in order to be A. Thus B constitutes A. This is what the medievals deny since it would imply pantheism. God has no “real” relations with the world. All relations with the world are formal or extrinsic and not intrinsic.

    Eternity isn’t a mode of God’s existence because it isn’t a “mode” of being because God is not being (esse). Of Zirubi rejects that the plurality of the divine initiatives impugns the divine simplicity then how would he fair on my argument that ADS renders creation necessary? Are God’s initiatives identical with God or no?

    From what you have written it seems as if he is using the classical scholastic language but redefining it. If God’s reality isn’t esse then great. I am just concerned about applying the category of “act” to non-being. Why bother?

    Daniel,

    As always my Jedi brother, we agree. If God is no being in any sense whatsoever and time is a mode of being, then God cannot be temporal. God’s causality is transcendent. (This would make Thomas happy…kinda)

  15. “I take this to mean that God gets his knowledge OF the world (including truths about the world’s future) FROM his relationship with that world and not from simply knowing himself. That would mean God’s knowledge of the world is contingent upon the world, since the world is contingent. Whatever God is in and of himself, say, eternal, that’s not where and how God comes by his knowledge of the world, including future contingents. God’s being eternal is entirely beside the point IF in fact his knowledge of our world comes from relating to the world.”

    This might be a little misleading, in that to say that God’s knowledge is “contingent” to some extent disregards that it takes place within the context of God’s will to autoformation and His formal presence in reality. “From” is too strong a word; “by” seems more appropriate, in that His knowledge of tensed propositions comes by actualizing (creating and sustaining) a temporal creation. But the process of actualizing is in no way a question of contingency; whatever formal relationship God’s initiatives have among one another is a question of God’s eternal activity and His freedom, eliminating any suggestion of “might” or “might not” in the matter. To put it another way, God has temporal knowledge “by” His immanence, but His immanence results “from” His transcendent freedom, so His immanence can’t be understood in such a way that His immanence negates His transcendence.

    To put a theological spin on it, we can use St. Maximus’s formulation: “God never ceases from the goods because He never began them.”

  16. Tom says:

    Sorry for the confusion. Let me clarify.

    When I said I essentially agreed with Jonathan, I meant that portion of his statement (quoted by me) to the effect that “temporal knowledge is a matter of formal relationship between God to the world, not God in and of Himself.” I take this to mean that God gets his knowledge OF the world (including truths about the world’s future) FROM his relationship with that world and not from simply knowing himself. That would mean God’s knowledge of the world is contingent upon the world, since the world is contingent. Whatever God is in and of himself, say, eternal, that’s not where and how God comes by his knowledge of the world, including future contingents. God’s being eternal is entirely beside the point IF in fact his knowledge of our world comes from relating to the world.

    Hope that helps.

    Tom

  17. Fr. Oliver says:

    Tom,

    You confuse me. How can you “essentially agree” with what Jonathan said (esp. “not God in and of Himself”) and then say that the future is “open” to God? That makes no sense to me whatsoever. If God is truly eternal, as the Cappadocians and Jonathan say, and you agree, then how can you turn around and say “oh, and that means he’s really ‘temporal,’ inasmuch as He, too, must go through temporal experiences which are inherently ‘open’?” (yeah, I’m paraphrasing your argument as I understand it)

    You agree God’s essentially eternal and then turn around and treat Him as though he’s temporal???

  18. Tom says:

    Sorry to pull things of course guys! Just wanted to chime in and say hi to Perry!

    Blessings,
    Tom

  19. Tom says:

    Jonathan: But I thought I did have the answer. If Zubiri is correct (not to mention the Cappadocians before him), then temporal knowledge is a matter of formal relationship between God to the world, not God in and of Himself.

    Hey Jonathan-

    Thanks for the reply. I essentially agree, which is why I think the future is epistemically open for God where the future is ‘in fact’ open (or indeterminate). If there are irreducibly tensed truths about the world, and if knowing such truths constitutes a formal relationship between God and the tensed realities that constitute the grounds of those propositions, then God knows these truths on account of standing in a tensed relationship with an irreducibly tensed reality, which is to say God knows what “might/might not” happen (as opposed to knowing only future-tensed props of the “will” and “will not” sort) just in those cases where that’s the truth about the world. Whatever else might be the temporal status of God’s mode of existence–in and of Godself–it wouldn’t change the fact that God’s knowledge of tensed truths is grounded in his standing in a tensed relationship to a tensed world, or so it seems to me.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  20. Tom:
    Sorry, I’m not Perry. 🙂

    But I thought I did have the answer. If Zubiri is correct (not to mention the Cappadocians before him), then temporal knowledge is a matter of formal relationship between God to the world, not God in and of Himself. Eternality is the mode of God’s existence, but it is in temporal relationship to creation. In that respect, I think that one can accept Craig’s argument that God is “temporal” after creation without rejecting that He lives in an eternal mode (which is where I think Zubiri’s formulation of God’s temporality as a formal relationship makes more sense).

    Photius:
    Your concern is a valid one, but Zubiri makes clear that this is only a matter of speaking. He rejects the notion that the plurality of divine initiatives impugns the divine simplicity.

    Zubiri says:
    “The life of God, with all the immutability and simplicity one may wish to consider, is not the simplicity and immutability of a mathematical singularity, but is the unfathomable unity and simplicity of a real and effective activity. That is what the very divine activity is, which is not determined by the operations it ‘performs’, but is the infinite plenitude of the reality it formally is, insofar as active in itself and by itself.”

    What Zubiri means by “reality” is not “being;” rather, “being” is subsequent to reality. So when he says that everything is “simultaneous” in God; he is simply referencing the eternal mode of God’s reality, which is technically beyond being. “Existing at no moment” would be a good way of describing it.

  21. Tom says:

    I’m assuming there are irreducibly tensed truths (propositions) about the temporal world, and that the truth values of such props are temporally grounded and only temporally apprehended. So for me there’s no knowing these truths apart from knowing them at the time the states of affairs they describe actually obtain, even for God. Their truth values are not temporally invariant (as Craig argues).

    Peace out!
    Tom

  22. I would deny this one:

    “In this sense everything is simultaneous in God.”

    I think this presupposes simplicity, and the worry that a sequence of divine predicates would appear under the form of real temporal change in God. Simultaneity is then used as a corrective to this.

    I like the idea that God exists at no moment.

    Photius

  23. Tom says:

    Perry: Essentially, you are arguing from God’s temporal action that God cannot be eternal, an assertion that, if it were true, would render the notion of creation itself impossible (see, e.g., William Lane Craig’s explanation of the “3…2…1…let there be light!” problem based on the kalam cosmological argument).

    Tom: I’m inclined actually to agree with Craig. But be careful. Craig argues that God’s temporal mode of existence is a contingent attribute. God is atemporal sans creation (for the reaasons you mentioned–though this view is not without its own problems) and temporal since creation. The point is, once creation comes along, God is a temporal being, period. I honestly can’t adjudicate the pro’s and con’s of God’s temporal status sans creation, but it doesn’t matter. A temporal creation (responsible for temporal truths known by God) is here.

    Thanks bro,
    Tom

  24. “Wouldn’t the future be partly epistemicallhy open for him too?”

    Nope. As Xavier Zubiri puts it:
    “Obviously, each of these divine initiatives is eternally lived. In this sense everything is simultaneous in God. But from the point of view we are taking here, i.e., terminatively, we can certainly ask, is it formally included under initiative number three, the knowledge and initiative already taken of what is going to take place under initiative number ten? The answer is no. That is the question. Certainly, all initiatives are lived by God eternally, but formally the knowledge is not included. The world, in this sense, is a world open to the divine initiatives because God has been pleased not to take just one initiative in which all the details of the world have been exhausted.

    God does not develop in himself that would be absurd. But He develops in another, in the world. And this developing in the other is precisely the systematic and progressive concatenation, the theological concatenation of His own divine initiatives.”
    http://www.catholicphilosophy.com/sys-tmpl/chapter3187199/

    The fact that God acts temporally simply indicates a reservation of His own initiatives in their temporal action (IOW, a will for His initiatives to play out temporally). Formally, the knowledge of these later initiatives is not included in the previous initiatives (because at that time in the temporal flow of the world, what will happen is not actual yet), but that is an attribute of the initiatives themselves, not the initiator, who in this case lives all of His own initiatives eternally. Essentially, you are arguing from God’s temporal action that God cannot be eternal, an assertion that, if it were true, would render the notion of creation itself impossible (see, e.g., William Lane Craig’s explanation of the “3…2…1…let there be light!” problem based on the kalam cosmological argument).

  25. Tom says:

    Perry: Libertarians are committed to the idea that the future is in some sense open to free agents.

    Tom: Well, you already know how much I like the word “open”! So if “open” is what the future partly is; that is, if this openness is ‘ontological’ (if I may) as opposed to being merely attributable to our ‘epistemic’ limitations, wouldn’t an omniscient God face a partly open future as well? Wouldn’t the future be partly epistemicallhy open for him too?

    Having fun!

    Peace,
    Tom

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