Greg Boyd, ISOHP & Free Will Part 2
A Preliminary Note: Some may be wondering (and Matt has been asking) about the validity of a theory that does not explain how it's central concept works. This should really be no stumbling block however, as we postulate all sorts of theories in this way while attempting to explain observable data. Many of these theories involve mechanisms we are unable to exhaustively explain. So then, if the data we are trying to explain requires the postulation of self-deterining freedom, that is grounds for accepting the theory.
A brief review
In part one we dealt with the scientific objection to Self-determining freedom which asserted that modern science refutes such a notion. What resulted was the exploration of five challenges to the scientific objection. The combined weight of which I see to be severely damaging to the scientific objection.
- The scientific data is inconclusive.
- The alternative of determinism destroys any real concept of moral responsibility.
- The one who proclaims determinism as truth refutes themselves, for their assertion would also need to be determined, thus invalidating their own truth claim.
- Determinism, fails to explain our phenomenological experience as free, morally responsible agents. In-fact, determinism dismisses the phenomenon as illusory.
- Practically speaking, determinism is unlivable as an internalized concept. It is unclear how would could genuinely conduct their life under the impression they the had no say in how they reacted to unfolding experiences.
Having dealt with the scientific objection we will now turn our attention to the more challenging objection that self-determining freedom is incoherent.
Caused, or not caused. What's it gonna be?
Perhaps the most potent philosophical argument against self-determining freedom goes a little something like this:
Either a person's decisions are caused or not. If they are caused, then they are determined and thus are not free in an incompatibilist sense. If they are uncaused, however, they still are not free, for, as Kant taught us, an uncaused event is inconceivable. Even if uncaused decisions were conceivable, however, they still would not be free. They would rather be random and capricious. Uncaused decisions could be no more "free" and could possess no more moral quality to them than the involuntary twitching of an eyelash.
Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil pp.68
This seems to set up a strong dilemma for self-determining freedom. As Matt has argued in the past, "either our choices are caused, or they are random". Either choice you pick seems to be a death blow to the position I am arguing for.
a logical analysis
The way Boyd approaches this dilemma is to question the notion that causation is analogous to determination. The above argument only works if, x caused y is equal to x determines y. Logically, it is not clear that this is the case. Boyd argues that our choices do indeed have causes, but this not the same as saying they are determined. All that is needed is retroactive continuity for such an an assertion to hold. Consider the following example:
Imagine you drop a glass bottle onto a concrete sidewalk. Now imagine that God reveals to you a possible world identical ours in every way, yet the bottle, when dropped, does not break.
here we see that, at least logically, we can conceive of a scenario where an action causes an effect, without exhaustively determining the outcome. Keep in mind that all we have shown so far is that there is no logical contradiction in saying that a caused event is not determined. The next question is, can such a situation really be possible in this world?
an evidential analysis
When it comes to "what we are made of" the smallest measurable unites we can observe exist at what is called the quantum level. For the purposes of our discussion, it is interesting to note that a fundamental feature of quantum mechanics deals with the way quantum particles cannot be deterministically predicted. "The only concept of causation that has consistently proven useful at the quantum level is statistical, probabilistic and non-determinative in nature"1. The way a particle may react, given a specific causal conditions can be predicted within a certain range of possibilities, but these reactions have not been shown to be deterministic in nature.
The question must then be asked, if this "openness" at the foundational level of our existence is deemed to be coherent, how is it that the concept of nondeterministic causality becomes incoherent at the anthropological level? This question gains even more force when we remember (as argued above) that we do, in-fact, experience ourselves as free agents. I would argue that the evidence of our own experience, combined with that of the quantum openness we have just discussed, builds a strong case that determinism is false and that the world is better viewed as a, at least partially, open experience in which we do in-fact have some say in the reality that transpires.
Today we have explored the possibility that there is logical and evidential support for the notion that, (at least within a certain range of possible actions) there can indeed exist a certain "openness" where the reality that is brought fourth can indeed, be up to us. It has been argued that the charge, "our actions are either caused or random" need not render self-determining freedom incoherent, for our actions are indeed still "caused", yet they can reasonably be understood to be one option out of a range of possibilities, each of which could have been retroactively coherent.
And so, we conclude this exploration of causality as it relates to free will and determinism. Next up... determinism the concept of sufficient reason. In other words, why one action over another.
1. Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil pp.68