Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
More rambling thoughs: the limitations of knowledge
A contributor to the 'Friendly Christian' blog recently made the following comment:
Christians claim to know what happens after they die, even though they haven’t been dead yet. Atheists claim to know nothing happens even though they haven’t been dead yet. Christians can spend hours explaining why they just know there’s a God, Atheists can spend hours explaining why they know there isn’t.
Now... it's possible to spend hours – if not days – debating what exactly we mean by “know”, but I think it fair to say that the above strongly hints at a certain absolutism in the views of both theists and atheists: It's not just that we can justify our beliefs, we're almost (if not completely) positive that they reflect the way the world is.
Such absolutism is rife: How many times have you seen people dismiss opposing views not because they disagree with the arguments put forward, but simply because they disagree? It's a familiar scenario – a contrary view is offered and rather than consider it honest we simply try to prove the other person wrong.
As the US economist John Kenneth Galbraith once eloquently put it:
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.
But for me, atheism has to be almost synonymous with uncertainty: Without access to an omnipotent being what could ever be the basis for absolute claims?
(Not that theism necessarily entails absolutism either – humility is a universal virtue)
Though I believe that the mind deteriorates along with the brain, I ultimately don't know what happens when we die.
Though I consider the evidence for the supernatural to be lacking, my knowledge of the universe probably extends to no more than a minute percentage.
In the last few thousand years – a mere cosmological blink of the eye – our knowledge and understanding of the universe has changed dramatically. The world we live in is vastly different to one our ancestors inhabited. The world our descendants live in will most likely be equally unrecognisable.
The beginning of wisdom, as the saying goes, is the admission of ignorance.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
"What did she ever do to me?"
I don't want to draw attention away from the debates on Just Thinking's post below, but I'd like to point people towards this article (found via Friendly Christian) on remembering that at the heart of all contentious issues are human beings just like us:
I enjoyed the attention I was getting. The newsletter of a local cult awareness expert described me as a ‘heroine of the faith’. I felt like I was doing something worthwhile by warning people about this heretical leader. I hoped she would repent and realize her beliefs were wrong. However she entrenched and sent out newsletters about how she was being persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
Around the beginning of December I made the mistake of thinking about the leader as another human being. I realized “Wow, I am being so mean – what did she ever do to me?” I had taken her workshop some time before this and it actually had some tips in it I found helpful. I also realized that holding up one particular measuring stick against her gave very distorted results – it was unfair. If I was honest, I knew from the workshops that she had great trust in God and great faith in him. He was her loving Father – there was no doubt about that.
Once I realized how mean I was being I couldn’t continue. I took down my Trinity website page and posted an apology to the leader in place of it. I sent her a written apology in the mail. I received a response back from her with a photo of her family. That response meant more to me – and still does – than all the acclaim I received for my stint in the doctrine police.
I don't want to come across as all Kumbaya on you, but one of the things I've learnt through debating both off- and on-line is that a little humility goes a long way...
Now how about a group hug? ;-)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Atheism and Religion
(This is a guest post by Just Thinking)
In one of the comments (at The Agnostic Monk) I posted, I said:
“Sometimes I think the atheists’ arguments AGAINST the belief in God is closer to God’s truth than the Christians’ arguments FOR our belief in God.”
To which Matt asked me to elaborate and come up with something to post here. At first, I declined in fear of being seen as a complete nutcase. But then, my daughter challenged me further by saying, “If you do really believe what you believe to be the truth, what are you afraid of?” So here I am.
My hat’s off to Alex and Matt for letting a nobody like me have a voice on their blog. Please feel free to challenge my views and enlighten me.
WHY I CHALLENGE RELIGION
I am a follower of Christ. And yet I oddly find myself frequently challenging the Christian perspective rather than the Atheist. And I may even go as far as siding with the atheist’s argument. This may be because I understand why the Atheist says what he says. I’ve been there and done that. At least the atheists, for the most part, are consistent in their unbelief.
What I find to be puzzling is when Christianity repeatedly talks about unconditional love that is somehow conditional, Grace that is somehow determined by works, and freedom that is somehow attached to shackles.
ABOUT CHOOSING THE TRUTH
Alex said somewhere that “There is undoubtedly a spiritual dimension were God seeks to interact directly with our heart... the very core of our being. From what I have seen God is seeking to reveal himself to all mankind, yet being the free agents I believe we are, we often do not respond to him.”
First of all, I don’t think being free agents is what prevents us from responding to God. If, as we claim, God in fact is the Truth, then what prevents us from seeing the Truth? I believe it’s the Lie that deceives us. The choice, in actuality, is the choice to believe in the lie. The truth is not a choice. Truth just IS. It is the lie that poses as the truth that makes us think the choice is in our hands.
THE LIE WE’VE BEEN TOLD
I also asked him, "When the child hears the loving voice of the parent and recognizes that love as unconditional, wouldn’t the child merely react to it rather than make a conscious choice?”
To which he replied, “In the beginning yes it is more of a reaction than a choice, but as we mature we come to see that true love is a choice much more than it is a reaction.”
Alex, you know I love and respect you, but let me challenge your response here: Don’t you find it ironic that you chose the words “in the beginning,” to start your reply? Please don’t hate me for making this analogy, but your very statement brings this picture to mind:
In the beginning, we were created and were in perfect relationship with God. We trusted God as the be all and end all to our existence. Then the serpent asked, “Did God REALLY say?” which prompted us to start questioning why He says what He says. The serpent pointed us to the fruit which offered the knowledge to be able to decide for ourselves who God is and the choice to decide our own destiny. What would be better than that? We chose the fruit. And we became blind to the truth.
In my belief, God is not a god of action but He just simply is. He is the I Am. He is the Truth. How do you choose truth? Truth just is. The choice is only in rejecting the lie. When you reject the lie, all that remains is the truth.
In each of us, at the inner most core of our being, there lives a child who wants to be loved, accepted, and validated for who we already are, not who we can strive to become. That is why we rebel against anything that tells us that we’re not good enough. And yet we spend our lifetime trying to perfect ourselves to become worthy. Worthy of whom? In the end, as King Solomon stated, all of it is vanity. It truly is all for nothing if we cannot understand the true meaning of grace.
I responded to a post over at Agnostic Monk by Dr. Incitatus, where he posted a video of an interview with Daniel C. Dennett. I agree with him especially on the following points:
Dennett talks about how it’s unacceptable in today’s society to be frank or rude when it comes to questioning what people hold sacred. I don’t believe that we should go as far as being rude, but I definitely think we would be able to talk openly, honestly, and frankly about the differences in beliefs. Questions should be raised and discussions should ensue. How else are we going to see the truth? That’s why I love it here – here, where the words can flow fairly freely.
I absolutely agree with him when he says most people do not actually believe in God; they believe in the belief in God. And I believe it is a true statement regarding the majority of the people who follow religion. Religion has a way of having a hold on people, because they believe God is synonymous with religion. But I hold the view that religion is a huge part of the Lie that I spoke of earlier.
RELIGION AS THE OPPRESSOR
In response to the Dennett interview, I commented and asked Dr. Incitatus if he had ever been a victim of religious oppression. He answered with this:
“ It (religion) is certainly sometimes used as an excuse for oppression, but not to an extent that I would consider to outweigh it's stabilising effect on social groups….” About oppression, he said, “No. That's not to say that I might not do so in the future, but I think there's a certain level of hysteria among secularists right now. There seems to be a battle between specific Christian denominations and secular Americans for who gets to hold the apparently much lauded title of "The Persecuted".("We're oppressed!" "No you're not! WE ARE!")…”
“As it is, us godless heathens run a close second with the Baptists as one of the largest groups in the US (15%). With the exception of abortion and the fact that God is rather important, the Baptists and the Catholics can't agree on anything, including evolution. So I don't fear a ruthless Christian hegemony in the US anytime soon.”
I don’t think we’re looking at oppression in the same light.
I’m speaking of the kind of oppression where the fear of God’s wrath, God’s rejection, or even the fear of being unworthy of His love that is so deeply imbedded in your brain that failing to do what is believed to be “the right thing” results in self-condemnation and self-loathing. The kind where you always feel short of being good enough and always striving to do more for God with no end in sight. The kind of oppression where you know deep in your heart what is true and yet the very religion that taught you where to look for Him is also preventing you from being completely in His embrace. The kind of oppression where you feel more at home in the company of who they call their enemies than the very people that are supposed to be your brothers and sisters.
I mean, have you felt that kind of oppression? In saying “stabilizing effect on social groups,” is that what you mean? And who’s stabilizing the “godless heathens” you refer to?
I apologize for getting emotional...but that’s what I mean when I say that religion has power over us.
GOD AND RELIGION
I read this quote on Timmo’s blog, Thalesian Fools, in which James Cone states that “theology ceases to be a theology of the gospel when it fails to arise out of the community of the oppressed.”
It is a brilliant quote. Cone may not have been referring to the religion itself when he talked of oppression; but to me, there isn’t a more powerful oppressor than religion. I wish Timmo would have expounded more with his thoughts on this, as well spoken as he is. The irony, in my view, is that the desire for freedom cannot exist without the feeling of oppression. I have to wonder if it is possible for us to sustain a relationship with Christ without an oppressor. Perhaps God and religion must coexist…
I should have some sort of a grand conclusion here where I tie everything together. But I don’t. To me, there is no conclusion to this ongoing dilemma. One side continues to falsely represent God, and the other side continues to reject the idea. All I’m saying is that the one who continues to search for an answer is closer to the truth than the one who thinks he already has the answer.
In closing, let me just clarify myself so you know where I stand: I am a Christian yet I do not subscribe to Christianity as the force that dictates how I live my life. I believe in the unconditional love of God, and yet I don’t see it as a choice. I believe in the freedom that Christ offers us, yet I remain a part of the religion that chokes the hell out of me. I rebel against everything, yet I love all those people that I challenge and confront. Sometimes, I even catch myself saying something totally out of line with what I really believe. Do we not need to constantly question ourselves and be questioned by others so we can together get closer to the truth?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Some rambling thoughts on religion and education
Friendly Christian highlights what seems to me to be a slight over-reaction to a proposed Bible-reading in a school:
Wesley Busch is a kindergarten student at Culbertson Elementary School in Newton Square, Pennsylvania — and all he wanted to do was have his mother read aloud from his favorite book, the Bible. The book reading was part of a classroom assignment called “All About Me,” the purpose of which was to provide students an opportunity to identify individual interests and learn about each other through the use of items such as stuffed animals, posters, books and other mediums.
Jeremy Tedesco, legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), says the school district had a big problem with Wesley’s favorite book. “When Wesley told his mom ‘I want you to read the Bible, that’s my favorite book,’ the school said no — even though they let every other book reading go forward… [they said] but here, read this book on witches and Halloween instead.”
Separation of church and state is something that I think is incredibly important. I believe that every individual has to arrive at their view of the world on their own terms – without pressure from outside forces.
It's not the job of the state to do the church's work for them. But I also don't think that it should try to pretend that religious beliefs don't exist.
The relationship between the church and state in the UK is a fairly complex one: There's no formal separation (the government funds religious schools, religious figures are guaranteed places in the House of Lords, the monarch is head of both the state and the church of England – though the roles are largely ceremonial), but it's generally agreed that too much religious influence over politics is a bad thing. His PR advisers went to great lengths to downplay Tony Blair's Christianity as it was felt it might alienate a significant part the public.
At primary school we sang Christian hymns in assembly and I can vaguely recall the headmaster reading out certain parables (such as the Good Samaritan). I can also (just about) remember a group giving a little talk and then handing out copies of the New Testament.
Yet at the same time my school was pretty secular. The point of the hymns and parables wasn't to make us believe in what they described (I don't know anyone I was at school with who actually holds to the Biblical view of the world) but more to instil in us a particular set of values: be good people, respect others, enjoy beauty in the world around you, etc. When it came to specific classes, religion never entered into it (with the obvious exception of Religion Education).
By the time I moved up to secondary school I – like most people - had a pretty decent understanding of Christianity alongside the awareness that it was just one view of the world amongst many.
I've always been quite glad of that knowledge. Although I don't believe the Christian view of the world, I can at least understand the people that do. I think I'd be a lot poorer without that. The only thing I regret is that I can't say the same for other religions: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.
If it was up to me all primary school children would be made aware of the diverse range of beliefs out there – through singing their hymns, hearing their stories and immersing themselves in the different cultures. Not only would it encourage tolerance (we fear less the more we know) but it would also put people in a far better position to decide which path was the right one for them.
This for me is the point of education: not just to provide us with the tools for understanding the world, but making us aware just how rich and diverse a place it is.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Why I'm here
With Alex off to commune with nature, I thought I'd step back from all the technical issues flying back and forth at the moment and take things down to a more personal, slightly self-indulgent level.
Why I'm an atheist:
It's been an interesting and enlightening experience for me to read through the accounts of how some people came to atheism over at 'The Friendly Atheist' and 'Friendly Christian' blogs. For many of them, the transition from religious to atheist was an apparently traumatic event which put them at odds with their family and sometimes their community.
The reason I find these accounts so interesting is that they bear little resemblance to my own experience.
Like most children in the UK I grew up believing that God had created the world and could apparently still be a force upon it. I sang hymns at school assembly, knew roughly what had happened in the Bible and went on school trips to the local church a few times.
Like most people though, I began to develop my own outlook and views as I grew older and started to learn more and more about the world. Between them, science and RE lessons caused me to question the Biblical explanation of the world – the fact that dinosaurs were more interesting than the Bible probably also played a part – and shifted me towards a more deist position: I believed that God created the world, but that the Bible (like most religious texts) was simply a metaphorical, poetic text rather than a reliable guide to the universe.
Actually reading the Bible, however, shifted my position to more of a deist-agnosticism. While it has some nice sentiments, nothing about it struck me as divinely inspired. Whatever wisdom may lie in it, there doesn't seem to be anything in the Bible that can't be found in other, man-made, texts: The 'Meditations' of Marcus Aurelius spring to mind, along with some of the teachings of Confucius, etc.
With nothing to firmly anchor it, the deist aspect of my outlook gradually drifted away, leading to the atheist-agnosticism I have now. Throughout, I've tried to approach the big questions as honestly and openly as possible. Doing so has led me to a provisionally naturalistic view of the world, devoid of absolute certainties and full of questions – some fascinating and some troubling.
None of this has caused any friction with the people I know, people who run the entire spectrum from church-going Christians to outspoken atheists. All of them hold to the opinion that what's important is how you treat others, metaphysics comes much later.
Being inclined towards scepticism, I like to challenge my beliefs as much as possible – so I deliberately seek out arguments for positions different to my own (on most subjects: political, religious, etc.), which is why I'm here.
I have nothing against religious belief in itself. I simply don't share it. My hope is for a secular world in which each individual enjoys the freedom to choose whichever outlook seems right for them, without having to worry about social or political pressure. I enjoy these discussions with those who see things differently to me – it makes me optimistic about the possibility of humanity overcoming its divisions and becoming more tolerant and democratic.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
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
Friday, September 07, 2007
Greg Boyd, ISOHP & Free Will Part 1
For ages now we have been kicking around the notion of "Free Will". I'm not sure where everyone stands on this issue other than Matt and myself. (...well, on second thought, I think I do recall Revvvvvd leaning in the compatibilist direction as well. At any rate...) Matt has decided that he feels the compatibilist stance best coheres with reality as he experiences it. I, on the other hand, have always felt that determinism does violence to the way we experience the world. Still I had never really read much on either side of the debate to have whole lot of confidence in my hunch. Thus, for a time I was left in limbo. I knew that compatibilism seemed untenable, but I had not come across any other concepts that adequately dealt with the free will problem.
I've recently begun reading Greg Boyd's Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil. In usual Boydian fashion Greg picks apart the various positions on this topic in a way that actually made some sense. The following exploration constitutes the beginning of my exploration of this topic. You will see a familiar vein of my own thinking, but I will also be borrowing heavily from Boyd's book. (which is honestly the only serious interaction with the material I have engaged with.)
You will notice that this exploration will be more about deconstructing compatibilism, than it is about describing self-determining freedom. I think this mostly owes to the fact that no one really knows how self-determining freedom works. In much the same way, no one really knows what "matter" is. We only know what it is by what it does. That said, I say we define our terms and dig in!
Self-Determining Freedom states that the reason one action is performed verses another is ultimately determined by the agent. This sentiment is captured in the oft heard statement that in order for us to be free we must genuinely possess the ability to have done other than we did in-fact do.
Agents need not be self-determining to be genuinely free. Agents are free if there is nothing that constrains them from doing what they want. But they need not be—and, most would argue, cannot be—free to determine what they want.
Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil pp.58
According to compatibilism, determinism is considered to be compatible with free will. Hence the name. But can this stance be sustained if we are not the originators of the actions in question? Robert Kane argues that unless the agent possesses the power to be the final cause or explanation for their actions, any attempt at rendering them free becomes unintelligible. He goes on to say:
When we trace the causal or explanatory chains of action back to their sources in the purposes of free agents, these causal chains must come to an end or terminate in the willings (choices, decisions, or efforts) of the agents, which cause or bring about their purpose.
Significance of Free will pp.4
"Simply being able to do what one wants does not render one free or morally responsible if the want itself is outside of one's control"1. Boyd uses an illustration that I will paraphrase to illustrate this point.
Imagine I had developed a chip that I could insert into the head of another person thereby controlling their mind. Imagine I put this chip into some random stranger then willed them to carry out a murder. Now, we both get caught and all this evidence comes to light. What judge in their right mind would convict the random stranger who was acting on an impulse that was ultimately my own? Any person viewing this data must conclude that the individual was not free to commit the murder. It is simply absurd to conclude that we can be held morally responsible when the ultimacy of our actions can be traced beyond us to uncontrollable external factors.
It is because of this, that the determinist must declare that moral responsibility has become an illusion. Rather than explaining our experience as morally accountable agents, the compatibilist has simply rendered the phenomenon illusory. It is for this reason that I see the compatibilist attempt at dealing with free will and moral responsibility to be a failure. It set out to demonstrate the compatible nature of determinism and moral responsibility, but in the end it has merely rendered the terms "moral responsibility" and "free will" either neutered of any desirable meaning or illusory altogether.
Compatibilist objections to Self-determining Freedom
Thus far, I hope I have made it clear that the compatibilist position does not seem to be reasonable. Still, many prefer to go this route then to consider self-determining freedom which they see as being either implausible at best, or incoherent at worst. We will now consider two of the main objections to self-determining freedom.
A scientific objection
Many would argue that recent advances in modern science have rendered the concept of self-determining freedom incoherent. Some feel that studies involving the role of genetics and environment on our personality and behavior indicate that personal actions are exhaustively determined by factors antecedent to the agents themselves. In keeping with this line of thinking, they argue that if we had exhaustive knowledge of what made up any given individual as well as exhaustive knowledge of the environment in which the individual was placed, we would then be able flawlessly predict the future actions of the individual. Here again, freedom of the will is considered pure illusion.
Galen Strawson crystalizes this argument:
(1)It is undeniable that one is the way one is as a result of one's heredity and experience. (2) One cannot somehow accede to true responsibility for oneself by trying to change the way one is as a result of heredity and experience. For (3), both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of one's success in the attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and experience.
It seems unavoidable that if premise (1) is accepted the logic flows unavoidably from there. Boyd rejects premise (1) then goes on to offer six arguments against it, five of which we will briefly consider.
"...the evidence supporting genetic or environmental determinism is simply not conclusive ... While empirical evidence proves that genes and environment strongly influence human behavior, this evidence fails to prove that these factors determine our behavior."2.
Determinism and moral responsibility
This argument has already been made above. Essentially, if we are mechanically determined by our genetics and environment then holding people morally accountable for their actions is analogous to punishing someone for the color of their hair or the size of their spleen. It is clear that we do believe people ought to be held responsible for their actions. Thus, this universal belief, ought to constitute one very strong bit of evidence that we do indeed possess self-determining freedom.
Physical determinism is self-refuting
If all known reality is physically determined then the belief "all known reality is physically determined" is also physically determined. The problem here is that it is not at all clear that physically determined conditions are capable of possessing truth values. They simply are. If indeed physical determinism rules the day, all our discussion on this topic is, and always has been, incapable of possessing either truth or falsehood. I think this is what I was trying to get at here, albeit in my typical rather ham fisted way.
Failure to explain the phenomenon of freedom and moral conviction
Also noted above, "if the goal of any philosophical or scientific theory is to render puzzling phenomenon intelligible, then compatibilism must be judged to be a poor theory. Not only does it fail to explain our basic sense of morality, it also fails to explain our phenomenological experience of ourselves as self-determining personal agents. Indeed compatibilism dismisses this as illusory."3. Though it is true that we also experience ourselves as significantly affected by variables outside of our control, (place of birth, biological factors, etc...) it can be equally affirmed that within these externally determined parameters we uniformly experience ourselves as self-determining agents.
Determinism and the pragmatic criterion for truth
This final response the the scientific objection deals with the fact that it is impossible for us to live as though we believe our choices are exhaustively settled prior to our consideration. We can only deliberate about what we genuinely believe to be within our own power. For instance, I cannot genuinely deliberate about whether or not I might spend the afternoon as a chipmunk with x-ray vision. I rightly realize that it's not much of an option for me. On the other hand, I find my day filled with innumerable choices that I genuinely believe to be within my power to deliberate on. It is unclear how a determinist might conduct one's life under the impression that every move they make, every thought they think, has been exhaustively determine for them before they ever entered the scene. This strongly suggests that deterministic views are false, if not meaningless.
For the sake of making this exploration somewhat bearable to write, let alone to read through, I will now bring part one of this post to a close. So far, I have sought to put forth working definitions for self-determining and compatibilist freedom while voicing my objection to the supposed solution compatibilism brings to the problem of moral responsibility and determinism. I have also reviewed several responses to scientific objections to self-determining freedom. My conclusion, thus far, is that self-determining freedom is not jeopardized, at least as it relates to the supposed scientific objections. Stay tuned for part two when we will be tackling the more difficult philosophical objection that self-determining freedom is incoherent.
1. Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil pp.60
2. Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil pp.63
3. Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil pp.65