Saturday, February 5, 2011

A curious fact about open future views

Here is a curious fact. Open futurists and fatalists both are committed to the claim that

  1. It is not true that tomorrow I will freely choose what to eat for lunch.
But they agree for different reasons. Fatalists think this is so because they think no one will ever freely choose. Open futurists think this is so because whether I will freely choose what to eat for lunch depends on various future contingencies, such as whether I freely choose to stay up until 10 am tomorrow, and then sleep from 10 am to 4 pm tomorrow. It is only the closed futurist non-fatalist who gets to affirm that tomorrow I will freely choose what to eat for lunch.

In fact, just as fatalists are, open futurists may be committed to the claim that

  1. It is not true that I will ever make any indeterministic free choices.
For surely whether I will ever make any indeterministic free choices depends on future contingencies, such as whether in the next moment God chooses to take me off to my eternal destiny and remove all indeterminism from my future (or, if one is an atheistic open futurist, whether quantum events rip me to shreds next moment).

Of course, the agreement between open futurists and fatalists only goes so far. Typical open futurists will say that in the past I made some free choices, while fatalists will deny that. Also, fatalists are going to replace the "not true" in (1) and (2) with "false", which some open futurists will resist. But there is still an irony that a view motivated by a desire to maintain one's freedom makes it impossible to say that one will make a free choice.

8 comments:

enigMan said...

There may well be irony, but irony is a funny thing. It seems to me, for example, that you're clutching at straws; and so I wonder why you don't like open theism: If such coincidences are what you're left with when you try to give reasons for rejecting open theism, should you not as a philosopher wonder about that rejection? (Personally, I find it ironic that a self-styled philosopher should spend his time on such coincidences, perhaps thinking that calling them 'irony' makes them meaningful.)

enigMan said...

Still, there may be little irony. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, so the view can be motivated by a desire to focus upon one's responsibility, rather than one's freedom. This is a theism after all. (And what if God is atemporal but wants us to think of Him as a continuant, much as He appears in the Bible; should we not then reject atemporalism?)

Furthermore, the open view does not make it impossible to say that one will make a free choice. There is a classical distinction between God's absolute and His ordained powers, for example. So open theists can rationally believe that God will certainly maintain their souls in existence, that they are forever bound to have free choices ahead of them. (But then, this is irony, not argument, so perhaps such details are unimportant?)

Alexander R Pruss said...

I have a whole bunch of reasons for not liking open future views. :-) Classical logic is correct. Arguments for open future views tend to be based on a mistaken proposal for a necessary condition for alternate possibilities and perhaps a mistaken definition of determinism. Open future views require an A-theory. Open future views are incompatible with the traditional Christian understanding of omniscience. Open future views are incompatible with the obvious-to-me fact that it is probably true that I will be at my Department later today (since on open future views it is certain that this is not true).

The irony in this post is icing on the cake. But look--it does show that there is something counterintuitive about the theory. And the following Moorean argument sure sounds plausible:
1. I will make a free choice at some future point in time.
2. If (1), then (1) is true.
3. If open future, then (1) is not true.
4. So, no open future.

Or, along the lines of my F&P probabilistic paper:
5. Probably, I will make a free choice at some future point in time.
6. If probably p, then probably true(p).
7. Probably, it is true that I will make a free choice at some future point in time.
8. If open future, then it is certain that it is not true that I will make a free choice at some future point in time.
9. So, no open future.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Furthermore, the open view does not make it impossible to say that one will make a free choice. There is a classical distinction between God's absolute and His ordained powers, for example. So open theists can rationally believe that God will certainly maintain their souls in existence, that they are forever bound to have free choices ahead of them."

Unless God has promised us that we will be making free choices forever, surely he is capable of taking away our freedom. I see promises in Scripture that God will send some to eternal suffering and some to eternal union with him. I have no idea if members of the first group will engage in any free choices. But let's grant for the sake of argument that (as I hope, by Christ's grace) I am in the second group. I do not see a promise that the second group will continue to engage in free choices. I don't myself doubt that they will. But that is a probabilistic judgment based on what I know God is very likely to do given his character, since I know of no promise to that effect.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I should also make a distinction here. I deliberately was talking about free choices in my post. I think it may be easy to argue that we will freely act in heaven. But not all free action directly proceeds from a free choice. For instance, if through virtuous choices Sam develops a virtuous habit and then acts generously out of that habit, his generous action does not proceed directly from a choice. So the following is a possible theory about the souls in heaven. They freely praise God, but they do not freely choose to praise God. Their freedom in praising God is derived from their free choices in their earthly life.

After all, what would the souls in heaven choose praise of God over? Would they be choosing to praise God over cursing God? Over sleeping in? Etc.

So I am inclined to think the souls in heaven don't choose to praise God. I am also inclined to think they make choices, but (a) there is no divine promise I know of to that effect, and (b) the choices are always between permissible options.

enigMan said...

Is "Classical logic is correct" a reason for not liking open future views? So far as I know the two are compatible. (It's just a matter of what you take to be a well-defined predicate, no?) And the fact that open future views require an A-theory is only a reason given reason to reject A-theories. And I don't understand the last reason (in the first paragraph of your first comment) in particular: I hold an Open Future view, as did Popper, and yet both of us accept that there are at least propensities. We would accept that there may well be propensities such that you are probably at your Department today. So I don't see why that's not true on our view.

I am also inclined to think they make choices, but (a) there is no divine promise I know of to that effect, and (b) the choices are always between permissible options.

A rational belief (by an open theist) that we are bound to have free choices ahead of us might be based on a profound understanding of the human soul, and an understanding of God as good. Personally, I am like you only inclined to expect as much, because my understanding of myself is poor. But I don't see any requirement for God to have promised this, for my belief to be rational. I just need to think that such is how the human soul operates, so that if it is being kept in existence, then it is so; and that God will probably keep some of us in existence. And surely open theists can say that it's true that we have free choices ahead of us, just because they think that that's most likely.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Is 'Classical logic is correct' a reason for not liking open future views?"

As far as I can tell, open future views need to deny at least one of:
- bivalence
- excluded middle
- the temporal logic principle that if t is a real time such that ~(at t: p), then at t: ~p. (E.g., if it's not the case that tomorrow something will happen, then it is the case that tomorrow it won't happen.)

Maybe it's a small stretch to consider the last principle to be a part of classical logic.


As for probabilities, the argument is simplest in the case of a free action. So take some (non-derivatively) free action, A, that it is probable I will do.

Then:
1. Probably, I will freely do A.
2. So, that I will freely do A is probably true.
3. So, that I will freely do A is possibly true.

But open futurism has to deny (3). For propositions of the form <I will freely do A> cannot be true on open future views. At no world is there a time at which it is true that I will freely do A.

enigMan said...

What someone says can be true, in that it's an accurate enough description of the world, in the given context; and then we can think logically about what that means. But even so, our truth might not be true enough for all logical arguments to apply; maybe the Sorites shows as much? So it often comes down to what counts as a well-defined predicate; e.g. it does if by "classical logic" you mean first-order predicate logic.

And regarding probabilities, (3) equivocates between (3a) it is possibly true that I will definitely do A, which may well be false, and (3b) it is possibly true that I will have done A, which is of course true. On open future views that embrace presentism, the world is the present.

But your post wasn't really about arguments against open theism. I just took offense at the irony. The thing is, there is irony here; but it is also, as you know, at least a little ironic that you can only do what you want to do when you are free.

And it's more than just irony, in some people's opinions; maybe the Eurythro shows as much. They may note that we are not free to choose what we would freely choose; but they would note that in order, not to argue for our having no freedom, in some metaphysically significant sense (or for our having to use a more mundane notion of freedom), but to make arguments for such freedom seem absurd. And so I would note the irony of them thinking of their reasoning as logical.