Friday, February 15, 2013

Compatibilism on the cheap

Could creatures be free in a world with deterministic laws? Yes, because God could work a miracle each time that it is time for a creature to make a decision, a miracle that exempts the choice from the deterministic laws. So, cheaply, free will and deterministic laws are compatible.

This is obviously too cheap, so probably we had better not define compatibilism as the possibility of creaturely freedom in a world with deterministic laws.

Though, maybe, we could stick to that definition of compatibilism (at least in respect of this problem—there are other problems with it), but insist that if God exists, no law can count as deterministic, because God can override every law.


Heath White said...

I think the spirit of compatibilism would be better served by defining it as the thesis that a particular action can be determined (by laws or God's will or whatever) and also free.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, typical libertarians think that some free actions can be determined, as long as there are prior undetermined free actions that are appropriately connected to the determining conditions.

Maybe one could say this: compatibilism is the thesis that an agent can be free in at least some of her actions even if all of her actions and thoughts are determined.

Richard A. Christian said...

I go along the lines of Inwagen. We could say that compatibilism is the conjunction of the free will thesis and determinism, where determinism amounts to the claim that given the laws of nature and the past there is only one possible future.

Richard A. Christian said...

Sorry,I made a mistake. what I said above is actually soft determinism. the conjunction of free will and determinism entails compatibilism, but compatibilism does not entail such a conjunction.

Alexander R Pruss said...

This doesn't actually fit with van Inwagen's view of laws of nature and miracles. Van Inwagen thinks a law, which is a certain kind of universal proposition, can be false due to a miracle and yet be a law. Thus, it could be a law that all dead organisms stay dead, even if by miracle God raises some (or all?!) from the dead.

So if laws are like that, then it could be true that given the laws of nature and the past there is only one possible future, but since the laws might be false propositions, this could have no impact on Jones's choice if God exempts his brain from the laws.

Mike Almeida said...

Much of the concern depends on your view of laws. Suppose laws are summations, as in simple regularity theories. Then it is surely possible that agent S perform A at t such that the summation L prior to t + the history prior to t entail that S do ~A at t. In performing A at t the agent is determining what the laws are at the world in which he acts, his act is not only determined by the laws, also determine the laws. So we have no genuine miracle, or law violating event, but an act which determined the laws at a world. THat's possible since the laws, as noted above, are just summations on this account.