Ep12-The Attributes of God Ch 7 - Divine Foreknowledge and the Mormon Concept of Free Agency (Part 1)

Topics Discussed:
• Hypothetical Free Will
• Libertarian Free Agency

Show Notes:


“In this chapter I assess the arguments of those who reject the argument for incompatibility by rejecting the notion of free will upon which the argument is premised (contained in premise B8).”

“(B8) If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will);”

“Mormons have usually referred to the notion of free will at issue as “free agency,” the term used in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2) to indicate the ability to choose either good or evil, both of which are genuinely open to the agent in the moment of free decision with respect to morally significant choices.”

“Before the seventies, the debate over free will usually divided into two camps: Those who adopted a view compatible with causal determinism and those who adopted a view of free will incompatible with causal determinism.”

Hypothetical Free Will

Majority position since Augustine “is the notion of free will as the absence of external coercion.”

“We assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it. . . . But it does not follow that, though there is for God a certain order of causes, there must therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own will, for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God, and is embraced by his foreknowledge, for human wills are also causes of human actions; and he who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those causes not have been ignorant of our wills.”

“Hypothetical Free Will (HFW) can be formally defined as follows:
(HFW) A person S is free at t with respect to an action A = S would do A at t on the conditions that (a) S desired to do A and (b) nothing external to S prevents S from doing A.”

“(HFW) allows: (i) that persons, desires, wants or dispositions are themselves causes; (ii) that desires, wants and dispositions are themselves caused; and (iii) a person is free if there is a harmony between one’s wants and one’s actions. This view does not require a choice among options that are genuinely open.”

Rock Mars bars and scientists....

“I believe that examples such as these show that (HFW) is not an adequate condition for morally responsible free agency.”

control over the causes condition:
“(CC) It is a necessary condition for any act A by a person S to be free that the causal factors which play a role in S’s decision to do A are factors over which S has control.”

Libertarian Free Agency

“The second view of free will is that persons cannot be free in a morally significant sense unless they can do otherwise given all the circumstances that obtain in the moment of free decision.”

This notion of free will is supported by at least four considerations:

-First, the notion that persons are morally responsible seems to require the ability to do otherwise.”

-“Second, it seems evident that sometimes my acts and decisions are up to me. The act is mine and not someone else’s.”

-“Third, I sometimes deliberate and it makes sense to deliberate. When I deliberate, I presuppose that what I deliberate about is within my direct control. I cannot deliberate about someone else’s actions. I can only deliberate about my own acts.”

-“Fourth, I sometimes make choices among alternatives that are genuinely open to me. The very notion of a choice presupposes that I can choose either this or that. I can perform an act of will or refrain from doing so. The basic experience of choosing means freedom to choose to do something or not (freedom of contradictories—either to do or refrain from doing X). It also means freedom to choose one thing or another (freedom of contraries—freedom to do either X or Y). I have desires, but I can also choose among my desires to decide which desire I will act on.”

BOM View:
“It must needs be that there is an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. . . .
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.
Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. . . .
Wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. . . .
And because they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon. . . .
And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the power of the devil
(2 Nephi 2:16–17, 23, 26–27)”

“This scripture makes several salient points relevant to the Mormon understanding of free agency:

-“First, free agency requires that beings must be able to rationally estimate the relative merits of possible courses of action in choosing. Free agents are minimally the sorts of beings that can appreciate the consequences and moral significance of their actions.”

-“Second, persons are not free if they are merely acted upon and do not act for themselves.”

-“Third, free will, if genuine, requires a choice among alternatives that are “enticing” or live options and genuinely open to the agent in the moment of free decision.”

-“Finally, a person cannot be free if she is merely acted upon. Human free will arises when persons are free to act for themselves independently to a degree of all other events which might causally contribute to the person’s act, including God’s influence. Mormonism rejects the notion that free will is possible if causal determinism is true.”

“The following conditions of free agency (CFA) seem to be consistent with the Mormon scriptures and are required by the four data of experience discussed above:

(CFA1) An agent S is free in a morally significant sense with respect to an action A only if S has moral beliefs about whether A is good or evil and appreciates the consequences of her acts.
(CFA2) An agent S acts freely in a morally significant sense only if S’s acts are caused by S herself and are not merely the result of causes acting upon S. (This condition is a version of CC).
(CFA3) An agent S is morally free with respect to an action of willing A only if S could have willed otherwise.”

Talk about Will vs Passion

“The Mormon response to Augustine and Edwards is thus that the notion of free will which they adopt fails to provide a concept of morally significant free will.”

Big problem for Foreknowledge


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