Ep13-The Attributes of God Ch 7 - Divine Foreknowledge and the Mormon Concept of Free Agency (Part 2)

Part two of our discussion of the Mormon concept of free agency and foreknowledge. We look at different views of free will and what it means to have the ability to 'choose otherwise.' We give several variations of a hypothetical situation and ask if one would still be truly free given the scenario. We then discuss how free agency is the crux of Mormonism and a truly beautiful opportunity to create ourselves with God.

The article mentioned: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00262/full

Show Notes:

Objections to Power to Do Otherwise

principle of alternative possibilities
(PAP): “A person S is morally responsible for an action she has done only if she could have done otherwise.”

Example against PAP...Black and Jones...or use the Rock and scientists example

“Frankfurt suggests that in such cases we have a clear example of a person who is morally responsible for his act, but was not free to do otherwise. Frankfurt-style examples purport to show: (1) if a person is actually caused to act as she does, then she is not morally responsible, and (2) that the ability to do otherwise assumed in premise B8 is not essential to morally significant free action.”

More examples....child drowning incident...satisfies CFA1 and 2, but not 3
(CFA3) An agent S is morally free with respect to an action of willing A only if S could have willed otherwise.”

“As Fischer noted:
There are two ways in which it might be true that one couldn’t have done otherwise. In the first way, the actual sequence compels the agent to do what he does, so he couldn’t have initiated an alternative sequence; in the second way, there is no actual sequence compulsion, but the alternate sequence would prevent the agent from doing other than he actually does. Frankfurt’s examples involve alternate-sequence compulsion; the incompatibilist about determinism and responsibility can agree with Frankfurt that in such cases an agent can be responsible even while lacking control [over the alternative sequence], but he will insist that, since determinism involves actual sequence compulsion, Frankfurt’s examples do not establish that responsibility is compatible with determinism.”

Sum up: “The problem of determinism is not that it precludes me from acting otherwise but that it plays a role in the decision-making process over which I have no control.”

Explain this:
“This argument thus tends to show that causal determinism is not compatible with moral responsibility but infallible foreknowledge is"

Excerpt From: Blake T. Ostler. “Exploring Mormon Thought: Vol. 1 (Part 1).” iBooks.


“ If the ability to do otherwise is not required for free agency, then premise B8 can be rejected and argument B fails.”

“One could adopt the view that persons have first-order desires (for food, sex, fame, etc.) and then also have second-order desires, which are desires for one of these first-order desires to be their will—that is, for a first-order desire to be the desire which effects action. A person has free will, according to Frankfurt, if her second-order desire is the one that leads to action. However, if the second-order desire does not lead to action because it is overruled by the first-order desire, then the agent feels the desire as a compelling and alien impediment to free choice. ”

Drug addict example

“Zagzebski concludes:
I [have] proposed a solution to the dilemma of foreknowledge and freedom that concedes that my acts are all accidentally necessary due to God’s foreknowledge. It also concedes that this means that I cannot act differently than I do, given the conditions that obtain at the time of my act. However, I argued that it is a mistake to conclude from this that my acts are not free in a strong sense of freedom that is incompatible with determinism. The idea was the conditions that make it the case that I cannot do otherwise have nothing to do with my choice. I do not do what I do because I cannot do otherwise; my act does not counterfactually depend on the conditions that make it such that it cannot be otherwise.”

“Now all Frankfurt-style counterexamples break down into two types. In the first type, the scientists intervene before the formation of an effective intention has been formed. In the second type of counterexample, the scientists intervene after the effective intention has been formed.”

Intervention after an Effective Interaction Is Formed

“the agent still possesses the ability to will otherwise even if the agent cannot act otherwise.”

Rock ski trail example

and the shark saving child example

“there were alternatives open to Rock on the level of decision making and trying to act, but not on the level of effectuating the act.”

Intervention before an Effective Intention Is Formed

Fischer says: “In these cases, the scientists’ act is not triggered by Rock’s beginning to form an intention, but by foreknowledge or predictive ability about what Rock will do.”

“Rock can choose otherwise even if he doesn’t. Rock has alternatives even though he does not opt for them.”

Fischer committed fallacy of inference:

Is Intervention Possible before an Intention Is Effective?

“Eleonore Stump has attempted to formulate a counterexample which occurs before an effective intention has been formed and yet does not rely on counterfactual prediction alone.”

Basically says lets say an act of willing requires the completion of a neural sequence. The scientist then can change the sequence mid sequence and then make the person do as they wish. Since there is no 'detectable' act of will is Eleonore's example successful?

“Yet Stump has misstated the situation. Either the neural sequence is identical to Jones’s choice or it isn’t. If the neural sequence is correlated with or identical to Jones’s act of will or choice, then by initiating the neural sequence Jones has in effect willed and chosen. ”

New example. Mars Bars, Scientists, Rock....this time Rock is aware of the  implant and now has choices.

Libertarian Free Agency-
“(LFA) For every person S, time t, and act of will A such that S causally initiates A, S is morally responsible for performing A at t only if S could have refrained freely from performing A given the same circumstances that obtained at t.”

“Frankfurt-style examples presuppose that persons are free to form their inclinations as they intend and decide, at least logically if not chronologically prior to the scientists’ intervention, for the scientists’ intervention presupposes that Rock has formed an intention not to steal. Thus, Frankfurt-style examples actually support (LFA) as the correct notion of free agency, for persons must be free not merely to do as they intend, but to initially formulate their intentions even if their intentions are subject to intervention. ”

“The notion of libertarian free agency (LFA) expressed in premise B8 of Argument B is sound if it is modified as follows:
(B8*) If Rock acts freely when he wills to sin tomorrow, then he has it within his power to refrain from willing to sin given the same circumstances that obtain up to and at the time he sins.”

Is Causal Determinism Essential to Free Acts?

“Soft determinists have one more challenge to libertarian free will. They argue that the idea of freedom as an indeterminate uncaused cause is incompatible with moral responsibility and that freedom therefore requires causal determinism.”

Kent Robson: “There is nothing in this whole complex of ideas to suggest that determinism is incompatible with freedom. The realization that causes produce effects does not mean that one cannot change the causes. What frequently happens, however, is that determinism is confused with fatalism. Fatalism is the view that everything that happens has in some sense been rigged or pre-arranged to happen the way it happens. While determinism, the idea of cause and effect, does not seem to preclude the possibility of freedom, fatalism, predestination and indeterminism do.”

The soft-determinist’s argument applies to Robson’s notion of free will even if the uncaused will itself is the final link in the chain of causation. As Feinberg argued:
"If nothing is a sufficient condition to incline the will to choose one thing over another, then how do we choose at all? If the causal influences really were at a stand-off, then we would not choose. Moreover, if causal influences are not sufficient to move the will to choose, then what is? Some indeterminists claim that a person just chooses. Fine, but on what basis? If the answer is that he or she just chooses, surely this is no explanation at all. If the indeterminist argues that the choice is made in accordance with what appears to be the best reason(s), then, in fact, the act is causally determined (reasons function as causes sufficient to produce the act). So, indeterminists are caught in a dilemma. If they reject determinism, then they cannot offer a sufficient reason for an action. If they offer a sufficient reason for an action, then their view is equivalent to determinism.”

Prior internal decisions make causal circumstances that lead to determinism.
Discuss 1960 opera and the causal chain that leads to robbing a 7-11.

“Both Robson and Feinberg seem to presuppose something like the following strong principle of sufficient reason (SSR):
(SSR) For every contingent fact F1, some other fact F2 obtains such that, given F2, F1 must obtain.”

“we should require a sufficient reason for contingent facts such as free choices only if: (1) it is logically possible that the act has a sufficient reason, and (2) the act is unintelligible unless it has a sufficient explanation. If Rock’s decision is free in the libertarian or contra-causal sense, then it isn’t fully determined by causal antecedents. Thus, it does not need a sufficient explanation outside of Rock’s will to be intelligible.”

“the weak version of the principle of sufficient reason:
(WSR) There is at least some explanation or reason for every contingent fact.”

“Terrence Tiessen argues:
As libertarian freedom is characteristically defined, she had to be in a position where she could just as easily have made a different decision or her choice was not libertarianly free. Therein lies the problem for the compatibilist. If a person’s actual decision can validly be explained afterward by a set of “reasons,” including a whole range of factors, both internal and external to the person deciding, then knowledge of those reasons beforehand would have made the decision predictable. On the other hand, if the complete set of factors leaves the person with a final choice that is influenced by nothing in or outside of himself, then it escapes me how the decision between two equally viable and possible courses of action can be anything but arbitrary. Granted, there are many contributing factors or “reasons” but, since the sum total of them is insufficient to explain this choice rather than that one, the decision appears to be “random.” I see no way to escape that conclusion given the premises.”

Explain: “rational explanation” objection. & “control” objection & “implicit determinism” objection.

Talk about 'reasons' and contemplating as causes

“my act of choosing was a causal result of the nexus of “causes”—but the choice is a creative synthesis that is initiated by my own self-determining causal activity of creatively organizing these reasons into a decision.”

What is “universal cause libertarian agency.”

A Mormon Concept of Free Agency

“The soft determinist has thus erected a false dichotomy, claiming that the only alternative to causal determinism is random indeterminism. There is a third notion of human agency that is neither the inevitable effect of the causal past nor a merely random occurrence. It is a notion of agency as “creative synthesis.”

“Charles Hartshorne, the process philosopher whose insights inspired this notion of free will, states that “each of us adds to the world something that no wisdom could have wholly foreseen. This creating, this deciding of the otherwise undecided, this forming of the previously inchoate, is our dignity. . . . Each of us is an artist whose product is life or experience itself.”

“As required by the Mormon scripture, this notion of free will provides that persons are not merely free to act in accordance with their depraved nature as Augustine maintained; rather, they are free to choose either good or evil and to freely change their character or nature by such free choices.”

“The Mormon view of agency is that persons are co-creators of themselves with God through free choices. We are artists or creators of ourselves in the sense that we self-organize the data of our experience into our stream of consciousness. Our consciousness is in part our creation because we act to form the order which will make the swirling chaos into an ordered cosmos of our internal experience (See D&C 88:7–11; 93:23–28)”

“However, the Mormon scriptures are explicit that a part of the data made available to us to be integrated into our experience is God’s own light and glory—the data of God’s own experience. We are free to include or exclude the light or data of the divine experience which God offers to us as sheer grace on his part. To the extent we reject it, however, we exclude the divine options from our experience.”

“I am not claiming that all human acts are free in this sense. Some clearly are not.”

“Nevertheless, I do claim that power to refrain under the given circumstances is a minimal requirement of moral responsibility.”

“The most powerful arguments against premise (B8*) turn out, on closer inspection, to support rather than challenge the premise of libertarian free will. I conclude that a person looking to escape argument B must look elsewhere for a resolution, for the notion of free will on which the argument is premised is sound.”


Popular Posts