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A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby TK » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:13 pm

You're right, Si-- I am misunderstanding your view so my comments don't apply. That's obviously my fault, not yours.
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Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby Si » Fri Apr 07, 2017 7:29 pm

TK wrote:You're right, Si-- I am misunderstanding your view so my comments don't apply. That's obviously my fault, not yours.


:) No worries. I might not have been completely clear either.
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Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby mattrose » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:35 pm

Si wrote: Matt,
I think the push back to my position is against a misconception of compatibilism in general.


Certainly the back-n-forth here has to do with disagreement about the definition of compatibilism. Most of us seem to think you are not using the term correctly. You seem to think we are not using the term correctly.

By definition, compatibilism is the belief that determinism and free will are both true realities. Much of the confusion here seems to come from your distinction between hard-determinism and soft-determinism.

It is somewhat unclear what your 'soft-determinism' would entail. Your original statement was that you believe in free will AND that everything will work out as God intends. Later, you said the same thing ("a compatibility between man's free will and God's will to bring to pass exactly what he intends"). Later still you said: "perhaps God is able to determine the outcome of events while not interfering with our free wills". In all 3 cases, it sounds like you believe that the only thing that is determined is an eventual outcome. But you also said things like (in regards to Joseph's story): "To me that suggests a total involvement by God" which sounds more like meticulous sovereignty.

So, for you, which is it? Does your 'determinism' just mean that God determines outcomes? Or does it mean God determines each detail? When I asked you questions to try to clarify what you mean by determinism and what you mean by free will, you appealed to mystery... but it seems to me that your position doesn't have to remain a mystery.

It seems to me (and I'm not saying this in a mean tone, just as an opinion), that you are confused about the definition of determinism and compatibilism (and perhaps free will). For instance, you said "Compatibilism seeks to reconcile these men's free choices with God's sovereign plans", but that is not quite right. Sovereignty can be understood in a number of ways. Compatibilism is belief that free will and divine determinism (one particular model of divine sovereignty) can simultaneously be true. What you refer to as 'soft-compatibilism' might just be general sovereignty (which I doubt anyone here disgrees with). If you only mean general sovereignty, you're not actually considering compatibilism (by its technical definition).

So I think there is a bit of talking past each other here b/c we're not using the same definitions. So let me ask you a few questions

1. Do you believe that 'compatibilism' is the belief that divine determinism AND human free will can simultaneously be true? (that is the technical definition)

2. Do you believe that divine determinism is the belief that all events that happen are preordained or predetermined to happen by God? (that is the technical definition)

3. Do you believe that free will is the ability to act according to one's will (the will having been determined by God... this would be the compatibilist definition of free will) or that free will is the ability to choose between alternatives (this would be the libertarian definition of free will)?

I know of no mainstream Calvinist who thinks God determines every single human thought or action. That would be hard determinism.


Is RC Sproul a mainstream Calvinist?

“If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” (Sproul)

I believe I could lengthen this list with more quotes from more Calvinists who do, in fact, think that God determines every single thing in existence. There are real life hard determinists.

I have typically heard compatibilism described as man can do what he wills, but not will what he wills. Man is free to act according to his nature, but only God can change his nature, and from that belief proceeds the Calvinist's views on election and grace. There is an important distinction between creaturely will, and God's will.


I cannot tell if you are mentioning this description of compatibilism approvingly or not. Do you believe that "Man can do what he wills, but not will what he wills"? If so, that would suggest to me that you do not believe in libertarian freedom, but in compatabilistic freedom (which, to my mind, isn't actually freedom at all).

Concerning my comments earlier on how I think Calvinists unfairly characterize Arminians and Open Theists as being man-centered and so forth; The other side of the coin is that I think Calvinists are unfairly characterized as being incoherent. Maybe they don't have the best arguments, but their theology is quite well thought out and coherent. The body of Christ is never going to be reconciled if we don't even take the time to learn each other's viewpoints honestly.


Consistent Calvinism is very coherent, no doubt! It is attempts to make Calvinism stomach-able that become incoherent. You have stated that you are not a Calvinist. It is unclear, however, if you believe in libertarian freedom. It is also unclear in what sense you believe in determinism (what exactly does your soft-determinism entail?). Many would consider it highly questionable that something like 'soft-determism' is coherent as a concept to begin with.

I came into this thread to discuss some thoughts I had on compatibilism and paradox, and I have received counter arguments against hard determinism and Calvinism (which I do not hold), and seemingly no acknowledgement that mystery or paradox has ever played a role in faith or theology, when it demonstrably has. Maybe because up here in Wisconsin there are so many Catholics and Lutherans, for whom mystery and paradox plays a big role in their faith.


I appreciate the discussion. If you came to discuss compatibilism... it seems like you are getting the discussion you asked for. We are seeking to help you clarify your definitions of the important terms involved (compatibilism, determinism, free will).

As for your point about mystery, we all acknowledge the presence of mystery and paradox in faith. But we can't just use those terms evasively or to avoid admitting contradiction.

You're clearly thinking through the issue (you stated you're not dogmatic on the subject). My only input is that it seems to me you have not yet clarified working definitions for the terms you are thinking about. That'd be step 1. I provided the generally agreed upon definitions of those key terms in this post.
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Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby Si » Sat Apr 08, 2017 11:11 am

Matt,

I will go into more detail on your questions later, I don't have much time right now, but it would help if I understood better where you were coming from first. Do you believe that comptatibilism is fundamentally self-contradictory, and that one must either believe in hard determinism or libertarian free will, and there is no middle ground?

You say compatibilist free will is not free will at all, but doesn't accepting it's definition, that man can still make free choices according to his nature, mean that you can't apply the definition of determinism to it that you have? Compatibilists don't believe God determines every detail.
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Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby mattrose » Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:15 pm

Si wrote:Matt,

I will go into more detail on your questions later, I don't have much time right now, but it would help if I understood better where you were coming from first. Do you believe that comptatibilism is fundamentally self-contradictory, and that one must either believe in hard determinism or libertarian free will, and there is no middle ground?

You say compatibilist free will is not free will at all, but doesn't accepting it's definition, that man can still make free choices according to his nature, mean that you can't apply the definition of determinism to it that you have? Compatibilists don't believe God determines every detail.


I believe that divine determinism is fundamentally incompatable with libertarian free will. Divine determinists agree with this and, thus, deny libertarian free will.

Compatibilism is, by definition, the belief the divine determinism and free will are compatible. This compatibility can only be accomplished in 2 ways.

WAY 1: Re-define free will to not be libertarian free will (ability to do otherwise)
WAY 2: Re-define determinism to not be meticulous sovereignty (God only controls ultimate outcomes). People who take this way aren't really compatibilists in the technical sense though they may think they are.

I am simply trying to determine which WAY you are attempting because you've said some things that fit both categories.
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Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby Si » Sat Apr 08, 2017 8:27 pm

Matt,

I quite honestly don't know how to continue this discussion. You are admittedly more well read on the subject than I, and you have given me a lot to think about. I'm quite honestly neither equipped nor invested enough in my position to debate or define the particular points you have raised. I may pop back into this thread again, but for now I have exhausted what I have to say on the issue. I do appreciate your engagement in discussion with me on this subject.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

This is the spirit of what I was getting at, the incomprehensible awe and wonder of God. I genuinely think that what may seem like paradox to us, makes perfect sense to God. That includes us acting freely and without coercion, while God is in control the entire time in ways we cannot comprehend. I will leave it at that, and thanks again for talking with me.
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Re: A Compatibilistic Understanding of Free Will

Postby Homer » Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:07 pm

I would say the great majority of Christians do not think in terms of determinism, compatibilism, or libertarianism, but when they pray for lost souls, especially loved ones, a bit (or quite a bit) of compatibilism creeps into their thoughts. After all, in response to their prayers, what is it they hope or expect God will do?
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