Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Compatibilist objection [formerly: "Incompatibilist Examples"]

Expand Messages
  • Aleksandar Katanovic
    ... OK, I agree here. ... What an incompatibilist says, in the context of discussion on divine determinism, is that an individual is controlled like puppeteer
    Message 1 of 64 , Jul 1 2:45 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      At 14:02 30.06.01 -0600, you wrote:
      >If the incompatabilist is arguing that there is *only* one sense of
      >control, then an example of control that is not the same sense will defuse
      >the critique. This, to me, seems obvious.

      OK, I agree here.

      >The argument from the incompatabilist is that an individual can *only* be
      >controlled like puppeteer controlling a puppet. If there is any possible way
      >of controlling someone, without treating them like a puppet then the
      >incompatabilists ad absurdum charge is evaded. Which is all that is
      >necessary. Therefore providing a counter example to show the different
      >concept of control accomplishes much.

      What an incompatibilist says, in the context of discussion on divine
      determinism, is that an individual is controlled like puppeteer controlling
      a puppet if God determined the course of all events in the Universe. An
      incompatibilist does not deny that there are different senses of 'control',
      but that these senses of 'control' cannot explain how all events are
      determined by God if God does not control like a puppeteer.

      > > What an incompatibilist challenges is that a compatibilist has to show
      > > what is wrong with the incompatibilist notion of, say 'control', by
      > > showing that the incompatibilist use of the term would, in certain
      > > particular situations, violate the rules governing the application of
      > > the term 'control'. And that is what Phil's challenge in the dispute
      > > with Paul is all about:
      >First, this is not the only recourse. I need not show what is wrong with the
      >incompatabilists notion of control. I only need to show an alternative which
      >satisfies the idea of control that I am proposing.

      OK, you are right here.

      >Second, The original argument was the compatabilists. That God controls all
      >things. The incompatabilist responded by claiming the term control can be
      >used only in one sense, and if used in this sense creates a contradiction.


      >Moreover the incompatabilist is arguing/implying that the compatabilist, in
      >turn, can only use the term in that sense, and if they do then the end
      >result is absurdity, therefore God's control of all things must go. In order
      >to evade that charge, the compatablisit does not have to show what is wrong
      >with the incompatabilists notion of control. No such evaluation need occur.

      Yes, you are right here. I haven't read the first posts of the original thread.

      >The compatabilist, in order to evade the critique, only needs to show that
      >it is *possible* that God control things in a certain way (a sufficient way)
      >that does not do violence to the one controlled. Therefore if there is *any*
      >another way someone can control someone else without treating them like a
      >puppet then the critique is evaded.

      Yes, that is what a compatibilist is obliged to show.

      >But, if you think that my example will use the same sense of control that
      >Phil does, then this is asking too much of the example, since the example is
      >meant to show a different sense of control and it is not meant to explain
      >preceisely how God does do this - more on this below.

      There are two things that a compatibilist has to show:

      1) a clarification of the concept 'control' different than the
      incompatibilist one.
      2) an explanation of why the compatibilist sense of control is relevant,
      e.g. should be applied in the context of discussion on divine determinism.

      I think that your provided example was meant to satisfy the two above
      incompatibilist requirements. The problem is that I fail to see how your
      example satisfy the two above requirements. However, I do not require that
      your example should explain *precisely* how God control the universe, but
      merely to show how we can escape the incompatibilist conclusion. Your
      example should show that it is possible to have both divine control and
      freedom of choice, e.g. showing that concepts 'divine control' and 'freedom
      of choice' are compatible concepts.

      >Moreover if you think my example shows exactly and prescisely *how* God
      >does and guarantees that He does accomplish this, then this is asking too
      >much from the example or
      >analogy. The analogy never meant to do this.

      We do not require that you show *exactly* and *precisely* how God controls
      the universe, but there should be some explanation that would point out the
      *possibility* that God's control does not violate human free choice. You
      are free to come with some speculation (e.g. thought experiments) showing
      the possibility of the compatibilist claim.

      > > Yes, the whole point of compatibilism is the contention that there are
      > > to control things without directing them. However, this contention is
      > > unintelligible for an incompatibilist.
      >Unintelligible only because he sees only one sense of control and because he
      >sees human freedom as the power of contrary choice (which is absurd). The
      >power of contrary choice is simply another way of saying volition or that we
      >have a will.

      I do not understand your definition of 'the power of contrary choice'. Do
      you say that the power of contrary choice is the same as having will? If
      so, what is so absurd with the idea?

      >This is not freedom of the will, this *is* will.

      I do not understand the idea here, nor do I understand your point.

      >If there is nothing to 'tip' the scales for or against a choice, we will
      >never make a


      >Our choices do not occur in a vacuum.

      That cannot be an argument for the previous claim, otherwise it is a
      question-begging argument. Nevertheless, we should be clear on one thing,
      namely that not every indeterminist would say that *all* our choices "occur
      in vacuum." Most of our choices are predictable; (I think that 95 % of our
      choices are predictable; mostly we are habitual creatures). However, why
      should we rule out the possibility of situations where an agent is
      confronted with alternatives that are either equally attractive or equally
      undesirable (if we are not committed to some kind of determinism)?

      >Even picking a choice in an
      >'eenie-meenie-miny-moe' way is still tipping the scales to one choice. It is
      >our desire to pick in this way, therefore the scales are tipped. Everything
      >that is part of our character and makeup will 'determine' what choice we

      What you are talking about is the question of the autonomy and stability of
      choice. An incompatibilist would not deny that our actions are expressions
      of our intentions, stemming from the choice based on "reasons" (where the
      term "reason" refers to various agent's desires, beliefs, etc.) However, an
      incompatibilist would deny that the relation between reason and action is
      causal, claiming that reasons do not causally compel our actions. (Consider
      Melden's arguments against the causal theory of action).

      I have written two posts dealing with the question of free and stabile
      choice in the posts #1593 and 1749.



      I believe that the these posts answers your above and below objections as
      well. However, I will give brief comments to your account of freedom.

      >Thus to consider the idea that it is possible to be in a situation
      >where we can simply choose one thing or another 'neutrally' is absurd. There
      >are always inclinations or dispositions which tend us toward one thing or
      >another - that which we want at the time.

      Having inclinations and dispositions are only one aspect of reasons for our
      actions. Also, actions should be seen contextually, seen in the
      *situations*. It is not only our inner character, but also the *outward*
      situations which provide various alternatives for our choice. Moreover, not
      every incompatibilist would say that our choice is neutral. It is quite
      consistent for an incompatibilist to say "I am not neutral in my choice",
      even in situations where equally attractive/undesirable alternatives are
      present for the choice. In such situations, the agent has different but
      equally strong reasons for/against each alternative. Why should this
      metaphysical possibility be ruled out, speaking as a Christian thinker?

      >The correct notion of freedom is
      >that we are free when we do what we want to do given the circumstances we
      >are placed in.

      I agree. The problem is the interpretation of "what we want to do given the
      circumstances we are placed in." See more about it in the two above
      mentioned posts.

      >We are, in a sense, still free creatures even when a man is
      >holding a gun to our head. Our circumstances have limited our choices
      >severely, but we are still free to choose one thing over another.
      >We are free to choose how we die (whimpering or courageous), we are free
      >to resist
      >or not resist, we are free to choose what we want to make our last thought.

      I agree with you with some qualifications: if the reasons for both being
      heroically killed and obeying the gunman are present in the situation, and
      these reasons are both equally strong for the agent, then the agent is free
      in her *choice*. But the agent is not free in the sense that she is forced
      to choose one or the other course of action; she is not free since her will
      is not realized: she would rather be in another situation where she is not
      compelled. She does *not* want to die, nor does she want to obey the
      gunman. Thus, we discern that here are two different notions of freedom in
      play. The contrast between these two kinds of freedom is a topic in the two
      mentioned posts.

      >Are we free to live or to die? No, in that case we have no control over the
      >circumstance, but we can still be free in how we react to our circumstance.

      I would rather use more neutral expression in the dispute. I would not use
      "react" but "response" in the sentence "... free in how we *react* to our
      circumstances." Reactions can be impulsive, and consequently not free even
      for the compatibilist thinker. The central issue in the dispute is whether
      we merely react or not to our circumstances. OK?

      >At any point we will always choose what we view as the best choice at the
      >time considering all the circumstances (even if it is the lesser of two

      All what you say is quite compatible with indeterminism.

      >Thus understanding control in a different sense and seeing human
      >freedom in this light, there is no unintelligibleness in the idea that God
      >controls all things and that man is free and responsible. It is only
      >unintelligble when we define control as force, and when we define freedom as

      This I do not understand:)
      If control is not *some* kind of force, what is it then?
      Also, I do not define freedom as will, since I make a distinction between a
      free will and a free choice. Sometimes are both a free will and a free
      choice compatible, sometimes not, depending on situations. We should
      approach this question contextually. I would recommend one article by
      Frederick Stoutland, "The Causation of Behaviour", which explains why
      propositional attitudes should be seen in a context: "by what went on
      before, what will go on later, and in general by the context of the act,
      and these are not interior to an agent's mind." One important reason is
      that propositional attitudes are neither states of mind nor mental
      processes. Stoutland's paper gives one account for this Wittgensteinian

      >To control means that the controllers will is accomplished. That what the
      >controller desires as an end is achieved through the one being controlled.

      Would this mean that God's desire/will was accomplished when Adam disobeyed
      God's command, since God, per ex hypothesis, determined Adam to disobey?
      Strange that God determined human individuals to sin if sin is a negation
      of God's will. To quote Clark Pinnock: "To say that God hates sin while
      secretly willing it, to say that God warns us not to fall away though it is
      impossible, to say that God loves the world while excluding most people
      from an opportunity of salvation, to say that God warmly invites sinners to
      come knowing all the while that they cannot possibly do so-such things do
      not deserve to be called mysteries when that is just a euphemism for
      nonsense." Evils happen that are not supposed to happen, that grieve and
      anger God. I think that free will theism is the best way to account for
      this fact.

      >Compatabilism says that the controllees will is done while at the same time
      >the will of the controlled is also done. That the ends that the controllee
      >desires are accomplished at the same time that the ends of the controlled
      >are accomplished.

      This is what I do not understand, given my previous paragraph. We have two
      problems: (1) to provide an account of how the non-divine agent is free, if
      the agent could not have done otherwise, and (2) how is it possible that
      God desired evil and sin if we suppose that God is indeed against *all*
      forms of evil and sin [cf. 1 Thess 5:22; if God commands us to abstain from
      *all* forms of evil, then surely God would not *determine* a universe where
      evil has its presence; also look at the interesting passage of Jer. 32:35.
      This passage is interesting, because a Calvinist, who claims that every
      event was decreed from God, is confronted with God's statement that
      apparently contradicts the Calvinistic claim. In this passage we read that
      His beloved people chose to give sacrifices to a heathen god Molech. The
      cult of Molech practiced ritual burning of children. Did God decreed in the
      "eternity past" that His beloved people should practice ritual burning of
      children to Molech, in the light of the Lord's *explicit* statement? God
      explicitly said: "Neither came it into my mind, that they should do this
      abomination." He did not expect that, and it never came to His mind that
      they should do this. However, how could God *decree* something that they
      *should* do this abomination, when it never came into his mind that they
      *should* do it?]

      Thus, I rather prefer indeterministic model of interpretation of Scripture
      and not the compatibilist one, since I doubt that a compatibilist can solve
      the two above problems consistently within his theological framework.

      >The analogy of the father/daughter is sufficient to show
      >that both the father's will and the daughter's will is done - without doing
      >violence to the daughter's will. This is the sense in which God control all
      >things. Nothing can thwart His plan(s) and all things work good to those who
      >love Him.

      I do not understand how the analogy of father-daughter relation can help
      your case. Is it not possible that daughter can disobey her father's will,
      and would not an action against father's imply father's lack of control
      over his daughter? We are discussing those cases where sin and evil choices
      are made in the human universe. I would not say that God is *morally*
      responsible for these evil events, since I contend that God did not, "in
      the eternity past", determine those events in the first place.

      >Now we say, as compatabilists, that God controls all things. That not one
      >molecule can escape His control to thwart his plan.

      We are not discussing God's control over physical-mechanical objects, but
      things concerning both human and divine personhood. Human individuals are
      not merely things, but persons. It might be the case that God controls
      every physical object, and that the movements of all physical objects are
      predictable. However, I believe that we agree that human individuals are
      not only physical beings, but also spiritual: they are persons. The
      question is whether God exert control of how one human individual will
      choose. We should not apply the same laws of nature into consideration of
      the question, since it is not so obvious whether these laws *totally*
      govern human behavior. Methods of inquiry differ with respect to different
      subject matters.

      >The incompatabilist
      >assumes that God must actually physically control the molecule and force the
      >molecule to go here and there.

      No, that is not a correct account of incompatibilism. An incompatibilist
      can be a deist. An incompatibilist can believe that God created a
      deterministic universe where forces of the nature causally determine all
      events. An incompatibilist can even affirm the truth of determinism. If so,
      then there are two possibilities: (1) an incompatibilist might deny the
      presence of human free will in the universe, or (2) affirm the truth only
      of physical determinism, e.g. every movement of physical macro-objects are
      predictable, but denying that human choices are predictable due to human
      spiritual nature. However, Peter van Inwagen presented some arguments
      showing that mere physical determinism would imply incompatibilism, even if
      we accept that human individuals are not only physical. (I plan to write
      one post introducing van Inwagen's arguments).

      >Otherwise how could He guarantee that the
      >molecule not intercept the nail, which falls out, which makes the shoe fall

      By the physical (and possibly psychophysical) forces which are in play in
      the universe.

      >Perhaps this is true. Perhaps God does control the phyiscal non human
      >universe in exactly this way. Perhaps God does control all the circumstances
      >exactly this way.

      An incompatibilist does not insist that God controls the universe directly.
      What an incompatibilist insists is that a human individual choice is free
      in so far the human agent could have chosen otherwise. Whether God controls
      directly or indirectly is irrelevant.

      >But, then, the incompatabilist argues, God must then
      >control *us* in a similar forceful way in order for Him to control all

      No, this is a straw man, as explained above.

      >This is where the compatabilist only has to show that it *need* not
      >necessarily be this way because we have an example where someone can control
      >someone else without doing violence to their will - a non forceful way. Thus
      >God can control people differently than how he controls the rest of His
      >universe. Perhaps God can control cirucmstances directly and forcefully
      >(i.e. cause an earthquake etc.), but not control the people in such a direct

      Yes, a compatibilist is right here.

      >Aha! The incompatabilist cries, but how do you *guarantee* that He
      >will control that person, after all guarantee of control is paramount in
      >your notion of control of the universe.

      Or, my incompatibilist would ask: how can we say that a human individual
      choice is free if the human agent cannot choose alternative course of action?

      > > Do you mean that she can't do anything without your permission?
      >This is irrelevant because it assumes the meaning of control as a puppet.
      >More on this below.
      > > Do you mean that she is within your arm's reach at all times?
      >This is irrelevant because it assumes the meaning of control as a puppet.
      >More on this below.
      > > how is not God morally responsible for human sins if God created
      > > men to desire sin?
      >First, of course God is responsible in some sense for His universe.

      We are talking about *moral* responsibility, and not the causal
      responsibility. God is certainly responsible for the presence of evil as
      the First Mover, but it does not imply that God is thereby *morally*
      responsible. Both an indeterminist and determinist agree here.
      Nevertheless, the point with my question is a challenge for a compatibilist
      to show that Christian divine determinism is coherent theological system,
      since I contend that Christian determinism would imply that God is
      *morally* responsible for the presence of evil in human universe.

      >That is a given in either an incompatabilist or compatablists sense.

      Yes, I understand very well your point.

      >Either way, evil exists. God decreed that it exist.

      And here comes the problem. If God decreed then it is not merely permitted
      but intentionally determined.

      >It was permitted in either case. Is
      >God morally responsible for that evil? Yes, in a way. Can he escape
      >culpability? Yes, I think He can.

      How, if you concede that God is *morally* responsible, but not merely causally.

      >But theodicy isn't the question here. The
      >question here has been can someone control someone else without doing
      >violence to their will. The answer is yes.

      The question of theodicy is relevant, since if a compatibilist can show
      that God's control does not influence human choice, God is not morally
      responsible for the evil that human agents have caused. But I do not see
      how can a compatibilist show this if a compatibilist concede that God
      *wanted* that human individual choose sin, and that God made human choice
      of evil necessary through the hypothetical laws of human nature (which God
      created) and general laws governing our physical world. In this sense, the
      laws of nature, say psychophysical, are strings by which God controls human
      individuals as a puppeteer manipulates his puppets, since these laws were
      created and determined *solely* by God.

      >Second, you are missing the intended design for my example/analogy. The
      >analogy is used to show that one can control someone else and control them
      >without doing violence to their will. That is all.

      Look, it would not help your case even if emphasize that human individual
      *desires* sin, e.g. the human will is to sin, since it is God who created
      and determined human will to sin. It does not help your case in insisting
      that God does not violate human will, when God, in the first place, created
      such sinful will in human nature. Do you see my point? I can even agree
      with you that God does not "violate our will" even if we assume that divine
      determinism is true, (as long as we do not end in Hell). However, how can
      God not be morally guilty for the presence of evil "choices" when these
      evil choices, per ex hypothesis, are determined by God to be necessary
      human course of history? It is as if I have ordered a hit man to kill my
      boss. In the last instance, it is me who are morally responsible, and
      thereby guilty of the crime of killing my boss, although I haven't pulled
      the trigger. The hit man, in my analogy, are forces of human universe,
      governed by psychophysical laws. Through these psychophysical laws, God had
      ordered these forces to make the presence of evil necessary in the human
      universe, and determine that majority of human beings end in Hell.

      >The point isn't to *actually* show how it occurs with God or that it
      >*guarantees* it every time or that someone can or can't do anything
      >without permission, or that someone
      >is within or without arm's reach at all times. The analogy is only used used
      >to show that there is one *possible* way for me to *actually* control
      >someone to bring about my desired end without doing violence to their will
      >and their desire to do what they want.

      Assuming that you have shown this, would you have not arrive to the
      conclusion that human chosen sins are in harmony with God's desired end,
      and thereby be committed to say that God's desired end is evil?

      >I can actually make this occur. The
      >analogy succeeds in doing that and that is all that it is designed for.
      >Therefore the charge that God *must* control men as a puppeer is evaded.

      But I do not see how the charge is evaded, even if we assume that God
      controls human universe in a deistic manner. The point is that you cannot
      escape the conclusion that the forces of nature force our choices, [given
      your denial that God does not directly control human individuals], and as
      such a human individual appears to be a puppet, moved by the impersonal
      forces of nature.

      >It is a modal issue. It is a question of possibility and necessity. If it is
      >*possible* then it is *not necessary* that God control His creatures by
      >doing violence to their will. That is all that is needed. You take the
      >analogy too far if you want it to do anything else.

      Indeed it is a modal issue. Everything what God had decreed will happen
      with *necessity*. Therefore, it is *not possible* that human chose
      alternative courses of actions. Whether God directly influenced human
      choice is irrelevant here. I cannot see how you can avoid the following
      charge: Your theology implies that God created *intentionally* human nature
      such that human beings would *necessarily* chose evil. You haven't shown
      yet how it is possible that God does not influence human will if God
      controls human will.

      >I am arguing, that, *however* it works, God works along side of the will
      >of His creatures - it's concursus because the Biblical data shows both and
      >we cannot escape both.

      What do you mean by "God works along side of the will of His creatures"?

      >These issues are not contradictory because I can come up with an example to
      >show both working together. One of the models for *how* this works out is
      >secondary causes, but there are other models So far no contradiction has
      >been shown to exist between the two ideas. Therefore it is possible.

      I am not familiar with these models. However I am familiar with Peter van
      Inwagen's modal arguments for incompatibilism. I find his arguments quite

      >If the data says it is and there is no logical contradiction then there is no
      >problem for the compatabilist.

      Which data?

      >Moreover, even if we can't come up with a model that shows exactly *how*
      >it comes about, it doesn't mean that God doesn't control all things and
      >that man is still free. Can we explain *how* the Trinity works?
      >No, but we can say a bunch of things about it and show
      >that it is not a contradictory idea.

      OK, I agree here.

      >In the same way we can say some things
      >about the equal teachings of God's sovereignty and providence and man's free
      >will and responsibility. God, must be in control of all things, otherwise He
      >cannot work all things for our good, He cannot gurantee anything of His
      >plan, His omnipotence would be bound and we could call Him a liar (Acts

      Hmm, it is here that we have different concepts of omnipotence. Your notion
      of omnipotence requires that God controls everything. However, it is by no
      means obvious that the concept of omnipotence implies that God must
      actually control everything. If that is not so clear, read the article
      located at:


      Your insistence that God must control everything is akin to an
      incompatibilist who cries out that God's control is a control of the
      puppeteer. Who is right here? :-)

      >On the other hand, man must be free in some sense in order to be held
      >responsible for his actions. Both must be held. The only solution is
      >compatabilism any other solution vitiates the Scriptures of one or the

      Hmm, I would rather say that any other solution than compatibilism
      certainly vitiates your interpretation of Scripture. Obviously we do not
      share the same understanding of the Bible.

      >Lastly, the Arminian and/or incompatabilist has a dilema because in their
      >view God can never guarantee that all things work for our good because it is
      >possible that someone can do something that surprises God and that something
      >can actually end up not being for our good.
      >There is no room for this idea,
      >therefore God must be in control of all things in some sense.

      I do not understand what does the dilemma consists. First, an indeterminist
      can consistently say that God both can guarantee that all things work out
      for the good of His children, and can be surprised by our choices. But God
      cannot guarantee that all things work out for the good of those who chose
      not to believe in Christ.

    • Aleksandar Katanovic
      ... Yes, Edward! This is not a Christian dogmatic list, and I absolutely agree with you that philosophy involves informed, logical argumentation. More
      Message 64 of 64 , Oct 7, 2001
      • 0 Attachment
        At 01:05 17-09-01 -0400, you wrote:

        >As one of the moderators of this list I feel I need to step in here and
        >ask a very simple question: What does the following statement -- and
        >many others like it -- have to do with philosophy?
        > > God ordained the fact of our motives and even their being as fact but
        > > not
        > > the motive as evil motive which is ours alone;Hecaused his plan to
        > > fall ouit
        > > by our wickedness so the blame is ours;doing it on His part for
        > > sundry just
        > > and Holy ends and working all together for the Good of His elect ,al
        > > things
        > > being for the sake of the Elect and His own Glory and Holy Pleasure
        >This is not a Christian dogmatics list, but a Christian PHILOSOPHY list.
        >Philosophy implies informed, logical, dialectical argumentation. The
        >belief in election or predestination is, in my view, completely
        >unphilosophical and, to be frank, absurd.

        Yes, Edward! This is not a Christian dogmatic list, and I absolutely agree
        with you that philosophy involves informed, logical argumentation. More
        importantly, it involves conceptual investigations on various beliefs
        including the Christian ones.

        What I object to certain posts having to do with the doctrine of
        predestination is not the subject matter but rather the lack of using
        philosophical methods in the investigation of beliefs relevant for the
        doctrine of predestination. Therefore, I do not regard the belief in
        predestination (and related views) as unphilosophical per se. Whether these
        beliefs are absurd that is what the disputes on Calvinism are about. As a
        non-Calvinist, I deny the Calvinist interpretation of election because I
        suspect that the Calvinist interpretation is absurd. However, I have to be
        open-minded towards a Calvinist and share our respective understanding on
        the question of *how* God does elect people for the salvation. Such
        discussion can involve a lot of sound argumentation and conceptual
        clarification of relevant beliefs for the dispute. Consequently, the
        dispute can be philosophically interesting indeed.

        Sincerely yours,
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.