Here's two popular examples of what I mean: First, we frequently hear that "choice" just means some kind of libertarianism about the will. The second is like unto it: "You Calvinists must necessarily go against laymen, common sensical understandings of certain terms. Your position is counter-intuitive. Ordinary folk laugh at you."
Besides the fact that there's nothing solid here out of which to form a good argument for libertarianism, there are (at least) two other problems. The first is that the best libertarians writing today know better that to stack the deck this way when defining things like 'choice'. The second is that -- granting the statistical point about what laymen believe, as I haven't seen the sociologists' studies -- there is an equally counter-intuitive element to indeterminism held by most "lay folk." I'll make my case by citing libertarians on these two points, in the above order.
First up are libertarians Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. In their book Naturalism they say that,
A choice is a ... mental action, and when we make choices we typically explain our making them in terms of reasons, where a reason is a purpose, end, or goal for choosing. A reason is a conceptual entity, what medieval thinkers called an ens rationis (literally "object of reason") or intentional object, which is about or directed at the future and opative in mood (expressing a wish that the world be a certain way that is good. To put this point in technical terms, while a reason is not a desire or a belief, its opative character stems from its being grounded in the content of a desire or belief that represents a future state of affairs and something to be brought about by a more temporally proximate chosen action of the person who has the desire or belief. An explanation of a choice in terms of a reason or purpose is a teleological explanation.1And next up is one of the premier libertarian action theorists writing today, Robert Kane. This quote is taken from his chapter in the Four Views on Free Will book. Kane says that,
A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something. It resolves uncertainty and indecision in the mind about what to do.2It therefore looks to be the case that simply saying "choice" doesn't demand a libertarian understanding of the term. It is duplicitous for Arminian epologists to act as if it does. It is actually rather like those atheists or cult members who say that Bible "translation" over the centuries necessarily implies that error must have crept in. After all, it's just "common knowledge" that that is what happens in a (say) game of telephone.
Kane points out that it seems intuitive to many people that if indeterminism is involved in some happening then that makes it a chance or luck happening. He writes,
The first step is to question the intuitive connection in people's minds between "indeterminisms being involved in something" and "its happening merely as a matter of chance or luck."3It should be fairly obvious, though, that we never hear this common and intuitive understanding of indeterminism as incompatible with control being admitted by Arminian epologists. They obviously don't think indeterminism demands luck, chance, or loss of control. They think if ordinary folk just thought more clearly on the issue, they would agree. But, granting the point for the moment, the Calvinist also says that ordinary folk really don't mean what they say and they wouldn't say it if they would think through the issues a bit more clearly.
Having exposed this popular Arminian epologist three-card Monte, I hope to not see it trotted out on this blog anymore.
1 Goetz & Taliaferro, Naturalism, Eerdmans, 2008, pp. 26-27. In interest of full disclosure, the authors put the word 'undetermined' where I had the ellipsis. This word I took to be question begging and there was no argument for the inclusion of that word as being a necessary part of the definition throughout the entire book. And, in fact, the only argument given against determinism was against physicalist determination. So, I could have left "undetermined" in the quote and added "physically" and not undermined divine-determination in the least. As further justification of my reasoning here, I refer the reader to something else said by the above authors. In explicating the Argument from Reason against naturalism, the authors point to a subtle qualification of their argument. To wit: "Like Lewis, we believe one must be careful here. It is not the mere existence of a cause for a belief that discredits it. Rather, it is the kind of cause that discredits it" (ibid, 121, emphasis original). Furthermore, the authors argue that physicalistic determination is not irreducibly normative and teleological, and so it is problematic. It is clear that this is not the case with divine-determination. God's determining is irreducibly normative and teleological. Obviously, this brings up many questions, but I think it justifies my exclusion of what I took to be a throw-away term in their definition. Lastly, if 'undetermined' is meant to cover the field, then it's false. Libertarians like Robert Kane would agree with me. But, if I am wrong, then the authors' context demands, if we are to be precise, that "physically" be associated with "undetermined," and so it's a zero-sum either way.
2 Kane, For Views on Free Will, ed. Sosa, Blackwell, 2008, p. 33. Again, in interest of full disclosure, Kane would argue that indeterminism is necessary for ultimate responsibility, UR, to be ascribed to the agents who make the choices they do, but that doesn't affect the definition he gives and also would engage us in another discussion part of which would involve Frankfurt counter-examples, FCs. This debate would end up not helping the traditional Arminian who wants to affirm a traditional, robust view of God's foreknowledge. That this is so can be shown by pointing to what Double has dubbed the "Kane-Widerker" objection to Frankfurt controllers; namely, that there is no reliable "tell sign" available to a controller by which he could know that an agent would go one way over the other. This in my opinion leads to Open Theism. So, FCs undermine UR and the best way to avoid FCs is to invoke the "Kane-Widerker" objection, which leads to Open Theism.
3 ibid, 31.