Saturday, January 31, 2009

Last Response to Dan

This will be my last response to Dan on this issue we've been discussing (his latest response can be found here). There are various reasons why, no need to bring them to light. I just quickly wrote the below, excuse any major grammatical errors.


I wrote: Even if I granted that 21st century common man understands choice in a libertarian way… that doesn't imply that X-century BC Jews thought that way.

Dan responded, "Paul is welcome to address the reasons I have already provided, based on the common consent of modern scholarship and extra-biblical Jewish writings."

Dan presented no such "common consent of modern scholarship," that 'choose' meant 'genuine access to alternative possibilities. What he did was claim, "As for the Hebrews not having American dictionaries, the problem is that all the commentators, translators and lexicon compilers that did have access to such dictionaries translate the terms bâcha, and eklegomai choose." This proves nothing; indeed, it’s question begging. Is Dan making the absurd claim that even compatibilist commentators, translators, and lexicon compilers translated a word they believed contradicted their position? That they translated the word 'choose' doesn't mean that they all thought that genuine access to alternative possibilities was possible. And, this blurs the distinction between having and making choices. No one is debating that the word 'choice' is a proper word. I can use it. I choose to use it. That I used the word 'choice' doesn't mean that I think libertarianism is true.

The next argument he says I need to reply to is this:

Further, extra biblical sources clarify what the Hebrews thought:

Sirach 15:13-20 The Lord hateth all abomination; and they that fear God love it not. He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel; If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness. He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him. For the wisdom of the Lord is great, and he is mighty in power, and beholdeth all things: And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and he knoweth every work of man. He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man licence to sin.


Again, Dan simply eisogetes his libertarianism into this text. I am at a loss as to how he thinks this claim possibly supports the idea that these Jews were libertarians. If he says the text implies ability to do otherwise, how does it rule out classical compatibilism? Perhaps they were classical compatibilists and had a counterfactual understanding of "can." The text isn't enough to support the weight of Dan's argument. In other words, Dan's just not arguing well.

One also might wonder how this passage doesn't support perfectionism.

And, Dan seems unaware that Jewish scholars actually see a determinism inherent in ancient Judaism.

http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/rosh/elkayam.html

Most scholars know that the Jews believed (a) God foreknows what we will do, which they thought implied determinism, and they also held that (b) man was free. Generally, they didn't try to resolve this problem, though. It was held a paradox. The problem was brought to the fore by Avika when he said, "Everything is foreseen; yet free will is given" (Rabbi Akiva, Pirkei Avoth 3:15). Since it is common knowledge that this issue was debated amongst the later Jews, we cannot say that the author of the above text from which Dan cites didn't also hold to divine determinism, thus making him a proto-compatibilist. Again, Dan's evidence doesn't support the weight of his conclusions.

In the Jewish Philosophy Reader, Oliver Leaman argues that "early on in Jewish thought" Akiba's "dicta could be seen as synthesizing the seemingly incompatible Stoic thesis of determinism and the Epicurean antithesis of free will" (Leaman, JPR, p.122). Indeed, he claims that medieval exegetes moved "far from classical Jewish theology" (ibid). It is known that Maimonides tried to argue for ability to do otherwise. Thus Leaman finds compatibilism the expression of "classical Jewish theology." It is further noted that some view talk of libertarian free will as an "exaggerated premise about the value of free will in Judaism" (Shatz, ibid, p.51). Though Shatz doesn't take this route, the general apathy towards solving the problems of free will, God's foreknowledge, and ubiquitous causation the early and later Jewish scholars evidenced cannot be dismissed.

Furthermore, no less a Jewish scholar as Umberto Cassuto could write,

"In early Hebrew dictation, it is customary to attribute to every phenomena the direct action of God ... Every happening has a number of causes, and these causes, in turn, have other causes, and so on ad infinitum; according to the Israeltie conception, the cause of all causes was the will of God, the creator and Ruler of everything. Now the philosopher examines the long and complex chain of causation, whereas the ordinary person jumps instantly from the last effect to the first cause, and attributes the former directly to God. This, now, is how the Torah, which employs human idioms, expresses itself" (ibid, 55, cf. n.24)

Dan dissed Kane as not being as good a libertarian thinker than him, will he now dismiss Cassuto of being ignorant of early Hebrew dictation!

As I searched around to confirm my sources and general thoughts, this Jewish website fossilised my previous argumentation. Thus,

"Biblical and rabbinic literature don't systematically analyze philosophical issues, including the concept of free will. The Bible is clear that God has a role in determining human affairs, and equally clear that, in most cases, human beings have the ability to choose between right and wrong. This contradiction does not seem to bother the biblical writer(s), and thus the Bible provides no clear solution to the free will problem. Some rabbinic sources indicate an awareness that divine providence and human choice might be contradictory, but no systematic solutions are articulated."

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ideas_belief/freewill/FW_Primer.htm?GL=true

Commenting on the varied positions within Judaism,

"According to the first-century historian Josephus, different conceptions of fate and determinism distinguished the three major Jewish sects of antiquity. Among the major Jewish sects of antiquity, the Essenes believed that fate determined everything, the Sadducees rejected fate entirely, and the Pharisees--the forerunners of rabbinic Judaism--believed that, "certain events are the work of Fate, but not all."

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ideas_belief/freewill/FW_Solutions_TO.htm

Therefore I think I have established sufficient evidence to the effect that a simplistic quoting some Jewish commentary isn't enough to render a "guilty" verdict against compatibilism and for libertarianism.

I should also point out that Jesus frequently condemned Jewish traditions. So, it's not clear how helpful appealing to them will be for Dan.

At any event, even if his source is to be taken libertarianly, that's insufficient to prove that, say, Moses was a libertarian. Also, his comment about the commentators can't possibly support his argument either, as I have shown.

I wrote: "Dan must grant the possibility that in an increasingly secular society, given the state of public education, and given the direction science is heading; the "common man" will believe this: "All things are physically determined with generalizations and conditionals having 100% probabilities associated with them."

Dan responded: I am not sure the common man is in a position to evaluate that claim.

They don't need to be. The point is, Time magazine could run an article, Oprah could do a show on it, and the masses would believe it. If this happened, which is possible, would Dan then become a compatibilist? No. Would he believe that the OT writers were determinists since they were "common men" (a least some of them) too? No. So, why does he think I should reason thus even if "common man" thinks in terms of libertarianism.

I wrote: "as I argued from Kane, the common man also has problems with indeterminate happenings."

Dan responded: "He only said they would, if they held certain mistaken notions."

This is odd. Then I retort, 'common man would hold libertarianism, if they held certain mistaken notions." Secondly, that's not what Kane said, now was it. Kane said, "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."

Paul mistakenly overlooked the word “can” in my dictionary.com quote (both the explicit reference and implicitly through the word “possible”). So again, the common sense notion of choosing and alternatives rules out determinism.


There's many things I could say. How about this: the common sense notion of control rules out indeterminism.


And to substitute a hypothetical ability with an actual one is an equivocal way of substituting the common definition of choice for the determinist one.


No, it's to point out that the dictionary doesn't weigh in on that issue so it can't be used to support Dan's claim. It's to show the eisogetical nature of his argument.

Finally, there is a difference between understanding what the dictionary says and applying what it says. By Paul asking if the dictionary addresses certain questions, he seems to be conflating these two things.


Right, and I argued that just sticking with what it says isn't enough to get Dan what he wants.

I wrote: "Lastly, Dan makes a non-sequitur. He says, "Again, if determinism is true, given the causal forces at play, I cannot choose or do counterfactuals." But, that doesn't mean you didn't choose to do what you did."

Dan responded: "Sure it does, because given the common notion of choosing, the counterfactuals are possible, not impossible."

As even Robert has made plain to Dan, compatibilists easily account for making choices. In fact, I don't know a libertarian in the world that would side with Dan. So, it does not follow from "I cannot choose or do counterfactuals" that "I didn't choose to do whatever it is I in fact chose."

I wrote: "And, again, if libertarianism is true, given the luck, I cannot choose counterfactuals. Choosing requires a certain amount of control that libertarianism doesn't afford. Dan disagrees."

Dan responded: "The bible disagrees, and I simply believe the bible."

It's these kinds of responses that make me tire of debating Dan.

This “luck” line of reasoning is the one I warned about earlier as not open to the Christian. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This means God is the first cause, so His first cause wasn’t causally predetermined. This is agent causation and it undermines the luck argument. Was God lucky to have Jacob? No, He chose him. But Paul’s reasoning would lead us to believe God was lucky. Arguments against the coherence of LFW are impermissible to Christians.


All one simply needs to say is that God's choice wasn't indeterminite either. I'd even agree with Kane here. God doesn't have libertarian freedom. I don't think he has compatibilistic either. I believe his freedom is sui generous.

I wrote: "The dictionary doesn't say Jesus is the God-man, ergo, he isn't."

Dan responded: "In this case the dictionary is accurate, but not complete. But regarding “chose”, Paul would have us believe the dictionary is inaccurate and he has provided counter-definitions."

Christianity isn't a new religion that was founded by Jesus, ergo, the dictionary isn't even accurate. Try again.

Furthermore, I've already made my case from other dictionaries. Looks like some support Dan, some support me. We have a Mexican stand-off.

As for Muslims using the word “choose”, if I recall correctly they hold Allah transcends logic. So probably they hold to both and neither determinism and LFW. Why should we expect them to be consistent?


As if heretical Jews are any better? Perhaps Dan's Jewish source held to both. He can't argue this way here and then except himself from the same rejoinder to the heretical Jews.

Also, why do they have to hold to determinism? The "choice" trumps any deterministic reading. So, anything than even remotely suggests determinism will be, like Arminians do to the Bible, "fixed-up" so as to not imply determinism.

So, you can't say that they held to both. They said "choose,' therefore, when they said things that sounded deterministic we must not interpret them that way.

Special pleading isn't normally considered a valid rejoinder.

10 comments:

  1. So, did God make Paul persecute the church, or did Paul choose to do it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. PaulSceptic,

    Ignorance of compatibilism isn't allowed here, especially when I've told you that before. All sides admit that determinism doesn't imply "making" someone do something as this is associated with pictures of "forcing" or "coercing." As far as Paul choosing to do it, given the definition of "choice" by libertarian action theorist Robert Kane, i.e., "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," then a compatibilist can say that Paul chose to persecute the church and have it be compatible with determinism.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "All sides admit that determinism doesn't imply "making" someone do something"

    I don't admit that, so apparently saying "all sides admit" it, is an overstatement. You argument strikes me as special pleading, which I have heard "isn't normally considered a valid rejoinder."

    Your answer, "a compatibilist can say that Paul chose to persecute the church and have it be compatible with determinism" mean both, right? Both that he chose and that God made him choose it? If so, why not just say it that way?

    ReplyDelete
  4. my keyboard is sticking for some reaon btw, in case you wanted to kno

    ReplyDelete
  5. "I don't admit that, so apparently saying "all sides admit" it, is an overstatement."

    But I don't consider your opinions a relevant part of the debate. I was talking about people who have a clue. I have no confidence that you understand either conpatibilism or libertarianism.

    "You argument strikes me as special pleading, which I have heard "isn't normally considered a valid rejoinder."

    You heard correctly, but I am not guilty of special pleading.

    "Your answer, "a compatibilist can say that Paul chose to persecute the church and have it be compatible with determinism" mean both, right? Both that he chose and that God made him choose it? If so, why not just say it that way?

    Again, you ignore the distinction I draw. This wastes both of our time. Get a better word than 'made' or provide the requisite analysis to the term so I can see exactly how you mean in to function in your usage.

    I do say that Paul choose to do it and God determined that he would do it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "I do say that Paul choose to do it and God determined that he would do it."

    Well then how is "determined" different from "made"?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I explained that above. That's why I write what I do. I don't just write to get off talking points.

    For extra help, read your first comment, you oppose "choice" with "make."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Paul: God doesn't have libertarian freedom. I don't think he has compatibilistic either. I believe his freedom is sui generous.

    Vytautas: Could you provide the requisite analysis to the term sui generous?

    ReplyDelete
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