Because I’ve had some other matters to attend to, I haven’t been following every twist and turn of Manata’s debate with Dan. I’ll just say that if Dan’s latest reply is at all representative, then the quality of his reasoning has certainly deteriorated since he and I last had our exchange (over God’s knowledge of the future, as I recall).
That’s a pity since, up till now, I think Dan had the reputation of being the most reasonable of Arminian epologists. Let’s look at his latest response:
Determinists require equivocation to survive. Since they don’t hold to common-sense meanings to terms like "choose", "alternative" and "possible", they develop slightly varied definitions to the terms, as opposed to getting rid of the words altogether.
One problem with Dan’s characterization is that he equivocates over equivocation.
i) To begin with, Manata would only be guilty of equivocation if he were inconsistent in his own usage. But the fact, if it is a fact, that Manata’s usage is inconsistent with someone else’s usage is not an equivocation on Manata’s part.
ii) In addition, Dan fails to distinguish between semantic equivocation and conceptual equivocation. Between the meaning of words and the meaning of ideas.
The compatibilist/incompatibilist debate is fundamentally a debate over the concept of freedom, not the meaning of words in a dictionary.
Here’s a few examples of how this works. They might say “you can choose to eat the ice cream”, but what they mean is only “you can choose to eat the ice cream, if it’s your strongest desire.”
Even if we accept Dan’s “common sense” criterion for the sake of argument, what makes Dan think that’s not a commonsensical qualification? Why does Dan assume the common man would reject the idea that he chooses according to his strongest desire?
When I buy ice cream, or when I select my favorite flavor, what other factor is there besides my strongest desire?
Consider the compatibility thesis that the ideas of determinism and freewill are compatible. Clearly they are not, if you must get rid of the determining factors to speak of freedom to choose the undetermined event.
Of course, that simply begs the question in favor of libertarian freedom. Dan needs a sound philosophical argument to justify that claim.
The past and decree are the causal forces at play. I stated “given the causal forces at play, but Paul must remove them and input different ones to talk about the possibility of counterfactuals.
Once again, even if we grant his “common sense” criterion for the sake of argument, why does Dan assume that’s not a commonsensical explanation?
Don’t counterfactual statements frequently have explicit deferential factors? “If only I knew then what I know how, I’d do things differently!”
With the benefit of hindsight, we tell ourselves that if we could do it all over again, we’d opt for non-X instead of X. Here, experience of the consequences is the differential factor.
My primary argument to Paul was that the common sense notion of “choose” includes the ability to choose non-X, so determinists can’t consistently use the common sense notion of choose.
Where does Dan come up with the claim that his definition of choice is the “common sense” notion?
His definition of choice involves the freedom to do otherwise, the principle of alternate possibilities.
How many common men have had the actual experience traveling back into the past and doing non-X instead of X this time around? Does Dan have some experimental or anecdotal evidence to document this “common sense” notion?
Why doesn’t he perform a little demo for you and me? Why doesn’t he show us a concrete example? Perform a successful feat of having done otherwise? That would be very impressive.
We can all go to Baskin-Robbins. He can choose an ice cream cone. We see him with his vanilla ice cream cone. Then, a moment later, we see him with a chocolate ice cream cone. Let’s see some tangible evidence that he can do otherwise by going back and changing the future. A trivial example will suffice.
I supported this based on several dictionaries.
Of course, this is naïve on several counts:
i) Dictionaries don’t go into the metaphysical machinery behind the use of words like “choose,” “alternative,” and “possible.”
ii) Indeed, dictionaries generally avoid taking sides in debates over controversial concepts. If a dictionary would to take sides in the way it defined words, its definitions would be tendentious.
iii) Imagine if Dan were a philosophy major at a topnotch phil. dept. like Notre Dame. Imagine if he wrote his term paper for Peter van Inwagen defending libertarian freedom. Imagine if he quoted the dictionary to prove libertarian freedom. Imagine what grade he would receive for that method of proof.
Dan does an unwitting favor to Manata when he resorts to this Hicksville appeal to prove Arminian theology. It’s an embarrassment to Arminian theology.
I responded that the compatibilist can’t really accept the dictionary definition of choice; they must hold the exotic counter-definition and simply equivocate.
Of course, when Dan resorts to this Hicksville appeal, he thereby forfeits any philosophical arguments for libertarian freedom by libertarian philosophers.
I also pointed out that the bible was written in common language, so using the exotic counter-definition was unbiblical.
i) Isn’t Dan a critic of open theism? But the open theist would say that he is merely taking the popular usage of Scripture at face-value. So would the Mormon. They would regard Dan’s own position as “exotic” and “unscriptural.”
ii) An open theist would also be critical of the scholastic formulations you find in a writer like Arminius.
iii) Ordinary language doesn’t attempt to draw fine philosophical distinctions. That’s the point. That’s what makes it ordinary language—in contrast to technical language.
Dan is assuming a level of ontological commitment to popular usage which is at odds with popular usage.
iv) Needless to say, Manata has biblical as well as extrabiblical reasons for affirming determinism.