According to Thibodaux:
Calvinists often pose questions along the lines of, “If 2 people are given the same grace, why does one receives it and another reject it?” This question was popularized on the internet by John Hendryx at monergism.com, who in one rendition of this particular fallacy states: “If prevenient grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another? … What principle in him made him choose what he did?” [A Prayer That a Synergist Won't Pray (An Open Challenge to All Synergists), John Hendryx]
Hendryx’s wording is very telling, he asks ‘what made him choose?’, when the defining property of a libertarian decision is that nothing caused it to be one way or another except the person’s own will. While free will certainly is subject to influence, if some external principle coerced, impelled, or simply necessitated a specific decision, then the choice could no longer be called ‘libertarian.’
To break down Hendryx’s question:
The context (note the title I listed above) is that Hendryx is addressing the question to Synergists (people like myself who believe that there are at least some non-necessitated choices), trying to show what he perceives as problems in our beliefs. His putting forth of the question, “What principle in him made him choose what he did?”, amounts to him asking what necessitates our decisions, since anything that makes someone choose a specific way would constitute necessitation of that choice.
So given that,
1. The question is posed to people who believe in libertarian (non-necessitated) decisions
2. The question challenges the libertarian view by asking what necessitates peoples’ specific choices
Hendryx’s question effectively boils down to him asking,
“What necessitates choices that aren’t necessitated?”
This line of questioning is not only logically absurd, but also requires assuming that all of our decisions must be necessitated, when that is in fact the proposition he is trying to prove. This fallacy is more formally known as ‘begging the question,’ a form of circular reasoning.
Thibodaux exhibits a very simplistic grasp of libertarian action theory. And his commenters suffer from the same simplistic grasp.
Let’s quote from a contemporary analysis which illustrates some of the complexities and difficulties of libertarianism:
“Some libertarian accounts require that a free decision or other free action have no cause at all; some require that it either have no cause or be only nondeterministically caused by other events. Since both such views place no positive causal requirements on free action, we may call them ‘noncausal accounts.’ (They are sometimes called ‘simple indeterminist views.’),” R. Clarke, “Libertarian Views: Critical Survey of Noncausal and Event-Causal Accounts of Free Agency,” R. Kane, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Freewill (Oxford 2005, 356.
“Two (related) main problems arise from libertarian accounts of this sort: both are problems, in the first instance, for noncausal accounts of action. The first concerns control. Performing an action, even acting unfreely, is exercising some variety of active control over one’s behavior; acting freely is exercising an especially valuable variety of active control. A theory of action, whether of specifically free action or not, ought to say what the pertinent variety of control is or in what it consists. It is questionable whether noncausal views have an adequate account to offer at this point,” ibid. 357-358.
“The second main problem concerns rationality. Acting freely is acting with a capacity for rational self-governance and determining, oneself, whether and how one exercises that capacity on a given occasion. Hence it must be possible for a free action to be an action performed for a certain reason, an action for which there is a rational explanation. Again, it is questionable whether noncausal views can proved adequate accounts of these phenomena,” ibid., 358.
“Consider first the matter of control. An obvious candidate for an account here is that an agent’s exercising active control consists in her action’s being caused, in an appropriate way, by her, or by certain events involving her, such as her having certain beliefs and desires or a certain intention. Since noncausal accounts reject this type of view, what alternatives are available?” ibid. 358.
“McCann rejects causal construals of it, but since he offers no substantive alternative, the exercise of active control is left something of a mystery. The resulting view, in my judgment, falls short as account of action (and hence of free action) because it provides no positive account of the crucial phenomenon,” ibid. 359.
“When it comes to acting for certain reasons and to rational explanation, again obvious candidates for accounts of the phenomena invoke causation: an agent acts for a certain reason only if the agent’s having the corresponding reason-state (such as a desire) causes, in an appropriate way, the agent’s behavior, and citing a reason-state contributes to a rational explanation of an action only if the agent’s having that reason-state caused, in an appropriate way, the action. Proponents of noncausal libertarian views reject such proposals,” ibid. 359-360.
This is just a sample. Clarke runs through a number of noncausal and event-causal strategies to make libertarian action theory satisfy the conditions of control and rationality. He draws attention to various deficiencies of among competing versions.
Thibodaux is welcome to present a version of libertarianism which sidesteps all these pitfalls. For example, how does he avoid the argument from luck?