VICTOR REPPERT SAID:
You go to professional philosophers to determine whether determinism is a natural belief?
Considering the fact that action theories are philosophical theories, why wouldn’t we poll the folks who are conversant with action theory?
People who have had naturalistic determinism pounded into their brains from day one in grad school? You're kidding, aren't you.
The hoi polloi, as Vytautas would call them (including introductory philosophy students), invariably accept libertarian free will. They have to be exposed either to naturalism or to Calvinism before they will even consider the idea that our actions are all determined.
For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that this is true.
i) Reppert defends the “natural” belief in LFW. And he substantiates that claim by also claiming that the hoi polloi, including introductory philosophy majors, “invariably” accept LFW.
But doesn’t that strike you as an oddly deterministic way to defend the natural belief in LFW? To begin with, wouldn’t a “natural” belief be a predetermined belief? The involuntary result of natural conditioning?
Even if it could be overcome, people didn’t initially choose to believe in LFW. Rather, that’s something which comes naturally.
ii) Then, to make matters worse, Reppert says that, left to their own devices, they “invariably” believe in LFW. But, once again, doesn’t that strike you as an oddly deterministic way to defend the natural belief in LFW?
I mean, if they really had LFW, then wouldn’t we expect some variability on their pretheoretical beliefs about freedom and responsibility? Aren’t they at liberty to accept something other than libertarianism?
iii) Then, to top it off, when confronted by the fact that 86.3% of professional philosophers and grad students (in philosophy) reject LFW, Reppert discounts this statistic on the grounds that they were brainwashed into rejecting LFW in grad school. But, once more, doesn’t that strike you as a oddly deterministic way to defend the natural belief in LFW?
After all, if philosophy majors really had LFW, then why would they be so susceptible to social conditioning and operant conditioning? Don’t they have the freedom to resist peer pressure?
So, Reppert has defended LFW by appealing to such deterministic mechanisms as natural conditioning, social conditioning, and operant conditioning. Seems like a self-defeating argument to me.
iv) BTW, the fact that Reppert was an avid Obama supporter enjoys a high correlation with his academic affiliations. So should we chalk that up to peer pressure?
v) However, let’s to back to the operating assumption. Do professional philosophers constitute a poor sample group? What is Reppert’s alternative? Does he think we should conduct one of those man-on-the-street interviews where a talk show host leaves the TV studio, shoves a microphone in the face of random pedestrians on the sidewalks of Manhattan or LA, and poses the following question:
Which action theory do you accept or lean toward?
vi) Substance-dualist libertarianism
vii) Agent-causal theory
vi) Noncausal free agency
vii) Event-causal free agency
viii) Hard incompatibilism
ix) Freewill subjectivism
x) None of the above
Needless to say, it requires a certain amount of philosophical background to even know what LFW is. Or determinism. Or variants of each.
The idea that we are, in some absolute sense, guilty before God for the things we have done, and liable to everlasting punishment for such misdeeds even though our actions are determined, ultimately, by divine choice, is a thesis that people like Dennett would find simply horrifying and barbaric.
Apparently, Reppert can’t remember his own words. Here’s the statement (of his) that I was originally responding to:
All of which goes to show that belief in determinism, with or without a predestinating God, is a profoundly unnatural belief.
Notice the explicit rider in his statement: “with or without a predestinating God.”