Monday, July 30, 2007

The identity of indiscernibles

A stock objection to predestination, original sin, and the like is that such doctrines are unfair. It would be unfair if we didn’t have the freedom to do otherwise.

This objection enjoys a knee-jerk appeal. But it’s superficial. One can think of counterexamples.

One I’ve often used is a card game. Ordinarily, we think it’s cheating if the deck is stacked. But, just as a matter of the odds, there are going to be occasions when a randomly shuffled deck will have the same sequence as a stacked deck. On those occasions the outcome will be the same. So, on those occasions, what difference would it make if the dealer were a cardsharp?

The late David Lewis was one of the foremost philosophers of the 20C. I see that Lewis has an argument similar to mine:

“I question the supreme value of incompatibilist freedom. Imagine two worlds. In one of these, actions are produced by psychological states, themselves caused by prior psychological conditions and by the pressure of the environment, those conditions and environments in turn being caused by earlier circumstances, all in accordance with the conditions philosophers introduce to allow for compatibilist freedom. In the second world, just the same actions are performed, but in accordance with your favorite incompatibilist account. Why should we think of the second world as a great advance on the first? In what, precisely, does its superiority reside?”

L. Antony, ed. Philosophers Without Gods (Oxford 2007), 234.

1 comment:

  1. The biggest problem that I can see to the "unfair" objection is that it's arbitrary. By what standard is it unfair, man's or God's?

    To say that the Creator doesn't have the freedom to do what HE wants to do with HIS OWN Creation is simply a re-statement of Original Sin, the desire to be God's equal.