Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Libertarian Dilemma

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

According to incompatibilism, determinism precludes free will. Liber­tarians are incompatibilists who also believe in free will. Hence, they’re committed to free will’s requiring the falsity of determinism—in­determinism. The trouble is that the very indeterminism which the libertarians need seem inimical to free will in that it is hard to see how indeterministic events can be under the agent’s control. This, in short, is the so-called Libertarian Dilemma: free will seems incompatible with determinism, but it also seems incompatible with indeterminism—so, free will seems impossible. This book offers an in-depth analysis of this problem and some of the major contemporary attempts by libertarians to forge a successful “way out” of it. In doing so, some central issues in the metaphysics of free will are analyzed in detail, e.g., the logic of contemporary arguments for each of the horns of the dilemma; the problem of locating the libertarians’ requisite indeterminism; the nature of “agent causation” and its prospects for solving the dilemma. This book will be of interest to philosophers or students of philosophy who have an interest in the metaphysics of free will.

Get your copy here.

HT: Hermonta


  1. For $111.00? Yeah, right.

    No, I think I'll let you buy it, Paul, and we can just read your review.


  2. I'm gonna charge $55 to read my review :-D

  3. It ships free with supersaver shipping. No need to figure out that "second book" to get your order up over $25.00.

  4. I felt a desire to read these comments strong enough to cause me to clik on "comments."

  5. Sounds interesting, but at that price....
    However, even as I am a compatibilist/Calvinist myself, I have some issues with the argument.
    If libertarianism is incoherent, as it seems to be, where does that leave God's freedom?
    I'm seriously open to the possibility that God only has a sort of sui generis compatibilist freedom, amplified in relation to contingent beings due to having no antecedent causes--after all, Leibnitz held this position, but I'd like to see some arguments for or against it.

  6. Vasco,

    I'm unsure why those would be problems with the argument.

    Choi is a compatibilist. He does't think compatibilism incoherent.

    I also do not think God has libertarian free will, and I suppose neither does Choi.

    I'm unsure I'd call God's freedome *compatibilist* since that implies that his free actions were necessitated, determined. We don't want to say that. I would agree with you about sui generous freedom. It also may well be another example of paradox in Christian theology.

  7. Paul,
    I didn't think Choi thinks compatibilism incoherent. I said if libertarianism is incoherent--which I think it is--not compatibilism. Did you misread that? If not, I just don't know where I may have implied that.
    Is Choi a theist/Christian? THat would be pretty interesting, unfortunately there aren't nearly as much compatibilist/reformed analytic philosophers as I'd like.
    I am usually suspicious of appeals to paradox; what I mean is that while God obviously has no preceding causes to determine his actions, He is still not free in a libertarian sense since He cannot go against His nature. Also, an argument could be made that, given that he wanted to create, this world was necessary because it was the best of all possible worlds. I am far from committed to this argument, but it merits discussion.
    Do you perhaps have any bibliography you'd recommend on this subject?

  8. Vosco,

    You said, "I have issues with the argument." You said this was because "God has a sui generous compatibilist freedom." I was wondering why you would have "issues" with Choi's argument.

    Choi is a Christian theist, got an MA from WSCAL too. In fact, he's a presbyterian.

    I am not suspicious of appeals to paradox. You can read my review of Anderson's book here:

    I agree that God is not free in the libertarian sense. But you said he had a "compatibilist freedom." "Compatible" *with what*? Usually, that term is reserved to say that freewill (or moral responsibility) is compatible with determinism. So your language was unclear. But, yes, God *wanted* to create. But *that* could be said by a libertarian, compatibilist, or G-freedomist.

    I'm likewise suspicious of claims that "this world" was the "best of all possible worlds." There are alternative goods. Common goods incompatible with greatest goods. That God does good according to his nature does not tell us *which* goods he has to do. There may be any number of *alternative* goods that God could choose from. Or, he may choose to instantiate a greatest good for a lesser number rather than a lesser good for a greater number.

    I'm afraid most discussions of God's freedom come from a libertarian prespective. John Frame has some good thoughts on this issue, though. So do older Reformed theologians, though they don't cast things in the language of analytic philosophy, so you'll have to do more work there if you want concepts in said language. Other than that, I'm afraid we need more Reformed philosophers of religion.

  9. Peter,
    I have issues with this particular argument against libertarianism--not with opposition to libertarianism in general, which of course I can me always counted on for--but I don't have a committed position on it--just a vague wariness of the implications it might have for God's freedom. The reason is that I've seen even some Reformed writers ascribe libertarian freedom to God even while saying man possesses 'only' compatibilist freedom.

    You're right, though, maybe the term compatibilist, even qualified, isn't the best way to describe God's freedom, because of the misunderstandings it might lead to. guess I was just trying to fit God into some philosophical box.

    I'm not committed to the best possible worlds theodicy, I just mentioned it because it has featured in Leibnitz's discussions of God's freedom.

    Finally, where does Frame discuss this issue, in Doctrine of God? Maybe this is the time I'll actually get that book...
    While I do prefer the language of analytic philosophy, at this point I'll take what I can get. Which theologians do you recommend?

    Thanks for your time, by the way.

  10. Vasco,

    I have been Paul, not Peter. :-)

    The argument is, basically, it seems that to have freedom one needs a certain amount of control over one's actions. The worry is that indeterminism doesn't allow for that control. If an agent chose to * based on x, y, z, ..n, and you replayed the tape over again, the "x, y, z ...n" could all be the *same* and the agent could chose to not *. Why did the agent chose one way over the other? It looks like it was just due to luck that it went the way it did. But if it is just do to luck that you preform the actions you do, how can you be free, or morally responsible? Choi looks at the major ways libertarians have tried to answer this, sowing that they are unsuccessful.

    Anyway, yes Frame discusses it in doctrine of God. I am not in agreement with Frames view of (human) free will because it seems he takes a classical compatibilist view and I think that view has problems.

    You can also look at most of the Reformed scholastics. Turretin and others as well.

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