Sunday, November 09, 2014

Is the freedom/determinism dilemma a false dilemma?

Don Page recently made a striking claim:

And what’s more, many worlds may even take care of freewill. Page doesn’t actually believe we have freewill, because he feels we live in a reality in which God determines everything, so it is impossible for humans to act independently. But in the many-worlds interpretation every possible action is actually taken. “It doesn’t mean that it’s fixed that I do one particular course of action. In the multiverse, I’m doing all of them,” says Page.

i) This is very stimulating. On the face of it, his position dissolves the perennial dilemma between determinism and freedom of choice. For on this model, all our choices are determined (indeed, divinely determined), yet we have radical freedom of opportunity inasmuch as we do in fact act on all these alternate possibilities.

ii) It's not quite clear to me how he gets divine determinism out of this. Perhaps he means God indirectly determines everything by initiating and/or instantiating the multiverse.

iii) I'm not clear if he's operating with a Tegmark model of the multiverse in which every possibility is realized. Not every conceivable world is worthwhile.

iii) In principle, God could selectively create parallel worlds which exemplify alternate possibilities. God doesn't require the apparatus of quantum mechanics to create a multiverse. He could do that ex nihilo. So that doesn't require God to instantiate every alternate possibility. It leaves room for divine discretion. Some possible worlds have no redeeming value. Some possible worlds have heretical scenarios (e.g. Christ sinning).

iv) Even if the multiverse does not exist, his argument, if successful, demonstrates that the traditional dilemma between freedom and determinism is a false dilemma in principle. The argument requires a suppressed premise to generate the dilemma: only one possibility can be instantiated at any given time.

v) Yet another objection is that the freedom to do otherwise (i.e. the principle of alternate possibilities) typically means the freedom to do otherwise given the same history, not alternate histories. However, that's ambiguous. It's the same past. The same history up to the decision point. But from thereon it branches off into different futures. So we need to distinguish between alternate history in the sense of a different past or a different future. Does "history" refer to the entire timeline? Or different stages–with forking paths?

vi) Yet another objection is that his argument is vitiated by equivocation. Am I the same person as my counterparts in parallel worlds? Or does that violate personal identity? Here's one way of expressing the objection: "Do you think an exact duplicate of me, sitting next to me, is me? If not, why think that the duplicate existing in another physical universe would be me?"

That, however, raises mereological issues. If spatial distinction is incompatible with numerical identity, is temporal distinction incompatible with numerical identity? Am I the same person today that I was yesterday?

One counterargument is that diachronic identity is univocal because the earlier and later stages of my existence are causally linked. But if that's a necessary condition for personal identity, then that rules out counterfactual identity. My counterparts in abstract possible worlds aren't causally linked. It's a timeless state.

If there's a problem with equivocity, I don't think it begins at the level of causally/spatiotemporally isolated individuals. I don't think instantiating alternate scenarios introduces equivocity into a hitherto univocal relation. If there is a problem, the problem lies upstream, not downstream.

vii) Seems to me the ultimate question is whether God can have a univocal concept of alternate courses of action about the same agent. When God thinks about a driver crashing or just missing a crash, is God's concept about the same driver in both cases? If so, how does God objectifying or transferring his abstract idea to a (concrete/physical) parallel universe situation become equivocal?

Returning to the question: "Do you think an exact duplicate of me, sitting next to me, is me?" I'd say those are two different instances of one and the same exemplary idea.

The exemplar is God's idea of an individual. A possible person is God's constitutive idea of that individual. That's what a person is considered as a possible person, in distinction to an actual person.

As I see it, God is like a novelist. He has a complete idea of every person. I suppose a Classical Arminian might say the same thing, but he doesn't mean what I mean by a complete idea. He means God knows everything about a person.

No doubt that's true as far as it goes, but I'm using "complete idea" in a constitutive sense, like how a novelist's idea of a character is what makes him the character that he is. God's complete concept is variegated. It's the same idea insofar as the content of the exemplary idea is the abstract template for its concrete instances. However, God does not instantiate the entire content of the exemplary idea, for the content of the idea includes alternate courses of action.

They are two different instances of the same exemplary idea. By "exemplary idea," I mean God's complete concept of the individual, including "alternate endings". God can (and does) imagine "alternate endings." God's imagination is infinite.

BTW, here's a useful exposition of possible worlds from a Reformed philosopher:

1 comment:

  1. The CDO argument or hypothetical multiverse, two sides of the same argument, is contingent on the answer to an unspoken question: On what basis do we exercise our wills? If I think about making a decision, is that decision arbitrary, or do I have reasons, whether or not I'm fully aware of all the reasons? If my decision is arbitrary, then I don't have the kind of free will people think of when they think of free will. There's the roll of some cosmic dice outside of God's created order. If my decision is based on some kind of reason, then I can say I have free will of some sort, but those reasons cannot be based on something outside of God's created order. Some observations:

    a) My will is not free from God's created order.

    b) God's will is free from his created order.

    c) Therefore, there is a fundamental difference between my will and God's will. God's will is creative and my will is reactive. That scale of difference is immense and cannot be ignored. It's the difference between creature and Creator.

    In order to derive a multiverse where different decisions are made with precisely the same reasons, there must be something outside of God's created order influencing those decisions. And whatever, that is, it is determinative. That means that human will cannot be free since it is contingent on whatever is outside of God's created order. It also makes our apparent free will a product of something outside of God's created order.

    There are a couple of ways to argue for free will being both contingent on only things within God's created order and free from the determining creation of God:

    i) God created with a cosmic blindfold of sorts not knowing the ends from the beginning.

    ii) God created a multiverse with predetermined possible decisions that are not contingent on created reasons. Interestingly, this seems to be a flaw in Craig's holding both to the multiverse and the denial of the B-theory of time. In other words, the factor that differentiates any decision from a CDO standpoint is intrinsically B-theory (not to the exclusion of A-theory factors, but those aren't germane to the multiplicity of decisions since they are identical factors in each decision).

    By the way, and this is no small point, the creation of a multiverse means that God's will is pluralistic. We can observe the apparent pluralism of God's will to a degree, but many non-Reformed schools of thought would deny God's pluralistic will completely while still maintaining a multiverse creation.