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Good morning, Please give me your perspective on the following topic Theological determinism and free will. Theological determinism seems to imply that I am not truly free if God is omnipotent and has infallible foreknowledge. After all, if God knows in advance that I will steal a car, it seems as though I am destined to do so, and that I am actually not responsible (God's fault, I am absolved of morally unacceptable behaviour). Some (Christian) Philosophers would probably argue to the contrary. They might say that God's foreknowledge does not imply that I am destined to act in a certain way, as God's foreknowledge only means that he knows what I will freely choose to do. Had I chosen to freely act in another way, his foreknowledge would have anticipated that as well. My own thought is that this argument merely implies that our Free-Will is an illusion. A simple thought experiment to support that is : If God decided to reveal some of his infallible foreknowledge to me, such as, for example, that I...

Thank you for your excellent question and observations. While I am inclined toward what is known as open theism (in accord with work by William Hasker) which essentially denies that divine omniscience includes truths about future free action (referred to sometimes as future, free contingents), I am (for the most part) agnostic about whether omniscience of the future would indeed show free will to be an illusion or provide evidence for fatalism. The reason why I am inclined to open theism is because I suspect that what you and I as free agents will do tomorrow is under-determined. It has not yet happened that tomorrow you will (freely) buy a red car. HOWEVER, if we adopted some form of 4 dimensionalism, according to which all times are equally real, and it is true that (say) in 2018 you are freely buying a red car (and so the event of your free action is the result of your free action at that time), then I suggest God's knowing that would not violate your free action. Your point about what would...

Hi, I had a question about the nature of free will. Is it a fair interpretation to say that we actually do not have free will because we are limited in the choices that we can make? For example, say that I really want a blue book, and given complete freedom, I would buy myself one, but for whatever reason today there are only red and black books available in my price range. I can only choose from two options that I did not want, and so my selection of book is limited by my external choices. Is this a silly interpretation? Thanks, Hayley

Good question, Hayley. What the case you describe brings to light is that free will is best understood with respect to a set of alternatives and not with respect to an unlimited range of possibilities. Being free with respect to purchasing a red or black book (or make no purchase at all) is still a bona fide case of freedom, even though "you can't always get what you want" (the Rolling Stones were right on that point). Philosophers have sought to address such cases. Consider a case from Aristotle: imagine a sea captain in the midst of a storm throwing her cargo into the sea. Is she doing so freely? In a sense, she is, but in a sense she is not. She would prefer not to, but unless she does, she, her crew, and ship will sink. This is a case when we would hedge an easy reply to questioning whether the sea captain acted with (to use your term) "complete freedom."

If determinism cannot be proven to be true or false is it rational to believe it is true on the grounds it is likely to be true and I am reasonably justified to do so? Or would the rational position be to withold believe one way or the other until stronger evidence is presented. Is it even possible to have evidence in favor of determinism?

Interesting question! On the first question, many of us think that, yes, even if some philosophical thesis cannot be proven or is not proven at the time to be true of false, it can be reasonable to justifiably believe the thesis is true. I suggest that this is true in most matters of substantial philosophical concerns. For example, belief that some form of naturalism or idealism or theism is true might well be justified even if this is a matter that is very far from (if ever) justified, as are competing philosophical accounts of space and time, values, externalism or internalism in epistemology, and so on. Although the book is now 7 years old, I still highly recommend Gary Cuttings's What Philosophers Know (published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press) which recounts multiple cases of when philosophers in the 20th century claimed to *know* with certainty that theory X is true, but yet it only too often becomes apparent on further reflection that the arguments are far, far less than decisive. So,...

Should I be free to sell my freedom? It seems that from a libertarian perspective, I should be even though I should own my self. But a problem I have with this view is that we can, and often do, make arguably irrational decisions that will inhibit my future capacities as a person. To demonstrate using a small example, it would be better for me to eat an apple rather than a cake but I still choose the cake. Should I be allowed to do this for things as important as my own autonomy. e.g consenting to a contract that binds me to my labourer for life in exchange for shelter and food? Or is the moral responsibility on the employer to not exploit me?

Very interesting! I suppose there are some libertarians who think that taking individual liberty seriously should permit you to go so far as to be able to sell yourself irrevocably into slavery to a master. Indeed, as some libertarians insist on persons having the right to take their own lives (self-killing or suicide), it may not be easy to avoid a slippery slope in which persons can do anything they wish (so long as it is not compromising the well being of others and meets other, base-line moral requirements). In that sense, you may be free to rationally or irrationally eat and work as you like. But for those who prize autonomy and self-determination as a great good, there will be resistance to think that "anything goes." Someone from that perspective, may well claim that contexts in which you are exploited involves serious wrong-doings on behalf of employers or contractors. From this vantage point, it may be understandable that you would "sell" your freedom in order to safeguard the more...

Is freedom of speech distinct from freedom of behavior? For example, is burning the Bill of Rights distinct from calling for the revocation of the freedom from unjust imprisonment?

Excellent question. The right to freedom of speech has been used to defend what used to be illegal acts (burning an American flag). But the two are certainly distinguishable. So, burning a copy of the Bill of Rights may be highly dangerous in a building full of petroleum containers or in a crowded elevator. Also, speech may be easier to interpret than behavior. If you call for the revocation of the freedom from unjust punishment, your conviction seems pretty clear. But if we see you burning a copy of the Bill of Rights, your views may be less clear: You might not know what you are burning. You might be cold and the copy of the Bill of Rights is the only paper available for you to light a fire to be warm. You also might simply like to burn things, whereas it would be highly unusual for someone to say in public 'Let us revoke our right to be free from unjust punishment" unless they honestly desired such a revocation (assuming the "speech act" was not part of a film script or artistic 'happening'...

It seems to me that the power of the first amendment to protect freedom of speech is vastly overstated. If a wealthy corporation doesn't like a magazine which is agitating against them they can just buy the magazine. Wouldn't freedom of the press be better served by some degree of government involvement?

Very interesting observation and question! The first amendment is (I believe) customarily treated as what some philosophers call a "negative right." That is, the amendment refers to the duty of government and private citizens to REFRAIN from outlawing or unjustly silencing "voices" that are licit (that is, the people speaking / publishing are not breaking some other precept of justice, e.g. a newspaper uses its prestige to make baseless claims about the outbreak of an epidemic that does not exist causing a mass population to a panic that leads to many preventable deaths). So, initially, it seems the first amendment does not involve a positive right, a right that would entail duties on behalf of people to insure that all voices be heard/ made public. So, in the case you bring up: if a wealthy corporation has broken no laws and (let us imagine) has acquired its wealth justly (from a moral point of view), it seems that the second amendment would not be a sound basis for objecting to their...

At what point does an action change from something you do sometimes to a habit? At what point does a habit become an addiction? Do those same points exist in reverse and are they in the same spot? Is this more of a medical question or maybe physiological? Is it a mental change you make (whether you know it or not) or a physical change? Why is it so hard to break but so easy to make worse?

Great set of questions. Certainly, these are matters that involve psychology and have an application in medicine, though philosophers from Ancient GreeK though onward have found it important to reflect on responsibility, habits, and determining when actions are truly voluntary. I suspect voluntariness is the key. The more we become habituated to a pattern of behavior, it seems that the more will power is required to break the pattern. I believe that Aristotle was right when he described the path to virtue in terms of habituation or the developing good habits or dispositions (to act justly, temperately, etc). In a sense, the virtuous person is someone who has developed a character so that they naturally and without struggle seek to do what is good. And the opposite would be true of a person in terms of vice; their character is such that they naturally and without struggle do what is cruel, destructive, and the like. Speaking more directly to your question(s) it seems that voluntary action is a...

It is said that happiness should be attained from the "inside out". That it should be unilaterally seeked, and not externally determined. On a philosophical standpoint, is this view tenable, considering that we do not live in a vacumn? It is, to a large extent, true that we can choose the way we respond to a situation. But wouldn't undesirable or negative events (or even harassment) trigger the need to choose to respond in a way that does not allow for the event to determine one's happiness, and that that itself connotes that external events have a role to play? I may be stretching the notion too far, in which case, a rephrasing of the question would involve asking the extent to which happiness should/could be unilaterally determined? On a general level, is happiness a concept that is consensually determined (a social construct) or is it a subjective pursuit, such that one can "choose to be happy" for real?

Excellent question or set of questions! The Ancient Greeks were especially vexed by this concern, some of them (like the Stoics) stressing happiness as something that is almost always an internal matter, but those influenced by Greek tragedy tended to take the opposite view (chance or fate can have a major impact). Probably the best book on this historically and as a substantial question on its own is The Fragility of Goodness; Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy by Martha Nussbaum (Cambridge University Press, 1986). I suspect that some kind of middle ground is the most reasonable: your flourishing or happiness cannot be entirely internal (it would be hard to be happy while being slowly tortured to death), but it cannot be entirely external (we can imagine a chap having the best conditions possible and yet responding with spiteful unhappiness). As for your general question on happiness, the current debate is quite interesting! Some philosophers are impressed by some empirical evidence...

It seems plausible that a person might do something they don't want to do, without any external pressure. For example, a person on a diet might cheat and eat a bar of chocolate, even though they don't want to cheat; or a person trying to quit smoking might smoke a cigarette even if they don't want to smoke the cigarette. And yet, these are actions which require conscious activity in order to complete - these aren't accidents, and so it seems fair to say that, on some level, even if the person on a diet doesn't want to eat the chocolate, he or she does, in fact, want to eat the chocolate. This seems absolutely contradictory - yet surely, everybody has, at some point or another in their life, given in to some temptation despite not wanting to, or otherwise done something that they, in strong terms, did not want to do, even though they weren't forced to do so. How, then, are we to make sense of such situations? It seems logically impossible to both want to eat something and to want to refrain from...

Excellent question(s)! To begin, it may be mis-leading to think of the "will" as an entity, whether substantial or framented. It is perhaps more plausable to think of the "will" as an abstract way of referring to a person's intentional powers, so that to say that a person has free will or any kind of will, is to refer to a person having the power to act and, in the case of free will, the power to act in more than one way (to do an act or not do an act). There is a massive literature addressing your important questions going back to Socrates. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were suspicious of claims that people can do that which they know (or strongly believe) are wrong. (There is some controversy over interpreting Aristotle on this, but I suggest he stood with his teacher, Plato, on this.) Two promising approaches to this problem (which is sometimes called the problem of weakness of will or Akrasia, Greek for "lack of self-control") involve distinguishing levels of desires. Harry Frankfurt (Princeton...

If it is assumed that a person is indeed free to have his/her own opinions, views, perspectives, etc., should this right still be respected even if a person's opinions are demonstrably wrong, misleading, or potentially harmful (to themselves and others)?

Great question! Replying to the question will depend on the kind of "right" you have in mind. Consider three areas: politics, education, and the general issue of integrity. In a pluralistic democracy that respects basic liberties, you may have to tolerate (though to tolerate is not necessarily to respect) demonstrably false beliefs unless there is serious reason to believe that they will lead to actual (not merely potential) harm. So, it seems there is no obstacle for most world democracies today to insure that overt racism is not cultivated by any public institutions and to make it difficult (if not impossible) for private institutions to cultivate racism, especially when this is harming the innocent. But it will not be easy to directly control what people think or believe using political tools (how might a government insure that no citizen ever believes their horoscope?). The government can and most governments do control certification processes involving medicine and health, and so there are...

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