Posts tagged ‘determinism’

May 1st, 2012

Molinism and the Grounding Objection

by Max Andrews

The grounding objection asks the question: By what means or grounds does God know what he knows (particularly middle knowledge)?

Suppose I have an argument similar to the grounding argument from the grounding objection claiming that contingent truths are not self-explanatory but must simply exist, from all eternity, as an ungrounded, metaphysical surd.  How would I, as a Molinist, respond?

This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does.  God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

God does not get his knowledge from things, but knows all things in himself and from himself; therefore, the existence of things, whether in time or eternity, contributes nothing to God’s knowing with certainty what is going to be or not to be… For prior to any existence on the part of the objects, God has within himself the means whereby he knows all things fully and perfectly; and this is why the existence of created things contributes no perfection to the cognition he has of them and does not cause any change in that cognition… [And] God does not need the existence of those things in his eternity in order to know them with certainty.[1]

April 30th, 2012

What if God Doesn’t Have Middle Knowledge?

by Max Andrews

If God doesn’t have middle knowledge then he has only natural and free knowledge.  There are two options.  The first option is that God possess mere or simple foreknowledge.  If one turns to simple foreknowledge, there lies no good sense in God’s providential planning of a world of free creatures in the absence of middle knowledge. William Lane Craig insists that,

…On such a view of God [He has], logically prior to the divine decree, only natural knowledge of all possible scenarios but no knowledge of what would happen under any circumstances.  Thus, logically posterior to the divine decree, God must consider Himself extraordinarily lucky to find that this world happened to exist.  “What a break!” we can imagine God’s saying to Himself, “Herod and Pilate and all those people each reacted just perfectly!”  Actually, the situation is much worse than that, for God had no idea whether Herod or Pilate or the Israelite nation or the Roman Empire would even exist posterior to the divine decree.  Indeed, God must be astonished to find Himself existing in a world, out of all the possible worlds He could have created, in which mankind falls into sin and God Himself enters human history as a substitutionary sacrificial offering! [Anthropomorphically speaking][1]

April 25th, 2012

Molinism in Modern Philosophical Discussion

by Max Andrews

The task of a Molinist perspective of middle knowledge is to remove the perceived dilemma between human freedom and divine foreknowledge.  There are a minority of philosophers and theologians who hold to this Molinist doctrine.  On a promising note, middle knowledge is in modern philosophical debate and works advocated by some of the most prominent philosophers such as Thomas Flint, William Lane Craig, Ken Keathley, Kirk MacGregor, and perhaps one of America’s greatest philosophers, Alvin Plantinga.  These leading Molinists serve in prominent societies such as the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Philosophical Association, and the American Academy of Religion, who serve as witnesses to middle knowledge amongst leading Calvinists, Openness Theologians, atheists, and philosophers of other schools of thought.  Middle knowledge, when implemented into modern discussion, serves as a defense to the many forms of the problems of evil (most notably the soteriological problem of evil), a plausible solution with explanatory scope and power for issues such as predestination, the doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, and is compatible with every other orthodox doctrine.

April 13th, 2012

Why Didn’t God Just Create Heaven First?

by Max Andrews

This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil.  If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step?  Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven.  It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.

Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself.  Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs.  It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs.  Heaven is a result of our choices during this life.  In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.

This also leads to a very important question: How does God guarantee that there will be no evil among the saved in heaven?  This is a very tough question and here are a few possible answers to consider.

February 16th, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective

by Max Andrews

FOCUS:  Can a born-again believer lose his or her salvation while simultaneously affirming God’s sovereignty and human free will while being consistent with Scripture?[1]

An Examination of the Perseverance of the Saints Doctrine

Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all.  The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but in fact will not due to God’s extrinsically efficacious grace.  A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.[2]

The traditional doctrine of perseverance states that not only will the saints maintain grace and salvation, but literally cannot fall from grace.  (It is very important to approach these and understand these texts in light of appropriate exegesis.) However, this seems to ignore numerous Scriptures, which warn the danger of apostasy of those who deliberately fall from grace:

Rom. 11:17-24; I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:23; I Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 2:20-22; I Jn. 5:16

Perhaps the most prominent:

Therefore leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on the maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the death and eternal judgment.  3And this we will do, if God permits.  4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  7For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings for the vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned.  Heb. 6.1-8 (NASB)

February 13th, 2012

The Theological Advantages of Molinism

by Max Andrews

For a context of where I’m coming from concerning Molinism please see my previous posts:

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  3. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  4. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  5. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  6. The Pelagian Equivocation
  7. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  8. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  9. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
  10. Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism

Advantages

  1. Holds a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to an equal and uncompromising view of human free will.
  2. Provides a better model for understanding how it is simultaneously true that God’s decree of election while His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional.
  3. Affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in His universal salvific will  (which is problematic for the Calvinist) claiming that God loved the whole world (John 3:16) yet, Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  4. God control’s all things, but does not cause all things.
    read more »

February 6th, 2012

Boethius on Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will

by Max Andrews

Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI).  He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity.  He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed.  When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals.  Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events.  He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem.  If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.

November 6th, 2011

The Delayed Choice Experiment in Quantum Physics

by Max Andrews

Source: SUNY

If photons are fired through the experiment one at a time (firing photons at a wall with two holes and a photon detector on the other side of the holes), they will build up an interference patter on the other side, as if they had gone through both holes at once and interfered with themselves.  If the experiment is set up so that detectors monitor which hole the photo goes through, the photon is indeed observed to be going through only one hole, and there is no interference pattern.  If a detector is set up not at the holes but intermediate between the two holes and the back wall detector screen then it may be possible to see which route a particular photon took after it had passed the two holes before it arrived at the screen. 

August 25th, 2011

The Incompatibility of Middle Knowledge and Libertarian Freedom

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Roger Turner, a Philosophy Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.

If you’re a Molinist—at any rate, if you believe that God has middle knowledge—you believe that God knows whether or not any given counterfactual, or subjunctive conditional is true.  What’s more, you probably believe this because you think it helps make clear how it is possible that humans can act freely even though God knows, before they act, how they’ll act.  And you probably want to have some grasp on how all that works because you’re a libertarian with respect to freedom.  That is, you think that determinism and free will are incompatible, but you believe that divine foreknowledge and free will are compatible.  If you are a libertarian, you think that indeterminism is true.  In other words, you think that the theses ‘the conjunction of the past and laws of nature entails a unique future’ and ‘nobody has a choice about the future because nobody has a choice about what God foreknows’ are false.  So, the idea of middle knowledge seems to be the best way to duck and dodge the relevant snares.  But there’s a puzzle here.  There appears to be a significant tension between one’s being a libertarian about freedom, and one’s being a Molinist.  In what follows, I hope to illuminate the problem.

Take your friend, Jones.  If you believe God has middle knowledge, you probably believe that, if you were to ask God what Jones would do in such and such a circumstance, God would know the answer to your question.  God would respond, so you think, with something like the following:  “If Jones were in C, he would freely A.”  And you’d feel pretty confident that God’s having answered this way fails to undermine Jones’s freedom because you think that God’s belief about whether or not Jones A’s in C depends on Jones and whether or not Jones A’s in C and not the other way around (i.e. Jones’s Aing in C doesn’t depend on God’s knowing that, if Jones were in C, he would A).

Quick question, though: what is the truth value of a subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?  Here’s why I ask.  If a particular event is an indeterminate event (that is, the event is undetermined) the odds of that event’s happening are something like 50/50.  So, take Jones again and his being in C and whether or not he A’s.  If Jones’s Aing is undertermined, then he’s just as likely to A as he is to not-A given his being in C and an identical past up to the point of his being in C.  This is what indeterminism implies.  Given Jones’s past from t0 to the present moment, the moment just before he acts, Jones is supposed to be just as free to refrain from Aing as he is to A.  It can’t be the case, for example, that, if Jones is libertarianly free, he’d be more likely to A, given his past (or other conditions beyond his control), than he would be to refrain from Aing.  Because if that’s the case, then he’s got factors that are out of his control which bear on whether or not he A’s.  And this would absolve Jones of (at least part of) his responsibility for Aing (or refraining from A).  If we’re libertarians (and we usually are if we believe God has middle knowledge), then we think Jones has just as much chance of Aing, given that he’s in C, as he does refraining from A.

Okay, back to the question about the truth value of a subjunctive conditional given the truth of indeterminism.  The subjunctive conditional (this thing:  €®) expresses what would happen in the closest-by, relevant possible worlds.  So, take Jones again.  And express the proposition ‘if Jones were in C, he would freely A’ as follows:

JC nec. €→ A

The way this is typically read is something like this: in all the closest-by C worlds (i.e. the worlds in which Jones is in C), Jones A’s.  But this implies that it’s not indeterminate what Jones would do in C.  It’s not indeterminate because we can “zoom-out” and see which C worlds are the closest to the actual world.  And, just by doing that, we can see that in any C world that is most closely related to the actual world, Jones A’s.  The odds aren’t 50/50 given the truth of the subjunctive conditional; the closest-by C worlds are such that Jones A’s.  So, if Jones is in C, though it’s not necessary that he A—there are, after all, possible worlds where he’s in C but doesn’t A; they’re just further off—he’ll A.  He’ll A because there is a group of possible C worlds—those closest-by to the actual world—where he A’s.  And whether or not Jones is in a closest-by C world has nothing to do with Jones!  It’s beyond Jones’s control as to whether or not he’s in one of the closest-by C worlds.

But, wait.  On the libertarian view, indeterminism is true; that is, determinism is false.  Jones must, to be libertarianly free, be just as likely to A, in C, as he is to refrain from A.  That is, Jones must be equally likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A in all C worlds.  It can’t be the case that the proximity of the C world to the actual world determines whether or not Jones A’s.  But, if the subjunctive conditional (this bit:  JC nec. €→A) is true, then it can’t be that Jones was just as likely to refrain from Aing in C as he was to A in C.

So, if indeterminism is true, the subjunctive conditional must be false.  The answer, then, to the above question ‘what is the truth value of the subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?’: the truth value of the subjunctive conditional, if indeterminism is true, is False.  But this means that it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A.  And what’s more, it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  And since God can’t have any false beliefs, he can’t believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A is true, nor can he believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  He can’t believe this because it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely A and it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely refrain from Aing.  It’s false because there is no would to it; indeterminism implies that the proximity of the worlds in which Jones is in C has no bearing on whether or not Jones A’s.  It has no bearing because, in all C worlds, Jones is just as likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A.

The upshot of all this is that if it’s true that if Jones were in C, he would freely A, then Jones was not libertarianly free to A.  Some factor that wasn’t up to Jones made it the case that his particular C world was closer to the actual world than some other C world, some other C world where he refrains from Aing.  And this implies that, if it’s true that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A, then libertarianism is false.  At any rate, it implies that if the subjunctive conditional is true, then God’s middle knowledge rules out our acting in a libertarianly free way.

So, either you are a Molinist—at any rate, you believe that God has middle knowledge—or you are a libertarian.  But you can’t be both.  So the argument goes, anyway.

August 11th, 2011

Einstein on Free Will

by Max Andrews

After the First World War Einstein made contributions to the development of quantum theory, including Bose-Einstein statistics and the basics of stimulated emission of radiation from atoms (which was later used to develop lasers).  He gave the nod of approval that led to the rapid acceptance of Louis de Broglie’s ideas about matter waves but he never came to terms with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.[1] The Copenhagen has become the more popular and standard interpretation.[2]

According to the Heisenberg Principle, the moment at which a measurement takes place is the moment at which the randomness lying at the heart of quantum reality expresses itself.[3]  Up to that point, everything is fine.  Amplitudes change in a completely predictable, and more importantly, calculable way.  The observer changes the state of what is being observed.  Outcomes can be predicted according to governing probabilities, but the actual outcome cannot be known in advance.[4]

This was something Einstein could not live with.  Einstein, as a determinist, felt that the world is a structured and rigid web where effects follows cause and all things should be predictable, given the right information.  Einstein acknowledged that quantum theory works but he did not like the philosophy behind it.  If whether or not, for example, Niels Bohr, Einstein’s quantum physics counterpart, were to throw a book across the room Einstein would be able to predict the outcome of Bohr’s “choice.” Einstein would of course say that choice is the wrong word to use; rather, the brain is a complex machine with cogs whirring round to produce a predictable action.  The basis of Einstein’s view was a philosophical conviction that the world did not include random events:  an objection summed up in Einstein’s widely quoted saying, “God does not play dice.”[5]  Bohr is reported to have responded to Einstein with the witty reply, “Don’t tell God what to do.”

Strict [or hard] determinism may be the only way to avoid the implication from quantum mechanics and experiments such as the delayed choice experiment.[6]  This experiment suggests that quantum communications occur instantaneously across any distance, or even travel backwards in time.[7]  The determinist is not yet defeated, quantum mechanics comes with a state of collapse and that seems to be linked to measurement.  Whatever measurements are, they are very specific situations and probably linked to what happens when a particle bumps into a measuring device.[8]

Einstein played a prominent role in the early development of quantum mechanics, particular in his philosophical approach to it.  How one interprets quantum mechanics will shape the answer to the question of determinism and free will.  Empirical testing does not seem to be enough to provide a satisfactory answer; rather, it how the data is interpreted.  Einstein’s approach to the rejection of genuine random events has been an influence of the contemporary debate.  It has been argued that Einstein’s determinism is correct, but it may be a mistake for him to base it on random events.  Randomness is not sufficient for determinism to be true; a lack of causality would be sufficient.  Even with the delayed choice experiment there seems to be a lack of causality, if anything it would be backwards causality.  The free will proponent must be careful not to appeal to any ignorance for a lack of explanation of such quantum events.  Einstein’s reason for determinism (randomness) does nothing to advance his case.  If anything, quantum experiments such as the delayed choice experiment only show that there is randomness in the world, not that there is purposeful, free agency.  All quantum mechanics entails is that there are random events in the brain (or whatever) that yield unpredictable behavior, which the agent is not responsible.[9]  Thus, it seems to be the case that Einstein’s philosophy of determinism has persevered.[10]


[1] Kenneth William Ford, The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 117.

[2] At this time there are at least ten regularly cited interpretations of quantum physics varying in interpretation of wave collapse, determinacy/indeterminacy, superpositions, and Schrödinger’s equations.

[3]  The equation: (change in x multiplied by the change in px is greater than or equal to half of Planck’s constant). For a given state, the smaller the range of probable x values involved in a position expansion, the larger the range of probable px values involved in a momentum expansion, and vice versa.  The key to the expression is the greater than or equal to because it places a limit on how precise the two measurements can be.  The principle is relating and for the same state ( signifies change, h, h-bar, is the Planck constant).  Heisenberg’s target was causality. The Copenhagen interpretation adopted this principle.  Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 247-248.

[4] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 100-101.

[5] Allday, 101.

[6] If photons are fired through the experiment one at a time (firing photons at a wall with two holes and a photon detector on the other side of the holes), they will build up an interference patter on the other side, as if they had gone through both holes at once and interfered with themselves.  If the experiment is set up so that detectors monitor which hole the photo goes through, the photon is indeed observed to be going through only one hole, and there is no interference pattern.  If a detector is set up not at the holes but intermediate between the two holes and the back wall detector screen then it may be possible to see which route a particular photon took after it had passed the two holes before it arrived at the screen.  Quantum theory says that if we choose to turn this new detector off and not look at the photons, they will form an interference pattern.  But if we look at the photons to see which hole they went through, even if we look after they have gone through the hole, there will be no interference pattern.  The delayed choice comes into the story because we can make the decision whether or not too look at the photon after the photon has already passed through the hole[s].  The decision made seems to determine how the photon behaved at the time it was passing though the hole a tiny fraction of a second in the past.  It seems as though the photons have some precognition about how the set-up of the experiment will be before it sets out on its journey.  This has also provided credence to the metaphysical concept of backwards causation.  John R. Gribbin, Mary Gribbin, and Jonathan Gribbin (Q Is for Quantum: Particle Physics from A-Z. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998), 102-103.

[7] This is most notably accepted by the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. Gribbin, 104.

[8] Allday, 102.

[9] Predictability may be equivalent to randomness, not a lack of causality.  Louis Pojman, Philosophy: The Pursuit of Wisdom (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2006), 229-230.

[10] Recalling Einstein’s epistemic method, he based all of his philosophy and work on the ontological status of the universe.  He did not seem to indicate an immateriality to the mind.  Einstein’s influence is limited only to the physical aspect for the substance dualist.  Here is where the substance dualist and the scientific theologian must resume the dialogue.