04 March 2012


I'll try to work through my own problem with the free will defense by presenting this as a formal series of propositions leading to the desired QED.

1. As long as the numbers are large enough, any possible result of a random process will take place. [This is essentially what we mean by randomness, isn't it?]

2. The number of human decisions is large enough. [Even with only one (or two?) humans, there are a large number of decisions that will be made over time -- trim this bush or plant those seeds in our garden...head toward the spring or toward the forbidden tree ...]

3. Thus, any possible result of human decision making will take place.

4. Even an omnipotent Being cannot make logical contraries coicide -- thus, it is not a limit on His Omnipotence that He does not determine the results of a random process.

5. At this stage of our reasoning, we can conclude that God could prevent murder, deception, tyranny etc. only by removing the random element from human decision making.

6. [Here is the tricky one. This is what lies behind talk of how God wouldn't want to create robots/zombies/etc. We have to postulate that...] the random element of human behavior and the self-awareness of humans are inextricably linked, so that the one cannot happen without the other.

7. Thus, combining 5 and 6, we infer that God could prevent murder, deception and tyranny only by removing the self-awareness of humans.

8. Self-awareness is such a good thing that it merits the existence of murder, deception, and tyranny. [Perhaps because the same self-awareness is what gives significance to heroic rescues, integrity, and political freedom.]

9. Thus, it is not a limitation on God's goodness that he permits murder, deception, and tyranny. QED

There! as nicely presented as I can do it, although there are points where my amateurishness probably makes itself felt.

Without (6), the end of that rope is somewhat frayed, because the only way we can do it wothout (6) is to attribute great importance of randomness itself. Yet it isn't clear to me that if we were fated to do the right thing all the time this would extinguish self-awareness. So for me this argument (if I am right that this is the argument from free will) doesn't quite go through, and the situation justifies the move to process theology.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.