Reformed Compatibilist Freedom. Part 1. Critique of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by Harry Frankfurt

A. Definitions
1) Determinism:
Determination is, intuitively, the thesis that, given the past and the laws of nature, there is only one possible future. [Van Inwagen, Essay on Free Will (Oxford UP, 1983), p. 65] In theological terms, an event (such as choice or action), is determined, that is, it must occur because there are sufficient conditions for its occurrence obtained earlier by the decrees of God.

The two major contending positions in the debate on determinism and free will are:
Compatibilism is the idea that there is no conflict between determinism and free will.
Incompatibilism is the idea that determinism rules out free will.

2) The principle of alternative possibilities (PAP)
PAP: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise.

PAP has been at the centre of current debates about free will and moral responsibility. Harry Frankfurt, an accomplished philosopher observes: “Practically no one, however, seems inclined to deny or even to question that the principle of alternate possibilities (construed in some way or other) is true. It has generally seemed so overwhelmingly plausible that some philosophers have even characterized it as an a priori truth. (p. 1).

B. PAP Argument Against Determinism (Predestination)
Critics against predestination (as a form of causal determinism) contend that (1) causal determinism rules out free will or our ability to do otherwise. Then, they conclude via (PAP) that (2) causal determinism is inconsistent with moral responsibility.

Argument Part 1
1. If someone has free will, then he is able to do otherwise.
2. If determinism is true, then he is no able to do otherwise.
3. Therefore, if determinism is true, he does not have free will.

Argument Part 2
P1 A person’s act is free and morally responsible if and only if that person could have done otherwise. (PAP).
P2 Predestination teaches that no one could have done otherwise than what he is predestined to do.
P3 Predestination is inconsistent with moral responsibility (given PAP).
C1: Predestination is not true.

The subtext of this argument is that predestination cannot be true since it undermines human moral responsibility by denying free will and makes God culpable for the sins of his creatures.
Continue reading “Reformed Compatibilist Freedom. Part 1. Critique of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities by Harry Frankfurt”

Naomi Wolf on the Return of Ancient Demonic Gods in the West

[A new statute with horns and tentacles erected in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on top of NYC Court house]
What are the causes of the ascendancy of irrational cancel-culture spirit in the colleges, the imposition of sexual policies which undermine the traditional family in wider society, the breakdown of social norms leading to eruption of violent street crime, and the ferocious hostility directed against Judeo-Christian values by the American elite and Woke activists in the USA today? I have for years tried to impress friends who asked me this question that there is no rhyme or reason to the tragic disintegration of what was once a great civilization – these are the symptoms of a “spiritual disease.”

At one level, my answer identifies the root problem. I am aware of the prescient warning given by the American Puritan, John Winthrop who charged his compatriots in 1630 to fulfill the responsibility being raised by God as “a city set on a hill” – “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world…But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it.” In other words, their failure to uphold their covenant with God will lead to them becoming a public spectacle for all the world to see.

However, as an observer living outside the USA, I found difficulties spelling out in a concrete manner what comprises the “spiritual disease” that is afflicting the American society. Hence, my answer remains unpersuasive because of its vagueness and lack of specificity. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I came across an article by Naomi Wolf, “Have the Ancient Gods Returned” which offers a coherent and in-depth analysis of the cultural implosion and the social disintegration that is unravelling right before our eyes. Mind you, Wolf is a public intellectual with whom I least expect to agree with as she is one of the icons of feminism, and a left-wing activist working with the highest political leaders of the country. I have naturally assumed that she would be sympathetic to the anti-Judeo-Christian sentiments that are pervasive among the American elites. However, it seems that she had an epiphany of the dark forces that are energizing the activists who seek to destroy the Judeo-Christian foundations which made the West a great civilization. Her article is well worth reading.

Given below are some excerpts from the article.

In an essay last year, and in my book The Bodies of Others, I raised a question about existential, metaphysical darkness.

I concluded that I had looked at the events of the past three years using all of my classical education, my critical thinking skills, my knowledge of Western and global history and politics; and that, using these tools, I could not explain the years 2020-present.

Indeed I could not explain them in ordinary material, political or historical terms at all. This is not how human history ordinarily operates.

I could not explain the way the Western world simply switched, from being based at least overtly on values of human rights and decency, to values of death, exclusion and hatred, overnight, en masse — without resorting to reference to some metaphysical evil that goes above and beyond fallible, blundering human agency… Continue reading “Naomi Wolf on the Return of Ancient Demonic Gods in the West”