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...

As a believer, I think that theism is more reasonable than atheism although I think that atheists can have good reasons to believe that their worldview is true. Is this position rational? Put in another way, is it possible for me to claim that my worldview is the correct one while granting that the opposite worldview can be as reasonable as the one I hold to be true?

I hope you are right for I while I am a Christian philosopher (or a philosopher who is a Christian) I believe that many of my friends and colleagues who are atheists or agnostics or who accept Islam or a non-theistic view of God (as my Hindu philosopher colleague and friend) are just as reasonable as I am in the sense that each of them has intellectual integrity and has spent at least as much time intelligently reflecting on their convictions, earnestly seeking the truth in such matters. Still, I think each of us needs to hold that the reasons that justify our different beliefs are not defeated (undermined) by the reasons for incompatible beliefs. An atheist might be able to acknowledge that I am just as reasonable as she is, but she cannot (in my view) think that her reasoning is undermined by the evidence or reasoning that I undertake. Alternatively, consider a Christian-Muslim exchange (something I am deeply committed to). I accept a traditional Christian understanding of God incarnate on the basis...

Florida legislators will soon introduce a bill legalizing open carry for firearms. If the advance information is correct, it will be legal to carry even in government buildings where we conduct the public's business. Can't one argue that a person who is obviously armed may well intimidate others who hold positions different from him/her? Put another way, those who carry carry an advantage in an arena where everyone, in theory, aspires to a level playing field. Should the aforementioned corruption of the political process be part of the conversation?

Excellent question. I am overwhelmingly sympathetic with the suggestion that this would count as illicit intimidation and there would be a presumptive case to ban guns in government buildings in which there are public forums, but I suspect this might put us on a slippery slope. I can imagine that persons might be threatened in government buildings by others who enter fully dressed up as black belt marshall artists or who come with military medals honoring them as expert killers (with knives, say, rather than guns) or simply a person comes into a building who has a huge reputation for physically harming (without using guns) those who disagree with him. Still, I think there are probably reasons for us to lower the standards of when a person might carry a firearm and be illicitly threatening (and perhaps subject to discipline, fine or expulsion). So, imagine that there is a debate on flag burning, and the person who wants to make flag burning illegal puts his hand on his gun and says something like "It...

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."

Being that Christianity teaches that Jesus is Lord of all of our lives, and this therefore means that He determines how we should live, do you think that God could therefore ask us to stop studying or practicing philosophy? Could surrendering our lives to Christ entail the end of one's philosophical studies?

Being a Christian and a philosopher, I hope not! "Philosophy" comes for the Greek for the love of wisdom, and given that Christianity, like Judaism, supports a rich tradition of wisdom (see, for example, "The Book of Wisdom" in the Hebrew Bible), to think God / Christ would ask us to cease being philosophical seems as likely to me as being asked to stop breathing or to only listen to Bach. But you are on to a good point in asking about when traditions or institutions or when philosophy itself might limit or caution us about the practice of philosophy. Presumably there are all kinds of practical, common sense conditions when it would be good to stop doing philosophy in the sense of, for example, debating some point on how to interpret Kant when engaged in rescuing people who are drowning (unless you are rescuing a Kantian and discussing Kant will calm the person down). We also might allow that while Socrates is commonly praised for giving up his life for his practice of philosophy, sometimes even a...

Hi! I'm someone who strongly dislikes Trump, but I also feel that I ought be loyal to whomever is President. What I wanted to ask is -- should loyalty be considered a virtue, or is it inherently a silly, irrational thing, and closer to being a vice? Could it, for instance, be responsible for partisanship and disunity? I've read that 90% of people who identified as Republican and voted, voted for Trump: is unthinking loyalty to a political party (if indeed that was one of the factors here) an evil?

Tough question(s). There is a recent book with Cambridge University Press by Simon Keller, The Limits of Loyalty (2007), that is highly critical of loyalty. While I am not as critical of loyalty as Keller, he highlights enough cases (real and imaginary) in which loyalty goes wrong that I suggest loyalty should be seen as having secondary value. That is, if some person or good or cause is good, then being loyal to that person or good or cause is itself good, but if some person or ill or cause is wicked, then loyalty would be bad (or a vice). On this view, unthinking loyalty to a political party is (minimally) at least risky (if, it happens that the party is good, great, but it could be awful, if the party is terrible). As for being loyal to (soon to be) President Trump, you might think that you are not so much loyal to the person, as you are loyal to the United States of America or to the democratic process or to the ideals of the Constitution or to the office of the Presidency.

Are there good reasons to believe in God?

I believe that there are. I find versions of the cosmological and teleological arguments convincing, as well as an argument from religious experience. You might check out on the free online Stanford Encyclopedia the entry The Cosmological Argument and the entry Philosophy of Religion. The latter will also go through arguments against the reasonability of believing in God. At the risk of being horrifically self-promoting, you might look at the 2016 book Contemporary Philosophical Theology I co-authored with Chad Meister. It is not apologetics; that is, it is not written to convince readers of theism. It seeks also to present reasons behind atheism, non-theistic forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, secular naturalism. But we also advance reasons for thinking that theism (belief that there is a God) is a live option that reasonable, intelligent persons may reject, but also reasonable, intelligent persons may accept.

Hello. I'd like to ask about proof of miracles and of God -- and, in particular, what the standard of proof is. Arthur C Clarke said something like, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Well, if a voice booms down from the heavens, tells you that it's God, parts the Red Sea and gives prophecies that come true, are there no other explanations for these events except "miracles", and would the unusualness of these events be strong enough to establish that the voice in fact is God?

Interesting! The way you frame the question, it appears you may be assuming that explaining an event in terms of God is only feasible if all other explanations (that we know about or can imagine) are exhausted / untenable. I suggest that a lower standard of evidence may be fitting --for the record, contemporary philosophers rarely appeal to proofs, and thus "standard of proof"; the concern, rather, is with good or bad arguments. Allow me to change your example slightly: let's imagine that many of the contemporary theistic arguments establish good grounds to believe that there is a maximally excellent, omnipresent, omnipresent Creator and sustainer of the cosmos (imagine, for example, that some version of the ontological, cosmological, teleological arguments, the argument from fine-tuning and arguments from the emergence of consciousness are credible) and that vast numbers of persons (maybe even over half the world's population) report having experiences in which they feel called to be just and...

When we explains darkness to a blind, he will fail to recognize it even If he is experiencing it. May be contrasts and differences in sensations are the basic things in understanding a sensation and applying consciousness to it. If we are hearing the same sound since our birth we will fail to apply consciousness to it. What do you think about it philosophers? I'm too young forgive me if its fallacious.

Always great to hear from a young philosopher! I take it that you are wondering if a person has only experienced some state (darkness, for example) and not experienced a contrary state (light), whether or not they would know the state itself / the state they are in. Great question. It may have a practical application: if persons have never experienced moral maturity or enlightenment of some kind, they may not know what it is (for them or for anyone) to be immature or unenlightened. Identifying states of ourselves and of the world often depend on our capacity to differentiate them (to grasp X, we often need to be able to distinguish X from not-X). The only modest suggestion I am led to make is that someone who has never seen (someone "born blind") may not experience the world as dark. They may, instead, experience the world as a matter of sounds, sensory feelings, smells, but not in visual terms. Although English usage might not entirely back me up on this, but it seems to me that for someone to...

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,...

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