In a recent issue of Faith and Philosophy, Steven Cowan calls into question our success in responding to what we called the “Problem of Heavenly Free- dom” in our earlier “Incompatibilism, Sin, and Free Will in Heaven.” In this reply, we defend our view against Cowan’s criticisms.
The traditional view of heaven holds that the redeemed in heaven both have free will and are no longer capable of sinning. A number of philosophers have argued that the traditional view is problematic. How can someone be free and yet incapable of sinning? If the redeemed are kept from sinning, their wills must be reined in. And if their wills are reined in, it doesn’t seem right to say that they are free. Following James Sennett, we call this objection (...) to the traditional view of heaven ‘the Problem of Heavenly Freedom’. In this paper, we discuss and criticize four attempts to respond to the Problem of Heavenly Freedom. We then offer our own response to this problem which both preserves the traditional view of heaven and avoids the objections which beset the other attempts. (shrink)
Envy is, roughly, the disposition to desire that another lose a perceived good so that one can, by comparison, feel better about one’s self. The divisiveness of envy follows not just from one’s willing against the good of the other, but also from the other vices that spring from it. It is for this second reason that envy is a capital vice. This chapter begins by arguing for a definition of envy similar to that given by Aquinas and then considers (...) its relationship to other vices (e.g. jealousy, schadenfreude, and hate). At the heart of envy is a disposition to make relative comparisons which lead to a sense of inferiority. This is turn can lead a person to feel and act in ways destructive of community and the self. The present chapter also addresses recent work in both psychology and economics related to envy. (shrink)
In “The Trouble with Tracing,” Manuel Vargas argues that tracing-based approaches to moral responsibility are considerably more problematic than previously acknowledged. Vargas argues that many initially plausible tracing-based cases of moral responsibility turn out to be ones in which the epistemic condition for moral responsibility is not satisfied, thus suggesting that contrary to initial appearances the agent isn’t morally responsible for the action in question. In the present paper, I outline two different strategies for responding to Vargas’s trouble with tracing. (...) I then show how further consideration of the epistemic condition for moral responsibility renders tracing significantly less problematic than Vargas claims. (shrink)
Due to their reliance on constitutive higher-order representing to generate the qualities of which the subject is consciously aware, I argue that the major existing higher-order representational theories of consciousness insulate us from our first-order sensory states. In fact on these views we are never properly conscious of our sensory states at all. In their place I offer a new higher-order theory of consciousness, with a view to making us suitably intimate with our sensory states in experience. This theory relies (...) on the idea of ‘quoting’ sensory qualities, so is dubbed the ‘quotational higher-order thought theory’. I argue that it can capture something of the idea that we are ‘acquainted’ with our conscious states without slipping beyond the pale for naturalists, whilst also providing satisfying treatments of traditional problems for higher-order theories concerning representational mismatch. The theory achieves this by abandoning a representational mechanism for mental intentionality, in favour of one based on ‘embedding’. (shrink)
In Building Better Beings, Vargas develops and defends a naturalistic account of responsibility, whereby responsible agents must possess a feasibly situated capacity to detect and respond to moral considerations. As a preliminary step, he also offers a substantive account of how we might justify our practices of holding responsible—viz., by appeal to their efficacy in fostering a ‘valuable form of agency’ across the community at large, a form of agency that precisely encompasses sensitivity to moral considerations. But how do these (...) accounts relate to one another? Though I find much that is appealing in Vargas’s general approach, I challenge his insistence that these accounts should be treated as ‘conceptually independent’, arguing that this generates an objectionable “justification gap”: on his analysis, someone could remain an appropriate target of our responsibility practices and yet fail to be a morally responsible agent. In closing, I offer a potential solution to this problem, though it means re-visioning how the account of moral responsibility is conceptually tied to the justification of our responsibility practices. (shrink)
Natural theology's name can be misleading, for it sounds like what is being done is a kind of theology, not philosophy. But natural theology is better understood to be primarily philosophical rather than theological for it is, most generally, the ...
Our focus in this chapter will be the role the pride has played, both historically and contemporarily, in Christian theology and philosophical theology. We begin by delineating a number of different types of pride, since some types are positive (e.g., when a parent tells a daughter “I’m proud of you for being brave”), and others are negative (e.g., “Pride goes before a fall”) or even vicious. We then explore the role that the negative emotion and vice play in the history (...) of Christianity, with particular attention to a number of influential figures. We conclude by exploring how pride connects with a number of other central issues in Christian theology. (shrink)
Most libertarians think that some version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) is true. A number of libertarians, which I call ‘Frankfurt-libertarians,’ think that they need not embrace any version of PAP. In this paper, I examine the writings of one such Frankfurt-libertarian, Eleonore Stump, for her evaluation of the impact of Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) to PAP. I show how, contrary to her own claims, Stump does need a PAP-like principle for her account of free action. I briefly argue (...) that this discussion also goes some distance to showing that any Frankfurt-libertarian is in a similar position regarding the need for some PAP-like principle. If I am correct, then Frankfurt-libertarians must either renounce their incompatibilism or concede that FSCs fail to show all PAP-like principles to be false. (shrink)
This paper is a critical discussion of Manuel Vargas’ Building Better Beings, focusing on the treatment of desert therein. By means of an analogy between morality and sport, I examine some seemingly peculiar implications of Vargas’ teleological and revisionary account of desert. I also consider some general questions of philosophical methodology provoked by revisionary approaches.
According to reductionists about agency, an agent’s bringing something about is reducible to states and events involving the agent bringing something about. Many have worried that reductionism cannot accommodate robust forms of agency, such as self-determination. One common reductionist answer to this worry contends that self-determining agents are identified with certain states and events, and so these states and events causing a decision counts as the agent’s self-determining the decision. In this paper I discuss J. David Velleman’s identification reductionist theory, (...) according to which an agent is identified with his desire to make most sense of himself. I develop two constraints that an adequate identification reductionist theory must satisfy and show that Velleman’s theory cannot satisfy both. In particular, I argue that Velleman’s account founders on cases of self-determined self-transformation. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore how free will should be understood within the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, particularly on the assumption of traditional Christology. We focus on two issues: reconciling Christ's free will with the claim that Christ's human will was subjected to the divine will in the Incarnation; and reconciling the claims that Christ was fully human and free with the belief that Christ, since God, could not sin.
This paper considers how a number of particular disabilities can impact agency primarily by affecting what psychologists refer to as ‘executive function.’ Some disabilities, I argue, could decrease agency even without fully undermining it. I see this argument as contributing to the growing literature that sees agency as coming in degrees. The first section gives a broad outline of a fairly standard approach to agency. The second section relates that framework to the existing literature, which suggests that agency comes in (...) degrees. The third section considers the psychological literature on executive function with a particular focus on how aspects of executive function contribute to agency. I then consider, in sections 4 and 5, two disabilities that have an impact on an agent’s executive function. Other disabilities will likely involve comparable impacts, although I don’t have time to explore additional disabilities in the present paper. (shrink)
This volume focuses on contemporary issues in the philosophy of religion through an engagement with Eleonore Stump’s seminal work in the field. Topics covered include: the metaphysics of the divine nature ; the nature of love and God’s relation to human happiness; and the issue of human agency.
In this essay, I claim that certain passages in Book IV of Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics suggest a novel version of what is known as metaethical constructivism. The constructivist interpretation emerges in the course of attempting to resolve a tension between Spinoza’s apparent ethical egoism and some remarks he makes about the efficacy of collaborating with the right partners when attempting to promote our individual self-interest. Though Spinoza maintains that individuals necessarily aim to promote their self-interest, I argue that Spinoza (...) has an atypical conception of self that allows the interests of other people to be partially constitutive of one's own self-interest. In this way, Spinoza can account for the rationality of concern for the interests of others. This interpretation attributes to Spinoza a form of constructivism that differs in important ways from contemporary Humean and Kantian constructivisms and which can in principle be detached from Spinoza’s particular metaphysical commitments in order to yield a third general category of constructivist view. Though my treatment is necessarily brief, it is my hope that it can serve both to motivate a constructivist reading of Spinoza and, perhaps even more crucially, to suggest a Spinozistic variety of constructivism as a live theoretical option in metaethics. (shrink)
Shaun Nichols has recently argued that while the folk notion of free will is associated with error, a question still remains whether the concept of free will should be eliminated or preserved. He maintains that like other eliminativist arguments in philosophy, arguments that free will is an illusion seem to depend on substantive assumptions about reference. According to free will eliminativists, people have deeply mistaken beliefs about free will and this entails that free will does not exist. However, an alternative (...) reaction is that free will does exist, we just have some deeply mistaken beliefs about it. According to Nichols, all such debates boil down to whether or not the erroneous folk term in question successfully refers or not. Since Nichols adopts the view that reference is systematically ambiguous, he maintains that in some contexts it’s appropriate to take a restrictivist view about whether a term embedded in a false theory refers, while in other contexts it’s appropriate to take a liberal view about whether a token of the very same term refers. This, according to Nichols, affords the possibility of saying that the sentence “free will exists” is false in some contexts and true in others. In this paper I argue that even if we grant Nichols his pluralistic approach to reference, there is still good reason to prefer eliminativism to preservationism with regard to free will. My argument focuses on one important difference between the concept of “free will” and other theoretical terms embedded in false theories—i.e., the role that the phenomenology of free agency plays in reference fixing. (shrink)
In The Construction of Logical Space, Agustín Rayo defends trivialism, according to which number-involving truths are trivially equivalent to other, non-number-involving truths; picturesquely, ‘I have five fingers on my hand’ and ‘the number of fingers on my hand is five’ express the same fact, but carved up in different ways. A single fact thus has multiple structures. I distinguish two ways this might go: on the deflationary picture, facts get their structures from our linguistic practices, while on an inflationary picture, (...) facts have multiple structures independently of language. I argue that Rayo’s view is best interpreted as deflationary. Thus interpreted, it blocks off an attractive solution to the old problems of intensionality. I further argue a that a semi-deflationary variant of Rayo’s view can make use of the attractive solution—but it thereby sacrifices the supposed mathematical benefits of trivialism. (shrink)
Eleonore Stump has recently articulated an account of grace which is neither deterministic nor Pelagian. Drawing on resources from Aquinas’s moral psychology, Stump’s account of grace affords the quiescence of the will a significant role in an individual’s coming to saving faith. In the present paper, I firstoutline Stump’s account and then raise a worry for that account. I conclude by suggesting a metaphysic that provides a way of resolving this worry. The resulting view allows one to maintain both (i) (...) that divine grace is the efficient cause of saving faith and (ii) that humans control whether or not they come to saving faith. (shrink)
In current debates about moral responsibility, it is common to differentiate two fundamentally different incompatibilist positions: Leeway Incompatibilism and Source Incompatibilism. The present paper argues that this is a bad dichotomy. Those forms of Leeway Incompatibilism that have no appeal to ‘origination’ or ‘ultimacy’ are problematic, which suggests that incompatibilists should prefer Source Incompatibilism. Two sub-classifications of Source Incompatibilism are then differentiated: Narrow Source Incompatibilism holds that alternative possibilities are outside the scope of what is required for moral responsibility, and (...) Wide Source Incompatibilism holds that while ultimacy is most fundamental to moral responsibility, an agent meeting the ultimacy condition will also have alternative possibilities, thereby also satisfying an alternative possibilities condition. The present paper argues that the most promising incompatibilist positions will be versions of Wide Source Incompatibilism. (shrink)
‘The following sentence is true only if numbers exist: The number of planets is eight. It is true; hence, numbers exist.’ So runs a familiar argument for realism about mathematical objects. But this argument relies on a controversial semantic thesis: that ‘The number of planets’ and ‘eight’ are singular terms standing for the number eight, and the copula expresses identity. This is the ‘Fregean analysis’.
Dan Greco and Jason Turner wrote two fantastic critiques of my book, The Construction of Logical Space. Greco’s critique suggests that the book can be given a Kuhnian interpretation, with a Carnapian twist. Here I embrace that interpretation. Turner criticizes one of the views I develop in the book. Here I identify an avenue of resistance.
Assuming an analogical account of religious predication, this paper utilizes recent work in the metaphysics of free will to build towards an account of divine freedom. I argue that what actions an agent is capable of freely performing depends on his or her moral character.
All three of the world's major monotheistic religions traditionally affirm that petitionary prayers can be causally efficacious in bringing about certain states of affairs. Most of these prayers are offered before the state of affairs that they are aimed at helping bring about. In the present paper, I explore the possibility of whether petitionary prayers for the past can also be causally efficacious. Assuming an incompatibilist account of free will, I examine four views in philosophical theology (simple foreknowledge, eternalism, Molinism, (...) and openism) and argue that the first three have the resources to account for the efficacy of past-directed prayers, while the latter does not. I further suggest that on those views which affirm the possible efficacy of past-directed petitionary prayers, such prayers can be 'impetratory' even if the agent already knows that the desired state of affairs has obtained. (shrink)
One well-known incompatibilist response to Frankfurt-style counterexamples is the ‘flicker-of-freedom strategy’. The flicker strategy claims that even in a Frankfurt-style counterexample, there are still morally relevant alternative possibilities. In the present paper, I differentiate between two distinct understandings of the flicker strategy, as the failure to differentiate these two versions has led some philosophers to argue at cross-purposes. I also explore the respective dialectic roles that the two versions of the flicker strategy play in the debate between compatibilists and incompatibilists. (...) Building on this discussion, I then suggest a reason why the compatibilism/incompatibilism debate has reached a stalemate. (shrink)
Considerations of the primal sin show that both voluntarist and intellectual accounts involve an unresolved arbitrariness at the heart of their accounts of free agency. This suggests that, at least for theists, intellectualism is no better than voluntarism in this respect and that, on the assumption that such a sin happened, voluntarist accounts are not as problematic as many believe them to be. The paper proceeds as follows. In the first section, I explain what is meant by 'primal sin' and (...) why there is reason to look at this sin in particular. I then compare this paradigm sin from voluntarism and intellectualist approaches. More specifically, I approach the issue of primal sin by looking at the two most developed extant accounts of it in the contemporary literature. Both accounts are libertarian accounts insofar as they suppose that the truth of theological determinism would render the devil unfree, and thus not responsible, in his fall. Furthermore, both accounts are inspired by medieval theologians, though they aim to provide satisfactory philosophical accounts of the primal sin and not be mere historical exegesis. Given that historical interpretation is not my goal here, I will let the two contemporary proponents of the views under consideration to speak for themselves, taken their exegesis as accurate for present purposes. (shrink)
My primary aims in this paper are to give an overview of a recent movement which goes by the name of ‘analytic theology’, to locate that movement within the larger context of contemporary philosophy of religion, and to identify some of the weakness or objections that analytic theology will need to address moving forward. While I think that some of these objections have merit, I also think that the promise of analytic theology’s contribution to theology more broadly is, in my (...) view, sufficiently robust that we should continue to engage in it as a theological enterprise. (shrink)
In this paper I argue from a number of positions that are, while not uncontested, at least common among analytic philosophers of religion for the possibility, and indeed the plausibility, of a doctrine of limbo. The account of limbo that I advocate is substantially different than the element of Catholic speculative theology that goes by the same name. According to that doctrine, the limbus infantium is a place or state of perfect natural happiness for those who, prior to the age (...) of reason, die without baptism. Given the possibility of ‘baptism by desire’, the need for limbo, as I shall develop it, is not based on whether or not an agent has received the sacrament of baptism. Instead limbo is, I argue, a place where individuals who have not had sufficient opportunity to be reconciled to God in the present life will be given the opportunity to do so in the next life. Limbo, so understood, is a place which allows for the post-mortem healing and growth of individuals so that they are able to choose either for or against God in the way required for redemption in this life. On this view, limbo is not a place of ‘second-chances’, but rather a place of first-chances for those who were denied them in their terrestrial life. (shrink)
According to a widespread tradition in philosophical theology, God is necessarily simple and eternal. One objection to this view of God's nature is that it would rule out God having foreknowledge of non-determined, free human actions insofar as simplicity and eternity are incompatible with God's knowledge being causally dependent on those actions. According to this view, either (a) God must causally determine the free actions of human agents, thus leading to a theological version of compatibilism, or (b) God cannot know, (...) and thus cannot respond to, the free actions of human agents. In the present paper, I argue that one can consistently maintain that God is not causally dependent on anything, even for His knowledge, without being committed to either (a) or (b). In other words, an eternal God can know the free actions of agents even if libertarianism is true. (shrink)
It is sometimes said that Augustine discovered the faculty of the will, and as a result inaugurated philosophy’s fascination with issues related to free will. While philosophers prior to Augustine clearly discussed related issues of, for example, voluntariness and agency, one finds in Augustine a focus on a faculty distinct from reason which is necessary for praise and blame that one would be hard-pressed to find in earlier thinkers. Augustine addressed the importance of free will in many of his works; (...) But he never seems to question whether or not humans have free will. That is, the following question is one that Augustine never seems to raise because he thought the answer was an obvious yes: -/- The Existence Question: Do humans have free will?ii -/- In recent years, the Existence Question has come to be at the forefront of many of the debates concerning free will as an increasing number of scholars are skeptical about the existence of free will. My aim in this chapter is not so much to answer the Existence Question, but to provide a framework for understanding how the question should be answered. I also provide a taxonomical overview of aspects of the contemporary literature in order to show how one’s answer to the Existence Question depends on other issues pertaining to the nature of free will. (shrink)
In ‘Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility,’ Harry Frankfurt introduces a scenario aimed at showing that the having of alternative possibilities is not required for moral responsibility. According to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), an agent is morally responsible for her action only if she could have done otherwise; Frankfurt thinks his scenario shows that PAP is, in fact, false. Frankfurt thinks that the denial of PAP gives credence to compatibilism, the thesis that an agent could both be causally determined (...) in all her actions and yet be morally responsible.1 Since its introduction, Frankfurt’s original ex-. (shrink)
Prayer is one of the central tenets of the major theistic religions, and philosophers of religion have struggled to give a philosophically acceptable account of it. Process philosophies of prayer, in particular, have been criticized for being religiously unfulfilling. In this paper, I critically evaluate previous attempts by Ford, Mason, Cooper and Suchocki to articulate a process philosophy of petitionary prayer. All of these attempts are unsuccessful because they either fail to preserve the importance and uniqueness of prayer or because (...) they reduce prayer to simply a change in the praying subject. After reviewing the previous attempts, I show how one could construct a process philosophy of petitionary prayer out of resources found in Whitehead’s Adventures of Ideas that avoids these problems and is thus more religiously satisfactory to the theist. (shrink)
Most of us are certain that we have free will, though what exactly this amounts to is much less certain. According to David Hume , the question of the nature of free will is “the most contentious question of metaphysics.” If this is correct, then figuring out what free will is will be no small task indeed. Minimally, to say that an agent has free will is to say that the agent has the capacity to choose his or her course (...) of action. But animals seem to satisfy this criterion, and we typically think that only persons, and not animals, have free will. Let us then understand free will as the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions. It is controversial whether this minimal understanding of what it means to have a free will actually requires an agent to have a specific faculty of will, whether the term "free will" is simply shorthand for other features of persons, and whether there really is such a thing as free will at all. (shrink)
The present volume is devoted to philosophical reflection on the nature of paradise. Our contribution to this larger project is an extension of previous work that we’ve done on the nature of human agency and virtue in heaven. Here, we’d like to focus on three things. First, we will discuss in greater detail what it is we mean by “growth in virtue.” Second, we will answer a number of objections to that understanding of growth in virtue. Third, we will show (...) two benefits of this understanding of growth in virtue. Along the way, we’ll also draw a number of comparisons between our understanding of the nature of heavenly character and some of the other chapters in the present volume. (shrink)
My goal in this chapter is to consider the connection between an agent’s moral character and those actions that she is capable of freely performing. Most of these connections hold for all moral agents, but my particular focus will be on the specific case of divine agency. That is, I’m primarily interested in the connection between God’s moral character and His exercise of His free agency. As I will argue, even if an agent’s character determines her choices or actions, that (...) doesn’t threaten the agent’s freedom so long as her character is formed in the right way.1 (Or, perhaps more accurately, so long as it’s not formed in the wrong way. And I do not see how God’s character could be formed in such a way that would undermine the exercise of His agency.) I proceed as follows. First, I explore the relationship between what an agent freely chooses to do and her moral character in general. I then address the relationship between God’s character, His reasons, and His freedom, on the assumptions of Perfect Being Theology.2 In the third section, I turn to the compatibility question, and show how an incompatibilist could agree with everything I say in the first two sections. That is, I argue that the considerations to which I appeal regarding divine freedom do not force the Perfect Being theologian to endorse compatibilism (though they also don’t prove incompatibilism). (shrink)
Concerns both about the nature of free will and about the credibility of theistic belief and commitment have long preoccupied philosophers. This is just to make the obvious point that philosophical questions about whether we enjoy free will and about whether God exists are truly perennial. In addition, there can be no denying that the history of philosophical inquiry into these two questions has been dynamic and, at least to some degree, integrated. In a great many cases, classical answers to (...) the one have influenced classical answers to the other—and in a variety of ways. Without pretending to be able to trace the historical integrations of answers to these perennial questions, there is no real question that these philosophical interrelations exist and are worthy of further exploration. (shrink)
Marilyn McCord Adams argues that God’s goodness to individuals requires God to defeat horrendous evils; it is not enough for God to outweigh these evils through compensatory goods. On her view, God defeats the evils experienced by an individual if and only if God’s goodness to the individual enables her to integrate the evil organically into a unified life story she perceives as good and meaningful. In this essay, we seek to apply Adams’s theodicy of defeat to a particular form (...) of suffering. We argue that God’s goodness to individuals requires that God defeat the suffering to which a range of disabilities can give rise. (shrink)
David Foster Wallace described the point of his “This Is Water” commencement address’s fish parable as "merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” In the following pages I take this theme as my focus. More specifically, I apply this theme to the issue of self-deception and argue that self-deception is often one of the most important issues we face, even if it’s among the hardest to see. Furthermore, while (...) I think these lessons apply to all kinds of beliefs, I look in particular at religious self-deception. I’m well aware that Wallace didn’t write much explicitly on religion and that it comes up only peripherally in his commencement address. Nevertheless, I think that Wallace’s plea for intellectual humility has important lessons that many religious believers (among others) could benefit from. (shrink)
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