The principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), making the ability to do otherwise a necessary condition for moral responsibility, is supposed by Harry Frankfurt, John Fischer, and others to succumb to a peculiar kind of counterexample. The paper reviews the main problems with the counterexample that have surfaced over the years, and shows how most can be addressed within the terms of the current debate. But one problem seems ineliminable: because Frankfurt''s example relies on a counterfactual intervener to preclude alternatives to (...) the person''s action, it is not possible for it to preclude all alternatives (intervention that is contingent upon a trigger cannot bring it about that the trigger never occurred). This makes it possible for the determined PAPist to maintain that some pre-intervention deviation is always available to ground moral responsibility. In reply, the critic of PAP can examine all the candidate deviations and argue their irrelevance to moral responsibility (a daunting prospect); or the critic can dispense with counterfactual intervention altogether. The paper pursues the second of these strategies, developing three examples of noncounterfactual intervention in which (i) the agent has no alternatives (and a fortiori no morally relevant alternatives), yet (ii) there is just as much reason to think that the agent is morally responsible as there was in Frankfurt''s original example. The new counterexamples do suffer from one liability, but this is insufficient in the end to repair PAP''s conceptual connection between moral responsibility and alternate possibilities. (shrink)
One strategy in recent discussions of theological fatalism is to draw on Harry Frankfurt’s famous counterexamples to the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP) to defend human freedom from divine foreknowledge. For those who endorse this line, “Frankfurt counterexamples” are supposed to show that PAP is false, and this conclusion is then extended to the foreknowledge case. This makes it critical to determine whether Frankfurt counterexamples perform as advertised, an issue recently debated in this journal via a pair of articles by (...) David Widerker and John Martin Fischer. I suggest that this debate can be avoided: divine foreknowledge is itself aparadigmatic counterexample to PAP, requiring no support from suspect Frankfurt counterexamples. (shrink)
Open theists deny that God knows future contingents. Most open theists justify this denial by adopting the position that there are no future contingent truths to be known. In this paper we examine some of the arguments put forward for this position in two recent articles in this journal, one by Dale Tuggy and one by Alan Rhoda, Gregory Boyd, and Thomas Belt. The arguments concern time, modality, and the semantics of ‘will’ statements. We explain why we find none of (...) these arguments persuasive. This wide road leads only to destruction. (shrink)
This paper seeks to rehabilitate St. Augustine’s widely dismissed response to the alleged incompatibility of divine foreknowledge and free will. This requires taking a fresh look at his analysis in On Free Choice of the Will, and arguing its relevance to the current debate. Along the way, mistaken interpretations of Augustine are rebutted, his real solution is developed and defended, a reason for his not anticipating Boethius’s a temporalist solution is suggested, a favorable comparison with Ockham is made, rival solutions (...) are rejected, and the aporetic nature of the problem is explained. (shrink)
The principle that one cannot deliberate over what one already knows is going to happen, when suitably qualified, has seemed to many philosophers to be about as secure a truth as one is likely to find in this life. Fortunately, it poses little restriction on human deliberation, since the conditions which would trigger its prohibition seldom arise for us: our knowledge of the future is intermittent at best, and those things of which we do have advance knowledge are not the (...) sorts of things over which we would deliberate in any case. But matters appear to stand otherwise with an all-knowing agent such as God is traditionally conceived to be; for what an omniprescient deity ‘already knows is going to happen’ is everything that is going to happen; and if He cannot deliberate over such things, there is nothing over which He can deliberate. (shrink)
I distinguish between a _metaphysical_ problem generated by the argument for theological fatalism, and a _theological_ problem posed by the argument. Some responses to the argument, including ones associated with Boethius, Aquinas and Ockham, address only the theological problem. Even if such responses succeed in showing that God's foreknowledge doesn't threaten human freedom, they fail to take the full measure of the argument for theological fatalism, since the metaphysical problem remains to be solved.
The paper that follows continues a discussion with Tomis Kapitan in the pages of this journal over the compatibility of divine agency with divine foreknowledge. I had earlier argued against two premises in Kapitan's case for omniscient impotence: (i) that intentionally A-ing presupposes prior acquisition of the intention to A, and (ii) that acquiring the intention to A presupposes prior ignorance whether one will A. In response to my criticisms, Kapitan has recently offered new defences for these two premises. I (...) show in reply why neither defence succeeds in rehabilitating the case against omniscient agency. (Note that the very first sentence of the published version has a misprint: instead of "To claim that divine foreknowledge is inconsistent with divine agency has been pressed with increasing frequency of late . . .", it should read, "_The_ claim . . ."!). (shrink)
The traditional doctrine of divine omniscience ascribes to God the fully exercised power to know all truths. but why is God’s excellence with respect to knowing not treated on a par with his excellence with respect to doing, where the latter requires only that God have the power to do all things? The prima facie problem with divine ”omni-knowledgeability’ -- roughly, being able to know whatever one wants to know whenever one wants to know it -- is that knowledge requires (...) an internal representation, whereas mere ”knowledgeability’ does not. I argue to the contrary that knowledge does not require an internal representation, and that even if it did, an omni-knowledgeable God would satisfy this requirement. omni-knowledgeability therefore represents a distinct understanding of God’s cognitive excellence while satisfying the traditional insistence on full omniscience. (shrink)
The most serious challenge to Frankfurt-type counterexamples to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) comes in the form of a dilemma: either the counterexample presupposes determinism, in which case it begs the question; or it does not presuppose determinism, in which case it fails to deliver on its promise to eliminate all alternatives that might plausibly be thought to satisfy PAP. I respond to this challenge with a counterexample in which considering an alternative course of action is a necessary condition (...) for deciding to act otherwise, and the agent does not in fact consider the alternative. I call this a “buffer case,” because the morally relevant alternative is “buffered” by the requirement that the agent first consider the alternative. Suppose further that the agent’s considering an alternative action—entering the buffer zone—is what would trigger the counterfactual intervener. Then it would appear that PAP-relevant alternatives are out of reach. I defend this counterexample to PAP against three objections: that considering an alternative is itself a morally relevant alternative; that buffer cases can be shown to contain other alternatives that arguably satisfy PAP; and that even if the agent’s present access to PAP-relevant alternatives were eliminated, PAP could still be satisfied in virtue of earlier alternatives. I conclude that alternative possibilities are a normal symptom, but not an essential constituent, of moral agency. (shrink)
Can free agency exist within a Minkowskian "block universe"? A negative answer to this question has been labeled 'chronogeometrical fatalism'. I look at five theses associated with Minkowskian space-time which have been thought to entail chronogeometrical fatalism, and argue that none of them delivers the goods.
According to the thesis of divine ‘middle knowledge’, first propounded by the Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina in the sixteenth century, subjunctive conditionals stating how free agents would freely respond under counter-factual conditions may be straightforwardly true, and thus serve as the objects of divine knowledge. This thesis has provoked considerable controversy, and the recent revival of interest in middle knowledge, initiated by Anthony Kenny, Robert Adams and Alvin Plantinga in the 1970s, has led to two ongoing debates. One is (...) a theoretical debate over the very intelligibility of middle knowledge;1 the other is a practical debate over its philosophical and theological utility.2. (shrink)
This study consists of a series of steps toward the development of a general theory of differences in ontological kind. The first part defines the notion of a "logical individual" and argues for its role as the basic ontological unit. I also take issue with those who hold that 'exist' is equivocal, as well as with those who claim that category-mistakes lack a truth-value. This part concludes with the "existence criterion", according to which a thing exists just in case it (...) is a logical individual; examples of things which satisfy and things which fail to satisfy this criterion are discussed. ;The second part covers a number of topics related to the classification of things into kinds. Problems involved in such classification are considered, including a discussion of whether, and on what grounds, certain attributes may be better qualified to define kinds than are others. The idea of ontological kinds is also adumbrated in an intuitive fashion, and a "formalist" strategy for ontological kinds, under which no attribute is treated as more ontologically puissant than any other, is considered and discarded. ;In the last part the ideal of substance is employed as a way of mediating between individuals, on the one hand, and privileged kinds, on the other. Following an examination of substance in Aristotle, six senses of substance are distinguished, of which two are found to hold particular promise for the development of a theory of ontological kinds. Discussion of these two notions of substance includes critiques of "stuff" metaphysics as well as "Aristotelian essentialism". The latter is found to depend on an unwarranted assumption that certain individuals are not only referentially, pragmatically, or psychologically prior to others, but also ontologically privileged. Refutation of this assumption leads to a rehabilitation of Aristotle's notion of "prime matter", but also to a picture of substance closer to Descartes' than to Aristotle's. The arguments against Aristotelian substance finally suggest an account of ontological kinds in terms of the possibility or impossibility of "fusion"--the coinstantiation by two individuals of a single individual concept. (shrink)