Sufficient Conditions for Free Moral Choice

I have written an eight part series on agency, which is the idea that people can indeed have free will and make free moral choices. The first of this series explains the importance of the issue and can be found here, but note that posts five to eight have the real heart of the justification for free will. I have also written a lighthearted response to those who continually insist that free moral choice somehow needs a cause outside the person (see here).

My previous explanations for free will rest upon the fact that everything that moves from potential to actual must do so by the power of something that is already actual. While this explanation is valid, today we explore another valid explanation for human free will.

When we seek an explanation for something, we look at the technical terms necessary and sufficient.  Fuel is necessary for a fire, but fuel by itself is not sufficient for a fire. Merely having fuel does not make a fire. Oxygen is necessary for a fire, as is heat. Any of these three things, taken one at a time, is necessary for fire but not sufficient. When we put together all three — fuel, oxygen, and heat — we have fire. Therefore the conditions of having fuel, oxygen, and heat together are sufficient conditions for fire. Therefore if we have sufficient conditions, we can logically say we need not seek any further conditions to prove a thing’s existence.

So let us keep in mind the concepts of act/potential and sufficient conditions when we explore human free will agency.

Is an act of the will something that begins to exist in the sense that it needs a prior cause, or are all the conditions there from the beginning, and free will is not a separate act that needs a prior cause? The movement of my hand is an act of will, but is the decision to move my hand a separate event that needs a prior cause?

I submit that human agency is a different type of thing than many other events. We can explain human agency as the ability to choose between alternatives and act on the choice. An act of the will is a judgement based on prior-existing desires and the ability to make reasoned judgments. I have a desire, such as hunger, and I reason that the object in front of me is food, therefore I move my hand to get the food. The free will act to grab the food requires no other cause nor condition than the desire, the ability to reason, and the power to move. These prerequisite conditions are sufficient for a free will act of human agency.

Author Timothy O’Connor seems to agree, for he has a similar explanation in his book Persons & Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will. Taylor describes a subject whose desire grows to the point that it overcomes the judgement, and the agent acts. Another subject trains his judgement to the point it shapes his desires, and a decision is made to act or not. (p. 93-94). O’Connor refers to “self-determining causal activity” (p.93) that is the agent making a choice. Note that the cause comes from the self, which tells us where the activity is sourced (the self) and that it is caused. Yet the activity is not uncaused from nothing, but is explained by the existence of desire, reason, and power to act. Thomas Aquinas speaks of similar mental activity when he speaks of human judgement acting upon sense perceptions as the basis for our knowledge.

Does a free will act require some prior cause not explained by desire, reason, and power to move? I have addressed this in the eight-part series, and O’Connor addresses this very question in explaining the work of Richard Taylor (p. 52-55, 61). Because an agent causes an event, there is no logical reason to insist that there must be a cause acting upon the agent from outside, causing the agent to act. The conditions from within the agent are sufficient to cause the free will act, therefore the act is caused by the agent. One of the conditions placed into the mind of the agent is the ability to deliberate about decisions.

We therefore agree with Taylor when he says “No reason has been given why we cannot adequately explain an action by characterizing it as the freely initiated behavior of an agent who is motivated by a particular reason.” (p.91) He also says “Agent-causal events are intrinsically actions — the exercise of control over one’s behavior. It is senseless to demand some further means of controlling this exercise of control.” (p. 58-59)

Therefore the world does not act mechanistically, and all events are not inevitable and predetermined. When we chose to lie and break God’s commandment, it was our choice. Therefore the common-sense description of free moral agency is supported. The Bible takes this view, for it tells us to “choose this day whom you will serve” and repeatedly speaks of people making a choice to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

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Walter Martin Explains the Trinity

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A Less Crunchy Technique

The abortionists are going to try to use “a less crunchy technique.”

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The Abortion Industry and Planned Parenthood: What Fuels Their Machine?

Recently an undercover video has arisen of a senior Planned Parenthood officer talking frankly and openly about selling body parts of aborted babies. What is interesting to me is that this practice has been known for years in the pro-life community, but was ignored by the media. If a pro-life person mentioned the subject in polite company, the pro-life person was thought to be a kook or an insensitive boor, or both. When video arises of the subject, the media still largely ignores it.

So here we have something akin to the Nazis making human-skin lampshades, yet the idea is relatively quickly swept under the rug. If nothing else, it is one more support for the fact that abortions are big business, and one of the biggest in the business is Planned Parenthood. They have a very well oiled money machine. It is oiled with the blood of the innocent.

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Christian and Naturalist Discuss Free Will

Christian and Naturalist discuss free will. For the benefit of newcomers, the kalam cosmological argument goes like this:

1. What begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe has a beginning.
3. The universe has a cause.

N: I’ve heard you say that you believe the Kalam argument, which starts by saying everything that begins to exist has a cause.
C: Yes, this is true.
N: But if everything that begins to exist has a cause, the human will must have a cause.
C: Yes, it does. The person causes the will.
N: But what caused the person to move the will?
C: The person moved his own will.
N: Ha! See, you invented a cause out of thin air. The Kalam is refuted.
C: I just told you: the person moved his will.
N: But what caused the person to move his will?
C: I just told you, the person moved his own will.
N: Ha! See, you invented a cause out of thin air. The Kalam is refuted.
C: It seems we are not getting anywhere. Why do you think that a person cannot cause his own will?
N: Because he just can’t.
C: But why?
N: Because if the person caused his own will, the will would be without a cause.
C: Listen to what you’re saying. If the person caused it, it’s uncaused? That’s nonsense.
N: What I meant was: If the person caused his own will, the will would be without a cause, because the person would be creating an effect from nothing.
C: You just repeated the same meaning with slightly different words. It’s still nonsense. Of course, if the person caused it, it would have a cause: the person.
N: But what caused the person?
C: That’s easy, the first cause. According to logic, the first cause did not have a beginning. This we call God.
N: But you’re saying God caused the person. What caused the person to move his will?
C: I already told you. The person moved his own will.
N: So you’re saying the person caused an effect without a cause.
C: How can a person cause an effect without a cause? That’s nonsense again. If the person caused it, then it’s caused. Why do you keep insisting an act of the will has no cause?
C: You don’t have to yell, I’m not hard of hearing. Let’s try this: I’m going to inject you with truth serum. [gives Naturalist a shot]
C: There now. Why do you keep insisting that a person cannot cause an act of the will, when I’ve told you that 1) the person is caused, and 2) the person has the power to cause an act of the will?
N: Because I don’t want God to exist, and I’m looking for any way out that I can find.
C: I can understand that. But eliminating free will does not eliminate God. Some strong Calvinists believe that all causes of the human will are determined by God.
N: But don’t you believe that a truly free-will act is one that begins a causal chain? Either the will was a beginning of a causal chain, in which the Kalam is refuted, or the will was caused, which is determinism. Either God does not exist, or we’re all determined, and either way I can’t decide to believe in God.
C: Not so fast, hoss. A true act of free will does not begin anything, because the person caused the act of the will, remember? It is not true that something came from nothing.
N: But what caused the person to cause the will?
C: How about them Dodgers?

For more on free will, see my multi-part series on agency that begins here. For a much more relevant and interesting discussion than the one you see in this post, read Jesus’ conversations with the religious leaders in the gospel of John. Chapter 3 would be an excellent place to start. 

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Quotes From America’s Founding Fathers

In celebration of July 4, here are some quotes from the founding fathers of the United States

John Adams, July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.”

In 1780, speaking of setting up the country, John Adams said:

“The debates were managed by persons of various denominations.… [and the] delegates did not conceive themselves to be vested with power to set up one denomination of Christians above another.”

July 26, 1796, John Adams wrote in his diary:

“The Christian religion is, above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and Humanity. Let the Blackguard Paine say what he will; it is Resignation to God, it is Goodness itself to Man.”

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry, speaking in a Virginia government convention that was meeting in a church building, said:

“Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God who presides over the destines of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.…
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

In 1784, Patrick Henry supported a Bill establishing a “Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion”:

“The general diffusion of Christian knowledge hath a natural tendency to correct the morals of men, restrain their vices, and preserve the peace of society …”

In 1796, in a letter to his daughter, Patrick Henry stated:

“Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of their number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is the character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast.”

Thomas Paine wrote an essay that General George Washington read aloud to his troops at Valley Forge on December 23, 1776. In it, Paine said:

“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Where, say some, is the king of America? I’ll tell you, friend, He reigns above.
Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be placed on the divine law, the Word of God; let a crown be placed thereon.
The Almighty implanted in us these inextinguishable feelings for good and wise purposes. They are the guardians of His image in our heart. They distinguish us from the herd of common animals.”

Thomas Paine, although being the author of The Age of Reason, stated:

“I believe in one God.… and I hope for happiness beyond this life.”

Charles Carroll, a member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, said on November 4, 1800:

“Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure [and] which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”

On September 1825, Charles Carroll said:

“On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts.”

These are but a very few of the voluminous series of quotes from our founding fathers found in William J. Federer’s collections of quotations. They are readily available, but the one I am using is:

William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

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A Few Comments on Marriage

As I write this, the United States Supreme Court has just legalized marriage between same-sex couples. The laws of many states were abruptly overturned and marriage rights are extended to any homosexual or gender confused person. 

Tomorrow, or the day after, the world will continue to turn, people will go to work, go out to eat, the Chicago Cubs will continue to lose, and all the other things that happened yesterday will continue. We will see the weeks go by without witnessing society ending in anarchy or a mass collapse of social structures.  Our liberal friends will continue to focus on individual rights and continue to forget to mention the common good.

The winds of modern morality and social change are perhaps because of our past sins of allowing slavery and the modern feelings of guilt and the need to reconcile past wrongs. In our culture today, discriminating against any individual is one of the worst crimes imaginable, and all instances of it must be discovered and stamped out thoroughly and completely, or so we are told. So we will have marriage of anyone who wants to marry.

Our American society, however, has a memory problem. We are so focused on today’s headlines that we do not see long-term trends. Prior to the 1960’s, most divorce laws were designed to make divorce difficult, thinking that both parents were necessary for society and children. Divorces in many instances were only allowed if one person was proved to be at fault. That, plus the social stigma that was attached to divorce, kept many marriages together even if the couple was far apart emotionally.

The day after no-fault divorce laws were passed, the world kept turning, people went to work, went out to eat, and the Cubs lost. But what have we now that we are many decades later? We have women who are convinced they can raise children just as well without a father, resulting in a large portion of our society being raised in poverty without an authority figure in the home. Children raised in such homes tend to not make a connection between long hard work and success, nor are they accustomed to authority telling them what to do. So we have riots with people refusing to obey police. We also have a major drumbeat of the liberals telling us that a major problem is “income disparity,” the gap between the poorest and richest segments of society. No one seems to notice that we could raise the income levels of roughly a quarter of the US overnight if we could get husbands to go home and spend their money and energy on the children they fathered. At one recent riot, a video became popular of a black mother slapping her teenage son and dragging him out of the rioting crowd. With 70% of black children growing up without a father in the home, odds are the father was not around, so mom has to do everything.

Years ago we dropped the public debate of what to do with “deadbeat dads,” the men who fathered children and abandoned them. We have lost the memory of that problem, too. I suppose the mothers and children are just supposed to accept their situation as normal.

I recall one woman that I knew. She had no husband, yet got pregnant from a man she never planned to marry. She felt no pressure to marry and stay married, and was convinced that single motherhood was adequate.  With few job skills, she has been destined to poverty and her children will never have the benefit of a father figure teaching them discipline.

So the lax divorce laws put into practice more than a generation ago have brought bitter fruit of large parts of our society being poor and jobless, yet few make the connection. Any politician suggesting that we tighten marriage laws to prevent poverty would be laughed to scorn just before he lost his job.

So while today’s acceptance of same-sex marriage will not result in the sky falling in a day, we can be sure that social consequences will come. A generation or so in the future will bring further destruction of the family, for as long as anyone can claim marriage based on the individual right, we have no logical basis for restricting anything the human heart can dream. Society will not fall apart tomorrow, but nevertheless it will eventually. The family is the social structure, and when it can be anything, society can be anything, or nothing. As the dissenting supreme court opinion brought out, we have already left the restrictions of the constitution, one we actually left years ago when the court began quoting foreign law.

On the way home today I was thinking of what might come next, how long it would take society to gradually slide into disintegration. I then heard a news reporter telling me that today three totally naked women stood on the steps of the New York Public Library and, in broad daylight, had their bodies painted. We do not have to wonder whether the tourists took more photos of the women or the statues of lions. I also walked in the local mall at lunchtime, seeing people exposing much more skin than clothes. A glance at the US Center for Disease Control website tells me that tomorrow is HIV testing day, although one wonders who will bother. The site also tells us that 2.6 million Americans got chlamydia last year, many of them teenage girls. They will likely not make the connection to the disease until they miscarry years later, or when the pelvic pain starts. They will have forgotten too.

So our society is in a slow decline. Same-sex marriage is but one additional cut to a still living but dying victim. What we are watching is like a slow-motion disembowelment, where we know the outcome is inevitable, but we are so accustomed to it that we have forgotten what it was like when the person was healthy. The knife has cut the memory first, for we fail to remember where we were. Society is the victim and we cannot save it. We are not even aware of the blood around us.

Again the scriptures are proven correct, and we take solace in the ancient words that scream at us from the pages of the Bible. We have no hope but in Jesus, who has the power over death, and can resurrect the soul. Jesus told us “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
PS: The Cubs just lost to the Cardinals, 3 – 2, even though they had twice as many hits and base runners. 

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