Before I respond to the argument against agency, it is best to first post the challenging position, the argument against agency.
For our purposes, agency will be defined as the ability for a being to generate or originate thoughts or actions in situations where they did not exist previously. The argument that
agency cannot exist could be stated as follows:
- To say that an agent is the cause of his own actions violates a basic law of causation, namely that no thing can come from nothing. Either actions are eternally mechanically predetermined or, in the
agency model, actions come from nowhere for no reason. Agency is non-causal,
having no originating cause. That an agent can cause in a non-causal way is an
absurdity. Saying an agent originates action is claiming the agent acts for no
reason. For example, a gun cannot originate a shot by itself; it requires an
external action to cause it to shoot. Likewise, persons must have a cause that
acts on them. Our decisions must be caused by stimuli external to the mechanisms that did the deciding. To argue otherwise is to argue that something can be caused by nothing, which is absurd.
- Those holding to free will agency must explain how agency works. Merely stating “that” agents can cause does not explain how this is so. The only way we have of explaining actions is through purely mechanical causes.
- If an action is caused by the self, the self itself must have been caused by something other than the self to cause the action or else you have a contradiction. The only way agency escapes this contradiction is by claiming, without any evidence, that agency can cause something in a way that isn’t causal, which is absurd.
- We have never observed anything happening in a way that is not causal, except for quantum mechanics, which we do not understand. Agency requires a thing to be generated without a cause, which is therefore a logical contradiction.
- If all actions are caused by another, we encounter the problem of an infinite regress. If there is a circular model of everlasting causes, the problem of infinite regress is avoided.
- Whether the denial of agency causes a problem for morality is not relevant to whether agency is true or false.
- Those that hold to agency must answer “What causes the agent to originate action? What causes the mind to think in an exact ordered way, as opposed to a random way? What causes decisions to take the shape they do?” The only answer possible is deterministic mechanisms.
The above arguments, if true, would then conclude that:
A. No being or person, God or human, can originate
action. If God exists, He must act deterministically or not at all.
B. The only explanation that makes sense is an
purely mechanistic cause for all actions, one that is eternal and circular.
Such a system would have no original or first cause, thus avoiding the problem
of original causes.
In the next post, I will begin the response to this position. In summary, I deny each of these points and both conclusions, and will show how they are false. I will also show the correct position, that agency does exist and is logical and reasonable.