This is the eighth (and finally, last) part in a series establishing agency in
God and humans. I am in the midst of responding to a series of objections to
agency. The numbers below refer to the list in post 2.
3. “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. “ The first sentence is
correct in regard to all created beings: the self was indeed created by
something other than the self. This is because a being cannot exist prior to
its own existence, and therefore the being’s existence must have been caused by
another. The second sentence makes a fallacy of saying “the only way” while in fact there is another way. Further, it again does not distinguish between one act and another. The act of a being’s existence is not the same as when the being causes a different potency to actualize. The act of one agent causing being and the act of a different agent causing becoming are distinct and without the same cause. By not distinguishing being from becoming, and by falsely limiting the explanation to a single reason, the critic has made an illogical conclusion.
4. “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.” Indeed, we do not understand quantum
mechanics, and it is often misused. But the second sentence is clearly false,
as we have demonstrated in several posts. Potency is moved to act by prior act,
which in the case of humans, act is sufficient to actualize potency. But
further, this objection flies in the face of universal human experience. Are we
really to believe that all our thoughts are generated by another, with every thought
and action predetermined from all eternity? Such a system is locked in a system
that violates universal human experience, and is based in nothing we conclude
from observing the world. The denial of agency is a pure mental exercise,
forever locked in the mind, and can never apply to the real world. Which, by the way, is ironic, seeing as how this statement tries to draw a conclusion from observing the real world. Either we can use observation of the world to prove our case, or not. If we can, universal human experience shows causes are linear, not circular.
5. “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.” I must say,
respectfully, I’m not sure I could have invented a more absurd torture of logic
if I had tried. First, no one holding to agency ever said all actions are
caused by another. Such a position is claimed, however, by the circular model,
which this statement tries to support. Second, ‘if’ is merely an assertion without proof, a statement void of argument. If my aunt were a man, she would be my uncle, but she is not. If the critic had thought through this argument, we could move on to more productive
discussion, but he did not. Since “if” is not the case, it poses no argument. Third, the circular model is indeed an infinite regress, which this statement says is impossible, while the agency model demonstrates a beginning, a first mover, not an infinite regress. By contrast, the circular model, as explained in this very sentence, is circular and everlasting, which by any definition is an infinite regress of causes. Even worse, it is an infinite
regress of things being moved, without any being in the chain having the
ability to cause movement. Fourth, it again posits a circular model without
proof. This statement is a straw man, circular, self-refuting, and unsupported.
6. “Whether the denial of agency causes a problem
for morality is not relevant to whether agency is true or false.” This is true, which is why I did not use it to support the demonstration of agency. But it is important to note that a lack of moral responsibility is still a problem for the circular, fatalistic model, and
not one for those who hold to agency. In the circular model, all evil is
inevitable and unavoidable, and all human responsibility is lost, as is any
power to correct evil.
7. “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.” In the case of humans, who are a combination of act and potency, an external cause, pure act, caused the human to have the ability to generate action, think in an ordered way, and shape decisions. In the case of God, the question “What caused God to originate action?” is a
category mistake. Asking what caused the first cause is absurd; it is asking
what caused an uncaused being, or what created an uncreated thing, The last
statement once again makes the same either/or fallacy that has been repeatedly
made in this criticism of agency. In fact, deterministic mechanisms are not the
I summarize the following defeaters of the
deterministic circular mechanism:
- No explanation is given of how this deterministic
mechanism came to be. Since the circular
mechanism, as a whole, it is a composed thing, it had to be composed by
something, or else it is a violation of universal experience without explanation.
- Any challenge to agency must distinguish between
being and becoming, which was never done by the critic.
- The problem of morality, while not an impact on
whether non-agency is true, nevertheless cannot be swept away as irrelevant. If
morality does not exist, then an explanation must be given for the universal
experience of good and evil.
- The repeated assertions without any careful supporting
explanation must be dealt with, or the critic will not be taken seriously. How
does circular deterministic mechanism work? How can it be circular when
everything we observe is linear? How can this argument avoid the fallacy of
circularity? Or the problem of an infinite regress? How can such a system
continue, when everything in the circle is a contingent being, needing support
by a necessary being? If one man jumps from an airplane with no parachute, then holding on to a circle of men without parachutes will hold up no one.
In conclusion, if you have followed this far, the reason I
went to such lengths on this problem was partly due to some rude ad-hominem
statements aimed toward me. If everything is eternal and mechanistic, why the
insults aimed at me for disagreeing? That aside, I tried to give a thorough explanation without the tediousness of a major work. I most likely failed in both attempts, and for that I beg your forgiveness.
In proving agency, we are able to support the theological
positions in the first post:
God exists, created the world, gave us the bible, and we can go out and tell
others about Jesus, and pray that they respond.
Note: I have written a followup to this series, which you can find here.