Monday, April 13, 2015

Free Will Again

I've been encountering many instances of people with questions about free will.  This is usually in relation to God and free will.  And it is usually in relation to how there can be an uncaused or undetermined will.  The assumption is that this is what it means to have a free will.  However, a free will could also be an unrestrained will where one is able to do what one wants.  It could both be the case that one is free in the sense of doing what one wants and that one is predetermined.

Some questions that come up: am I morally responsible if I am predetermined?  Can I be my own originating cause?  If God predestines why would any be lost?  Are there any uncaused events, or underdetermined events, are these different?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reason and Reasoning

At the American Philosophical Association last week I saw a number of books about reason.  This intrigued me.  However, upon examination they were almost exclusively about reasoning.  There is an important distinction between these and the ambiguity created by not distinguishing them can lead to a number of mistakes.  I was thinking of "reason" as the laws of thought by which we understand anything.  However, "reasoning" usually means the analysis of some thought process.  In the case of these books it usually meant mathematical reasoning.

Much attention in modern philosophy was given to "reasoning" in this sense.  Can reasoning apart from experience give us knowledge of the world?  How does the reasoning process operate as humans form ideas from sense impressions?  However, this misses reason as the laws of thought.  In each case, mathematical reasoning, reasoning about the relationship between ideas, reasoning about the relationship between ideas and the world, the laws of thought are being assumed.  People use the law of identity to distinguish between one idea and another, between ideas and experiences, between ideas and the world.  The laws of thought are present in any instance of thinking and where they are not present thinking is not occurring.

I also read an article in a philosophy journal while I was at the conference.  It was about a notable analytic philosopher.  It helped not only in knowing about his research but as an example of how analytic philosophy has presupposed Humean skepticism about the relationship between ideas and the world.  In an important way, because David Hume failed to understand reason as the laws of thought and instead noticed that a given reasoning process may not represent reality we have been given 2+ centuries of skepticism about our ability to know with certainty (to Know).  I've even been told by analytic philosophers, repeating Hume, that if there are laws of thought they don't get us very much as far as knowledge is concerned.

This post is related to my last one in identifying why there is skepticism about our ability to use reason to know God.  We use reason to distinguish between God and non-God.  In failing to know God we are attributing to "non-God" (the creation) properties such as eternal existence that are only attributable to God.  This includes the claims that there is nothing eternal or that what is eternal is some aspect of the creation like the material world or the human self.  By using reason to distinguish between what is eternal and what is not eternal (without beginning and with beginning) we can use reason (as the laws of thought) to know God and avoid conceptual idolatry.