Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 2



A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

This is part 2 of that criticism. For part 1, click here.

Objections to Free Will in God


Now we move on to god's free will, one of my favorite topics. Dr Bonnette writes,

For us, free will entails considering various alternatives, knowing we can choose one as opposed to others, and then finally, making a choice one way or another. This process takes place through time. But, God is not in time. He cannot choose between alternatives as we do. Since to choose freely requires that there be a real difference between the potency to various alternatives and the actuality of choosing a single option, time is needed to make the choice. God’s eternal immutability appears to preclude him having free will.
Again, if God is pure act, there can be no distinction between potency and act, meaning that there is no real distinction between what God can do and what he actually chooses to do. Since a thing’s nature determines what it is able to do, it would appear, then, that God’s nature must determine both what he is able to do and what he actually chooses, since there is no distinction between them. Hence, God’s alleged “choices” appear to be determined by his nature, and thus, not free choices at all.

Merely being able to consider various alternatives, thinking you can chose one as opposed to the others, and then finally making a choice is not in and of itself enough for free will. First, you can never know you were able to make any other choice. You can think you know, but you can never really know. It is nowhere explained in his post how this supposed knowledge Dr Bonnette claims to have is justified. Second, such a view would be possible under determinism. You'd just incorrectly be determined to think you know you have alternative possibilities. Third, if it were possible in the same exact scenario to result in different outcomes possibilities, the key factor is whether the choice was of your own accord. That is to say, if it were due to a random process, you cannot have control over it by your own accord by definition, since true randomness requires a fundamental acausality, and you can't have control over something acausal. So in no possible scenario does Dr Bonnette's justification for free will here make sense.

On Thomism it's impossible to reconcile the "free will" of  alternative
possibilities with the eternal divine will that only one possible set of events
in the universe occur.
On Thomism, god is his will: god's will is his essence and nature. Hence god's logically unnecessary will to create our universe is god's nature. The Thomist argues this is eternal, unchanging, logically unnecessary, could not have been different from what it is, and yet is free. For example, assuming god exists, god didn't create a different universe than this one. But because god didn't, it must be the case that god had no potential to create that other universe, since god has no potentials according to Dr Bonnette. So no other universes could possibly have existed, only this one. Yet god is "free" to create what he wants, even though there is only one set of possibilities that had any potential status. Hence, Dr Bonnette is saying a being can be "free" while only having one set of possibilities. This is like trying to get compatibilism. Is Dr Bonnette saying god's free will is compatibilistic free will?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 1



A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

The post, entitled God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World, tries to defend the scholastic notion of god as coherent, with free will, and timelessness, yet able to interact with time. I had argued that such a god is incoherent, can't possible have free will, and would be causally impotent if timeless.

In the the following series of posts I shall refute every section of Bonnette's post, paragraph by paragraph, where ever I see a fallacy or incorrection. So let's get right to it.

God's Immutability and Eternity


Dr. Bonnette starts the first section arguing for god's divine simplicity.

As has been shown previously, a key inference of St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for God’s existence is that God is the Uncaused First Cause. Since God is uncaused, he cannot be the subject of motion or change, because whatever is moved or changed must be moved or changed by another. Hence, God is immutable.

Let's take god's simplicity for the sake of argument: God can't be the subject of motion or change. OK. So what about Jesus, who is god incarnate, and a person in time? If the response is that Jesus has a human and a divine nature, and his divine nature doesn't change, how does the divine nature enter a female womb? Bonnette doesn't mention Jesus at all in his post, but this is an inconsistency left unanswered that undermine's his Christianity. Also, as I like to remind Thomists, the Aristotelian principle, that "whatever is moved or changed must be moved or changed by another" necessarily negates free will, since humans would always be moved by something outside them (ie. by another). I addressed this in more detail in my post on how Thomists like Edward Feser fail to defend free will. Bonnette continues,

Moreover, the Uncaused First Cause must be pure act, since change would require moving something from potency to act. But, if no change is possible, God must have no potency to further act. Hence, he is pure act, which means pure being. In fact, as the absolutely simple first being, God is not even composed of essence and existence. He is pure act of existence without any limiting essence, that is, the Infinite Being. Only one such being is possible, since if there were two, one would limit the infinity of the other.

Of course, there's no need for an uncaused first cause to the universe, since the universe exists as an eternal block that never comes into or goes out of existence. Hence, to borrow Thomistic terminology, the explanation of the universe is in the nature of the universe, because something eternal can't fail to exist. And it hasn't been established (and certainly not from Bonnette's post) that god is not moving or changing. The whole argument that tries to deduce god as unmoving and unchanging is predicated on movement and change in the universe in the sense of things coming into being, often referred to as becoming in philosophy. But as I've argued numerous times on this site, this presupposes the A-theory of time, also known as presentism. If one can't defend the truth of that presupposition, the argument is begging the question. Bonnette on Strange Notions has tried to defend the falsity of eternalism before, which is the antithesis of presentism, but he makes a fool of himself misunderstanding the very basics of the debate. He naively assumes (like almost all people do) that eternalism means timelessness—as if all events would be happening at the same time. This is of course wrong.

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