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How Human Free Will Harmonizes with “Sufficient Reason”

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Filed under Man

This article’s sole purpose is to defend free will against the claim of those who maintain that free will is metaphysically impossible, because it somehow violates the principles of sufficient reason and causality.

Arguments Against the Harmony

The most forceful argument against free will’s possibility is the claim that it violates Thomistic metaphysics’ understanding of the principle of sufficient reason. That principle states that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be.

For St. Thomas Aquinas, the will is simply the intellectual appetite. The will desires the good as intellectually apprehended. While the will is necessitated in its movement toward the universal good, with respect to lesser goods it is free to choose this or that one, or to reject any at all.1

The problem of free will metaphysically is to explain how a free choice can come-to-be without it being ultimately determined by God or by some other external or internal cause, not by the free will of the human being who makes it.

Since a person is in potency to his choice before he makes it, the question arises as to how he can possibly be moved from potency to act (from not yet having made his choice to having made it), without being moved by another. Since whatever is moved is moved by another, a human being cannot move himself from potency to act. But if he is moved by another to make his choice, how can the choice be said to be free and of his own making?

Although the will is a secondary cause, even secondary causes must be moved from potency to act. Now, it is argued that, since God makes creatures to act in accordance with their own natures, he makes free agents to be and to operate in accord with their free natures – so that they are true agents of their own choice.2

Still, in choosing between alternative goods, the human free will must become inclined to one rather than another. It is claimed man is free to choose because God sustains his free agency as he makes the choice.3

Nonetheless, if the human will is truly open to choose this or that object, such that it is not forced to one rather than the other, what, then, inclines it to one or the other alternative? It cannot be itself, since its “freedom” precisely entails not being forced or inclined with necessity to one option or another. Hence, when it begins to move in one direction or another, something other than itself must move it – which means that it does not move itself, but another so moves it. If that is so, then how can the will really be free, since its choices appear not to be made by itself, but by another?

Metaphysically, the problem with free will is that the will must first be open to its choice, and then, must give to itself that which it does not initially possess, namely, a dominating inclination to one good rather than another. Nothing can give to itself what it does not have, and hence, free will is impossible. Even if God sustains the person and his will, together with all conditions attendant to the will’s act, some final inclination must come-to-be which was not there before. Since nothing can give to itself what it lacks, that new and final inclination must not come from the person choosing, but from something else. That something else must be some internal precondition or external agent. Either way, free will appears to be a chimera.

To the Thomistic metaphysician (and to right reason), nothing is more true than metaphysical first principles. Thus, an argument against free will based on such principles appears irrefutable. For example, genuine freedom violates the first principle that you cannot get being from non-being, that is, a new specification from a will previously not so specified. Self-specification is impossible, since nothing can give to itself that which it lacks. But, if the will receives its specification from another, then it cannot be free.

Secondary Causes are True Causes of Their Effects

Still, the free act itself must be carefully analyzed – to see whether genuine freedom truly violates basic metaphysical principles.

Importantly, secondary causes are true causes of the changes they produce.4 Merely raising one’s arm produces “new existence” or a “new expression of reality” just by the arm’s position change. In another Strange Notions article, I demonstrate that this “new existence” requires an Ultimate Cause of all finite being, a “universal donor” of finite modes of existence that did not previously exist. This “donor” provides the novel perfection of reality that the arm’s new position entails.

Yet, the limitations, under which that “new existence” is expressed, come, not from God, as the universal source of new existence, but from the finite agent who moves his arm. That is, the limited expression of this new perfection of existence comes from the limited being of the person moving his arm (with existential assistance from God). It is the human being who moves his arm and it is his arm that is moved – not God’s arm!

Secondary causality’s essence is that God enables finite agents actually to cause their own effects, even though they cannot do so all by themselves. Secondary, finite causes are true causes of their effects. Secondary causes are not mere puppets. This helps explain how human free will is able to act freely, even though it cannot act all by itself.

Clarifications

First, so-called “free choice” is not really free. It is called “free” through extrinsic denomination, that is, because it is produced by free will. By the time one makes his choice, the choice is already determined to be what it is. The will determines the choice. The choice does not determine itself. Free will is simply the power that makes such choices independent of any secondary causal agency forcing its decision.

Second, the free will cannot act unless God moves it to act by giving it the natural inclination toward the good -- and even then only when the intellect apprehends a finite good to be embraced or rejected. We always want the perfection, but can reject the finite good because of its imperfection.

Third, the practical context of choice is like picking between chocolates, when someone says, “Pick one.” If you pick a cherry cordial, you get its unique flavor to enjoy. Still, at the same time, you deny yourself the sensitive good of a caramel. If you pick the caramel, you lose the cordial. These are finite goods. Since the will is necessarily ordered solely to the universal good (which is ultimately God himself), lesser goods can be rejected.5

Free Will Is Metaphysically Possible

Since the free choice itself is actually determined by the free will, it is the exercise of free will that must be examined carefully in order to determine if free will is metaphysically possible.

In its exercise, the will is confronted with finite goods, which do not necessitate its appetite to choose them. Because of their limited natures, they present both perfections, which attract, and imperfections, which permit rejection. Inherent in the nature of the intellectual appetite, or will, is that it is not necessitated by limited goods, but by the universal good alone.6

No extrinsic cause forces the will to choose this rather than that finite good. God sustains the will’s nature and moves it to choose by presenting goods to it through intellectual apprehension. But no extrinsic cause – not even God himself – inclines the will to choose necessarily this or that finite good.

Antecedent conscience is the last practical judgment of the intellect judging the moral lawfulness of a human act to be performed here and now. Still, since the will is attracted by the good present both in the morally correct choice and also in the morally evil alternative, and since neither option compels with necessity, no secondary cause but the will itself is responsible for the choice actually made.

Therefore, in the order of secondary causes, the will alone is responsible for its choices.

The free will is not a power existing in a vacuum. It is a property and power of the human being making his free choices through its exercise. Hence, it is the human person himself who bears responsibility for choices he makes through the exercise of his free will.

The metaphysical principle of sufficient reason not violated. The choice itself has a sufficient reason in that it is determined by the free will. The various components of the free will in its exercise never violate this principle either. The reason the will is moved to choose and to choose freely is God who sustains its nature and moves it to choose without necessitation by presenting it with intellectually apprehended finite goods.7

But it is precisely because there is no efficacious secondary cause whatever that moves the intellect to prefer one finite good to another that there is no sufficient reason forcing the will to choose one way or another. Yes, the intellect apprehends reasons both pro and con with respect to the finite goods that are considered as means. But none of these are necessitating reasons, because the intellect also sees the reasons that support the alternative choice. There is no adequate and sufficient reason forcing the will to embrace one alternative choice over another, even though the conscience declares which choice is morally good, and thus, which alternative ought to be chosen.

Indeed, it is precisely the absence of any sufficient reason forcing the will’s specific choice that guarantees that the human will’s genuine freedom in seeking the good is possible.

Conclusion

Finally, some may foolishly argue that -- lacking any sufficient reason as to why a given option is chosen -- free choice is merely a matter of pure chance! But, this is absurd, since the hallmark of chance is that it lacks all intentionality. To the contrary, free choice is fully intentional in that it is based on clearly understood motivations provided by the various reasons the intellect considers as it ponders various possible courses of action.

To the objection that “you cannot get being from non-being, that is, a new specification of the will from a will previously not so specified,” the answer lies in the fact that the will gets its specification from the intellect. Various alternative actions are already considered by the intellect. In choosing one as opposed to the others, the will does not get its specification from non-being, but rather from the being of an alternative already understood. It is, then, an already existing “specification,” which becomes the chosen course of action.

To the objection that “some final inclination must come-to-be which was not there before,” the same answer is given. The final inclination is simply one of the alternative actions already known by the intellect. God moves the will to exercise its own proper act of choosing, and since it is necessitated by no finite alternative, it is free to make one of those already existing “inclinations” its “final” choice.

The free will is moved to choose, but it is not moved in a violent way or contrary to its own inclination.8

The choice made has a sufficient reason, namely, the exercise of the free will that is moved to make a choice by God giving it the natural inclination to desire the good found in the alternatives.9 But to say that the sufficient reason for the choice made lies in the exercise of the free will is not the same as saying that there must be a sufficient reason why one alternative is chosen over another.

Rather than operating in violation of the metaphysical principle of sufficient reason, human free choice is possible precisely because there is no sufficient and efficacious reason why, considered in itself, it must choose one finite good over another.

Three truths must be kept in mind here:

(1) God’s transcendent efficient causality encompasses all created being, including the least movement of the human will – and this it does move “sufficiently and efficaciously.”10 Thus, any conception of free will that asserts that the will makes its decisions with complete existential autonomy violates not only sufficient reason, since it fails to admit that God moves the will, but also the absolute creative omnipotence of God over each and every finite thing.

(2) The human will is inherently free in its choice of finite goods because no finite good is its natural end. The universal good, God, alone is.

(3) The will moves itself from potency to act in choosing finite goods, but only insofar as God moves it as a secondary cause whose nature is free with respect to choosing finite goods.11

Thus, God’s transcendent efficient causality in no way violates the will’s exercise of its free choice.

As philosopher Peter Pagan explains:

“Insofar as the created act of the will is without defect, it can have two efficient causes, provided that the causes are not of the same order. The Creator operates, and the spiritual creature cooperates, there being no real conflict. … The spiritual creature's real contribution does not logically preclude the antecedent operation of God's transcendent efficient causality. (See St. Thomas, S.Th., I, q. 83, a. 1, ad. 3.) If we were dealing only with efficient causes of the same order of being (univocal), however, there would be a real philosophical problem.”12

A morally good choice entails God causing the motion of the will and the will simply conforming to that motion with a perfectly natural concurrence based on its own natural inclination toward the perfective good.

Dr. Pagan continues, “Moreover, insofar as the spiritual creature's act includes some moral imperfection or privation of due order, the defective act qua defective does not demand an efficient cause, but only a deficient cause, which is not God. Also see St. Thomas, S.Th., I, q. 49, a. 1, corp. et ad 3.”13

As for the defective choice, the motion of the will is "deflected" from a proper means by reason of some defect within itself, for example, an inordinate love of carnal pleasure which blinds the intellect to some extent. Thus, the motion of the secondary cause (the free will) is truly its own, even though it is moved to act by God. But, the defect flows from its own defective affection -- so that the means chosen is not properly ordered to man's last end.

These free choices are perfectly natural, since God, as the sole cause of natural agents’ natures, is the sole agent able to enable the free will to be a genuine cause of its own contingent, not necessary, effects.14 God sustains the reduction from potency to act in the will whereby it chooses between the alternatives proposed by the intellect. But he does so in a manner perfectly natural to the will as a true secondary cause of contingent, not necessary effects. Thereby, the human free will exercises its own proper act of choosing – with no violation of the principle of sufficient reason entailed at all.

The foregoing is merely a modest attempt to express some elements of the Thomistic explanation of how free will comports with the principle of sufficient reason, following the penetrating and exhaustive exposition of such eminent contemporary Thomists as Pere Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.15

Notes:

  1. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 82, a. 2, ad. 2.
  2. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 83, a. 1, ad. 3.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Summa Contra Gentiles, III, ch. 69.
  5. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 82, a. 2, ad. 2.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 83, a. 1, ad. 3.
  8. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 105, a. 4.
  9. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 105, a. 4, ad. 1.
  10. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 105, a. 4, c.
  11. See Steven Long, “Causal Entailment, Sufficient Reason, and Freedom” in The Human Person and a Culture of Freedom, ed. Peter A. Pagan-Aguiar and Terese Auer, (American Maritain Association, 2009), 30-44.
  12. Private correspondence from philosopher Peter Pagan (12/28/2018). I am indebted to Dr. Pagan for his very helpful suggestions in the writing of this paper. Of course, the views expressed are my own.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 105, a. 4.
  15. See Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, God: His Existence and His Nature, Volume II (B. Herder Book Co., 1936), 268-365, 465-562.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Rob Abney

    Sam Harris doesn't seem to agree with you,

    As sickening as I find their behavior (referring to two criminals), I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Even if you believe that every human being harbors an immortal soul, the problem of responsibility remains: I cannot take credit for the fact that I do not have the soul of a psychopath.

    https://samharris.org/the-illusion-of-free-will/

  • OMG

    The logic of the argument has perhaps struck some of us dumb. Or its consequences have stunned and rendered us numb...

  • Vince

    The arguments above are just hand-waving. If we take a will with two choices before it (call them A and B) which decides A, either:

    1) God moves the will specifically to decide A.
    2) God moves the will to make a choice, but the specific choice is left indeterminate.

    If 1) the will is "free" in name only, having its choice predetermined by something outside of itself.

    If 2) Divine causality is indeterminate with respect to the effect, and there is no sufficient reason why A was chosen in preference to B. For this not to be a violation of the PSR (at least in the form which says there is a sufficient reason for this thing existing rather than that or not at all), the choice of A must not be a different thing ontologically than the choice of B - a difficult thing to countenance if A is good and B is evil.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      If you read the article near the beginning, I think you will find that I share your concern about not violating the principle of sufficient reason and that I pose objections to free will that are very powerful on that same basis.

      But, following your division, number (2), divine causality is not indeterminate with respect to the effect, but wills that necessary effects take place necessarily and contingent effects take place contingently. As the article explains, the human will is radically contingent with respect to finite goods, and so, in moving the will as a secondary cause to act according to its own nature, God moves the will to freely choose its object.

      None of this is indeterminate with respect to or escapes the sight of God's causality, since, being in his Eternal Now, God sees our free acts as flowing freely from our free nature, but still causally sustains the will in its free act of choosing. Its free choice is the sufficient reason why good or evil is chosen, precisely because every choice represents some good that moves the will as an appetible object. But, since the will is necessitated by no finite good, it is free with respect to which object it chooses.

      God moves the will to choose and sustains its nature in the act of choosing, but its nature is contingent with respect to finite goods -- and therein lies its freedom of action.

      All of this is rather complex, and sufficient reasons for many diverse aspects entailed must be pointed out. That is why the article is a bit lengthy.

  • michael

    Sigh.... Same old same old fallacy in this article. As one German calvinist writer pointed out: The argument in this article is mere "juggling with words".

    I was raised Catholic and quit at age 24 in 2016 and I've never been happier. I was the guy who had to keep quiet and let others talk because I knew so much already in pre-confirmation class. For like 9 years prior to leaving I used to argue online against protestantism and atheism every day. There is, quite frankly, nothing rational or internally consistent about any aspect of Catholicism AT ALL. You don't see any atheists advocating for legalized stealing or rape because we all know those things are immoral independently of a divine lawgiver through logic. The Catholic Church IS, a "crusher of reason" rather than a source of morality, for reasons I will now give, not that this is any where near a complete list of reasons:

    Why spread atheism? A great question. Here's why: Please Google Sam Harris' free online article "An atheist manifesto', " list reasons atheists are angry by Greta Cristina", evil bible.com, http://www.answering-christ... , "exchristian.net final frontier" (Read the comments under that one too) and "exchristian.net matthew 5:28”

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Well, now. That was a well-reasoned, point by point, detailed refutation of the logical fallacies of an article -- if ever I saw one! ;-)

      • michael

        Small quantity doesn't mean small quality. In fact, this is so basic, no more detail is needed. Basic logic dictates that everything that happens happens because it was inevitable under the fundamental laws of reality, and anything that does not happen does not happen because it was impossible. there is no middle ground, and therefore free will is logically contradictory.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Small quantity? You gave NO quantity at all.

          >"Basic logic dictates that everything that happens happens because it was inevitable under the fundamental laws of reality,"

          First, that is not a "logical" dictate, but a metaphysical assertion.

          Second, the only thing "inevitable" about what happens is the consequential inevitability that IF something happens, it happens. That tells you nothing about whether what happens happens necessarily or contingently, deterministically or freely.

          Third, "fundamental laws of reality." What are they and where did you get them from? And please don't just say "common sense."

          Fourth, your entire claim cited above in this comment is itself a broad metaphysical assertion offered with absolutely no proof.

          Fifth, your claim is simply an assertion of a deterministic metaphysics, which you apparently assume to be true. Can you explain all the first principles and logical inferences which lead you to that assertion? Free will is contradictory to determinism IF you assume determinism, but not if you don't.

          So, you are not really showing that it is logically contradictory, but rather contradictory to your deterministic metaphysical worldview.

          That sounds a lot like begging the question to me.

          • michael

            The Fundemental Laws of Reality, since they are fundamental, exist necessarily, just as it is necessarily impossible for 2+2 to be 5 or for a square circle to exist. This is THE foundation of the idea of logic, and the ability to use logic, and to make inferences and predictions, presuppose belief in The Fundamental Laws of Reality. To dismiss this is to assert that everything that's every happened since the beginning of time is just "Brute Fact". Free Will would contradict this. So in reality, all events since the dawn of time are a big domino effect moving at the hands of Fate. Everything that's happened since then is due to prior causes, rather than being free.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't quite know where to start to untangle what you say here.

            For one thing, logic rests on fundamental laws of reality, but those laws are actually known as metaphysical first principles, such as non-contradiction. The principle of non-contradiction states that being cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. We express this in logic by saying that the same predicate cannot be affirmed and denied of the same subject at the same time.

            When you speak of "inferences and predictions," it sounds suspiciously to me as if you are thinking of rules of reality as the foundation for a natural science which deals with the only real world, the physical world. I say this since metaphysics need not always be making predictions, for example, with respect to the existence and nature of God. God, who, incidentally is perfectly free without ever undergoing change -- something your description of "events happening since the dawn of time" taking place like "a big domino effect moving the hands of Fate" sounds suspiciously like you are ignoring.

            You are thinking of a purely physical world in which all physical laws determine the rest of history. Am I correct? If so, you have considered only part of reality, since God does exist and is not bound by your physical laws. In fact, he created them and can suspend them at will!

            Moreover, it really does not sound like you are responding to my analysis of how free will is possible in the article, but rather, simply assuming that physical determinism precludes its possibility. Note that my analysis includes the existence of God who can move the free will to move itself to choose between contingent alternative finite goods which do not force its choice.

          • michael

            I said nothing about only matter existing. Even if the supernatural does exist, everything is determined by the fundamental nature of reality, which is unchangeable and not free. The impossibility of a spherical cube or a married bachelor is not free, it does not choose or plan to exist. It simply MUST exist. In the same way, even if a deity exists, his actions would be determined by his own necessary nature, and thus not free. You said "Note that my analysis includes the existence of God who can move the free will to move itself to choose between contingent alternative finite goods which do not force its choice.". If the outcome of a choice were not forced, it would be Brute Fact, just popping out of nowhere. That'd involve a break the chain of causation and is therefore logically impossible. Even if a timeless, eternal god or the supernatural exists, EVERYTHING that happens is a chain reaction stemming from the beginning, and EVERYTHING is inevitable. Otherwise you believe in magic. Anything that does not happen, does not happen because it is impossible. Anything that does happen happens because it is either A: part of The Fundemental Rules of reality or B: necessarily and inevitably caused by The Fundamental Rules of Reality. That is the founding principle of common sense.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I guess you force me to refer you to an earlier article on this site where I proved how God could be both eternally unchangeable and yet perfectly free. It also shows that God and his free will are not brute facts.
            https://strangenotions.com/god-eternity-free-will-and-the-world/

            You may not understand that article, but by proving that God can be both eternal and free, your overall logic against free will is shattered.

            The more interesting case is that of human free will which the instant article addresses. If you read it carefully, it shows how God moves the will to move itself so as to choose between finite goods. It does not violate the need for a mover for every motion, but it still leaves room for genuine freedom. The outcome of the choice is not a brute fact since it is the will that determines the choice, and the will has reasons for its choice -- although they do not determine the will because the will is not necessitated by finite goods.

            If you actually read my article, you will see that I pose arguments against free will just as strong as the one you pose here. Such arguments are refuted by the remainder of the article. Try actually reading it.

          • michael

            The idea that God is "is determined by his own nature to act freely" is nothing new to me at all. And it's silly. Either something inevitably occurs or it's impossible. There is no middle ground. And yes, Id id read the article. It's stuff I've already seen. It begs the question that there is a middle ground between inevitable and impossible, where something can "be caused to to have freedom" and choose of it's own accord, even though that freedom is the definition of Brute Fact. ALL events in time are the result of prior causes, and therefore not free. There is no middle ground. When you wind up a wind-up toy, it is acting due to prior causes, it is not free, no matter what semantic mumbo jumbo you apply to it. Same with a soul, assuming a soul exists.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Either something inevitably occurs or it's impossible. There is no middle ground."

            This is an assertion you don't even pretend to prove. You must demonstrate its terms are mutually exclusive. You do not.

            >"... that freedom is the definition of Brute Fact. "

            Again, an unproven assertion. A Brute Fact is something for which there is no reason. In the case of God, his own willing of some good less than his own infinite goodness is its own reason for his choice, not to mention the goodness entailed in the object of his will. There IS a reason. You just don't accept that God himself can be his own reason for being and willing. If he had no reason for being, that would be different. But the Infinite Being alone can be his own reason for being and willing because, in his case alone, his essence is identical to his existence, and hence, he is his own reason for being.

            In humans, my article gives several reasons for our choices, and hence, they are not Brute Facts. For example, the goodness of the object chosen is one reason for the choice. Again, God's moving the will to choose some finite good is another reason for the choosing, and hence, not a Brute Fact.

            Brute Facts exclude all sufficient reasons. Read the article.

            >"ALL events in time are the result of prior causes, and therefore not free."

            First, God is not in time, and thus, this claim would not apply to him. Second, you are right that all reductions from potency to act require an extrinsic mover, but we do not deny that the will is moved. What we deny is that it is moved necessarily and not contingently. Since the motion of the will regarding finite goods is contingent, that is, it is not forced to any particular one, and since God moves the will to choose some good according to its contingent (free) nature, it is "forced" to act according to its free nature and thus move itself to some finite good. It does not move all by itself, but is moved to move by God.

            I do not deny that this is complex, but it is not as simple and mechanistic as your "wind up toy" example falsely assumes.

          • michael

            These aren't unproven. THey're immediately obvious to anyone with a brain. I don't know how to explain it any other words. To say they are unproven is to claim that it's unproven you cannot divide by zero, or that it's unproven that a married bachelor or a spherical cube cannot exist. These beliefs. are the CORE PRINCIPE AND FOUNDATION OF LOGIC ITSELF. To dismiss them is to say ANYTHING can just magically happen. Do I have to prove there are no rainbow-colored winged hippopotamuses on the far side of the moon? And yes, reasons for choices FORCIBLY CAUSE the outcome of choices, otherwise they would not be reasons.

            "God, his own willing of some good less than his own infinite goodness is its own reason for his choice, not to mention the goodness entailed in the object of his will. There IS a reason.". Exactly. A reason that means the choice and its outcome are INEVITABLE AND UNAVOIDABLE. "it is "forced" to act according to its free nature and thus move itself to some finite good.". These are mutually exclusive. It would mean there is no domino effect leading to the inevitable outcome of the created person's choice. "I do not deny that this is complex, but it is not as simple and mechanistic as your "wind up toy" example falsely assumes.". It is not complex or rocket science. My analogy is basic common sense. To deny that by saying "it's more complex than that" is begging the question and goes against extremely basic logic.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            When you say, "Either something inevitably occurs or it's impossible. There is no middle ground.", you ARE assuming what you say without proof. For, it is at least logically possible that free will exists, which would be neither inevitable nor impossible. That is, your statement is a classic case of begging the question.

            >"A reason that means the choice and its outcome are INEVITABLE AND UNAVOIDABLE. "it is "forced" to act according to its free nature and thus move itself to some finite good."

            Here you make the gross error of assuming that having a reason for acting necessarily forces the act. Nonsense. I have good reason to eat a sundae, since it tastes good. But I can still freely choose an alternate good, namely to diet. OR, I can refuse to diet and eat the sundae.

            That is the whole point. Freedom does not exclude reasons for acting. It just means the will is not necessitated to any particular finite good. Since only the ultimate good (God) would necessitate it, it is free to choose between lesser goods.

            You have so locked in yourself to assuming determinism that you cannot even conceive of something between inevitability and impossibility, namely, a free choice made with good, but not necessitating, reasons.

            >"And yes, reasons for choices FORCIBLY CAUSE the outcome of choices, otherwise they would not be reasons."

            Here again, you reveal the lack of sophistication in your analysis. We frequently have reasons, such as I point out above, that are true reasons why we acted as we did -- but we COULD have acted on other reasons as well, since none of them forced the choice. I can choose to rob a bank for the money, OR, I can choose not to rob it for fear of getting sent to prison. BOTH are motivating reasons. NEITHER are necessitating reasons.

            I hope the rest of your rants against God and Christianity are better thought out than your "arguments" in favor of determinism.

          • michael

            If you diet, it is because you have a stronger reason to diet than the ice cream. So the choice is forced from the outside.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You know you are pretty terrible about begging the question -- assuming what you are trying to prove.

            Since you assume that the choice is forced from the outside (your conclusion), you then assume that I diet because I have a stronger reason to do so.

            This is not a valid way to reason.

            In fact, human experience is that we find ourselves trying to make a decision and listing reasons both pro and con on both sides, knowing full well that we could go either way if we want to.

            After we finally decide, we will then likely amass even more reasons why the choice we made was the "right" one.

            The fact is that finite goods do not necessitate the will. That is why, while I know I should diet and can easily choose to do so when I am not hungry -- the moment I get really hungry, the idea of dieting becomes something I can do tomorrow!

            I know that sounds like an argument against freedom, but who said virtue was easy? You can always find a reason for our choices, but that tells you nothing about whether they were freely made. Recall also, that we don't need to always make free choices. Oftentimes our choices are NOT free, because of passion, lack of reflection, and so forth.

            But a single truly free choice in a lifetime is sufficient to prove the existence of the power of free will.

            You need to improve your arguments.

          • michael

            I can give you a case that Jesus did not rise from the dead: https://ffrf.org/legacy/books/lfif/?t=stone

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You forget. I do not pretend to be a theologian or scripture scholar. I am a philosopher by trade. So, my proper business is whether God exists .... or, to test the coherence of the divine attributes or even claims made about God.

            I know sites that both debunk the Bible and that debunk the debunkers. The site you cite itself admits that its pointing out alleged scriptural inconsistencies does not disprove the Resurrection, but merely undermine the credibility of the Bible's authors.

            So, once again, you assume more than is proven, even if you assume the site is correct -- which I do not.

            Did you ever take a good course in logic?

          • michael

            If this link doesn't convince you there was no resurrection, not even Jesus' dead body being discovered by archaeologists would.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You really must improve the validity of your logic.

            Once again, as I stated above, your conclusion that the article you cite should convince me that there was no resurrection exceeds even the conclusion the author of the article himself makes!

            "Of course, none of these contradictions prove that the resurrection did not happen, but they do throw considerable doubt on the reliability of the supposed witnesses." (italics mine)(cited from YOUR article.)

            I have read too many of these claims and counter claims about Scripture interpretation to be overwhelmed by your article. But the fact that your conclusion exceeds that of the article's author somewhat amazes me.

            You must always recall that you are reading an English translation of the original text for one thing. There is a reason scholars like to check the original texts.

            But, as a rule, I do not devote time to scriptural interpretation. I leave most of that to my Protestant friends, many of whom are experts in the field.

            My interest is in my own field of education, namely, philosophy. And within my own field, I find the evidence for God so strong that even if you convinced me that Christianity was not true, I would still be forced by pure reason to accept the existence of God as understood by classical theism.

            But you have certainly not convinced me that Christianity is not true. You may forget that we have two thousand years of miracles other than the Resurrection to underline the truth of the Catholic Faith. And I don't intend to debate them all with you on this thread. I am plenty busy with philosophy.

          • michael

            Then prove in a few short sentences that everything must have come from a conscious, animate, living being. don't use Thomas Aquinas' five ways, they only describe an uncaused cause, not a living thing. And by "two thousand years of miracles" I assume you mean things that cannot be photographed or tested today, aside from some "miraculous heart tissue of Jesus" in a church in Italy, that is brown, appears to have see the corruption of the grave (Decomposition) contrary to Acts 1, and, when photographed form the side, bluntly, (know this is gross, but it is true nonetheless) looks like a poo emoji. And in South America people have successfully made a very precise duplicate of The Shroud of Turin.

          • Mark

            I'm guessing Dr. B would have a difficult time proving something that is not God is God, but it would equally difficult for him in a few short sentences to prove everything must have come from nothing. Incoherence is not his forte.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >" ... don't use Thomas Aquinas' five ways, they only describe an uncaused cause, not a living thing "

            I did not realize that you had comedic talent.

            Some very, very basic metaphysics for you: Non-being does not beget being. If a cause begets something living, it too must be alive, since nothing can give what it does not have.

            This is so basic I cannot believe you said what you said.

            I think I indicated earlier that I am not in the business of debating miracles -- at least I do not claim they are within my field of expertise. But I reserve the right to draw my own conclusions.

          • michael

            The Catholic Church Ex Cathedra defined that all the faithful are obligated to believe God made everything out of nothing.

          • Mark

            I'm not obligated to believe nothing exists.

          • michael

            "Either something inevitably occurs or it's impossible. There is no middle ground." is not an assumption but the core principal of logic, no more requiring of proof or explanation than 2+2=4. To dismiss it is to claim that almost anything could happen. There could be such things as fairies and gnomes or rainbow hippos with wings popping in and out of existence on the far side of the moon. But we know from logic alone that these things are impossible.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The assumption that there is no middle ground means that between what is inevitable and what is impossible there is no logically and/or metaphysically possible third alternative.

            But that is precisely what is claimed by free will advocates, namely, that it is possible that something could occur, even though it need not.

            You are still ruling out free will simply because you assume it is impossible, not because you have proven it is impossible.

            You are still committing the logical fallacy of begging the question and, worse yet, you fail to see that you are -- even when it is pointed out to you!

            Edit: 2 + 2 = 4 is inherent in the nature of numbers.
            Fairies are highly unlikely and we lack any evidence of their existence, which is why we say they are "impossible." But that is not a metaphysical certitude like the number case.

            You are confusing the highly unlikely (in your opinion) with the metaphysically self-contradictory. Clearly, free will advocates do not even share your low estimate of the likelihood of free will!

    • Mark

      You don't see any atheists advocating for legalized stealing or rape because we all know those things are immoral independently of a divine lawgiver through logic.

      If you're going to embrace Fabian Socialism roots you need to honestly look closer if you are only seeing a sheep in the reflection in the mirror. Acknowledge the Enlightenment history of atheist anti-religiosity:

      French revolution 1789: The National assembly confiscates all French Church property and began a massive sale of Church lands including Universities and hospitals. 1790 the Assembly forced all the monasteries and convents to close and required dissolution of religious orders. Priests were forced to swear an oath to the constitution (jurist priests) which made them employees of the state. 1792 aka the September Massacre to gain public funds the Legislative Assembly confiscated chalices, metal plate, ciboria, and candlesticks from churches. 25k were guillotined included 200 Parisian priests. Carmelite nuns wore their habits to their execution, but afterward were striped naked, defiled, paraded around the streets of Paris and thrown into a common grave. 1795 edict prohibiting all manifestations of religion. Clerics, monks, or nun could not wear robes and habits and religious processions and worship were outlawed. No statues, no ringing of church bells, no crucifixes. Burning bonfires of crucifixes akin to Nazi burning of books.

      Bolshevik revolution 1917: According to Russian historian/politician Alexander Yakovlev there was forced closer and seizure of 579 monasteries and convents. The number of Russians murdered for their religious beliefs is north of 20 million including about 200k clergy, monks, and nuns.

      Why spread Atheism? A great question. That's how, and it's not anywhere near a complete list.

      "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." - Denis Diderot

      "We want to sweep away everything that claims to be supernatural and superhuman...For that reason, we have once and for all declared war on religion and religious ideas and care little about whether we are called atheists or anything else" - Friedrich Engels

      Maybe self declared sons of Enlightenment like Sam Harris should "Wake Up" to the Enlightenment ideals of color-coding race, anti-religiousity, and ahistoricism.

      • michael

        You do realize The Vatican promoted the belief that jews kidnap Christian children and bake their blood inside passover bread all the way to 1914? Did you know machete-wielding priests were among the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide? Ever heard of the Wars of religion? The Inquisition? Or Islam?

        • Mark

          I might need a tinfoil hat for any more of your history lessons. You're completely out of your league here and possibly out of your mind.

      • michael

        Denis Diderot must not have been aware that The Bible calls Jesus "King of Kings".

        • Mark

          Diderot is a celebrated philosopher, ex-Christian atheist, and writer of French Enlightenment. I'm sure he read the Bible in its entirety.

      • michael

        Nazi antisemitism was inherited from Medieval Christianity. The Nazis praised Christianity and catholicism often.

        • Mark

          Wrong. Antisemitism of the medieval Church in Rhineland is a myth. Jews and Catholics lived in harmony for over 500 years in Rhineland before Emich of Lesingen who was left in charge temporarily during the First Crusade led an attack on Jews in 1096. Emich marched on Cologne, Speyer, Mainz, and Worms where the Catholic bishops personally protected the local Jews. Gottschalk and Volkmar attacked Jews as well in Rhineland. These attacks were all harshly condemned by the pope. Don't take my word for it, take a Jewish chronicler, Ephriam of Bonn, who quoted St. Bernard of Clairvaux who rode into the Rhine Valley and ordered the end of the killings: "'It is fitting that you go forth against Muslims. However, anyone who attacks a Jew and tries to kill him is as though he attack Jesus himself'...Everyone esteemed this priest as one of their saints...Were it not for the mercies of our Creator Who sent the aforesaid abbot.. there would not have been a remnant or survivor among the Jews" Jews were eventually expelled from Rhineland in the 1400's, but bear in mind Jews were expelled from England, France and Spain, and it was done as the work of secular authorities, not the Church. Hitler's eugenics ideals had nothing to do with the Medieval Church. Hitler was national socialist, he despised religion and knew which battles he could not win.

          "The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas...In calling for a "real new order" based on "liberty, justice, and love".. the pope put himself squarely against Hitlerism." New York Times, Dec 26th 1942.

      • michael

        "Countries like Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom are among the least religious societies on Earth. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Report (2005) they are also the healthiest, as indicated by measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate and infant mortality. Conversely, the 50 nations now ranked lowest in terms of human development are unwaveringly religious." - Sam Harris.

        • Mark

          If you can't see the Philosophy 101 logical fallacy in this statement you're probably beyond substantive conversation.

          • michael

            But if you can't correlate well being to irreligion, you cannot correlate it to religion either, and neither can you correlate violence to atheism, which is exactly what you've done with The French Revolution.

          • Mark

            I'm not the one making fallacious statements. I'm merely asserting historical truths contrary to your assertions about "any atheist". Correlate well being to multivitamin ingestion or electric cars or pornographic downloading or Olympic medals. It's the same basic lack of logic and reasoning skills. Harris does this all the time which is why he should stick with neuroscience and not ethics, morality, religion, or philosophy. Generally formal philosophers, atheist and theist agree.

      • michael

        I have never heard of "Fabian Socialism". And your answer clearly shows you haven't read Sam Harris' manifesto.

        • Mark

          I've read his book. It's a philosophical face plant.
          Fabianism is probably the most well known and one of the oldest evolutionary socialist reform society born out of intellectual rationalism whose aim is socialism by attrition. (their coat of arms is a wolf in sheep's clothing). It's less bloody than the violence of revolutionary socialism, but the goals are the same.

          • michael

            What's wrong with relying on raw logic instead of philosophical mumbo jumbo?

          • Mark

            :) I just snort laughed.