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The idea of free will tends to run into problems (or at least perceived problems) in both atheistic worldviews (like Objectivism) and in theistic worldviews (like Christianity). The Christian Egoist advocates certain “brands”, or aspects, of both, and therefore I get a lot of questions about free will, or things pertaining to it. Whether you’re dealing with “strict” laws of logic and nature, or with “strict” ideas of God’s sovereignty and providence, many seem to think that such “suffocating” ideas must necessarily “crowd out” any possible notion of human free will. But could this be because such people haven’t thought very carefully about what free will is? I think so.

The most basic question which needs to be asked (and which often goes un-asked) regarding free will is, “free––from what?” That’s what the meat of this series (the next few posts) will ask, and answer. But first, in this post, I want to simply affirm the general idea of free will and give the reader ample reason to do the same. That way, as we examine that which free will is (and isn’t) free from, we won’t lose the already settled conviction that the will is (and must be) free in some way.

Free Will vs. Determinism

Free will, or volition, is most generally the idea that we, as humans, have the ability to choose one thing over another based on our own evaluation of the alternatives. That last part is important. Almost anyone, including the determinist, would affirm that we have the ability to choose. The controversial part is whether or not those choices can be based on our own evaluations of the alternatives involved. In other words, do we choose what we choose as an automatic and direct result of chemical processes (or divine edict) such that our own evaluations play no part in the choice, or do our own evaluations directly determine our choices?

The key to answering that question––and to banishing all flirtations with determinism––is in realizing that evaluation, itself, requires volition (or “free will”). If determinism is true, it is not just our choices which are automatically determined, but also our thoughts––our conceptual activity; because man’s conceptual activity is, itself, volitional. The act of focusing on an object and reasoning about it (whatever it may be) is an act done by choice. Following a line of thought (no matter how large or how small) with logical precision, rather than allowing one’s thoughts to drift by random whim, requires a very concerted effort. Such effort is exerted by choice.

Determined Nonsense

But if there is no choice, if determinism (of any form) is true, then that which you think is a choice is really just the automatic chemical reactions of your body (or mechanical control of God), and thus the thought that you are consciously following any sort of “objective” reason is really just an illusion. You think 2+2=4? “That’s cute”, says the determinist, “but it’s just an illusion.” It’s essentially no different than thinking that 2+frog=Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Sure, one might correspond to reality, but you’d have no way of knowing it. No one would. If your thoughts are directly caused by anything other than your desire and determination to discover the truth, then you have no way of knowing whether anything is true. Therefore, if determinism is true, you’d have no way of knowing it. No one would. The ideas, “determinism is true,” or “we’re just a bunch of chemicals,” or “God is totally sovereign, therefore you have no free will” are all essentially no different than the gurgling of your stomach or a bout of acid reflux. In other words, the idea that determinism is true is an utter contradiction. If determinism is “true,” then there would be no such thing as truth.

Reason & Freedom

But contradictions don’t belong in the minds of people who want to understand reality, and that is supposedly the goal in this whole debate: to understand what is true about the reality of our wills. Therefore, for those committed to reason, the simple conclusion is this: free will is, and must be, true in some sense––because reason requires free will.

And now, the next task is to use our reason to discover more detail about the nature of this free will. What is it, and what is it free from? Likewise, and just as importantly, what isn’t it free from? That will be the goal of the next few posts in this series.

 

 

Thanks to conversations with a fellow follower of the blog (you know who you are! Haha), I was recently inspired to do a little bit of digging to see what the different modern Objectivist intellectuals had to say on this issue. I was surprised to discover such sharp disagreement.

Below, you'll find two of Peikoff's podcasts on this topic and one from Hsieh. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Which do you agree with? Why? Is there another position or major Objectivist out there who has a similar position on this?

Peikoff

"Is it proper for a doctor to perform a sex-change operation for a patient?"

"In a previous podcast you said that it is wrong to go against nature by undergoing a sex-change operation–that the metaphysically given is an absolute. But by this definition gender is not metaphysically given because we can now change it if we so chose."

Hsieh

"Restrooms for the Transgendered in Transition"

"Since race is social construct, not a biological or theological one, some people reject that terminology altogether"

-K. Edward Copeland, on "Public Justice" at The Gospel Coalition

Yeah, try figuring out what that's supposed to mean. For a clue, check out this great (and revealing) article by Walter Hudson on the recent trend of counting "Black" as an ideology, rather than a skin color.

Do you see what is happening? The left has, for years, successfully peddled their ideology under the auspices of being the "non-racist" party, and recently has ramped up to hyper-speed the racial rhetoric to condemn any and all detractors as racists, even if the issue had nothing to do with someone's skin color. The right is (finally!) catching wise to the game and calling them on it, both by pointing out that skin color (i.e. race) has nothing to do with most of these issues, and by presenting many conservative racial minorities, or "people of color," who flat out contradict the left's "narrative".

Non-Racial "Racism"

You'd think this meant the game was up, but oh no! They're just getting started. You see, because race doesn't have anything to do with "biology" or "skin color" anymore–– ...continue reading

This is the first episode of The Christian Egoist Podcast!

It is also the first episode in the series on Arguments for the Existence of God. 

Enjoy!

 

Summary

In this episode, I begin with a brief introduction of myself and my work, and then explain that this series is interacting heavily with Dr. Diana Hsieh's series on the same topic (More on her and her series below). Then, I give an overview of my various audiences, along with unique challenges to each. In sum though, my challenge to everyone in my audience on this (and every other issue) is to be devoted to the truth, whatever the costs! ...continue reading

balance

Balance. It’s probably the fundamental functional morality for most people today. And it’s definitely the go-to answer for most moral conundrums. How do love and truth go together? Justice and mercy? Individualism and community? God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? Personal responsibility and charity? The answer: “Balance.”

A Dubious Assumption

But isn’t there a dubious assumption behind the idea that good and true things need to “balance” each other out? The idea of balance implies an inverse relationship between those things which are being balanced: the degree to which one goes up, the other goes down––and vice versa. The degree to which love goes up, truth goes down; and the degree to which truth goes up, love goes down. Such is the conventional wisdom. The key to morality then, in this case, is to “balance” the two out. But what does this mean? ...continue reading

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In a recent interview with Collin Hansen (above), Dr. John Piper explained why he didn’t gravitate toward the language of color-blindness. At his Church (Bethlehem Baptist -- which is where I currently attend), his successor, Jason Meyer, just preached on the annual emphasis of racial harmony. In light of these events, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to flesh out my views on the issue. ...continue reading

06_japan_hashima_island_ll_130314_wblog

The word “curse” often evokes fairytale imagery or some sort of mystical power which corrupts everything under its influence. But this magical motif in fiction has a very real non-fiction counterpart: irrationality (or sin). In children’s stories, we resort to magical language because it provides a simple and concrete way of depicting the corruption which takes place as a result of irrationality and sin in one’s life –– or in the culture. At least, that would be the rational way of using such mystical language.

The Curse is in You

Unfortunately, there seems to also be an awful lot of people who really do think of sin or evil as some sort of mystical or magical force –– like an invisible spell cast over the population, from which none can escape. After all, that would make it something beyond any one person’s control, and would therefore implicitly expunge everyone from any sort of guilt associated with it. Those who love their own darkness are all too eager to accept the premise that that darkness was pushed upon them, quite apart from their desires. And those who love their own darkness are quite opposed to shining any light upon that darkness (i.e. rationally analyzing it) in order to discover its actual causes and origins. ...continue reading

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My home state, Idaho, is the latest locale for the showdown between the LGBT movement and Christian businesses. This time, it's not a Christian bakery or photographer, but a wedding chapel. You can read the article here.

It's tempting for Christians to think that these instances of Christian businesses being forced to acquiesce to the LGBT agenda is the result of the recent and sweeping legalization of "gay marriage", but that conclusion seems a little too reactionary, and misses some more fundamental issues that Christians should have been aware over the past few decades. Think about it: typically, making something legal does not automatically make it illegal to decline participation in that thing. When marijuana was recently made legal in a few states, it was not simultaneously made illegal for a Washingtonian to decline a joint offered to him by his neighbor, or for a Colorado woman to tell her kids that smoking pot can be bad for them. So why then, is the legalization of "gay marriage" resulting in the criminalization of those who disagree with it? There is obviously something else at play. ...continue reading

file000704919536The following is my response to Wayne Grudem's recent article at TGC, Is Gaining Profit From Someone Else's Work Exploitation

A Great Article, But...

This is a great article, in that it demonstrates the glorious nature of wealth creation (and therefore life-enhancement) in a Capitalist system, while demonstrating some great Biblical principles which support such wealth-creation -- however the article seems to ground the 'goodness' of this employer-employee relationship (and implicitly, of Capitalism in general) in 'love for the other person', which has dangerous implications if carried out consistently (see the Marxist-sympathizing comments in the comment section for examples).

The Only Proper Foundation

While love for others certainly ought to be a strong driving motive of the Christian in all things, it should not (and cannot) be the foundation for the goodness of Capitalism (the system Grudem is implicitly defending above). The only proper foundation (Biblical or otherwise) for Capitalism is: Justice. ...continue reading