December 3, 2020

The Council

A modern day council!

It is sometimes stated that Determinism entails skepticism. That is presented by certain libertarians to undermine one’s confidence in Calvinism. It seems that they have a problem with accidental beliefs. Here was the response of Hays to Spencer Toy on this problem:

Spencer Toy said:
As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

Steve Hays responded:
That’s a popular philosophical blunder. Determinism doesn’t make beliefs ipso facto irrational. If beliefs are determined by an unreliable belief-forming process, that would make them irrational–but if beliefs are determined by a reliable belief-forming process, that would make them rational. Determinism alone is neutral on the rationality of beliefs. Even an eminent freewill theist like Swinburne concedes that fact:

It has been argued that any argument for determinism would be self-defeating. For suppose a scientist discovers an apparently cogent argument for determinism. He will conclude that he has been caused to believe that his argument is cogent. But when we discover of people that they are caused to hold beliefs—e.g. as a result of the way they were educated, or of subjection to drugs—we do not regard them as having a rationally justified belief. To be rational in adopting a belief we have to do so freely, i.e. uncaused, the argument goes. So no one can ever be justified in believing determinism to be true. For one who believes determinism to be true must believe his belief to be caused and so unjustified. (There is a statement of this argument, subsequently retracted, by J. B. S. Haldane in his Possible Worlds, Chatto and Windus, London, 1930, p. 209. For references to other statements of it, including one by Epicurus, and discussion thereof, see K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles, The Self and its Brain, Springer, New York, 1977, pp. 75 ff.) This argument has, I believe, no force at all. The mere fact that our beliefs are caused is no grounds for holding them unjustified. Exactly the reverse. I argued in Chapter 7 [“Beliefs”] that to the extent that we regarded them as uncaused or self-chosen, we could not regard our beliefs as moulded by the facts and so likely to be true. The point is rather that if we see some belief to be caused by a totally irrelevant factor (e.g. a belief that I now am being persecuted being caused by something irrelevant in my upbringing) then we rightly regard it as unjustified. But a belief that determinism is true could be both caused and justified, if caused by relevant factors, e.g. hearing relevant arguments. Richard Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul (revised edition) (OUP, 1997), p. 233, fn. 2.

For other resources:

Dr. Guillaume Bignon:

Can Calvinist determinists trust their cognitive faculties?


The “freethinking” argument


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