January 24, 2021

The Council

A modern day council!

Determinism For Beginners

I was asked to take a look at this refutation of determinism. 

He(Jon the Apologist) starts out here by stating definition of “rational” without explaining what determinism is. This leaves him broad brushing multiple different versions of determinism. For example, here’s his first criticism:

The first issue I see with determinism is the idea of a rational being coming from non-rational processes (laws of nature, molecules in motion, causality). How do molecules in motion produce truth, and produce beings who can evaluate evidence, form arguments, and come to true conclusions based on such evidence?

Here determinism is equated with physical determinism. But that isn’t a necessary conclusion from determinism. Dr James Anderson defined it as:

Determinism, defined in the broadest sense, is the view that events are determined by (in the sense of entailed by or necessitated by) prior events or conditions.

So, he hardly undermines determinism in entirety. There do exist forms of determinism that do posit a rational being behind the events in the world. Dr. Anderson brings up Divine determinism:

Divine determinism, broadly defined, is the doctrine that everything is determined by God. So defined, divine determinism isn’t committed to any particular account of how God determines everything, only that he does do so.

God can determine that humans are in positions and situations where they possess knowledge. This is only an issue if what determines our beliefs is unreliable belief producing mechanism. The God of the Bible is perfectly reliable for such a task. A similar issue exist on the libertarian side of the debate. Are beliefs a matter of choice? If not, then how is a libertarian responsible for their beliefs if they can’t control them? If so, then why trust your beliefs if they are produced by arbitrary choices?

He moves on to discuss the moral accountability:

If determinism is true, then we really can’t blame the rapist or the ax murder for their actions; they were forced by the laws of nature and molecules in motion to do that action just like everyone else on the planet. To be consistent the determinist must say that the rapist is completely blameless, because he couldn’t have chosen otherwise, so to assign him blame would be nonsense.

Well, I’m not a physical determinist, but he simply begs the question in assuming libertarian freedom is what makes someone accountable. But why should anyone grant that?  Furthermore, Compatiblists state they think humans aren’t forced to act but act voluntarily free from coersion or manipulation of certain kinds(such as brainwashing). So, he hasn’t really shown that determinist believe people are “forced” to act against their will.

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