Thought Notes on Hasker and Free Will

– Hasker observes that there is next to no empirical evidence for determinism – I’d go a bit farther and argue that empirically and scientifically, determinism is bankrupt, especially since the work done by Ilya Prigione in the field of non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

– Hasker also notes that ‘free will’ really has to be analyzed from the perspective of agent causation – that is, the person, or agent, as a whole has to be taken into consideration when thinking about human action. He also astutely notes that once if one wants to take this position, one has to reject mechanistic explanation and allow for the teleological. I find this refreshing – personally, I couldn’t care less about Frankfurt counterexamples.

– It should be no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I think the ‘free will’ debate is pretty muddled – trying to analyze whether or not any given action is ‘free’ is, to me, a pretty ridiculous idea. My immediate volition may be uncoerced/undetermined in the sense that no one is holding a gun to my head, and that I’m not strictly determined – but a lack of coercion hardly leads to the conclusion that such volition is self-caused, freely. No action occurs in a vacuum – every action I undertake is the product of my having undertaken a previous action, and each action I undertake narrows the choices I can make in the future. Free will conceived as volition simply leads to a self-made prison – my choices growing ever more restricted because of each action I undertake. (Here I’m rather indebted to Maximos the Confessor.)

– I won’t contradict myself and say that any given volition is determined by previous action/volition, which is what it sounds like I’m doing above. But it is, to quote Hart, subordinated and confined:

‘All possible choices are external to the will that chooses; they shape it from without, defining it even before it has chosen. Moreover, these possibilites are exclusive of one another: one makes a possible course of action real by rendering other courses of action impossible. And, as we all know, one can choose foolishly, or maliciously, or with a divided will. Freedom, so understood, would consist in no more than a certain kind of of largely vacuous and limited potentiality dependent upon other limited and limiting potentialities.’ (‘The Doors of the Sea’, p. 70)

– There has to be some kind of telos for the person – an end to which we are directed, a purpose for which we aim – for freedom, a real freedom, to be conceivable. Those intrigued by Maximos will find what I believe to be a substantially correct account of the person and freedom in his writings.


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