A few of you probably have read this paper already, but I thought I'd put a link to it given that I've somehow become sucked into the free will debate - at least in connection to LDS theology. Manuel Vargas has up a preprint of "The Revisionist's Guide to Responsibilty". It is primarily an overview of how many approaches in the general free will topic end up revising the notion of responsibility. It's an excellent paper that puts into focus a lot of trends that one might not notice. As I've mentioned, it is an area of philosophy I don't feel particularly adept in, but I'm slowly coming up to speed on several of the issues. I've been rereading Blake Ostler's book, The Attributes of God, and he really does have a very thorough section on it. Indeed given the perhaps controversial claim of strong limits on foreknowledge he makes, discussions related to free will make up a large portion of the book. And he definitely has done his reading. I've a feeling there is no way I'll get as familiar with the source material as he has done. However it does appear that the primary justification for libertarian accounts of free will is an appeal to folk traditions of responsibility. Within a theological context there are the additional justification from various texts. Yet those texts must be interpreted and libertarians are quite open to strongly revised readings related to foreknowledge. So for some to suggest the same with respect to responsibility seems fair.
Now let me say upfront that I'm not prepared yet to argue with any kind of rigor for why libertarianism is false nor for any particular revision of responsibility. I'll probably slowly work those things out here, as I continue reading through Blake's book. I do admit that I am attracted to J. J. C. Smart's revision of free will. That account primarily focuses on our notions of praise and blame and, as I see it, ends up appealing to a revision of these in terms of "grading" Perhaps I'm quite wrong, not having gone through the details yet, but I can't help but notice a certain parallel between some of Smart's suggestions and the LDS theology of judgment which is fairly unique among religions. I'd mentioned Smart here earlier but confess I still need to go through his approach looking for inconsistencies with LDS belief. (And, as Vargas mentions in his paper on revisionism, on the borders Smart's approach ends up being quite complicated and perhaps problematic) For those interested, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a summary of the issue of praise and blame by Garrath Williams.
Of course the real issue is, given our intuitions of responsibility and how it relates to our intuitions of good and evil, and given that Blake Ostler has at least a consistent reading of LDS theology that retains our intuitions of responsibility, why should one question responsibility? That's an excellent question. My initial response is that I don't know. And that's the truth. I simply don't know of a "big" problem with Ostler's position beyond the fact that it seems to require a lot of revised readings of scripture. I've mentioned a lot of those before. But I must confess that when I read Ostler's book, all the assumptions and arguments regarding free will just don't seem right somehow, even if I can't explain why. Perhaps it is simply my bias from college where I was primarily a physicist with the naturalistic biases that contains. Perhaps there is some part of me that still can't let go of the principle of causality that libertarianism rejects. I don't know.
Having said all that though let me sketch out briefly a few reasons for my approach. These don't purport to be conceived of with any rigor and certainly don't really represent a philosophical critique. They are simply "data points" that bother me.
1. Cosmology: It seems to me that for Mormons to retain their notion of an infinite past, that we have to adopt something akin to Linde's infinite bubble universes. i.e. multiple universes. Yet for that to have meaning we must also have information flow between universes in a significant way. If one can do that though, it seems that time must be reconceived in a rather radical way. I'd go so far as to say that it entails that the future is fixed and that time becomes far more space-like than libertarians will allow. I may touch on this when I get to the part of Blake's book on cosmology.
2. Speed of Light: If physics is correct, then nothing can go faster than the speed of light. But for the open theist who says the future isn't real until it is the present, this poses a huge problem. What is the present in general relativity? Once again Blake touches on this in his book and I'll address my problems there. But even beyond this, the speed of light imposes a limit on God's acting within the universe which seems at odds with his role. How can God be the God of multiple planets if by the time he learns of a given state of affairs it may take a thousand years or more to act? It just boggles the mind how God could function in this way. The obvious comeback of Christ being here and acting as God by being part of the Trinity doesn't really resolve the issue, in my mind, even if it resolves some of the logical problems.
3. Readings: Simply, I don't find a lot of the revised readings by Mormon open theists persuasive. It seems that many authors and particularly scriptural authors believe God has foreknowledge. I don't think one can get around that. At best one has to view these texts as flawed. The typical revised reading is to emphasize the place of "thing" in "know all things, past, present and future." They then claim that future things aren't things yet and thus don't count. But that's simply hard to buy. It is also difficult to see how God would bring about evil acts that are foretold. (Which is the claim of the open theist - that foreknowledge is actually statements of God's power to bring about) While there are sophisticated and often complex ways to resolve these criticisms, it seems the open theist is often in the same place that revisionist philosophers of responsibility are, if not worse.
4. Complexity: Blake makes quite a few appeals to chaos theory in his system of theology. Yet, this seems to undermine God's foreknowledge. Afterall even with perfect knowledge of the present, chaos theory would predict that any uncertainty would undermine ones ability to know very far in the future at all. The standard open theist view by lay members is that God's foreknowledge is like a parent's knowledge of a child. He knows from experience. Yet at first glance chaos theory would undermine this quite strongly, especially for circumstances in which millions of people are involved. There are, of course, ways out of this. Stabilizing factors in crowds. i.e. rapids are chaotic behavior in water, but we frequently can still model many aspects of rivers. But there is that sense that something is wrong.
5. Empiricism: I confess that it just seems to me that few scientists take libertarian free will seriously. Perhaps it is wrong, but that is sure what it seems like. Now that may be a bias in their assumptions from naturalism. But at a certain point from the scientific side of things, free will seems like a position akin to "God of the gaps" in evolution. People seem to fit into nice bell curves in their behaviors. Yet if people were really free, should we be able to model so many aspects of them on a mathematics based upon math from standard probability theory? Doesn't libertarian free will ontologically undermine the assumption of randomness in mathematics?