I've been neglecting Blake Ostler's book far too long. I'll be returning to it this week along with finishing off McMurrin's book. Part of the delay with Ostler's book was me thinking through some issues with regards to Freedom. Besides reading up on a few of the major works on analytic conceptions of the problem, I found myself constantly returning to Heidegger - especially The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. I don't want to give my solutions to Ostler's Mormon libertarianism away just yet, but I do think Heidegger's conception of being as time is quite helpful, especially in connection to what he terms primordial time. In the meantime I came upon an excellent discussion of freedom in Heidegger by Craig M. Nichols. The paper is "The Authentic Truth of Dasein in Heidegger's 'Being and Time'"
Heidegger’s project of an existential fundamental ontology in Being and Time is novel in so many ways that one can easily lose sight of what Heidegger is actually trying to accomplish. For instance, it is all too seldom recognized that Heidegger is undertaking both a deepening and an overturning of German idealism’s conception of freedom. That a “positive” conception of freedom guides the later Heidegger’s thought becomes ever clearer after the Kehre of c. 1930. But what has not always been so clear to Heidegger’s interpreters is the fact that the early Heidegger is pursuing this concept with equal intensity. The point of this essay will be to show that Being and Time itself is fundamentally concerned with the problem of freedom— more so perhaps than with the problems of being or time! One might even say that primordial freedom is the meaning of the unifying “and” of Being and Time, and hence more fundamental than either of the two concepts considered alone. Furthermore, an analysis of Heidegger’s conception of freedom in Being and Time will make it easier to understand the meaning behind the later Heidegger’s ubiquitous insistence that the essence of truth is freedom. This essay will therefore discuss Heidegger’s “positive” conception of freedom in Being and Time—i.e., a freedom which finds its meaningfulness only in the “light” of its historical constraints. Such an understanding of freedom—freedom with a content, a “toward which”—stands as an alternative to the common, “ordinary” understanding of what may be called “negative” freedom, an uncritically conceived notion of freedom understood as a mere lack of restraint, or simply a freedom from.
The following review of Heidegger's The Essence of Human Freedom is of interest as well. I confess I've not read this translation of his lectures. But I suspect that his engagement with Kant over freedom isn't that far removed from the approach he takes with Leibniz. I find Kant very difficult to delve into once one gets past the straightforward stuff you can pick up in any philosophical overview of Kant. i.e. past the generalities and enter into close readings of his texts. So I tend to focus in on Leibniz since I rather like Leibniz' approach. (Further I think the distance between Leibniz and Spinoza is far less than some people do)
I read through the two articles you cite, but I fail to see how they disagree with Blake's view of freedom (or Whitehead's view, for that matter). At least within Whitehead, freedom is based on the 'open' (or indeterministic) nature of every actual entity, that 'openness' is then filled with other beings/actual entities, and then the actual entity 'chooses' which of those things it recieves to 'bring in' or 'bring to light' in its final concrescence/objectification (Whitehead is quite clear that 'choosing' is a 'cutting off' of possible ways of being that are presented to the actual entity). Whitehead does speak of it in terms of 'final causation,' but I don't think it has the same meaning as Kant's notion.
Quick correction: the initial 'oppenness' of an actual entity is not necessarily the 'indeterminism' as it is often concieved. At bottom, the initial 'openness' is a void, an emptiness and passivity in relation to the other actual entities in its world, including God and the 'subjective aim' he provides. Even after this 'filling' with beings, the actual entity still has some indeterminacy, though in many entities it is probabilistically negligible; in the case of humans, though, with their incredible complexity and intricacy, the indeterminacy/openness to possible ways of being given the past, is much more significant.
Kevin, as I understand it, for Whitehead, "creativity" is equivalent to the khora of Plato's Timaeus. It is the opening. For Heidegger there is the similar notion of the clearing. However, especially in the later Heidegger, this comes by "letting be." Whether that is something that always happens or not might be debatable. (I tend to see a lot of confusion in people reading Heidegger as seeing different modes of being as being different incompatible modes of being - while most, as I see it, are all happening simultaneously)
The point of departure between Heidegger and the incompatibilists is that Heidegger doesn't see causality, which figures so significantly in debates about free will, as being primoridial. Further free will presupposes an account of will. Yet, I think the Heidegger account of freedom (the and of being and time or perhaps primordial time) is quite compatible with foreknowledge. That's because freedom and responsibility simply aren't conceived along the lines of intuition that the incompatibilist contests.
Of course one can, I suspect, read Heidegger in terms of incompatibilism. But I think the real issue is over the meaning of freedom and responsibility and whether the view in the analytic tradition is correct.
I think that using causality as the issue in relation to foreknowledge and free will is a mistake and I don't see Blake supporting that view either. He seems to have been very clear on his Argument B to not include the issue of causality; the problem is the non-compossibility of foreknowledge and free will, not that one exerts or deters causal possibilities. Beyond that, I'm still not certain how your above response demonstrates that Heidegger and Whitehead/Blake, more or less, aren't speaking about the same thing in roughly the same way (though Heidegger's bringing in authenticity certainly does add an element not had in Whitehead, though I don't think it differs very much from Whitehead's view of truth). I'm just not seeing the significant difference.
A few more comments. I've spent some of the morning browsing through a few papers over at "Papers on Agency" and continue to find the compatibilist view implausible. For example, in the "APA Symposium on Freedom Evolves," Al Mele provides the following thought experiment (forgive the long quote):
Consider in this connection the case of a self-made wonderful father. Fred started his career as a father as a mediocre one. His own father had been very good to him, and Fred occasionally felt guilty about how little he did with and for his two children. After a couple of years of being a mediocre parent, Fred freely embarked on a program of self-improvement. Part of his strategy was to spend more time with his kids, to make that more pleasant for himself by identifying and arranging activities that would be mutually enjoyable, and to focus his thinking about his kids, as much as possible, on their good properties and their welfare. For many parents, this sort of thing comes naturally, but for Fred it did not. To make a long story short, over the years, owing significantly to his self-improvement strategy, Fred became a wonderful father whose parental values were such that he could not do otherwise than make certain sacrifices for his children. Just today, he made such a sacrifice. He took out a huge loan to finance his daughter’s first year at an exclusive liberal arts college.
Lots of parents make such sacrifices, and at least some of us who believe that there are free actions for which their agents are morally responsible see typical actions of this kind as among them. Of course, one wants to ask in what sense Fred could not have done otherwise than borrow the money (assuming compatibilism about “could have done otherwise”). In this connection, I introduced the notion of an unsheddable value (1995, pp. 153-56).
Here is the idea. Fred’s parental values may be so deeply entrenched by this time that his uprooting or even significantly attenuating them – in short, his shedding them – during, say, the next several weeks is not a psychologically genuine option. Of course, there might be conditions beyond Fred’s control such that, were they to arise, he would shed these values. He might become hopelessly insane, for example. Or CIA agents might use his parental values as a lever to motivate him to uproot those very values: they might convince him that the CIA will ensure his children’s flourishing if he uproots his parental values and that, otherwise, they will destroy his children’s lives. Under these conditions (I will suppose), Fred would take himself to have a decisive reason for shedding his parental values; and if he thought hard enough, he might find a way to do that. (Once he sheds the values, he might not care at all how his children fare; but that is another matter.) However, if, in fact, conditions such as these do not arise for Fred in the next two weeks, neither will he shed his parental values during that period. Insofar as (1) the conditions that would empower Fred to shed these values are “beyond his control” – that is, insofar as his psychological constitution precludes his voluntarily producing those conditions – and (2) the obtaining of those conditions independently of Fred’s voluntarily producing them is not in the cards, he is apparently stuck with the values.
In Autonomous Agents, I argue for the plausibility of a view that implies the following about Fred: even if, owing primarily to the unsheddability of his parental values, Fred could not have done otherwise at the time than borrow the money, he freely and morally responsibly borrows it.
Mele is here making a fatal assumption: that the strong 'drive' or 'habit' of Fred's sacrificing for his children is equivalent to their being 'unshedable' where his story assumes quite the opposite--Fred was able to shed his previous parental values (which were not very good) and take on new values; he was able to transcend and alter his previous values in order to arrive at new values, which does not demand the "could not do otherwise" of determinism, but seems to be counter to it.
It also makes another assumption that I find puzzling--that as long as Fred follows his new 'habit' of good parental values his actions are not free in the sense of 'being able to do otherwise.' The mere possibility of Fred shedding his values for the CIA or whatever seems to demonstrate that the 'drive' to commit otherwise is there, though it is largely negligible when he is simply following his dominant habit. In fact, I don't see how his being a 'self-made' good father is compatible with determinism at all--it seems to assume an 'ability to do otherwise' that is the hallmark of libertarian views.
Now, in reading the above (and a few others), I am also beginning to wonder if most libertarians are 'getting it wrong.' In my very limited reading, it seems that libertarians are using 'indeterminacy' in the wrong way, which could contribute to the distaste of some on this issue (here I'm thinking particularly of Peter van Inwagen's paper, "Free Will Remains a Mystery," in Philosophical Perspectives 14, Action and Freedom, 2000). In the least, it doesn't seem to me that Whitehead's view falls prey to the same arguments. Anyway, sorry for the long post, but those are my thoughts...
Kevin, I'll be discussing my views in more depth later. (Hopefully this week) But my point isn't that free will (as understood by Blake) and foreknowledge are compatible. Rather the question is the meaning of free will and responsibility. Indeed while some may disagree, I see the free will debate primarily a debate over meanings of those terms. i.e. how are we to take out intuitions regarding the meaning of those terms.
So perhaps that's what is confusing you about my position.
An other way to consider it is to ask when the choice has to be made to be free and who/what has to make it. Yes, enigmatic I know. So you'll have to await the more cogent response. (grin)
Clark: I agree with Kevin, process thought is not "indeterministic" but as Hartshorne argued, both determined in the sense that a causal nexus gives rise to a range of possiblities and creative inasmuch as the nexus is creatively interacted with by an agent to create a free choice. I also have problems with examples or thought experiments used by Mele -- my intuitions differ from his. Moreover, I believe that freedom does not arise from actions done from unconscious habit - but the libertarian need not claim that we are free when we are merely acting out of habit or erecapitulating our past in a thoughtless way. Some people are already dead and we just forgot to bury them. Kosgaard and Kant both argued that it is the activity of reflection and deliberation that is the creative ground of freedom. So when we take as paradigmatic undeliberated habit, we are not really talking about a relevant group of free actions.
Maybe I've been hallucinating for a year or so, but I thought you were a self-proclaimed determinist? Have your views changed or did I just never understand your view from our previous discussions? And yes, you can answer with a, 'Wait till I get to it later this week.' :o)
Kevin, I've never been a causal determinist. However I think the future is fixed.
Clark: It's a good thing that you believe that the future is fixed because what I now do I have no choice about and all of these words were certain before I was born or thought about it. It follows that I am not responsible for these words -- they were fixed and inevitable before I wrote them and indeed these words were already as real as when I wrote them before ever I wrote them. These words were fixed before I thought about them so they are not the result of my reason and indeed are not really mine. There is no forking path in the future -- only the one fixed reality entailed by the fixed past since the future has the same fixity as the past. I can't do anything about the past so if the future is the same how could I do anything about the future? Clark, are you serious? Don't you think and plan for the future but not the past? Don't you sometimes act to bring about some planned future -- but never now act to alter or bring about the past? Isn't there some asymmetry between future and past?
Blake, I have I think fairly persuasive answers for you. I'm just not ready to give them this week. My rejoinder would simply be akin to the example of leaving the emergency brake off a car. A few days later the car rolls into the street. Clearly I'm responsible for them even if the event I was responsible for transpired much later. So simply complaining that something is fixed before the event in question isn't terribly persuasive to me.
I don't see the analogy with your response to Blake. The car rolling into the street is an effect of your action, which you by and large cannot control; but that tells us nothing about the action as you performed it in leaving the emergency brake off. The issue is not the consequences of actions, but the nature of the action itself in all its temporal thickness.
Kevin, the point was that there are quite a few temporal assumptions in terms of responsibility that need to be unpacked. You are assuming that there must be some originary "unmoved mover" like point that is the original act and that it is that act which is judged to determine freedom. Yet the assumption that this origin is an act must itself be defended. That is the critique I see Heidegger offering.
Kevin, let's put it a different way. Given Heidegger's notion of freedom, when is daesin not free?
No, I'm not referring to an "unmoved mover"; I was asking about the act itself, not necessarily the actor. I agree, we must unpack the act of freedom, or the free act, in relation to (1) what we mean by the term, (2) how it is instantiated, (3) how it is possible in that modality, etc. I do not think an "unmoved mover" is possible. Also, let me repeat, I am not here talking about 'responsibility'; though I believe that concept is important for discussions of 'freedom' I ultimately think it a side issue as we must understand freedom before we can unpack responsibility (it seems somewhat backwards to do otherwise, begging the question, though perhaps that's what I've done in most of my thinking of responsibility and freedom).
As for whether the "origin is an act," freedom is an action; it is a way of interacting with and relating to the world from our given perspectives. The very idea of 'uncovering' in Heidegger demands that freedom be some type of action (can we even have 'temporality' without 'action'?). Maybe we're talking past each other (which is quite likely), but I continue to fail to see how this differs from either Blake's, Whitehead's, or my own view; I understand I will probably have to wait till you present a fuller version of your view.
Now, as to your last question--never. Dasein, as a primordial uncovering of the world, is always free, though it may default its freedom to das Man (or any individual Dasein; I think both are fascinating psychologically speaking), but even that is a free act, an 'uncovering' of the world within its own bounds. The same occurs with habit--Dasein defaults its freedom to past modalities of being, simply doing what happens naturally; but this only demonstrates that habit is a deficient mode of freedom, not that it is contrary to freedom.
Clakr: Your response only highlights the problem. The words I now write were not set in motion by some choice I made last week or before I was primordially free. If the words I now write are fixed, then I am not Dasein -- I am das Man. As you point out, Dasein is always free, but that hardly indicates that a Dasein could be fixed in the sense that you appear to state it.
I don't know if it is true that "If the words [you] now write are fixed, then [you] are not Dasein--[you] are das Man." Das Man is a leveled way of comporting oneself towards the world, a 'norm' of activity and understanding the world in which one dwells; I don't know how determinism directly ties into that. I could see how it might lead to solipsism (though I don't think Heidegger does that), but I don't see how the determinability of the past for the future can be tied to das Man (at least not in a directly causal sense).
I am not talking in a causal sense, but merely assuming that the future is fixed for whatever reason. The authenticity and care (sorge) of Dasein is impossible if what we do is not the result of what we are now despite our thrown-ness.
I'm not going to have much time, but Blake, don't you think your discussion of sorge is speaking of it in terms of present-at-handedness? Indeed that seems to be part of the critique Heidegger makes of the whole free will debate. (Which, you must concede, he heaps scorn on)
Sorry Kevin, the unmoved mover was meant just in the sense that I think a lot of free will debates take the form they do because of a dislike of infinite regress. i.e. the claim there must be an originary act. So I brought up Aristotle's rather significant notion as an analogy. My apologies. I unfortunately lack time for writing this week.
I do think the claim that "freedom is an action" is quite problematic, in my view, depending upon what one means by act.
I also tend to reject the notion that we must understand freedom before we can understand responsibility. If responsibility is the way in which manifestations are authentically my own, and if freedom to be significant must be my freedom, then this analysis of mineness is quite significant and can't be simply assumed.
Indeed that's partially why I find the semi-compatibilists so interesting. They accept incompatibilism between our intuitions of freedom and determinism/foreknowledge. Yet they reject the claim regarding responsibility. Yet if we are responsible but not free according to our intuitions, what does that say about our intuitions of freedom? Isn't the logical next step simply to revise what we mean by freedom?
(I recognize Blake rejects semi-compatiblism as well - I don't know your position)
One last comment before I leave...
When Dasein "chooses" to be authentic, this isn't a choice of free will in that there is no subject. It is an occurance that determines Dasein. It is a free choice or response, but clearly we're not talking about an act, in the sense the term is used in analytical philosophy. Simply because we are not dealing with a subject. I think the trap Blake is falling into is forgetting Heidegger's earlier treatment in Being and Time of Descartes. If we no longer have a subject/object divide then considering actions, which presuppose such a divide, is problematic. We can speak of happenings. We can speak of free happenings. But clearly the armament with which the libertarian comes to do battle with compatibilism is no longer applicable here.
I admit to simply being confused at what you say (and it may be my problem and not yours). If I am in a car accident because I failed to stop for a red light (by choosing to be unconscious of the fact that the light was red) isn't there an act that has "results outside of me" for which I am responsible? And what is the "armament" assumed by analytic philosophy to which you refer? How does the analytic discussion assume that an action (say a mental event such as a choice) has a subject/object divide? However, I agree that an analysis of "being up to me" or "being mine" that is essential to the free will discussion. Isn't there an implicit divide "mine/not-mine" in such a discussion? You are also right that semi-compatiblism doesn't cut it as far as I am concerned.
I do think there is an act for which I am responsible, but that begs the question of what makes it responsible and what was free about it. Further it avoids the question of whether the process originated with the act.
That analytic assumptions is that actions are done intentionally by a subject. There are some philosophers who reject that, of course. For instance as I recall Davidson does. But by and large it is is true in general. i.e. the debate about free will assumes an actor who intentionally acts. The meaning of free will thus is made in terms of those metaphysical entities.
This is why I find Heidegger's The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic so intriguing and why I constantly return to it. It analyzes the whole monadology of Leibniz, offering a critique or perhaps more accurately a deconstruction of it. The last chapter primarily is about freedom.
Regarding the mine/not-mine divide, I think that is certainly there. However the question is how that divide is grounded. How Heidegger grounds it seems quite different from how it is grounded by empiricists, by positivists, or by many others. (I'd add that how Whitehead would ground it is very different from Heidegger as well - although I'm anything but qualified to make that argument)
An other vote from a new blog (Web of Belief) on whether determinism matters. Ties in a bit of Heidegger as well. (Note that the tie to determinism is causal determinism)
I'll not post anything more on the view you are espousing till you get a fuller description up here. But on the "whether determinism matters" on the other Blog, I think it does matter; if I learned that I was merely the external output of the computation of the cosmos I wouldn't think life worth living; I would buy into the nihilistic notion that all things are reducible to meaningless 'stuff.' I would have to rework my view of justice, punishment, and human beings in general (particularly as it relates to transcendence) and would thus treat others differently. The 'possibility for difference' is very important in my life and to lose it would be personally devastating. Just my thoughts.
That's an interesting point Kevin. I think when I think about the "would it matter" I mean it less in a personal way than in terms of do I think the common terms could be slightly revised and function in more or less the same fashion? But your approach is quite different.
I still don't think it would matter that much, if only because I think there are plenty of people out there who have revised notions of free will that support justice, punishment and humanity in general. That's why I tend to peg philosophy as "useless" as opposed to say physics, chemistry or even mathematics. Philosophy never seems able to establish anything. What counts is less the positions than the thinking about the positions. (As I see it)
I can't find the quote right off, but Heidegger somewhere said something along the lines of how useless philosophy was but that it is useful for changing ourselves. I wish I could find it as it was a great quote that probably explains fully my position on all this. I truly see the free will debate as simply as debate over definitions.
I have also seen people who have revised free will and kept some notion of justice, punishment, etc., but they all (if I remember correctly) rely on something of a hedonistic view--as long as I am doing what I want that is freedom, justice is served because it 'deters' future actions (though that is doubtful given our current punishment system), punishment is simply a restructuring of the deterministic environment, and humanity, again, is merely hedonistic (as long as it doesn't infringe on the 'rights' of others). Perhaps one more way of saying my objection is that I think it reduces man's dignity as they are little better than beasts. Punishment is used not to benefit the 'criminal' but to deter action; justice is used to benefit the causal factors that are in society, not necessarily society itself; humanity is merely a puppet to the physical and social forces which seems to inherently deny their 'transcendence'; etc. Well, that's at least my impression.
As for the 'uselessness' of philosophy, I tend to agree...except that I'm so interested in it and it has become such a central part of my life. Then again, I have also seen much use in relation to phenomenology in application to things such as psychotherapy and interpersonal relationships; this is particular useful as it 'destroys' what has become the traditional (and, in my mind, psychologically destructive) view of man, nature, and reality. I guess I should also mention the usual statement--there wouldn't be "physics, chemistry or even mathematics" without 'philosophy.'
Perhaps 'philosophy' is viewed as useless because the novelty of the modern movement (following Descartes) has become 'commonplace' and no longer provides much wonder for many; put another way, the then-'new' concepts are now accepted and not much has been done since then (at least in the 'traditional' paradigm), so philosophy is considered 'finished' and further thought is not seen as worthwhile. I don't know, just some musing on a Monday morning.
If we take seriously habits as part of what makes a person who they are, then I think the change in view of punishment does benefit the person. So I think you are still critiquing the views in terms of an assumption of free will. Which, in this case, ends up being problematic.