Sunday, November 29, 2015

Calvinism and responsibility, a question for secular compatibilists

Think about the Calvinist doctrine of predestination (or deterministic versions thereof). According to that view, before the foundation of the world, God determines that some people will sin and not repent, and go to hell for their sins. Nevertheless, they are held responsible for their actions even though God is the ultimate cause of whatever they do, they are thought to deserve to go to hell because they did not perform those actions against their will. The immediate cause of their actions is their own will, just as in secular compatibilism, but the ultimate cause is God's eternal decree.

If Calvinism were true, would sinners be responsible for their sins? Does having God as the ultimate cause, as opposed to nature, change your compatibilist position? If so, why?

Chesterton on Determinism and Criminal Punishment

Determinism is not inconsistent with the cruel treatment of criminals. What it is (perhaps) inconsistent with is the generous treatment of criminals; with any appeal to their better feelings or encouragement in their moral struggle. The determinist does not believe in appealing to the will, but he does believe in changing the environment. He must not say to the sinner, “Go and sin no more,” because the sinner cannot help it. But he can put him in boiling oil; for boiling oil is an environment. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Virtue, Happiness, and religious views

If there is no God, if death ends everything, then there are people for whom it is accurate to say that they will be happier if they do what is morally wrong. Two examples would be the main protagonists in two Woody Allen movies, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Match Point. In both of these movies, these protagonists were involved in extramarital affairs. However, to sustain these affairs, they would have to give up the financial benefits their marriages provided. However, their mistresses threatened to expose their affairs to their wives if they were to stop the affairs. So in Crimes the protagonist has his mistress killed, and in Match Point the protagonist actually killed his mistress.  And in both movies we are left with the sense that these protagonists would not have been happier had they not gotten involved in murder.

Thus, on atheism, there is at least a possible disconnect between virtue and happiness. Religious views tend to eliminate this. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hard and Soft Determinism

Soft and hard determinism are the same kind of determinism. The difference is that hard determinists say that since determinism is true, we aren't responsible for our actions. Soft determinists say that even though determinism is true, we are still responsible for our actions. The ultimate causes of our actions are outside our control, but the immediate cause of our action is our desire to perform the action, and that makes us responsible.

Or does it? Shouldn't the ultimate cause be what counts?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Easter service at the Cardinals' stadium, with a couple of live Cardinals

A local megachurch, Christ's Church of the Valley, had their Easter service at University of Phoenix Stadium. It featured a discussion with QBs Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Palmer leads the NFL in QB rating. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

C. S. Lewis passed away today 52 years ago

On Nov. 22. 1963. So did a couple of other famous people.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What is NOT acceptable?

Let me make something clear. There are ways on the atheist side of keeping things civil. Before I ran into new atheists I had many, many, respectful discussions with nonbelievers, and that includes passionate nonbelievers. What I have noticed, and it's something I trace back to Dawkins, is a shift in the nature of the discussion. I remember being surprised by it in a couple of discussion groups I got into before I even opened this blog. There are people on the other side who see the disagreement between belief and unbelief to be not just a debate but a war, and who want to mobilize a people who use ridicule, not in a offhanded way, or a way that is aimed at entertainment, but aimed at providing people with a social, not an epistemic, motivation for abandoning belief based on fear of ridicule. This ridicule is not for the benefit of the believers they are debating. They are written off as hopeless. No, it is used as a tool to demotivate religious belief amongst the low-information believers in the flock, who might be influenced by "naked contempt." Your debating partner is a pawn in a game, the end justifies the means. 

Now, it is quite true that Christians have not always, historically, been willing to leave an open marketplace of ideas and have not always treated nonbelievers fairly. How Christians got to the place where there were willing to use the power of government to uphold their beliefs raises some difficult questions. I think the lessons of history have taught Christians, the hard way, that using force on behalf of one's beliefs is a self-defeating enterprise.

Violence on these matters is only possible when it looks to us as if our cause will benefit from it. Even if I decide that Dawkins is the worst influence on society possible, it would be silly to kill him, that will prove his point on a number of issues and benefit his cause. But even if that were not the case, it would violate the teachings of my religion to kill him. That was an important part of my point, that the failure to engage or not engage in violence is partly a function of what one sees as useful, and this is true of both theists and atheists. One response to the recommendation that the Pope be assassinated in the name of atheism would be that it doesn't work. But that better not be the only reason. 

I am willing to ask anyone who thinks whether one believes or not really matters, what means they are willing to use to get people to get the right answer. The charge I am responding to is the charge that RELIGION leads to violence. The road to violence, however, is open to everyone. I think, if anything, Christianity has some safeguards that limit the damage, which may be why, as Dinesh D'Souza points out, the death tolls are actually lower in the religious cases. For Christians, it is hard to argue that the end justifies the means, that the course of history is really in our hands. My claim is that you get ideological violence when you have the power to commit it, when you think the end justifies the means, and when you really think it will benefit your cause to commit it. 

When I hear that religion is a mind virus, when I hear that everything depends on curing that mind virus, then I have to wonder what means are NOT acceptable in achieving that goal, should the opportunity arise. That is the basis of what I said here.