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Libertarian Free Will Or Compatibilism


Hornet
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Does Progressive Christianity promote libertarian free will or compatibilism? For those of you who don't know, I'll give a brief explanation of these philosophical ideas.

 

Libertarian free will is the idea that our behavior does not have a sufficient condition or a sufficient cause prior to its occurrence. This does not mean that our behavior is not caused by anything. This view states that there is nothing that would guarantee what choices we would make. If we chose to do X last week, we could have chosen otherwise all things being equal.

 

Compatibilism is the idea that free will and determinism are compatible with each other. Compatibilists believe that free will means to act according to one's desires. If we chose to do X last week, we could have chosen otherwise if our desires were different or if the circumstances were different.

Edited by Hornet
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Greetings Hornet,

 

That to me is a tough question because i don't personally feel that PC promotes either. There are a lot of diverse beliefs among PC's. There is no one spokesperson on the issue. We by definition here do hold to the 8 points and have no defined dogma or doctrine on this and i doubt you will find the specific answer to your question in the 8 points of TCPC. Perhaps others will jump in here and speak for themselves on how they as a progressive view Libertarian Free Will versus Compatibilism as you have defined?

 

Joseph

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Hi Hornet,

 

As Joseph pointed out, progressive Christianity really doesn't have any specific stance on particular doctrines or philosophical ideas outside of the general ideas expressed on this site in the 8 points. PC is more like an umbrella under which many people with different experiences and beliefs can gather for a non-judgmental, inclusive, atmosphere.

 

As for my own personal take on your question, I tend to think free will vs determinism is one of those perennial philosophical issues that by will never be resolved because they are by definition at odds with each other. However, I also tend to think that even if our choices are completely determined by cause/context, free will is still a valid concept, because in my view the self is not to be seen as something existing ethereally at the whim and demand of natural processes and conditioning, but rather the self wholly is those processes. The self is the choice, and the cause, and the effect. In other words, if the self is not ontologically distinct from the world, then it is not something which the world can influence.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Delving deeper into the origins of progressive thought, compatibalism is a core assumption of Process Theology. It inherits this view first from Whitehead and from there to Spinoza and Kant (along with Hume and Descarts). What distinguishes this approach to the world is a tendency to replace "either-or" with "both-and". If behavior is used as an index, it is impossible to know whether person A performed behavior X under one aspect or another or, as Kant would say, with or without conscious deliberation (practical reasoning). Practical reasoning is constrained by the rather slow processing it requires for reliable output, thus we have to depend on some level of automatic behavior just to make it through the day and function efficiently. At the level of abstraction presented in the opening post, the word "compatibal" is replaced by the term "complementary". In this fashion, many apparent dualisms fade away and are seen in their complementary (wholistic) functions in the real world.

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Hornet,

Would you take the time to help us understand the deeper issue behind the question? I agree with the others that this is not expressly discussed in the 8 points. Does holding one of these beliefs rather than the other cause you to follow Jesus differently and reflect in your actions?

 

Janet

 

Hello Janet,

 

I am not sure how holding one of those beliefs would cause a Christian to follow Jesus differently. I was asking the question just out of curiosity.

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I don't know what belief is most popular among PCs, but my own personal belief is that I believe free will and determinism are comptabible with each other in a certain sense. I believe that beliefs cannot be chosen but we can choose how we act on those beliefs. For example, if a child is taught to believe in Santa Claus, they can't control their belief in Santa Claus because it was something they were told to believe in by their parents, but a child can choose whether or not they're going to be good so they can get Christmas presents from Santa Claus. Likewise, you can't choose to just stop believing in Santa Claus. You either stop believing in Santa Claus by accidentally finding your parents hiding the presents in the closet or you naturally grow out of it when you get older, but you still had a choice on how you behaved based on that belief that was put in your head by someone else. I suppose this would be "soft" determinism? And I'm not trying to compare God to Santa Claus or trying to be offensive. I was just using Santa Claus as an example of a belief you didn't have control over.

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