Class notes for 16 February

Main points

The main task of the day was to chart some of Bramhall’s vocabulary. The point of reading Bramhall was to have a defender of free will on record. I think that his points will become clearer when we read Hobbes and, later, Hume.

Concerning vocabulary, I made a table with three columns:

  1. Phenomenon
  2. Compatible with …
  3. Incompatible with …

There were two reasons for doing that. The first was to show how to determine what an author means by technical terms like “election” and “spontenaity”: look for what they contrast the technical term with. The second reason was to identify how positions on human liberty are identified.

Our labels

We have labels for some of the positions that Hobbes and Bramhall took that they did not employ. Our labels are useful, so I’ll take a moment to explain them.

Those who think that human liberty is compatible with causal determination of our actions are typically called compatibilists. For example, Hobbes is a compatibilist because he holds that our actions can be free even if they are causally determined. By itself, that doesn't mean he thought our actions are causally determined; it just means that they could be free even if they were.

Those who think that human liberty is incompatible with causal determination of our actions are called incompatibilists. Surprise!

Those who think that the universe is causally determined are called determinists.

Those who think it is not are called libertarians.

Hobbes was a determinist and compatibilist. As you might have guessed, most compatibilists go to the trouble of articulating their position because they are also determinists.

Bramhall was an incompatibilist. By itself, that doesn’t show that he was either a determinist or a libertarian. He could have been an incompatibilist and a determinist, in which case he would have denied that human beings have liberty. However, because he believed in the existence of free will, he was also a libertarian.

Adam and the image of God again

I feel compelled to point to Bramhall’s §11, pp. 3-4.

… if either the decree of God or the foreknowledge of God or the influence of the stars or the concatenation of causes or the physical or moral efficacy of objects or the last dictate of the understanding do take away true liberty, then Adam before his fall had no true liberty. For he was subjected to the same decrees, the same prescience, the same constellations, the same causes, the same objects, the same dictates of the understanding. The greatest opposers of our liberty are as earnest maintainers of the liberty of Adam. Therefore none of these supposed impediments take away true liberty.

This argument is an attempt to trap his opponents. They accept Adam’s liberty but deny that we have liberty. I suspect he has in mind those who believe in original sin (Adam and Eve’s eating from the tree of knowledge) and predestination for the rest of us (whether we will go to heaven or hell is set before our birth). Implicitly, they think that genuine sin requires free will.

Hobbes explicitly rejected that last position. See §11, pp. 20-1. So this doesn’t really apply to him.

But let’s leave Hobbes aside for a moment. Remember Robert South and New Man magazine?