Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Open Theism, the Future, and Free Will - Comments on Some Recent Articles Pt. 2

Sorry for not blogging too much lately...I've had papers to grade...:(

Anyway, here's part 2 as promised. This entry is on Dale Tuggy (of Trinities fame) and his paper "Three Roads to Open Theism", which is for the most part a fairly good paper though I disagree (obviously) with some of the things he says about those who believe in a real future. According to Tuggy, there is no future since libertarian free will is incompatible with there being such a thing - it requires a genuinely open future because we need to have power over the future/more than one thing to choose to do/be able to do otherwise. But none of that stuff entails that the future is open at all - this is the mistake of all fatalistic arguments (see my earlier post for one version of such arguments and where it goes wrong). In actuality, the unreality of the future not only isn't a requirement for free will but it actually excludes it. Why? Precisely because it removes choice - one cannot choose when there is no later moment (there being no future after all) to choose at! If there is no future then there is no free choice over future states. Free will requires power to influence things but one cannot influence non-existent things. If there is no future then there's nothing to influence and therefore nothing to deliberate about in the first place. So free will actually requires there to be a fully determinate (but not determined) future.

**WARNING: Really Technical Part**

Tuggy thinks we need a branching model but not a linear model of time. But branching and linear models can actually be made compatible. The linear model can be taken to describe the actual world as it is - it models the concrete way things are. Temporal accessibility here is simply a matter of having actual temporal relations with something. The branching model describes possibilities for times - both actualized and non-actualized. Accessibility here is simply capturing possible temporal relations. Failure to see the compatibility of these two models and thinking the linear model rules out all possibilities is a key reason for the mistake Tuggy and many other open theists make in their reasoning.

Tuggy says that the branching structure beyond the present represents facts about the present - outcomes which are possible given the course of history up until now, represented futures not ruled out by past and present happenings. But that's consistent with an actual future. Which path is taken is up to us but that doesn't mean the path doesn't exist.

**End Really Technical Part**

Tuggy says that opponents of open theism haven't argued for or defended the assumption that time is linear (that is, that there is a single, determinate future). That, however, seems plainly wrong. They might not work, but Tuggy actually considers some objections against non-linear conceptions! So it's a bit disingenous to say that there's been no arguments when Tuggy has actually considered some in the very same paper in which he claims this. Additionally, lots of people have defended an actual future. There's a rather large literature here, actually. On this score, it could even be argued that non-linearists have actually been much more dialectically irresponsible than linearists!

Tuggy also claims that if those objections (from bivalence and the Law of the Excluded Middle) he considered are shown wrong, the anti-open theists will then rest their case against open theism on the weight of the claim that the Bible plainly teaches things incompatible with open theism. I, however, do not think that is true, so I'm clearly a counterexample to Tuggy's claim here. I think the main case against open theism of the variety Tuggy and many others like is that it requires an unreal future. And there are lots and lots of reasons against believing such a thing - ones that don't rest on the purely logical considerations that Tuggy addresses in his paper.

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