How the Soul Makes Freedom Possible

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

April 13, 2020

Objection:

Dear Tim,

What exactly is a soul and by what exact mechanism does it make libertarian free will possible where it is otherwise impossible? If one person has a soul and another person doesn’t, how does the soul lead to better or more informed decisions in the first person? If their brains are otherwise working exactly the same, I don’t see the difference.

– Andy


Tims’ Response:

Thanks for the question, Andy. Allow me to break this down in a step by step manner:

“What exactly is a soul…?”

I define the soul — minimally — as: “an immaterial thinking thing.” Sometimes I follow that with, “Created in the image/likeness of God.”

At that point I like to appeal to the Kalam Cosmological Argument because after reaching the deductive conclusion of the Kalam, we rationally infer that the cause of the universe — whatever it is — is an immaterial thinking thing (and an immaterial FREE-thinking thing at that)! This is what demonstrates that the cause of the universe is a “person” or a “personal being.”

You ask, “… and by what exact mechanism does it make libertarian free will possible where it is otherwise impossible?”

This is a confused question, because if the soul is an immaterial thing, then there simply is no “mechanism” by definition. Andy, you seem to be begging the question in favor of physicalism with your question.

Be that as it may, in a purely physical universe, there does not seem to be any room for the libertarian freedom to think. This would be the case because everything about humanity would be caused and determined by something other than humanity. However, if human nature includes a soul — an immaterial thinking thing — then there would be something about human nature that is not determined by the laws and events of nature. Libertarian freedom is possible on this view.

Think about it: thoughts and beliefs are non-physical kinds of things. One cannot touch, smell, see, or taste a thought. Thoughts are immaterial. An immaterial thinking thing (the soul) would be free from physics and chemistry.

The following question is confused: “If one person has a soul and another person doesn’t, how does the soul lead to better or more informed decisions in the first person?”

My argument specifically discusses rationally inferred and affirmed knowledge claims as opposed to mere “informed decisions.” Be that as it may, if my view is correct, then the thing that makes a person a person is the soul — otherwise the person with libertarian freedom is only talking to a puppet or a calculator.

You conclude: “If their brains are otherwise working exactly the same, I don’t see the difference.”

Recall my mad scientist thought experiment:

Suppose a mad scientist exhaustively controls (causally determines) all of Andy’s thoughts and beliefs all the time. This includes exactly what Andy thinks of and about and exactly how Andy thinks of and about it. All of Andy’s thoughts about his beliefs and all of Andy’s beliefs about his thoughts are caused and determined by the mad scientist. This also includes the next words that will come out of Andy’s mouth.

Question: How can Andy (not the mad scientist) rationally affirm the current beliefs in Andy’s head as good, bad, better, the best, true, or probably true without begging the question?

Good luck with that… it is impossible!

Since begging the question is logically fallacious, anything Andy claims to know is not based upon justification, but rather… logical fallacies. Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all!

With this in mind, Andy, the only “reason” you “can’t see the difference” is because the mad scientist causes you not to be able to reason or to “see the difference.” Now apply the mad scientist to these two humans who have brains working in the exact same manner. WHY are both the brains “working exactly the same?” Because the mad scientist causally determines both of them to function in the exact same manner. This does not allow you to escape the problem of the mad scientist and exhaustive determinism.

If you, however, have the ability to think apart from the mad scientist — and are FREE to think of and about the concepts of libertarian freedom, and have the ability to evaluate the concept as good (option 1), bad (option 2), better (option 3), or worse (option 4), then, no matter what option you choose, you have libertarian freedom.

Now, if only one of those options are, in fact, compatible with your nature, then you have no idea if your nature is computing properly — or not! You can only assume and that assumption would be the only option compatible with your nature.

One way or another, libertarian freedom always “taps ya out” in the end! And if libertarian freedom exists, and humans really can be “free thinkers,” then it stands to reason that you are an immaterial thinking thing too (even if you have a physical brain and body).

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


Notes

This question was originally sent to Evan Minton to pass along to me. Evan asked me Andy’s question in a previously recorded interview on the Cerebral Faith Podcast.

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

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