More Concessions and Counter-Arguments: Further Response to Andrew Harland-Smith

By John A. Limanto


August 29, 2018

I. Preliminaries

Once again, I’d like to begin by stating further concessions I can give to clear the periphery of the debate. First, within this dialogue, my arguments shall operate under the presumption of A-theory of time. Second, I concede that if Andrew can successfully argue that correlation is a form causation, that then (MT2) would still be incompatible with Molinism. Besides conceding, I would also like to point out several points of contentions, that if I were to succeed in proving them, Andrew’s case against Molinism fails:

First, if I can prove that Molinism’s commitment to that CCFs are not ‘independently fixed’ of the agent is non-identical to either (P) or (P’), then Andrew’s case fails. Andrew’s case, if put in syllogism, is akin to the following:

(1) Molinism is true if CCFs are not ‘independently fixed’ of the agents
(2) The proposition CCFs are not ‘independently fixed’ of the agents is identical to the proposition CCFs are dependent on the agents
(3) Molinism is true if CCFs are dependent on the agents in the sense of (‘DT’), namely, that the agents must be the cause of the truth of their CCFs (from (1) and (2))
(4) Agents are not the cause of the truth of their CCFs
(5) Therefore, Molinism is not true

Notice that (2) is where the whole argument rests on. (3) and (5) would not proceed if (2) is falsified

Second, if I can prove that correlation is not a form of causation, then (MT2) is a genuine way to circumvent (‘DT’) and Andrew’s case fails. My second point is that (3) need not be based on (‘DT’). After all, if I can establish that (MT2) is a possible way to ground moral responsibility without agents causing their propositions to be true, then (5) would not follow. Interestingly, Andrew has not given any other argument for why (MT2) is implausible apart from appealing to his understanding that correlation is a form of causation. I shall then deal with Andrew’s argument against (MT2) by demonstrating that correlation is not a form of causation

I take it that even if either one of these two theses are true, then I have successfully refuted Andrew’s case. Thus, to recap, in order for me to successfully refute Andrew’s case, I need to only prove one (or all) of the following two:

(6) Molinism’s commitment to that CCFs are not ‘independently fixed’ of the agent is non-identical to either (P) or (P’)

(7) Correlation is not a form of causation

II. On proving (6)

(2) remains Andrew’s most prized premise. With that, I shall flesh out even further the two propositions in the following:

(P) For any person S and true (‘CCF’) C, the truth of C is not independent of S’s causal powers.

(P’). For any person S and true (‘CCF’) C, the truth of C is dependent upon S’s causal powers.

I would like to offer a clarification on what is essential to Molinism and how Molinists interpret the joint statement. Andrew cites from the following line in the joint statement:

…if the CCFs are a feature of God’s free knowledge, they are no longer truths about what libertarian free agents would do. To the extent that the ultimate source of their truth lies in God’s creative decree, their truth has been fixed independently the relevant agent’s causal powers”.

Notice, however, that the complaint here is not the same as (P). To follow on with the exegesis, the joint statement, at best, entails only the following:

(8) The CCFs of an agent cannot be fixed [in the sense of being caused] independently (or ‘not by’) of the agent.

To break this down further, (8) is to state something like the following proposition:

(9) Nothing outside of the agent causes the truth of his CCFs if Molinism is true

The central problem with that “the ultimate source of [CCFs] lies in God’s creative decree” is rooted in (9) that Molinists are committed to in preserving LFW. However, notice that (9) does not entail (DT). As I have myself pointed out in my last essay, (9) is perfectly consistent with (10):

(10) CCFs are true by brute facts such that nothing causes the truth of the CCFs

Once again, Andrew provides no reason why (10) is false.

Of course, Andrew would like to saddle on the purported complain that in the case that God’s creative decree determines the truth of the CCFs, then “their truth has been fixed independently the relevant agent’s causal powers.” To entertain this thought a bit, this results in the following absurd proposition:

(11) If God creatively decrees the truths of CCFs, then the truth of CCFs are independent of the creatures’ causal powers, which logically entails that CCFs are not independent of S’ causal powers

III. Is Correlation A Form of Causation?

Andrew’s main rejection of (MT2) I proposed in my first essay is to deny that there is even any difference between causation and correlation. Andrew thinks that correlation is a form of causation:

Perhaps I’m mistaken (prove me wrong), but it seems that ‘correspondence’ is a causal concept. To illustrate, as I sit here, I have a rather large, and particularly dull textbook sitting next to me, the title of which is “Principles of Real Property Law”. This state of affairs ((hereafter (S)) “corresponds” to a true proposition:

(P)   There is a large and particularly dull textbook titled “Principles of Real Property Law” sitting on Andrew’s desk

Notice however, that (S) “corresponds” to (P) precisely because (S) causes it to be true that (P).

First, it must be pointed out that Andrew fails to give any rebutting argument how the textbook “causes” (P) to be true. Andrew, instead, begs the question by presuming that any relation between a proposition and a state of affairs must be causal. The burden of proof is still on him to give further arguments that correspondence is causation.

Second, to claim that a state of affairs can cause a proposition metaphysically is to claim that state of affairs possess inherent causal powers to which then it possesses the will to cause the proposition to be true. But since state of affairs do not have wills or inherent causal powers, then state of affairs cannot “cause” propositions to be true.

Third, one can even delineate correspondence from causation saliently by insisting that one feature of correspondence is that it is an aboutness relation that is not actualization. Causation, on the other hand, is in terms of actualization.

Until Andrew can give further definitions of why a non-causal relation is impossible, then it seems that correspondence just is a form of a non-causal relation.

IV. Concluding Thoughts

The main issue with Andrew’s case is that he seems to bear a lot of burdens of proof that he has yet to answer satisfactorily. I can identify, at least, 3 critical issues that he has not responded yet.

First, Andrew ignores the argument I made continuously that just because nothing outside of the agent causes the truth of the CCFs does not logically entail that it is the agent who is the cause of his CCFs. Rather, it may be the case that the CCFs are uncaused, brute facts. Andrew tried to rebut the logical notation I gave in demonstrating the logical fallacy by simply calling it ‘mystifying.’ Once again, what the Molinists demand is the following:

(9) Nothing outside of the agent causes the truth of his CCFs if Molinism is true

This is perfectly consistent with the idea that CCFs are true as uncaused, contingent facts.

Second, Andrew fails to give an argument as to why correspondence is causation. Rather, what he attempts to do is to give a thought experiment and assumes that correspondence is causation. Not only has he not carried the burden of proof, I have even offered arguments why correspondence is not causation. At best, this is the text book example of ‘begging the question.’

Third, Andrew fails to give arguments as to why (MT2) is implausible. What Andrew, insists, on the other hand, is that ‘correspondence’ in (MT2) just is causation without giving further arguments for it.

The problem lies that in the absence of Andrew bearing these three burdens of proofs, then his case remains unjustified given that his defense of (3) relies on him bearing the second and third burden of proof while his (2) premise relies on him bearing the first burden of proof.


About the Author

By John A. Limanto

John A. Limanto is a fellow leader of Philosophy group in Pelita Harapan School and an aspiring Christian apologist in his local community. After living for 7 years in Borneo, he now resides with his family in Jakarta, Indonesia where he is pursuing his research on Molinism and free will.