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02/13/2013

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Sofia: Why isn't the 'ought' used to point to something desirable or ideal action-guiding? Certainly seems like it could (and in many cases would) be. But perhaps you only meant to suggest that it isn't necessarily actions guiding.

Sorry Justin, maybe I wasn't clear enough. I said that there is a kind of 'ought' which MERELY points out that something is desirable or ideal, and 'ought implies can' doesn't apply to that 'ought'. Zimmerman gave the example of "there ought to be peace in the world". One could say this even if one doesn't think any particular person has it in her power to create world-wide peace, or even if one doubts world-wide peace is possible at all.
But of course one can also say that something would be desirable as a way to guide action, and the "peace" example above COULD have an action-guiding sense in certain contexts. I think that in praxis, it is usually not difficult to know whether someone uses the 'ought' in an action-guiding sense or a "mere desirability" sense; the context will make that clear.

The important point is that I do not think combining 'ought implies can' with an incompatibilist reading of 'can' is plausible for any use of 'ought'.

I like Sofia’s proposal. But an opponent might argue that there are ‘oughts,' for example those used in certain retrospective evaluations, that imply an incompatibilist ‘can.’ So when the elderly parent says to the wealthy son: ‘you ought to have helped me pay my debt,’ this claim arguably implies that he could have paid, and the incompatibilist ‘could have’ or ‘can’ is a candidate for the sense being invoked.

Is it a compatibilist ‘can’ that’s at issue in deliberation? I would say that it’s crucial that it’s epistemically open for the deliberator that she will perform the action at issue. But then, even if determinism is true and the deliberator knows it, it seems that it will also be epistemically open that she can in the incompatibilist sense perform the action at issue, since this is a weaker requirement.

Robert writes: “sans self-determination, grace could not be what it is- a gift with which one is free to act in concert. In its place would be something automatic, even coercive.” When someone is really in a bad place, a person might come along and show him exceptional concern and kindness. Suppose he accepts the act of kindness. On some such occasions, the cause of the acceptance may be the gracious act itself, because it changes its recipient in such a way as to motivate him to accept it and actually to accept it. My sense is that this can happen without the gracious act being coercive. True, other acceptances of acts of grace might more naturally be described as Anselm would on Robert’s account. But I’m thinking that people are fragile, and quite a few are in such rough shape that they need acts of grace that will cause the response of acceptance as I just described it.

'...the "peace" example above COULD have an action-guiding sense...'

I'm sure someone has already thought of

One ought to be an incompatibilist, even though it may be impossible for some individuals...

Thanks for the response, Professor, it gives me something to seriously consider.

I do not deny that grace is a cause of its own acceptance. After all, it is the most beautiful gift imaginable. I just don't want to have it doing ALL the work. Let it profoundly change me and move me in the direction of God. As long as the act of repentance itself, finally throwing myself down before Him, is left entirely up to me, free will is operative.

Or let it be as you say. So depraved am I that I must be overwhelmed by the holy force of God’s love: “You seduced me Lord and I was seduced.” Don’t you think that ratification of my new mindset is required at some point once I’m back on my feet, lest the change not be complete? Isn’t the object of grace to allow me to “work out my own salvation diligently?” Shouldn’t I now be able to do on my own what I’d hitherto been incapable of, viz., freely place God at the center of my existence?

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