Arguments for Libertarian Free Will

What good arguments are there to think that man has libertarian Free Will? A pleasant argument with a peer of mine, a fellow student of Philosophy at Concordia, inspired me to compose this post when he pressured me to provide good arguments to think that determinism wasn’t true. I will here provide what arguments I came up with.

First, let us list them:

  1. The belief in Free Will is Properly Basic.
  2. The denial of Free Will collapses modal distinctions.
  3. The postulate of Free Will allows for ‘real’ moral experience, and moral objectivity  along with moral experience is Properly Basic.
  4. The suggestion of Determinism dissolves rational thought, as does the suggestion of Randomization or any combination of the two.

1. The Belief in Free Will is Properly Basic.

What philosophers like Alvin Plantinga mean by ‘Properly Basic’ is simply anything which people are justified in believing without any good arguments. For instance, we believe in the external world or the existence of other minds, but rarely does anyone have any good arguments for believing in these things. We believe in these things precisely because we experience the world with these categories, and we take ourselves to be correct when we naturally assume that other minds analogous to our own minds exist, or that the external world really does exist. The idea here is that one is justified in maintaining those beliefs in the absence of any good reason to think them untrue, or what philosopher’s call: a defeater. In the absence of a defeater, there are some beliefs that we are epistemically justified in maintaining, which come naturally to us based on our experience of the world, even in the absence of any good positive arguments to think that these things are true.

I propose that one such thing is Free Will. We all naturally come to believe in Free Will based on our experience and this is precisely why we can intelligibly talk about the category of Free Will at all. We are justified in the absence of a defeater, in maintaining the belief that Free Will exists in such a way that we act as causal ‘first-movers’ in some causal chains. We experience ourselves acting upon the world with intentionality in such a way that we ourselves are responsible for our actions, since they were freely chosen.

2. The denial of Free Will collapses modal distinctions.

If one cannot meaningfully express such propositions as “I ate breakfast this morning, but it was possible for me not to have” then modal distinctions begin to collapse. They are ultimately superficial, unreal. The principle alternative to the belief in Libertarian Free Will, determinism, ultimately makes modal distinctions meaningless. There is no logically possible world in which I chose ~x this morning if, in the actual world, I did chose x this morning. I submit that any model of the world which renders our language, which all of us understand to be intelligible, meaningless has got something wrong with it. Perhaps I could even say that modal distinctions are properly basic, but that would just be to rehearse my former point, so I won’t bother.

Also, some might propose that, given a system like Leibniz’ system, one might be able to marry determinism with coherent modal language. However, I submit that Leibniz was not a strict determinist – I believe that what he means by the ‘complete concept’ of a monad, and indeed even the entire ‘pre-established harmony’ is compatible with robust libertarian Free Will. At very least, Leibniz must admit that God has robust libertarian Free Will, or else speaking about alternative logically possible worlds would simply not have made any sense.

3. The postulate of Free Will allows for ‘real’ moral experience, and moral objectivity  along with moral experience is Properly Basic.

The argument would go something like this. First, objective moral values and duties do really exist. We apprehend that this is so in our moral experience. There is no more good reason to reject our moral experience of objective moral values and duties (in the absence of a defeater) than there is to reject our sensual experience of a real physical world. Any argument one can make for dismissing objective moral values as real, an analogous argument can be similarly made for dismissing an objective physical world.

All of that comes from Dr. W.L. Craig. However, I can’t help but point out the obvious: that this makes belief in moral values and duties properly basic. This is different from the previous comments, which were both simply saying that Free Will itself was properly basic. Here, I am saying that in our moral experience we apprehend that moral values and duties which are objective exist and our belief in them is properly basic. However, it is not logically possible for us to have moral experience of this kind without Free Will, since without Free Will culpability cannot exist. Our moral actions have no more of a moral dimension than an avalanche or an earthquake.

4. The suggestion of Determinism dissolves rational thought, as does the suggestion of Randomization or any combination of the two.

The alternatives to Free Will not only suggest that all our experiences which involve or imply Free Will are illusory, but also that rational thought is impossible. Consider the following quote:

“If thought is laryngeal motion, how should any one think more truly than the wind blows? All movements of bodies are equally necessary, but they cannot be discriminated as true and false. It seems as nonsensical to call a movement true as a flavour purple or a sound avaricious. But what is obvious when thought is said to be a certain bodily movement seems equally to follow from its being the effect of one. Thought called knowledge and thought called error are both necessary results of states of brain. These states are necessary results of other bodily states. All the bodily states are equally real, and so are the different thoughts; but by what right can I hold that my thought is knowledge of what is real in bodies? For to hold so is but another thought, an effect of real bodily movements like the rest…. These arguments, however, of mine, if the principles of scientific [naturalism] … are to stand unchallenged, are themselves no more than happenings in a mind, results of bodily movements; that you or I think them sound, or think them unsound, is but another such happening; that we think them no more than another such happening is itself but yet another such. And it may be said of any ground on which we may attempt to stand as true, Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum. [It flows and will flow swirling on forever].”
~ Originally from H.W.B. Joseph in “some problems in ethics”, but I quoted it from another source: “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics” By Peter J. Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, p.72

Thus, if all our thinking is the result of either a deterministic process or else a randomized process – so long as we have no control over our thoughts our thoughts cannot be ‘rational’. What I mean here by ‘rational’ is that which assumes the ability, in principle, of the human mind to move itself to realize the truth about the world it inhabits. However, there is no ‘ability’ at all on determinism, such that even while the mind might reflect ‘the right stuff in the right order’ it isn’t doing so by any internal principle or ability, but rather only by accident. This makes it completely foolish for a determinist to argue with somebody who believes in free will, since the determinist seems to forget that their conversation partner is determined to believe in free will. Moreover, they themselves are determined to be determinists. This thought itself, should it occur to them, is also itself determined. There is absolutely no way for a determinist to coherently admit the ‘rational’ faculty of the human mind.

Some determinists, such as A.C. Grayling, have responded by saying that their view is non-rational and not irrational. I find that response to be inadequate. It does nothing to solve the problem presented, and merely just admits it while proposing a pedantic caveat. My philosophy professor told a joke once about how, if a hardcore determinist is woken suddenly from his sleep he finds himself believing in free will until he comes back to his senses. It is pragmatically impossible for us to live our lives while assuming that everything we do and think is completely determined, including our intentions to do or think those things. While one might try to justify adopting determinism even while admitting that it is not psychologically possible to allow that assumption to inform our everyday activity, I propose the the problem is worse than they imagine. It is pragmatically impossible for us to live our lives without the assumption of free will!

What I am proposing is that Free Will is not only properly basic, but that abandoning it implies that rational thought is impossible. Since the cost of giving it up is so great for philosophy, I suggest that no philosopher can, in principle, find any adequate defeater of the belief in Free Will, and therefore nobody is ever at any time epistemically justified in believing in determinism.

As a Final argument, we might conceive of an argument from authority. Not only have many of the greatest and wisest philosophers believed in Free Will, and not only do the preponderant majority of human beings naturally believe in Free Will, but the Catholic Church also firmly teaches that man has Free Will. Now, obviously anyone can call into question any of these three authorities, but it seems to me that such a cumulative argument from authority is not superficial and does in fact act as a persuasive addition.

These five arguments are rather brief, as this post was intended to be a compilation of arguments off the top of my head more than anything.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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8 Responses to Arguments for Libertarian Free Will

  1. mattd4488 says:

    The problem that this line of reasoning always leaves me with is this; what, then, is the “stuff” of our brains? If our minds are an emergent property of our brains and our brains are made of deterministic material, it follows that are minds are deterministic. If our brains are random, then our minds are likewise. If our brains are some combination of the two, then our minds are likewise. Obviously, no “naturalist” method of analyzing the mind will arrive at the conclusion that we have free will. We have to instead posit the possibility that our minds are in some way independent from the material of our brains, that they are in some way their own principle, wholly different from the “stuff” of nature. No?

    • I think we have to be careful in what way we’re using the word ‘Nature’. After all, an Atheist is well within her rights to believe in an immaterial rational soul. Typically Atheists who systematically make sense of the world from the supposition of Atheism have tended to be physicalists – but there’s no necessary connection between Atheism and physicalism. So, if by a Naturalist you just mean an Atheist, then the atheist need not appeal to anything beyond the ‘stuff of nature’, but simply propose that ‘the stuff of nature includes immaterial souls’ which have libertarian free will, or something like that. It seems odd and esoteric, but to my mind so is Atheism in general. The point is that the term ‘nature’ is ambiguous, and it isn’t clear that Theists should make the concession so easily that ‘nature’ is exhausted by the physical, as it leads all too quickly to fallacies of equivocation in arguments supportive of Atheism.

  2. Larry Myers says:

    I am still neither here nor there on the issue, but I do find writings on comparablism least convincing. My main problem to free will is that to me it begs the question when does free will exist? With three frames of time, past present and future, I don’t see were free will fits in. You cannot change the past. And like wise you cannot change the future, as in change it from what to what it hasn’t happened yet. So you are left with the present to guide the future to the best of your ability. But how I see it the present is just a concept like zero is a concept. If you can’t change anything 10 minutes in the future or the past, it leads me to believe it follows that you also can’t change something 0.5 of a second in the past or future and so on. If the present is just the time between the past and future and our bodies don’t respond in units of plank time (I’m assuming that is the smallest unit of time) which this line of thinks allows us to go. When is the choice made? Any input would be nice. Thanks

    • Hello Larry Myers,

      I think there may be a misunderstanding of what free will is conceived to be for the libertarian. Remember that for somebody who believes in free will, free will can cause effects in the past, as well as the present and future. The point is that the language of free will ‘changing’ something is confused – free will doesn’t ‘change’ anything, but rather is part of the causal explanation of contingent states of affairs – Free Will causes states of affairs, but does no change facts. For instance, if I will freely choose to drink milk tomorrow then there isn’t anything I will be doing to change that fact. It may be determined that I will drink milk tomorrow, but only in the sense that nothing determines that I will drink milk tomorrow apart from me myself – there are no external constraints, or any constraints of any kind, which determine what I will determine to do. I could just as easily have chosen otherwise (there are other logically possible worlds identical in every way to the world above depicted except in that I do not choose to drink milk tomorrow, and excepting whatever differences follow by consequence of that). Perhaps you could say that Free Will is the ability to change what would otherwise have obtained ceteris paribus. This is indeed part of the doctrine of Libertarian free will so long as the Libertarian agrees that there are things which can said to ‘obtain ceteris paribus’ (which all in reality do).

      Free Will, then, is the doctrine that we, as causal agencies, are able to be first-movers in some causal chains bringing about effects in the world (and, as I have said, those effects may have an effect on the past, present or future). I think if one calls free will into question, then they by implication call into question doxastic voluntarism, rational deliberation, personal identity, moral facts and much more besides. The end result will necessarily entail the doctrine of the skeptics, and be irrational in the sense that the presumptions of rationalism will be entirely discounted (even logical relativism will follow from the denial of free will).

      I think we all intuitively and introspectively perceive that we are free (for instance we are free to believe in free will, and we must decide freely whether to believe in it, and to deny this is to deny our deliberative faculty, and we cannot do this except deliberatively or ‘deliberately’), I think we have no reason (at least no good reason) to think we aren’t free, and finally the cost of denying free will is so great that we should desire above all to affirm it even if it remains merely possible without any arguments in its favor, on pragmatic grounds alone.

  3. Yamatranzy says:

    I’m an atheist. I have been struggling with this idea of determinism, as it makes this whole universe seem like one big simulation. That I’m just a puppet being pulled by imaginary strings this way and that, even though I may think I have some control over it. It’s absolutely terrifying to me to think that everything that is happening in my life is already predetermined. It makes me depressed at times. I’m not suicidal, but if I was would it have already been predetermined to put a gun to my head and shoot? What a horrible thought! Determinism would say that the universe is indifferent, and that you are no different from an asteroid colliding with a planet and shattering to bits and pieces. I’m also a nihilist, but I can’t help but ask what the point is in having a conscious at all. If we are just puppets then why did we even evolve to have consciousness in the first place? It doesn’t seem to be even possible, since a conscious would mean you are capable of thought and reasoning and action, but that would go against the whole idea of a deterministic universe!

    But you could also say that it just happened that way, it’s all just an accident. Actually, not an accident, but a predetermined event that is currently driving me up the wall. Or that consciousness is the only way for certain things to happen (like constructing a building or driving a car), but shouldn’t be taken as something “special”, just a different combination of atoms that happen to allow those actions to occur.

    I think we both agree that if there’s nobody with free will (assuming free will exists) in a universe, that universe will operate under deterministic rules. Yes, our minds are products of our brains, which are made up of matter that operates under deterministic rules. But I’m not convinced that our minds have to be deterministic. For example, Hydrogen and Oxygen are both in the gaseous state at room temperature. But when you combine two Hydrogens with one Oxygen you get H2O. Water. Which is liquid at room temperature. Just because the two elements by themselves are gaseous at room temperature doesn’t mean that the product will be gaseous. I know that was a poor example since there really isn’t any difference between the elements and the compound (they are still matter, and water is only liquid because its compounds move around slower than gaseous substances), but I think you get what I’m trying to say.

    History. If determinism is true then all of history wasn’t really up to anyone. Hitler was predetermined to cause the genocide known as the Holocaust, so we shouldn’t hate Hitler, rather just look at him as a pawn in the great simulation of the universe. It makes it all impersonal. It makes me think of someone not as an individual with different tastes and a personality, but rather just a bundle of trillions of atoms that think they have a choice in the happenings but are actually just a bunch of atoms.

    • You make some interesting remarks here, and I’d like to just pick up on a few of them and share my thoughts in return for yours.
      “But you could also say that it just happened that way, it’s all just an accident.” On Atheism everything is ultimately an accident, the fact that there exists a world at all, let alone a deterministic one (if the world is deterministic), is a brute, inexplicable (to say nothing of unexplainable) contingent fact. I will return to this point below.

      “It doesn’t seem to be even possible, since a conscious would mean you are capable of thought and reasoning and action, but that would go against the whole idea of a deterministic universe!”

      This reminds me of John Bergsma’s argument about how the conjunction of evolution and consciousness seems completely absurd (See his response to Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against Naturalism here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVlMK9Ejhb0). This is something which, I think, would bother me if I were a Naturalist. Aside from the fact that the Naturalist is committed to saying that with respect to wholesale questions such as ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ that ‘there is no answer’, it has always seemed to me that observing a universe where life evolves or exists at all is something which we should not expect to see if Naturalism is true, and that we should expect to see if Theism is true. In other words P(E|T)>P(E|N). Mind you, what I’m saying holds whether Naturalism is Deterministic or not.

      “I think we both agree that if there’s nobody with free will (assuming free will exists) in a universe, that universe will operate under deterministic rules. Yes, our minds are products of our brains, which are made up of matter that operates under deterministic rules… ”

      I don’t know that I do agree that if nobody has free will then determinism is true (after all, indeterminism could be true). What I am sure about is that if determinism is true then one can never have a ‘rational’ belief that determinism is true (for the belief-forming process would not track truth, and thus wouldn’t be justificatory), and the same would hold for indeterminism (therefore, it is necessarily irrational not to believe in free will). Indeed, if determinism is true, it isn’t clear to me that we can have ANY justified beliefs, since all of our beliefs are formed by a process (determinism) which isn’t guaranteed to track truth most of the time.

      Also, I do not think that the mind and the brain are identical, I think it’s a mistake to strictly ‘identify’ one with the other. I therefore see no reason to accept that the mind is comprised of matter (and indeed, I outright reject that because I think it is absurd). More importantly, I think you should reject it as well, even if you are an Atheist. There is nothing about Atheism which commits you to materialism, so why be a materialist? What good argument is there for materialism? I’m a full time philosophy student and I am at pains to think up a single one. The reason so many intelligent people are materialists is sociological/historical, not philosophical.

      However, on this point about materialism not having any arguments in its favor, what about Atheism? What good reason can one have for affirming that the proposition ‘God exists’ is false? Perhaps there are some atheological arguments here (such as the ‘problem of evil’ brand arguments), but on the whole I find that the arguments for Theism are by far and away more compelling. However, putting argument to one side for the moment, I’d like to share an observation of mine about Atheism and Determinism. Certainly I agree with you that the world looks pretty bleak on Atheism & Determinism, and though I think Determinism would be just as problematic without Atheism, I also feel as though Atheism would be just as problematic without Determinism. On determinism you say:

      “this idea of determinism… makes this whole universe seem like one big simulation. That I’m just a puppet being pulled by imaginary strings this way and that, even though I may think I have some control over it. It’s absolutely terrifying to me to think that everything that is happening in my life is already predetermined. It makes me depressed at times. I’m not suicidal, but if I was would it have already been predetermined to put a gun to my head and shoot? What a horrible thought!”

      It seems to me like the reason this is a horrible thought is that it makes all of life out to be illusory insofar as it undermines the integrity of significance. Indeed, one might say that it makes all of life out to be ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’. However, that’s precisely what Atheism does; it makes everything out to be sound and fury signifying nothing. It takes courageous thinkers like Sartre, Nietzsche, and the likes of them to recognize this awful truth (if it is true), but it seems to me to beg the question: why would anybody affirm Atheism? I have already said that I don’t think anyone can have a rationally justified belief in determinism, since determinism is a self-defeating doctrine (epistemically). The same cannot be said for Atheism, but something similar can be said: on Atheism one has no good reason to value truth in and of itself. Truth may be valuable for pragmatic reasons, but the truth cannot be valued in and of itself, since the world is sound and fury signifying nothing. This leads me to think that if Atheism is true, then we ought to believe some proposition p not because p is true, but because p can be rationally valued for pragmatic reasons. Nietzsche’s line ‘why the truth, why not rather the lie’ is an excellent question on Atheism. However, there may be plenty of beliefs which are true and which are not worth believing, and indeed worth not believing. Assuming Atheism is true, I can see no good reason why Atheism wouldn’t be one of these pragmatically pernicious truths. Thus, if Atheism is true, then we have no good reason to believe that Atheism is true. In fact, if Atheism is true, and we value beliefs on the basis of their pragmatic efficacy rather than their truth, then it seems like Theism is a prime candidate for a belief we should adopt. Cast in this light, on the assumption of Atheism, Theism looks like a noble lie, but even a noble lie is better than a deadly truth (on Atheism). This gives us good reason to think, though, that we ought to believe that Theism is true. We can put this argument roughly as follows:
      1. Either Atheism is true, or Theism is true.
      2. If Atheism is true, then we ought to believe that Theism is true.
      3. If Theism is true, then we ought to believe that Theism is true.
      4. Therefore, we ought to believe that Theism is true
      So, having considered as much, I feel relatively perplexed by the fact that anyone affirms Atheism to be true. I have said that if Determinism is true then one can never rationally believe that Determinism is true. I now say that if Atheism is true then one has no excuse for believing that Atheism is true, since Atheism, if true, either is completely indifferent to what kinds of beliefs people should have, or else prescribes adopting beliefs on the basis of pragmatic efficacy, and Atheism is pragmatically pernicious. If this analysis is correct, then why, may I ask, are you an Atheist?? What reason or argument do you have, what justification, what incentive?

      • Yamatranzy says:

        I agree with the majority of what you said about determinism. Determinism goes against our rational thoughts and it truly doesn’t make much sense in my opinion.

        I lost you once you started talking about atheism, though. You said,

        “2. If Atheism is true, then we ought to believe that Theism is true.”

        Stop right there. If Atheism is true, if there is no gods, then there would be no reason to believe in Theism as no gods exist!”

        I think you believe that Theism is the initial belief of humans, and that as an Atheist I have some responsibility to “prove” that Theism is wrong. That is a logical fallacy, often called Russell’s Teapot.

        You are the one claiming the existence of something, i.e. a deity, and so it should only be logical that you prove the existence of it.

        Russell’s Teapot: say I tell you that there’s this pink teapot orbiting the Sun, in between Venus and Earth.

        You would ask why I believe that, and explain how there’s no evidence/proof that a teapot orbits the Sun.

        I respond: “Oh yeah?! PROVE that a teapot DOESN’T orbit the Sun!”

        Does that sound logical? Of course you can’t “prove” a teapot orbits the Sun, it’s impossible!

        Likewise, I cannot “prove” that a deity doesn’t exist, but I haven’t seen or heard any actual proof of the existence of one either. Therefore, it’s only rational to live your life not believing in a deity. Occam’s Razor. Don’t add more to the picture than what is necessary.

        Actually, the technical term for me would be “agnostic atheist”, and I’m pretty sure most atheists are also that.

        Agnostic: truth values of information about a deity is unknown.

        Agnostic Atheist: since there is a lack of verifiable evidence for the existence of a deity, there is no reason to believe in one, and therefore one does not exist.

        You could tell me that that is a bold claim: “and therefore one (a deity) does not exist” but I must ask you, what if a flying spaghetti monster actually lives in the sky? Why do you not believe in the FSM?

        For more arguments in favor of atheism, go to http://www.godisimaginary.com

        It also focuses more on the Christian religion, so prepare to have your beliefs tested.

      • “If Atheism is true, if there is no gods, then there would be no reason to believe in Theism as no gods exist!””
        I don’t think you’ve appreciated my point. My point was supposed to be that on Atheism one doesn’t value a belief because it is true, but because it is of some pragmatic benefit. If that analysis is correct, then on Atheism, even if God did not exist (which is independent of the question of whether some anthropomorphic god-like beings exist), it may be prescribed that we believe in Theism. If I’m wrong about this it must be because my analysis is wrong, but it seems to me that my analysis is right. On Atheism, if all truths are collectively just ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’ then clearly they aren’t worth believing in virtue of being true. However, some things are clearly worth believing, and so I think the Atheist will have to value beliefs on the basis of their pragmatic efficacy. That’s the thought.

        “I think you believe that Theism is the initial belief of humans, and that as an Atheist I have some responsibility to “prove” that Theism is wrong. That is a logical fallacy, often called Russell’s Teapot.”
        Bertrand Russell’s Teapot is not known as a ‘fallacy’, it’s just an analogy. A logical fallacy is any form of reasoning which isn’t always and everywhere truth-preserving. Russell wasn’t aiming to demonstrate that anyone was committing a ‘fallacy’, he was simply making a very clever note about the burden of proof. I think in response to Russell we have to say that the burden of proof lies with whoever is making the claim. If you had said you were an agnostic, then (unless you were a militant agnostic who thought something like “I don’t know, and you don’t either!”) I would say you have no burden of proof. If you’re an Atheist or a Theist then you do have a burden of proof. If you’re an agnostic-atheist, then to the extent that you’re an ‘atheist’, that that extent you must accept a burden of proof which needs to be discharged.

        I’m not sure what gives you the impression that I think that Theism is the default position. Perhaps it’s that I think that Theism is properly basic in the same way that belief in the reality of the past is. If you made that connection then you’re very sharp, but if you did make that connection then I wonder how you could have failed to see that belief in the reality of the past is exactly the same kind of belief – if you believe in the reality of the past, and you don’t have any non-circular argument to think that the world wasn’t created moments ago, then you are committing yourself to believing, without evidence or argument, in some positive state of affairs. Suppose one day you meet a Presentist who believes that the past is entirely unreal, that there never was such a thing – they demand you give them some argument. You point to the appearances of age, such as that you are X years old, or that you have food in your stomach from the meal you ate earlier today, or you point to the memories you have of times gone by. This Presentist pushes you, shows you that all of these are bad arguments, since they just presume what they set out to prove – namely that the world wasn’t created moments ago pre-loaded with all the appearances of age, from the memories in your head to the food in your stomach (from the meal you never ate). You eventually turn to them and say “well then, what evidence do you have for rejecting the reality of the past?” She responds: “oh no no, I’m technically an agnostic about the past, I don’t claim to be able to prove a negative, I just know that you don’t have any good arguments for believing in the reality of the past and I want you to stop believing in things without any arguments or evidence; to ask me to prove that the past is not real is like asking me to prove that a teapot does not orbit Jupiter…” and so on and so forth. You get the picture. I believe that the debate over the existence of God is no different.
        I do claim that it is rational to believe in God wholly apart from arguments and evidence which is strictly admissible in philosophical argumentation (since I believe that even the philosophically clumsy, and uneducated, can have a justified belief that God exists). However, although that’s true, notice that I said in my previous comment that the weight of arguments is on the side of Theism, from the Leibnizian cosmological argument (to which I alluded in the last comment) to the Fine-tuning argument, to some modal versions of the ontological argument (if properly supplemented), and so on. The arguments are all on one side of the scale, with the notable exception of the problem of evil (which I also already acknowledged). In other words, I was gesturing in the direction of arguments, to which I have appealed. Unlike the arguments for the reality of the past, the arguments for the existence of God are not circular, not question-begging, and are rationally compelling, logically valid, and I think they are clearly logically sound.
        You say:
        “Likewise, I cannot “prove” that a deity doesn’t exist, but I haven’t seen or heard any actual proof of the existence of one either. Therefore, it’s only rational to live your life not believing in a deity. Occam’s Razor. Don’t add more to the picture than what is necessary.”

        First, I have argued on this blog before that an Atheist can in principle prove that God doesn’t exist, and she can do so in a number of ways. If I were an Atheist, those are the arguments I would most likely champion. If you haven’t seen or heard any actual proof for the existence of God then it can only be because you are reading the literature selectively. As C.S. Lewis, who was an Atheist in his earlier life, and became a Christian when he had matured intellectually, once said “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” The saying is more true today than it has been for a few centuries.
        I wonder how you would respond to a Presentist who disbelieved in the reality of the past and said that you were disobeying Occam’s Razor. In any case, it’s no matter here, since the Theist claims that God is necessary, since without Theism there is no sufficient reason why anything contingent exists at all. This is practically a truism! I highly recommend taking a serious look at the arguments for the existence of God. A good place to start might be the work of a philosopher named William Lane Craig, whose website is http://www.reasonablefaith.org – That will be a fair introduction to some of the arguments for Theism. Take a look at them and see what you think for yourself.

        “Actually, the technical term for me would be “agnostic atheist”, and I’m pretty sure most atheists are also that.”
        As a philosophy student, I find that outside of the academy people generally are agnostic atheists if by that you mean somebody who 1) believes that God does not exist, and 2) is not certain that God does not exist. However, in philosophy most Atheists are more sophisticated than that. Many of them are actually positivists, and would argue that the proposition “God exists” is neither true nor false, since it is a meaningless proposition, since there are no empirical conditions under which the proposition would be false. Positivism is, of course, almost dead by now, but this hangover from the earlier part of the 20th century still lingers on. In any case, you’re right that the majority of non-philosophical atheists are agnostic atheists. However, the agnostic atheist (i) is making a claim about the world (which requires a burden or proof), (ii) generally tries to satisfy that burden of proof by arguing that their disbelief is epistemically justified in the absence of evidence (as though absence of evidence were evidence of absence – that, by the way, actually IS a fallacy, called the ignorance fallacy!). I object to them because absence of evidence is only evidence of absence when and where one has good reason to suspect that some evidence would be forthcoming if the hypothesis were correct, but the agnostic-atheist generally doesn’t think that far ahead. When was the last time you heard any of them stipulate what evidence they would expect to see if God existed? Moreover, if they did, they would find arguments ready at hand already circulating in the academic literature!
        “Agnostic Atheist: since there is a lack of verifiable evidence for the existence of a deity, there is no reason to believe in one, and therefore one does not exist.”
        First, that argument isn’t logically valid, since the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Second, if that argument were valid and sound, then why wouldn’t the presentist be right when she rejects the reality of the past? I can run a perfect parody – there is a lack of verifiable evidence for the existence of the past, there is no reason to believe in it, and therefore it does not exist. Do you find that argument impressive? I expect (and hope) not. So why on earth do you think your argument is any better?
        Moreover, again, note that I have been gesturing in the direction of arguments the whole time. You can’t claim ignorance with me or I’m liable to think you’re just lazy. Go and read, and think about it for yourself!
        “For more arguments in favor of atheism, go tohttp://www.godisimaginary.com”
        I have to comment about this – this is a terrible website. It’s just propagandized rhetoric without any academic respectability. The arguments in the articles on this website (which I’ve just perused), would be literally unpublishable!! Why not go to some real heavy-weight websites? For example, if you scroll down to the bottom of my blog page you’ll find a blog roll. Some of the blogs belong to friends of mine (those aren’t so academic), but most are real heavy-weight philosophical blogs, some Atheistic, some Theistic (some used to be Atheistic until their hosts became Theists because they studied the arguments more closely). Note that over 70% of professional philosophers of religion are Theists (not Agnostics, not Atheists, and not Positivists).

        “It also focuses more on the Christian religion, so prepare to have your beliefs tested.”
        Hahahahahahahahahahaha. You’re too cute. Maybe you should read my ‘about’ page, where I describe a little bit about why I converted to Catholicism, how I considered converting to Islam earlier in life, and how I very nearly did become an Atheist (a Naturalist), only just 5 years ago (just before becoming Catholic). My beliefs have been put to the test time and again, and I’ve changed my mind in light of the arguments – for all I know I may do so again (though I really don’t think so).

        I’ll just end this tome of a response (I apologize for that, you just got me all riled up), with a plea for you to seriously and sincerely seek out the real arguments for and against Theism and to make up your own mind in light of those (and not in light of these ‘godisimaginary’ type arguments, which are sheer nonsense). A good place to begin really is with Dr. Craig’s website, to which I have linked you already.

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