Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Monday, May 9, 2022

Thomas Jay Oord - Free Will is an Experiential Nonnegotiable

9 Reasons to Affirm Free Will

Free Will is an Experiential Nonnegotiable

by Thomas Oord
March 22nd, 2020

There are strong reasons to believe humans have genuine but limited free will. I believe this, in part, because I experience freedom every day.

In a previous post (click here), I listed 9 reasons it makes sense to affirm that humans have genuine but limited free will. In this post, I address perhaps the most powerful reason: freedom as an experiential nonnegotiable.

Our Freedom is Always Limited

Some people think “freedom” means “the ability to do anything.” So they reject the view. Few if any scholars who affirm free will believe this, however.

Human freedom is always limited. It’s constrained, conditioned, or framed by many sources, both internal and external to the actor. But all humans act as if they are free, even if some deny this verbally.

To be free is to choose, in a particular moment, among a limited number of relevant options. We freely choose as a source or cause of our actions. Free creatures could have chosen something other than what they chose; they could have done otherwise.[1]

I don’t know with certainty that all humans have limited but genuine free will. Absolute certainty about such matters is illusory. Certainty is rare!

But I’m more confident about my freedom than I am about descriptions of humans or even of existence. I’m confident about about free will, because I experience it personally. And I presuppose its veracity in the way I live my life.

We Should Start with the Data We Know Best

We often make mistakes and don’t know much if anything with certainty. So we should have some method in our attempts to make sense of life.

The philosopher Roderick Chisholm recommends what he calls “epistemological particularism.”[2] This method privileges experiences we know best when trying to makes sense of life. It begins with ideas that seem most obvious.

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Epistemological particularism doesn’t claim we can be certain descriptions of our experience are 100% accurate. But we can be more confident in first-person data — especially data inevitably expressed in our living — than data we know from a third-person perspective.

This method should lead us to affirm the reality of human freedom. Of course, some people interpret studies in neuroscience (and other sciences) as indicating humans are not free. For several reasons, I think such interpretations mistaken. But my first step in addressing claims about determinism is to argue we should feel more confident of the truthfulness of first-person data – our inescapable personal experiences – than the data of neuroscience. Scientists obtain neuroscience data through third-person perspectives.

I’m not rejecting neuroscience as a discipline. In my view, neuroscientists should pursue their research with passion. The discipline has generated helpful insights, and I have friends contributing in this field. But we must avoid conclusions the data does not and, I think, could not in principle support. For an accessible philosophical defense of freewill in light of neuroscience research, see Alfred Mele’s work.[3] 

Is Free Will Just Common Sense?

Some call those beliefs that are self-evidently true and inevitably expressed in our actions “common sense.” Philosophers such as Thomas Reid, GE Moore, and Alfred North Whitehead argued for commonsense ideas.[4] In terms of freedom, common sense says we all act freely — at least sometimes.

We use “common sense” to describe ideas that are not inevitably expressed in our lives, however. To some people, for instance, it’s common sense black men should not marry white women. Others think it’s common sense that the New England Patriots are the greatest football team. Some think common sense tells us God controls our lives. Because these ideas are not truly common nor expressed inevitably in our actions, the phrase “common sense” can be misleading and then dismissed as unhelpful or dangerous.

David Ray Griffin distinguishes between ideas some call common sense and what he calls “hard-core” and soft-core commonsense ideas.[5] We inevitably presuppose hard-core commonsense ideas in our practice. We don’t inevitably presuppose soft-core commonsense ideas. Soft-core commonsense ideas might include the (wrong) belief that black men and white women shouldn’t marry, the (debatable) belief that New England has the best football team, or the (arguably harmful) belief that God controls creation.

We can deny soft-core commonsense ideas and still live consistently. Hard-core commonsense ideas cannot consistently be denied in our practice.

Free Will is an Experiential Nonnegotiable

I’ve come to call the ideas that we inescapably live out “experiential nonnegotiables.” We must accept the truth of experiential nonnegotiables if we want to speak adequately about the way the world works.

We contradict ourselves if we say we act one way and then act differently. We commit what Jürgen Habermas calls “performative contradictions:” our performance in life contradicts our statements about what life is like.[6]

In terms of freedom, we contradict ourselves if we claim we are not free and then live as if we act freely. Our words don’t match our actions; we are experiential hypocrites. At least for most humans if not all, genuine but limited freedom is an experiential nonnegotiable.

I could list other experiential nonnegotiables (e.g., there is a world external to myself). Myy point for this essay is the inevitable experience of freedom in our lives provides strong justification to think humans have genuine but limited freedom.

We contradict ourselves if we claim we're not free and then live as if we act freely. We are experiential hypocrites.


[1] For similar understandings of freedom, see Laura W. Ekstrom, “Free Will is Not a Mystery,” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2nd ed., Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 366-380; William Hasker, “Divine Knowledge and Human Freedom,” The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2nd ed., Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 40-56; Timothy, O’Connor, “Agent-Causal Theories of Freedom,” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2nd ed., Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 309-328 and “The Agent as Cause” Free Will, Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002); Kevin Timpe, Free Will: Sourcehood and its Alternatives, 2nd ed. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013).

[2] Roderick M. Chisholm, The Problem of the Criterion (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1973).

[3] Alfred Mele, Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will (Oxford University Press, 2014).

[4] For a brief overview of commonsense philosophy, see “Philosophy of Common Sense,” New World Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Philosophy_of_Common_Sense

[5] David Ray Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1998), 34, 210.

[6] Jürgen Habermas, “Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification,” in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. C. Lenhardt and S.W. Nicholsen (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990).