A Characteristic of Freedom

Everyone knows what freedom is; everyone knows what it is to be free. That is until it is realized that distinctions such as freedom to and freedom from make it a bit more difficult to know what precisely the term freedom by itself might actually indicate.

Can there even be a definitive and all-encompassing characterization of freedom?

After all, freedom is not a thing in the way that a circle is a thing. A circle can be relatively easily defined formulaically, largely because it is a rather simple thing in itself – even if it were nothing but a concept.

Freedom, of course, is a concept, but, rather than a thing in itself, freedom at first blush seems to pertain to relationships within contexts and, therefore, not things by themselves and, so, not things in themselves.

Then again, there is one thing which some people regard as free in itself. And that thing is what is commonly referred to as God.

For the purposes of this brief investigation into freedom, it does not at all matter whether God actually is. It does not matter, because what is being considered here are the ways in which terms such as freedom and free are often used. That is to say that if free were appropriately applied to even one thing in or by itself while at all other times it were only appropriately used with regards to relationships, then it would be prudent to consider how and whether free-in-itself might be informative about or pertinent to freedom-in-relations.

The freedom of a thing in itself and by itself can be conceived of and described in terms of the possibilities said to be available to that thing. For instance, with regards to God, if there never are any restrictions whatsoever pertaining to what God could do (not even restrictions which God set), then there would be no limits whatsoever to God’s freedom.

Of course, the concept referred to as freedom does not always or only mean to indicate an utter absence of restrictions. Humans act within contexts, and contexts are – or provide – restrictions. Despite these restrictions, the term freedom is still supposed to be applicable to some conditions.

This means that the utter absence of restrictions can be regarded as an extreme form of freedom without there being a need for any insistence that anything less than this extreme form is non-freedom. The extreme form can be referred to as radical freedom in order to distinguish it from the freedom that might occur within more restrictive contexts.

There can, of course, be an opposite extreme at which restrictions are such that freedom is altogether precluded.

The conditions which would restrict freedom are described very often (maybe even most often) in terms of compulsion or control. For example, it is common to regard as not-free something (a person, for instance) which is completely controlled by things or factors other than its own self. A condition of less than complete control could be a condition in which influences are present or operative, and there can even be degrees of influence less than complete control, but, to the extent that the influence is not complete control, there can still be freedom.

There is, however, a significant figurative aspect to the term control which tends to effect a lessening of distinction between the terms control and compel, particularly as the degree of influence approaches complete control. This indicates that, with regards to freedom other than the radical variety, the relationships which pertain to whether or to what extent there is freedom are not to be considered only in terms of the context at issue (as if the relationships which constitute the context are a static cross-section of some sort). Rather, those relationships and their context are also to be considered in terms of how such a context relates to other contexts – those of the past upon which it is dependent as well as those others of the future which are or would be dependent upon the context under consideration.

For instance, it is commonly presumed that there is no freedom with regards to past contexts. Even if those contexts had been such that there was freedom associated with them, there is no such freedom now. Presumably.

On the other hand, it is not so commonly presumed that the future is like the past with regards to freedom. Even if there is no more freedom with regards to the future than there is with regards to the past, the future at least seems – on the face of it – to be somehow more endowed with freedom than does the past. It is because of just this very “seeming” that the future gets spoken about as if there is a contextual freedom which is absent from contexts which are past.

This is just to say that, while the past seems to be a settled matter, a wholly determinate condition, the future does not seem to be settled. The future seems to be indeterminate. The past might have been unsettled prior to its being past, but its condition as past is a condition now devoid of unsettledness – which is to say that the past is utterly devoid of indeterminateness whereas indeterminateness seems to be rightly assigned to – if it is not in some manner genuinely constituent of – the future.

Based upon the above noted distinction between past and future, it seems that indeterminateness may well be necessary for there to be freedom (which would be to say that conditions in which there is no indeterminateness are conditions in which there is no freedom).

However, there are some metaphysical systems which, in essence, deny that the future is unlike the past. Such positions essentially deny that the future is any less determinate than is the past.

Eternalism, for instance, asserts that the past and the future are ontologically on par. For the purposes of this discussion, that is simply to say that the future is no less settled, no less determinate than is the past, which is to say that everywhere and everywhen are utterly settled, wholly determinate conditions. The non-eternalistic, strict physicalist sort of determinism is another position which holds that the future is essentially or effectively every bit as utterly determinate as is the past.

While some versions of both eternalism and determinism would be quite at ease in denying that there is either any more freedom to be associated with the future than with the past, other versions insist that the utter determinateness of all reality – including the future – does not eliminate freedom.

Those versions which deny that there is freedom can be described as being consistent with the assertion that indeterminateness is necessary for freedom; there is no indeterminateness; therefore, there is no freedom. On the other hand, those versions which assert that utter determinateness does not preclude freedom are clearly in the position of claiming that indeterminateness is not necessary for freedom.

Most often the claim that there is freedom without there ever being any indeterminateness is based on the notion of contingency, and this contingency is most often expressed in terms of things, usually events (and, in particular, human acts), which – logically speaking – could have been otherwise. Of course, it is every bit as much of a logical matter to note that, for some event or thing to be (or to have been) otherwise, there would have to be contextual indeterminateness (in which case the claims for utter determinateness would fail to hold).

This is to say that contingency is effected by indeterminateness.

This leaves the argument for freedom within an utterly determinate reality (including a wholly determinate future) to resort, as it frequently does, to discussing human acts in terms of whether they are coerced or controlled by anything other than the person who does the act.

However, even if it is assumed that in an utterly determinate reality (including a wholly determinate future) there is nothing external to a person which controls or coerces at least some of that person’s actions (where control and coercion are distinct from mere influence), it is anything except apparent that the person is free to act or do as the person does.

It is certainly true that if a person’s desires or will coincides with what the person does then the person’s desires or will are not frustrated; the person will be free from frustration as a result of the coincidence, but freedom is not the lack of frustration.

Someone who is not subject to external control or coercion could be described as being free from external control or coercion, but such a freedom-from is distinctly different from (and is not itself sufficient for there to be) a freedom-to (act).

The lack of external control, the freedom-from external control, might be necessary for there to be a freedom-to, but such a freedom-from does nothing to negate or replace indeterminateness (regarding what a person is to do) as a necessary condition for the person to have the freedom-to.

In fact, indeterminateness regarding a person’s future actions actually provides for the freedom-from external control, and, since indeterminateness can be necessary for freedom-to in a way that freedom-from is not necessary, it is very clearly the case that indeterminateness is necessary for freedom(-to).

This being the case, where there is no indeterminateness, there is no freedom (to act).

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21 Responses to A Characteristic of Freedom

  1. davidm says:

    I’m still not sure I follow your arguments here, Michael.

    I assume you mean “determinate” to describe a fixed, settled matter, and not to be confused with “determinism” (although I gather you are claiming that if matters were never indeterminate, then “determinate” means “has to be that way.”

    But, let us consider the claim of eternalism, that past, present and future are all “ontologically on par.” This odd locution is used to suggest that past, present and future are all equally real, but to avoid the (incoherent) claim that they are all real now. Rather, eternalism holds that the future is real in the future, and the past is real in the past; each event as its unique temporal location (indeed, its unique spacetime location.)

    What we call “now” is just perspectevial: “Whenever” we “find” ourselves is “now,” in the same way that “wherever” we “find” ourselves is by definition “here.”

    On this account, it is perfectly valid to suggest that a future event is indeterminate with respect to “now.” Indeed, one can just as validly say that a past event is indeterminate with respect to “now.” The past event happened in the past, and not “now”; and likewise, future events will happen in the future and not “now.” But this “now” I mean the “now” that we find ourselves in as I type this; plainly, the future and the past have their own perspectevial “nows.”

    This being the case, let us assume that x puts on his hat tomorrow. Under eternalism, tomorrow exists, but it exists tomorrow, as measured from the standpoint of we here who call this “today.” Thus, today, even under eternalism, is not determinate NOW that x puts on his hat tomorrow; x makes that fact determinate when he puts it on: tomorrow, as judged by people speaking today.

    But that proposition that describes what x does is true today: “Today, it is true that tomorrow, x will put on his hat.” It is true just in case x puts on his hat tomorrow.

    It’s generally thought that a proposition can be true about an event before the event happens because propositions are held to be abstract entitities that do not exist at any particular place or time, or rather at all places and times, much like the proposition that one plus one equals two.

    I still wonder why any of these considerations should count against “freedom-to.”

  2. “I gather you are claiming that if matters were never indeterminate, then ‘determinate’ means ‘has to be that way.'”

    I have no need of the “has to” notion. I do not think that the leveling of the modal fallacy charge against those who think and speak in terms of has to does any significant work towards preserving the freedom-to which is at issue. I also think that the modal fallacy charge pertains to a different sense of has to than is intended by those who speak in terms of has to. Even so, I think that the freedom-to issue is best discussed without reference to has to. We all have our preferred manners of expression, but our investigations into any topic are improved if we try as much as we possibly can to avoid treating each preferred expression as if it were necessary and irreplaceable as stated.

    “But, let us consider the claim of eternalism, that past, present and future are all ‘ontologically on par.’ This odd locution is used to suggest that past, present and future are all equally real, but to avoid the (incoherent) claim that they are all real now.

    On this account, it is perfectly valid to suggest that a future event is indeterminate with respect to ‘now.’ Indeed, one can just as validly say that a past event is indeterminate with respect to ‘now.’ The past event happened in the past, and not ‘now’; and likewise, future events will happen in the future and not ‘now.'”

    In order to make more clear just what it is that I am contending, there is one point in particular in the above quoted passage which I would like to address. But, before I get to that, let me first note that I have no objection to the eternalist claim for past, present, and future being ontologically on par even though past, present, and future are not all now. I am not arguing against that eternalist ontological notion.

    The point with which I want to take issue pertains to the remark “that a past event is indeterminate with respect to ‘now'” just as “a future event is indeterminate with respect to ‘now.'” That expression seems to imply that the term indeterminate merely and only means “not now-actual”. I have tried to stress not only that determinate indicates settledness or fixedness or being set but also that indeterminate indicates unsettledness or not being (completely) set. I grant that both the past and the future are not now-actual in the sense that, by virtue of being past or future, they are not actual from the now-perspective, which is to say at this very present. However, to say that some state is not now-actual does not necessarily preclude that state being determinate, set, or settled.

    This is to say that past, present, and future can be ontologically on par inasmuch as past, present, and future can all be utterly determinate despite their not all being now-actual.

    “today, even under eternalism, [it] is not determinate NOW that x puts on his hat tomorrow; x makes that fact determinate when he puts it on: tomorrow, as judged by people speaking today.”

    As per my above remarks, it would clearly be the case that even under eternalism, it is not now-actual that x puts on his hat tomorrow. However, the fact that it is not now-actual that he puts on his hat does not speak to the issue of whether it is now, in the present, a set or settle or determinate matter that he puts on his hat tomorrow.

    “But that proposition that describes what x does is true today: ‘Today, it is true that tomorrow, x will put on his hat.'”

    Here is where my discussion about A Characteristic of Truth is relevant. Specifically, to claim truth for an expression is to claim that it refers to a determinate, a settled matter. That being the case, to say that today it is true that tomorrow a person will put on his hat is to claim that today it is a determinate or settled matter that tomorrow the person will put on his hat (even though today it is not now-actual that the person puts on his hat tomorrow).

    “It is true just in case x puts on his hat tomorrow.”

    I interpret the phrase “just in case” as intended to locate contingency at the putting-on-hat event. However, locating the contingency at that event itself recommends modifying the truth claim by describing it more explicitly in terms of being – not just contingently, but – possibly true rather than as true because it is set or determinate. If the state being referenced is possibly true rather than merely contingently true, then the person might put on the hat or he might not. But, then, with such a modification, the claim is no longer one asserting that (or describing) the future at issue as determinate.

    “It’s generally thought that a proposition can be true about an event before the event happens because propositions are held to be abstract entitities that do not exist at any particular place or time …”

    It needs to be pointed out that this way of regarding propositions depends upon an eternalistic perspective. As discussed in the Oaklander paper which you brought to my attention in a discussion at The Galilean Library, Is the Future Open?, that perspective – the timeless or outside-of-time perspective – is obtained only when what is being taken into account is the whole state of affairs which includes all of the past, any present, and all of the future. This atemporal whole state of affairs is composed of temporal states of affairs which follow each other successively; hence, it is a rather easy matter to take up a non-eternal perspective from which the future certainly seems unset or indeterminate, but a timeless claim (or a claim for timelessness) is not supported by any temporal perspective even under eternalism. From Oaklander’s “whole state of affairs” perspective, all of the past, any present, and all of the future are all wholly determinate states of affairs; they are ontologically on par with each other; they are all utterly lacking any indeterminateness whatsoever.

    It would only be because of (or with) this utter lack of indeterminateness that propositions could be timelessly true.

    “I still wonder why any of these considerations should count against ‘freedom-to.'”

    From the temporal perspective, even under eternalism, the future seems as if it is indeterminate in the sense of being unset or unsettled. Our experiences are temporal experiences; so, there is nothing surprising about the notion that we would have developed our manners of expression as dependent on just such a perspective. Hence, there is nothing on the face of it that makes suspicious the claim that contextual indeterminateness is necessary in order for us to be free-to act or be a certain way. Indeed, the idea of “could have done otherwise” with regards to the past likewise depends on the notion of there having been indeterminateness which was subject to being set by us; similarly, the “just in case” matter discussed above also draws on our sense of indeterminateness with regards to the future.

    The problem under eternalism is that, from the eternalistic perspective, there is no indeterminateness whatsoever. So, under that condition, from that perspective, how can we be free-to if our presupposition that indeterminateness is necessary for there to be a freedom-to is correct? There is expressive incoherence in claiming that the future is determinate while also claiming that there is indeterminateness which we are free to set.

    A common way to attempt to avoid that incoherence is to shift the focus to the matter of who or what makes the future determinate in the way that it is determinate. The reason why that attempt does not succeed is because, given the presumption that the future is utterly determinate, there remains the matter of distinguishing just how humans are any more free-to than are what we readily regard as wholly mechanistic devices and processes.

    Are clocks and computers to be regarded as being as free-to as are humans? I do not think that most eternalists are arguing – or want to argue – that humans are no more free-to than clocks or computers, and, yet, these very same eternalists essentially and effectively deny that there is the indeterminateness which serves as the basis for our sense of being free-to.

  3. davidm says:

    Under eternalism, the past, present and future are ontologically on a par: existent states. But, acts and events become determinate at the time that they happen.

    Suppose tomorrow x puts on his hat. Then, under eternalism, it becomes determinate tomorrow, not today, that x puts on his hat. The proposition describing what x does, “today, it is true that tomorrow, x will put on his hat,” is true today; but the event, the act itself, becomes determinate tomorrow. The fact that the proposition is true today, is solely due to the fact that tomorrow, x puts on his hat. That is to say, x has the power, by his action in the present, to affect the past. He cannot change the past, but he can affect propositional truth in the past.

    It is easy to see how this logic works in the opposite temporal direction. If x puts on his hat today, he makes it true today, tomorrow, a thousand years hence, an eternity hence, that it was true that today, x put on his hat.

    Therefore, under eternalism, an event that happens tomorrow is indeterminate today.

    The intuition that eternalism denies freedom comes from concerns about ontology; the mental picture we have of a universe “frozen in amber” at all times and places, with nothing actually moving or changing. I think this mental picture is defective, however.

    • Michael S. Pearl says:

      Under eternalism, the past, present and future are ontologically on a par: existent states. But, acts and events become determinate at the time that they happen.

      Based on the earlier comments, it seems that the above means something like this: Under eternalism, the past, present, and future are all existent states; they all exist; they are all always set, settled, utterly complete, and are definitely and definitively as they are regardless of whether they are relatively past, present, or future. Being temporal components of the eternal, these acts and events have temporal locations. This is to say that the past is not actual in or as a relative future or at the present; the future is not actual in or as a relative past or at the present. Although the past, present, and future are eternally actual, the acts and events which constitute any past, present, or future are only actual at the time location at which they occur, even though those acts and events are always definite in the way that they are – even if they have not yet occurred.

      Acts and events occur at the time that they happen, but they are definitely as they are even before they occur. This is to say that, under eternalism, there is nothing unsettled or indefinite or indeterminate that becomes determinate or gets resolved into a settled or definite or determinate state; under eternalism, all acts and events are always definitely as they are – all acts and events are determinate or definite matters even if they are future and have not occurred.

      Suppose tomorrow x puts on his hat. Then, under eternalism, it becomes determinate tomorrow, not today, that x puts on his hat.

      Under eternalism, it occurs tomorrow and not today, but what occurs tomorrow is already a definite matter today. Something becomes determinate out of a state of indeterminateness, but something can be eternally determinate without any need of “becoming” if there never is any indeterminateness.

      The proposition describing what x does, “today, it is true that tomorrow, x will put on his hat,” is true today; but the event, the act itself, becomes determinate tomorrow.

      Despite it seeming that the phrase “become determinate” in the first quoted passage is best rendered as “occur”, let us stick with that first phrasing for the sake of another attempt at demonstrating the expressive incoherence from which eternalism (as well as other compatibilisms) inescapably suffer with regards to freedom-to. Let us rephrase the statement immediately above as, relying in part on the as yet uncontested claim that determinateness in the sense of definiteness is necessary for truth: It is a definite matter today that tomorrow the act of x putting on his hat becomes determinate.

      This rephrasing shows once again that there is absolutely no indeterminateness – there is absolutely no indefiniteness – within eternalism (and we are, of course, discussing non-epistemic indeterminateness or indefiniteness, in part because there is no question that there is epistemic indefiniteness). You, of course, disagree about the indeterminateness at issue being utterly absent from eternalism. You say:

      x has the power, by his action in the present, to affect the past. He cannot change the past, but he can affect propositional truth in the past.

      Here the key term is “affect”, and the manner in which that term is used implies that there is indeterminateness. However, as expressed, that indeterminateness seems only to apply to the past and not to the future. That still leaves us with the eternalist claim being that today it is a definite matter that tomorrow the act of x putting on his hat becomes determinate or occurs – meaning there is no indeterminateness (or indefiniteness) with regards to the act to be performed.

      There is another sense of “affect” which does not rely on there being any sort of indeterminateness. In that other sense, what will occur is said to be explained or described as determinate because it is done by the person who performs the act. But, this is where we get back to needing to come up with some way of distinguishing a human act from a strictly mechanistic act. This is not an easy distinction to conjure when there is never any indeterminateness located pertaining to what is to occur. For example, we could say: Today, it is true that tomorrow, a given computer pseudo-random number generator will generate some particular number. That computer is not free-to, but, then, what would make a human free-to given the very same utter definiteness or determinateness?

      The intuition that eternalism denies freedom comes from concerns about ontology; the mental picture we have of a universe “frozen in amber” at all times and places, with nothing actually moving or changing. I think this mental picture is defective, however.

      I am perfectly happy to avoid the metaphorical “frozen in amber” description. Let us grant that under eternalism things change. We are still left with the problem of there being no indefiniteness or indeterminateness that pertains to any of the changes given the claim that there is – and the description of there being – utter definiteness about how all things, including acts and events, always are to be. It is the definiteness for all time which both defines eternalism and presents the problem for there to be a freedom-to given that there is absolutely no indeterminateness (or indefiniteness).

      I will take a look at the Merricks paper as soon as I have a chance.

    • The Merricks paper seems not to have anticipated the matters so far discussed here. Merricks acknowledges that:

      An argument that moves from premises invoking truths about the future to the conclusion that the future is determined, and determined in such a way as to preclude freedom, is not … committed to the claim that those truths themselves do that determining [p. 32].

      Despite getting that aspect of the issue correct, Merricks is amiss – with regards to my contention – when he says that the argument “moves from truths in the past to a present or future lack of freedom” [p. 33]. The arguments I present assert that what is being claimed by either allegedly timeless truths or by propositions that are true “at every time” [Merricks p. 39] is that the world is so thoroughly determinate or definite that there can be “at every time” truths about every event that ever has occurred, ever does occur, or ever will occur.

      Merricks insists that the argument against there being freedom(-to) in a world for which there can be such eternal truths (whether in time or outside of time) “fails because of considerations arising from truth’s dependence on the world”. But, the fact of the matter is that my argument most definitely regards truths as “depend[ing] on the world” and following from how the world is. Therefore, to this point, none of the Merricks arguments pertain to or apply to my position.

      There is nothing in my argument which is based on the notion “that the past has a special kind of necessity … [which] gives us a reason to deny that Jones now has a choice about what was true a thousand years ago” [p. 40]. If Merricks had anticipated and were addressing my argument, he would not have discussed the past in terms of it having “a special kind of necessity”; instead, he would have described the past as being determinate or definite, and he would have acknowledged that, according to my argument, the definiteness of the past neither requires a definite future nor does the determinateness of the past establish the determinateness or definiteness of the future.

      Merricks seems to think that, if it is true in the past that someone will do some specified thing at some particular future, then that person is free-to — that person can freely choose to — do the specified act just so long as the person does that action. Merricks insists that a proposition in the past about a future human action is either true or false; Merricks denies that a proposition is ever indeterminate.

      … a thousand years ago that Jones sits at t was either true or, if not true, then false. But it was not false, since, ex hypothesi, Jones will sit at t. So that Jones sits at t was true. So I conclude that Jones has a choice about the truth, a thousand years ago, of that Jones sits at t. [pp. 39-40]

      What is anything except apparent is how the Merricks conclusion that there is a choice or the freedom-to follows from the truth or the fact that a person does a specified act at a particular future.

      Merricks (sort of) provides an argument for his conclusion when he says:

      Jones even now has a choice about the past truth of that Jones sits at t … suppose that that Jones sits at t is true right now. … its truth depends on … Jones’s sitting at t. Add to this a second corollary of truth’s dependence on the world: for all S and all p, if S has a choice about what p’s truth depends on, then S has a choice about p’s truth. Given this addition—plus the assumption that Jones has a choice about sitting at t—we should conclude that Jones does have a choice about the truth of that Jones sits at t. [p. 42]

      However, that argument, such as it is, does no work whatsoever with regards to my contention.

      Merricks says that the proposition that Jones sits at t is true since Jones sits at t. It could be said that the proposition that Jones sits at t is true if and only if Jones sits at t, but that expression would introduce an indeterminateness which Merricks rejects; therefore, I will stick with the proposition being true since Jones sits at t. Merricks does not (indeed, he cannot validly) argue that the proposition that Jones freely chooses to sit at t is true since Jones sits at t; rather, he argues that that Jones freely chooses to sit at t is true since Jones freely chooses to sit at t.

      The problem with applying this Merricks argument as a response to my contention is that Merricks does not in any way bother to take into account just what are or might be the conditions that would be necessary for there to be freedom-to and/or choice. To put this another way, Merricks fails to address the distinctions which there can be between Jones sits at t and Jones freely chooses to sit at t. Consequently, Merricks fails to establish that the freedom-to is compatible with or compossible with or coheres with a world (including a future) which is utterly devoid of non-epistemic indeterminateness.

      The closest that Merricks comes to dealing with the matter of whether indeterminateness is necessary for human freedom-to is when he discusses counterfactuals [pp. 49-50]. Merricks is absolutely correct when he says that it is an error to claim that “having counterfactual power over a past truth [is] sufficient for having a choice about that past truth”. But, the issue is not really about having a choice with regards to a truth or with regards to the past.

      If Merricks were addressing the points I have raised, he would dispense with casting his discussion in terms of truth and, instead, speak in terms of the determinateness or definiteness that is claimed to be the case by the ascriptions truth or true. Then he would have only to explicate how there could be freedom-to given the utter lack of non-epistemic indeterminateness which he claims to be the case.

      To put this another way, there is no disagreement with regards to a person doing some particular act at some specified future; it is being granted for the sake of argument that the truth of the matter (as well as any knowledge about what the person does) depends on the person performing the act. The issue at hand pertains to how the person is free-to given that it is a definite matter what the person does in the relative future. A freedom-from being controlled does not render the person free-to; freedom-from control is not identical to — nor is it sufficient for there to be — the freedom-to.

  4. davidm says:

    Another recommended philosophical paper: “Experience, the Present, and Four Dimensionalism,” in which the author attempts both to reconcile the seeming passage of time with eternalism, and also to reconcile libertarian free will with eternalism:

    http://www.mic.ul.ie/stephen/vol12/Experience.pdf

  5. In case anyone is interested, I have been having a similar discussion with Jeremy Pierce in the comments section for his blog entry entitled, Augustine on Free Choice. Sometimes it takes Jeremy a few days before he has a chance to post submitted comments and his responses; so, in case it is convenient for the ongoing discussion here, I thought I would go ahead and include the comment which I today submitted to Jeremy’s blog:

    Jeremy, I hope you had a merry Christmas. I certainly did.

    Freedom requires epistemic possibility, epistemic indeterminateness about the future, and there’s no such epistemic possibility about the past, at least with respect to anything I can do now …

    The indeterminateness which I have been discussing with regards to freedom-to is firstly a non-epistemic indeterminateness. I would agree that, given such a non-epistemic indeterminateness, awareness about this indeterminateness would most definitely be relevant to the freedom-to at issue.

    I would argue that the past is no more or less necessary than the future in any sense except epistemic … the past has [no] different modal status than the future.

    The epistemic possibility to which you refer pertains to the future seeming as if it is at all indeterminate. That aside, I agree “that the past is no more or less necessary than the future”. That is why my contention in no way depends upon any notion about the past being in any way “necessary”. I discuss this matter of a past necessity here.

    This stuff about being made determinate is confusing me. It sounds like you’re talking about becoming determinate, which in fact couldn’t occur without once being indeterminate, but I was talking about what makes it determinate in the sense of grounding or explaining the determinacy, not what makes it come into being (as if it weren’t there before).

    What you recognize as the fact of “couldn’t occur without once being indeterminate” was addressed as part of the process of disambiguating the phrase “what makes it determinate”. You, of course, posit a determinateness (or a determinacy) which is or which obtains without there having been the indeterminateness necessary in order for there to be a transformation into determinateness. I understand that, and it is one of the positions to which the determinateness notion I have been discussing applies. The “sense of grounding or explaining” amounts to — is identical to — a description of what occurs, and this would be the case even if there were any indeterminateness that got transformed into determinateness at the occurrence.

    The issue I bring out pertains to what differences there are or might be between the descriptions:

    (1) a person performs a particular act, and
    (2) a person is free-to perform a particular act (or a person freely chooses to perform a particular act).

    In order to preserve the sense of freedom to which you referred earlier, statement (1) above should be understood as something along the lines of : being free-from any interference that is effectively controlling or which precludes a freedom-to, a person performs a particular act.

    The problem is that such an extensive freedom-from does not itself provide for a freedom-to.

    There are, after all, eternalistic views (or perspectives) according to which all events and all times always are, wherein events only seem to occur when viewed from an incomplete (or effectively blinkered) temporal perspective. Human acts are free-from an effectively-controlling interference; it is the humans who do the acts they do without being controlled or made to do the acts they perform, and while humans can be free-from such interference, they are not free-to (they do not freely choose; they are not free-to choose or free-to act) inasmuch as there is never any non-epistemic indeterminateness with regards to their actions.

    As I have discussed, the distinction between the freedom-to and the freedom-from is made more stark by the fact that a relevant non-epistemic indeterminateness would itself provide not only for the freedom-to do some act but also for the freedom-from an effectively-controlling interference.

    Do compatibilists hold that there is freedom-to (rather than just freedom-from) if there is no non-epistemic indeterminateness? If so, then in what sense does a compatibilist think that there is freedom-to (rather than just freedom-from) if there is no non-epistemic indeterminateness?

    Before it is said that a person performs a particular act is identical or equivalent to a person is free-to perform a particular act or a person freely chooses to perform a particular act, surely it is best to take into consideration those conditions posited as necessary for there to be the freedom-to as distinguished from the freedom-from would also have to be taken into consideration.

  6. davidm says:

    Well, I read that exchange at the linked blog, and depsoited a comment. I’m afraid I did so three times, until I finally figured out that the blog is moderated, and the owner has to approve comments. 😳 the reason I didn’t figure it out immediately is because the notice of this fact is written in some bizarre script that is barely readable; I kept thinking I was being taken to an error page.

    Here is what I posted (btw, I think this blog needs a preview function):

    Well, I agree with everything Jeremy says!

    Suppose I pick two people. One of them says, “Tomorrow, it will rain.” The other says, “Tomorrow, it will not rain.”

    At the time these two speak, it is indeterminate whether it will rain or not. That it will rain, or fail to rain, will become determinate in the fullness of time; i.e., with the arrival of tomorrow.

    Nevertheless, one of them has already spoken truly.

    One must keep in mind the distinction between propositions, which are abstract entities, and events and acts, which are concrete. Propositions may abstractly be true in advance of the events/acts that they describe, but those events and acts happen (become determinate) at a time; i.e., when they happen.

    Propositions take their truth from the way the world is. The way the world is, obviously does not take its truth from descriptive propositions about the world, for that would make propositions prescriptive and not descriptive, and that’s incoherent.

    With all this in mind, the whole argument to fatalism of any form simply evaporates.

    With all respect, Michael, you (and Timothy in our ongoing discussion of Bob the Pancake Saying Guy) are repeatedly committing the modal fallacy, notwithstanding your claim that you are not invoking modal necessity. You are invoking it, whether you believe yourself to be doing so or not.

    Your argument logically reduces to the following form:

    If it’s true today that tomorrow it will rain, then it must rain tomorrow.

    Whereas, of course, the proper formulation is:

    If it’s true today that tomorrow it will rain, then it will (not must!) rain tomorrow.

    It really is not more complicated than that.

    Given quantum indeterminacy and a regularity theory of the laws of nature, causal determinism is false. And logical determinism/fatalism and epistemic (foreknowledge) determinism/fatalism are also false, for invariably one detects in them the modal fallacy. That God knows in advance what you will do does not mean you have to do that thing; it just means that He knows what you will do because you (freely) it, and God’s perfect foreknowledge and your act must (necessarily) match. This does not mean that you must do what you do, because that ascribes necessity to the consequent of the antecedent of the argument and this is plainly invalid.

    You (and Timothy in the Bob thread) keep arguing along the lines that while something is “modally possible” it’s not “actually possible.” Timothy’s latest post at the library has the following statement: “It’s clearly modally possible, but just as clearly it’s not a thing it’s possible for him to do.”

    The only way this makes sense is to realize that the totality of possible worlds means all logically possible worlds. Physically possible worlds are a subset of logically possible worlds, and the actual world is a subset of physically possible worlds.

    At some logically possible worlds pigs fly, just not at our (actual) world. However, at our actual world, any contingent act could have been otherwise, by definition. To say that an act is contingent but could not “really” have been otherwise is logically incoherent.

    Jermy has correctly noted (as I have been harping on at The Galilean Library) that one cannot change the past, but one cannot change the present or future, either. One actualizes the past, present and future, and does not change anything at all. When I actualize history by putting on my hat, I made it true at all times – past, present and future – that I put on my hat at some time t. It was physically indeterminate that I would put on my hat before I put it on, but if I put it on then someone who said a thousand years ago, “ x will put on his hat a thousand years hence” spoke truly. And none of this implies fatalism, for the reason that propositions take their truth from the way things were, are and will be, and not the other way around.

    • I agree with everything Jeremy says!

      I know you do. That’s why I wanted to provide you both with the opportunity to meet.

      Suppose I pick two people. One of them says, “Tomorrow, it will rain.” The other says, “Tomorrow, it will not rain.”

      At the time these two speak, it is indeterminate whether it will rain or not. That it will rain, or fail to rain, will become determinate in the fullness of time; i.e., with the arrival of tomorrow.

      Nevertheless, one of them has already spoken truly.

      You need to disambiguate your term “truly”. You need to take account of whether “truly” is being intended to pertain to “truth”. Let me demonstrate.

      If one person turns out to be correct about what the future is like, that is not necessarily the same as that person having expressed a truth about the future. That is because any expression, in order to be a truth, must refer to a determinate, set, or definite condition. This means that a person speaks truly about a future if a person speaks a truth about that future, and a person speaks a truth about that future if that future is determinate as expressly claimed.

      If the future is not determinate as expressly claimed, then that person only turns out to be correct (or right) upon the future becoming determinate as per the description which the person had expressed.

      Let us look at it in another way. When the person says that some particular event will occur at some specified future, is that person claiming that it is definite that the event will occur? Or, is the person indicating something more like a suspected likelihood? Is the person claiming that it is already a determinate matter (and, therefore, true) what will occur? Or, is the person trying to admit of there being some indeterminateness – not based upon the person’s own ignorance – with regards to how the future might well turn out to be?

      If the referenced future is determinate when the person speaks, then the person can rightly be said to speak truly. If the future is not determinate when the person speaks, then the person is rightly said to have turned out to be correct despite not having spoken a truth or “truly”.

      Whether or not the future is wholly determinate or definite, I leave to your own preferred manner of thinking. However, only if every future is determinate or definite from any perspective whatsoever can there be such truths as a person does (or will do) one thing rather than some other.

      Propositions take their truth from the way the world is.

      That is precisely my position. Of course, since none of us are here claiming to know with utter certainly just what is “the way the world is”, we are working from assumptions and presuppositions. If someone maintains (assumes or presupposes) that there is definiteness about the future, then that person is consistent when positing that there are truths (propositions which are true), for example, about a person doing one thing rather than some other in the future. What the person who maintains that the future is determinate or definite cannot do, however, is accommodate the sort of freedom for which (non-epistemic) indeterminateness is or seems necessary. This sort of freedom cannot be accommodated in the sense that an assertion of the necessary indeterminateness would not cohere with the presumption of utter determinateness.

      With all respect, Michael, you … are repeatedly committing the modal fallacy, notwithstanding your claim that you are not invoking modal necessity. You are invoking it, whether you believe yourself to be doing so or not.

      Your argument logically reduces to the following form:

      If it’s true today that tomorrow it will rain, then it must rain tomorrow.

      No. That is not my argument at all. I have argued that for there to be truth, for an expression of any sort to be true, what is referenced has to be a determinate matter. From this aspect of truth, it follows that if it is true that some event occurs (or will occur) in some future, then that future is (in) a determinate condition which, therefore, does not provide for the indeterminateness necessary for something else to occur. This is not a claim for modal necessity. As I explained previously, a determinate condition can be contingent despite the absence of indeterminateness with regards to that condition. The indeterminateness which is necessary for there to be contingency may have pertained to (may have been located in) the past; indeterminateness need not pertain to an event or an occurrence itself in order for the event or occurrence to be contingent. This is why contingency itself is not sufficient for the sort of freedom for which (non-epistemic) indeterminateness is or seems necessary.

      Given quantum indeterminacy and a regularity theory of the laws of nature, causal determinism is false.

      Causal determinism is irrelevant to the issue at hand. That is because the possibility of the truth of eternalism is noted and granted. From the atemporal perspective, there is no need of causation; it is the utter determinateness which is all that matters and which is all that is relevant. This determinateness happens also to apply to non-eternalistic perspectives such as causal determinism.

      That God knows in advance what you will do does not mean you have to do that thing; it just means that He knows what you will do because you (freely) it, and God’s perfect foreknowledge and your act must (necessarily) match.

      My own analysis above shows that any objection based upon the notion of “must” is an objection which is no longer considering my arguments.

      My earlier critique of Merricks explicates how it is that your parenthetical “freely” is ambiguous at best and carries no force against the sort of freedom for which (non-epistemic) indeterminateness is or seems necessary.

      You … keep arguing along the lines that while something is “modally possible” it’s not “actually possible.”

      Modal possibility only indicates contingency; being contingent does not itself indicate that a condition has any indeterminateness to be associated with it. That is why a future can be contingent despite the fact that it is utterly determinate.

      Jeremy has correctly noted (as I have been harping on at The Galilean Library) that one cannot change the past

      I have expressly stated that I presume the very same.

      one cannot change the present or future

      And I agree that any condition which is utterly determinate cannot be changed.

      One actualizes the past, present and future, and does not change anything at all.

      The term actualizes here presumably does not mean that there is any transformation at all ever, as per the discussion with Jeremy about his use of the term makes. Acknowledged. All that means is that a person does what a person does. That, of course, is a genuine triviality. Consequently, compatibilists want to say a person freely does – or freely chooses to do – what the person does, but the compatibilists seem to ignore the sort of freedom for which (non-epistemic) indeterminateness is or seems necessary. As I have pointed out, such an indeterminateness (and, therefore, such a freedom) are a problem for these compatibilists inasmuch as they have already denied this very sort of indeterminateness.

      Compatibilists can accommodate a freedom-from, but, then, the indeterminateness at issue here does so as well.

      … And none of this implies fatalism

      In this discussion, I have never employed the term fatalism, nor have I used the term libertarian, and neither have I relied on must. I understand that the first step in engagement is to see whether an expression can be perfectly translated into more familiar terms (or, in cases of disingenuity (which have NOT occurred in our discussion), to characterize an argument as the same as some other already allegedly discredited argument).

      But, where is the engagement with what I actually say?

      I do not think my association of determinateness and truth is at all controversial. I also do not think that my description of the experience of the freedom-to as seeming to be dependent on indeterminateness is baseless, unclear, or, for that matter, controversial. Is there any disagreement with regards to these points I have made?

  7. Robert J. Borer says:

    Gentlemen – Please indulge the slowness of a simpleton…

    I don’t understand how a person could possibly have chosen to do other than he did, if what he did – via “free choice” – was certain (or a fact) long before he did it? What am I missing? Isn’t choice predicated on options? How were the person’s options real if the “decision” or “choice” was certain – even before he existed? Are we manipulating time, or what? (I may bail as fast as I appeared if I don’t understand your answer. IOW, KISftS (Keep It Simple for the Simpleton).

    • davidm says:

      The answer to your question is that propositions are “made” true (not caused to be true, in the sense of backward causation; the relationship is semantic and not causal) by the events that they describe; so it can be true now, that a thousand years hence, Bob will put on his hat. But this does not mean that Bob has to put on his hat. It just means that he will. If he does not put on his hat, then it would not be true today that a thousand years hence, Bob will put on his hat.

      • Robert J. Borer says:

        Whether the relationship is causal or not, how is it possible for Bob to do other than put on his hat? Where is the freedom? Wait, don’t answer that. Let me put it another way. You’re assuming such truth statements can be made about the future. Can you justify that assumption? Where is the future found and observed so that such truth statements can be made about it?

  8. davidm says:

    Suppose I say today that it will rain tomorrow. And, it rains. Why have I not spoken truly today, about an event that happens tomorrow?

    You say Bob can’t do other than put on his hat. This means Bob must put on his hat tomorrow, if it’s true today that Bob will put on his hat tomorrow. That’s a fallacy. If it’s true today that tomorrow Bob will put on his hat, of course he will put on his hat; but he does not have to do that. He could refrain from putting on his hat. However, if he does so refrain, then it would be true today that tomorrow, he doesn’t put on his hat.

    What Bob cannot do, however, is put on his hat if it’s true he doesn’t; or refrain from putting on his hat if it’s true that he does. All this reduces to is: true propositions must be true. Bob’s act, and the proposition describing his act, must match. That’s just a matter of logic. But Bob can do whatever he wants.

  9. Robert J. Borer says:

    Suppose I say today that it will rain tomorrow. And, it rains. Why have I not spoken truly today, about an event that happens tomorrow

    Seems to me you’re committing the jumping-between-temporal-locations fallacy. You’re making a statement, jumping into tomorrow to see the event it refers to (rain), and then jumping back to today to say, “I am speaking truly.” I don’t know of anyone that can do that. Normally, such a statement is tentatively made, and only when the event occurs is a value of absolute truth attached to it (after it’s modified to the present tense to say, “It’s raining!”).

    You say Bob can’t do other than put on his hat. This means Bob must put on his hat tomorrow, if it’s true today that Bob will put on his hat tomorrow. That’s a fallacy. If it’s true today that tomorrow Bob will put on his hat, of course he will put on his hat; but he does not have to do that. He could refrain from putting on his hat. However, if he does so refrain, then it would be true today that tomorrow, he doesn’t put on his hat.

    The question is, when does Bob decide whether he will put on his hat tomorrow or not?

    What Bob cannot do, however, is put on his hat if it’s true he doesn’t; or refrain from putting on his hat if it’s true that he does. All this reduces to is: true propositions must be true. Bob’s act, and the proposition describing his act, must match. That’s just a matter of logic. But Bob can do whatever he wants.

    The problem is making a true proposition about what Bob wants to do before he decides what that is.

  10. davidm says:

    This whole debate goes back to Aristotle and the Sea Battle.

    I’ll note that I think Michael is running an ontological argument here, as opposed to a logical argument. That is, I think he’s suggesting that if the past, present and future are ontologically fixed, there can be no prior indeterminateness to any act or event, and so there can be no free will. I think this argument is wrong, but for the moment I just want to focus on the logic of the situation.

    Let’s assume eternalism is true. This is the thesis that all locations in space and time exist. If that is right, then I see no way around saying that if it’s true today that tomorrow it will rain, then tomorrow it will rain. The rain-sayer has spoken truly.

    The question turns on whether, given this state of affairs, it must rain tomorrow. And, of course, it musn’t. To say that it must commits a logical fallacy that even has its own name: the modal fallacy.

    When does Bob decide to put on his hat? Who knows? Maybe he decided years ago that on Dec. 31, 2010, at midnight, he will put on his hat. And he does. It doesn’t mean he has to; he may or may not do it. Or he may decide, a split second before midnight, to put on his hat.

    But the act of putting on his hat is a different sort of logical critter than the proposition describing what he does (or does not do). Many philosophers, and I think they are correct, believe that propositions, being abstract objects existing outside space and time, are not temporally located. So it can be true today that tomorrow, I put on my hat. But so what? This carries no warrant to fatalism, which is all that really matters for the purpose of this discussion. Given that the proposition is made true by the act it describes, and not the other way around, then it follows that anything I do today will have a truth-valued proposition describing it yesterday; indeed an eternity ago. But that doesn’t mean I’m not free to do what I want. It just means that the proposition describing what I do, will accurately describe what I do. True propositions are true.

    • I’ll note that I think Michael is running an ontological argument here, as opposed to a logical argument. That is, I think he’s suggesting that if the past, present and future are ontologically fixed, there can be no prior indeterminateness to any act or event, and so there can be no free will.

      Actually, I think that the semantical aspect of my argument is more central. That aspect encompasses the ontological and the logical, but it commences from interpreted experience as that which is (at least initially) most informative about intended meanings and the associations of those meanings with the words available for the purpose of attempt at communication (and disambiguation).

      My approach is an attempt at discerning what invariances might remain – and to what extent – despite differences in operative assumptions such as occur with the adoption of presumptions pertaining to ontological commitments, for example. Here the ontological does not just concern matters such as eternalism, determinism, and the like; indeed, it is broad enough to entertain the notion of ontologies of truth itself.

      For my purposes, both non-eternalistic utter determinism and eternalism are regarded as correct inasmuch as I do not bother with any argument against the verity of either. Those versions of determinism and eternalism which deny compatibility with the supposed human freedom-to have been quickly passed over as being essentially in agreement with the experiential basis that we have for supposing that unsettledness or unfixedness or indeterminateness is necessary in order for humans to be free-to.

      The issue then primarily focuses on whether and how utter determinism and/or eternalism can be compatible with a freedom-to for which indeterminateness is necessary. Notice that this is not an argument in terms of “free will”. It is clearly an easy matter for some to substitute “free will” for the “freedom-to” with which I am concerned, but such a substitution is more likely to introduce ambiguities instead of effecting any sort of clarification.

      As has been discussed, eternalism presumes a totality. The Oaklander paper admitted as much. Given such a totality, one in which there is always definiteness about the state of all futures, there is never any indeterminateness because there never is, was, or will be any lack of definiteness with regards to any time, place, or condition. This totality is itself atemporal, but that totality can be analyzed in terms of what amounts to four-dimensional cross-sections which would themselves be temporal cross-sections. This is to say that atemporality is compatible with temporality inasmuch as temporality can be said to be (in a way) constitutive of the eternal.

      However, this is also to say that the constituent temporal swaths are incomplete in a way that makes it impossible for anything based on any temporal perspective to justify claims about the totality which is put forth as the genuine eternalistic perspective. For instance, the eternalist cannot justify the actuality of any indeterminateness by giving up the eternalistic perspective for a temporal one in order to note that from the temporal perspective there is not utter definiteness about the future and from that go on to claim that: Hence, there is indeterminateness in the atemporal and eternal totality.

      The atemporal and eternal totality might be regarded as if it is constituted by the temporal, but it in no way follows from this that indeterminateness is constituent of the atemporal and eternal totality.

      As has also been discussed, even if this totality is in any way regardable as being contingent, this contingency does absolutely nothing to establish any human freedom-to. It appears that some of what seem to get commonly referred to as “logical arguments” confuse a general, broad contingency for possibility cast in terms of the sort of alternatives which are indicative of unsettledness, indefiniteness, or indeterminateness, particularly any indeterminateness with regards to any future.

      An eternalist can well assert that the totality is contingent – for instance, that there is a totality at all rather than nothing at all is a contingent rather than a necessary condition. But this contingent totality is one which itself is utterly devoid of the indeterminateness upon which the human freedom-to is dependent.

      Accordingly, from the eternalistic viewpoint, it is correct to say that what will be will be, even though there is no such modal necessity as what will be must be. And, still, the eternalistic viewpoint cannot provide for the indeterminateness without which there cannot be the human freedom-to.

      Many philosophers, and I think they are correct, believe that propositions, being abstract objects existing outside space and time, are not temporally located. So it can be true today that tomorrow, I put on my hat. But so what? This carries no warrant to fatalism, which is all that really matters for the purpose of this discussion.

      I brought up the matter of a A Characteristic of Truth for the purposes of delving into what a person means to claim of something that it is true, a truth, or truthful. The notion that true propositions exist “outside space and time” is wholly irrelevant to the matters at hand and does nothing to make indeterminateness compossible with either non-eternalistic utter determinism or with eternalism.

      The following remarks from the Merricks paper appears to be all that there is to the eternalist’s argument for the freedom-to:

      That Jones sits at t is true … because Jones sits at t. Jones has a choice about that proposition’s being true if he has a choice
      about whether he sits at t. [p. 43]

      My claim that Jones has a choice about the thousand-years-ago truth of that Jones sits at t amounts to the following. Jones has a choice about that past truth in exactly the same way that he has a choice about the truth, at time t, of that Jones sits at t. And so he has a genuine choice about that past truth. [p. 50]

      The crux of the Merricks eternalist position can be restated in this way: “Jones has a choice about that proposition’s being true if he is free-to choose about whether he sits att.” Of course, my earlier critique of Merricks should be sufficient to make it clear that there is no reason to speak about whether a person “has a choice about that proposition’s being true”. The eternalist claim is simply that is timelessly and eternally true that a person freely chooses to do some future specified act (if the person freely chooses to do the specified act, which would be so say if the person is free-to choose to do the specified act).

      What neither Merricks nor, so far as I am aware, any other eternalist does is bother to delve into what it means to be free-to, and it is just such a delving that is absolutely required in order for there to be actual support for the claim that the freedom-to is compossible with an eternal definiteness for which there is no constituent indeterminateness.

      This is to say that the eternalist argument and concern is for nothing other than a valid but content-free form.

      Since the eternalist position here discussed amounts to nothing but empty form, the eternalist could just as well say that a clock freely chooses to do some future specified act (if the clock freely chooses to do the specified act, which would be so say if the clock is free-to choose to do the specified act).

      Any attempt at arriving at a relevant distinction between the doings of a clock and those of a human person might eventually lead to discussion in terms of that matter most often (and rather poorly) abbreviated as free will, but the first step in the distinction actually needs to distinguish between utterly mechanistic conditions and the conditions which would be necessary for the freedom-to.

      The problem for the eternalists is that they assert the utter definiteness of a perfect mechanism (to the extent that anything can coherently be said to happen eternally), and such an utter definiteness or determinateness itself amounts to a denial of there being any (just to reiterate yet again: non-epistemic) indefiniteness or indeterminateness. This leaves the eternalists needing to put forth a notion of freedom-to for which indeterminateness is not a necessary condition; otherwise, the compatibilist eternalists are left claiming that: 1) there is no indeterminateness, and 2) there is the indeterminateness necessary for there to be freedom-to.

      All of the above applies equally well to the variety of compatibilism regarding non-eternalistic utter determinism.

  11. Robert J. Borer says:

    Let’s assume eternalism is true.

    That’s asking a lot.

    This is the thesis that all locations in space and time exist. If that is right, then I see no way around saying that if it’s true today that tomorrow it will rain, then tomorrow it will rain. The rain-sayer has spoken truly.

    Yes, “IF.” Problem is, I can’t imagine such a notion. In what sense does the future “exist”? Saying it exists in the future isn’t saying anything. The future doesn’t exist to me (except as potential), so give me something else.

    The question turns on whether, given this state of affairs, it must rain tomorrow. And, of course, it musn’t. To say that it must commits a logical fallacy that even has its own name: the modal fallacy.

    Fine. But you have to have a way of looking at tomorrow to determine today the truth value of today’s proposition, and thus far, you haven’t shown me one, even citing eternalism.

    … But the act of putting on his hat is a different sort of logical critter than the proposition describing what he does (or does not do). Many philosophers, and I think they are correct, believe that propositions, being abstract objects existing outside space and time, are not temporally located.

    Hard pill to swallow. Propositions exist in minds, and minds exist in time (at least mine does).

    So it can be true today that tomorrow, I put on my hat. But so what? This carries no warrant to fatalism, which is all that really matters for the purpose of this discussion. Given that the proposition is made true by the act it describes, and not the other way around, then it follows that anything I do today will have a truth-valued proposition describing it yesterday; indeed an eternity ago. But that doesn’t mean I’m not free to do what I want. It just means that the proposition describing what I do, will accurately describe what I do. True propositions are true.

    This all assumes what I regard as a very fanciful notion – eternalism, which apparently involves knowing something that doesn’t exist. (My putting on my hat tomorrow when I don’t exist tomorrow – I only exist today.) I’ll most likely let you and Michael proceed. Thanks.

  12. davidm says:

    As has been previously pointed out, uttering a truth does not presuppose that one must know that one is speaking a truth.

    If, on a game show, I guess the prize is behind Door 1, and it turns out that it is, have I not spoken truly without sure knowledge?

    Propositions exist in minds, but minds exist in earlier-later than relations, so someone may utter a truth yesterday about a matter today. Why not? “Tomorrow it will rain.” It rains tomorrow. Why hasn’t he spoken truly?

    As to eternalism, the future can exist relative to you, the same way that New York can exist relative to San Francisco, if you are in San Francisco. If you are in S.F., “here” for you is S.F. But no one denies that NY exists; they just deny (senisibly) that it exists in the same location as S.F. It is perfectly logically coherent to suppose that all times past, present and future exist, but they don’t all exist at the same time. They exist, when they exist, just as spatial locations exist, where they exist.

  13. Robert J. Borer says:

    If, on a game show, I guess the prize is behind Door 1, and it turns out that it is, have I not spoken truly without sure knowledge?

    Yes. You have unwittingly spoken truly. The condition you reference exists at the time of your guess.

    Propositions exist in minds, but minds exist in earlier-later than relations, so someone may utter a truth yesterday about a matter today. Why not? “Tomorrow it will rain.” It rains tomorrow. Why hasn’t he spoken truly?

    I would say that he has, if he has some way of determining it will rain tomorrow (because without such a determination, he has no way of knowing, and it might not rain). If he’s just guessing, then it’s possibly true until it actually rains.

    As to eternalism, the future can exist relative to you, the same way that New York can exist relative to San Francisco, if you are in San Francisco. If you are in S.F., “here” for you is S.F. But no one denies that NY exists; they just deny (senisibly) that it exists in the same location as S.F. It is perfectly logically coherent to suppose that all times past, present and future exist, but they don’t all exist at the same time. They exist, when they exist, just as spatial locations exist, where they exist.

    I can’t see that as anything more than playing fast and loose with the term “exist.” I can’t attach any meaning to the phrase “the future exists.” In what sense? I lived in the past, I live in the present, and I expect to live in the future, but I have no consciousness of that future existence. It is presently non-existent to me.

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