Counterfactuals of Freedom

This post echoes Plantinga’s discussion in The Nature of Necessity.

Suppose we have libertarian free will which I shall take weakly as meaning that not all of our decisions are determined. A couple days ago I was weedwhipping after cutting the grass and the weedwhip stopped working all of the sudden (we still do not know what is wrong with it!). I was talking to my brother and I told him how I tried to start it again and it wouldn’t start and so I eventually went inside to talk to my dad about it. Anyway, I then posed the following question, “what would you have done in that situation?” Now, the interesting thing here is that he wasn’t puzzled nor did his eyes glaze over. He didn’t respond by saying, “well, Brett, clearly counterfactuals of freedom do not have a truth value and so the question does not make any sense.” And so it seems that we naturally think that these counterfactuals of freedom have truth value. We may not know what that truth value is, but the very fact that we ask these questions, believe them to be meaningful, and even sometimes argue about the answer seems to imply that there are counterfactuals of freedom.

As Plantinga says, I don’t think I have any argument for the truth of counterfactuals of freedom, but it seems natural enough. Thus, absent a defeater, it seems like we should think there are truth values for counterfactuals of freedom.

What might the person who denies counterfactuals say in response? I cannot think of an obvious except trying to provide a defeater. Can you?

What Does Explanation even Mean?

Take Pruss’ definition of the principle of sufficient reason: every contingent fact has an explanation.  Now, given my last post on showing what a term means, we can use the principle of sufficient reason as a test case.  More specifically, we will look at the word explanation.

So explanation has been taken to be synonymous with cause.  Thus: every contingent fact has a cause.  If that is true, then since libertarian free choices, they violate the principle of sufficient reason.  However, it seems like my libertarian choice really is explained by the following facts: I exist, I have libertarian freedom, and I have certain reasons to make the choice I do.  And so a casewise view of explaining a term would show that definition of “explanation” to be false.  Moreover, the same sort of thing also seems to hold for certain interpretations of quantum mechanics.

So what we have done here is start off with a definition and then used real life examples to see if that definition works.  This is the strategy I suggested in the post above.  The final part of the strategy is to give a new definition of the term.  Maybe it is this: a contingent fact is explained if given the facts that are proposed as the explanation of the fact trying to be explained, it is no longer seen as mysterious how the fact that is trying to be explained obtains.