Thursday, July 15, 2010

Concurrentism = Occasionalism?

Over at Billy's blog, Steven has stated that:
Concurrence leads to occasionalism. You can't paint a nude without painting her a specific way; you can't carve a wooden flute without carving it a certain way; so also, God couldn't will that something exist without willing that it exist a certain way, with determinate features. But then everything's being the way it is at any point in time is explained entirely in terms of God's willing it to be so at that time, in which case (1) there is no need of secondary causes, (2) God actively wills evil events to occur and so is directly responsible for them, (3) there is no libertarian freedom of the will. I've written a few posts on my blog on occasionalism, if you want to see more in-depth arguments for (3).
This, I think, is naive and is not a very careful consideration of the difference between concurrentism and occasionalism.

The doctrine of divine concurrence holds that for any even that happens, at the exact moment of that event, both the creature and God are causing the event at the same time. So when it comes to acts of free creatures, the creature has a distinct will that chooses something, but God is at the same time enabling, providing the power for, and carrying out the event.

Occasionalism holds that for every event that happens, divine causation is all there is. It is maximal, and there exists no causation by a separate agent.

So, when Steven says that, "You can't paint a nude without painting her a specific way; you can't carve a wooden flute without carving it a certain way," he is not recognizing that on the concurrentism view, it requires that a separate agent need to exist to decide to and also take part in the painting or flute carving such that God would only be causing the events that the other agent had chosen to carry out. As Arminius stated, "The concurrence of God is not his in, mediate influx into a second or inferior cause, but it is an action of God immediately flowing into the effect of the creature, so that the same effect in one and the same entire action may be produced simultaneously by God and the creature."1

Arminius further explains that when God has decided to permit a rational creature to act, He obviously would not refrain from giving the power to carry out that act. "Though this concurrence is placed in the mere pleasure or will of God, and in his free dispensation, yet he never denies it to a rational and free creature, when he has permitted an act to his power and will. For these two phrases are contradictory, 'to grant permission to the power and the will of a creature to commit an act," and "to deny the divine concurrence without which the act cannot be done.'"2

Arminius explains how this separates God from the sin He concurs in carrying out:
But this concurrence is to the act as such, not as it is a sin: And therefore God is at once the effector and the permittor of the same act, and the permittor before he is the effector. For if it had not been the will of the creature to perform such an act, the influx of God would not have been upon that act by concurrence. And because the creature cannot perform that act without sin, God ought not, on that account, to deny the divine concurrence to the creature who is inclined to its performance. For it is right and proper that the obedience of the creature should be tried, and that he should abstain from an unlawful act and from the desire of obeying his own inclinations, not through a deficiency of the requisite divine concurrence; because, in this respect, he abstains from an act as it is a natural good, but it is the will of God that he should refrain from it as it is a moral evil.3

In other words, God first permits the sin, and is then the effector of it. If the rational creature had not have chosen to sin, God would not have concurred with it and it would not have happened.

I think it's obvious that God working with a free creature in causation is leaps and bounds separate from God being the only cause, and that concurrentism does not entail occasionalism.

I personally am not even sure if holding to divine concurrence is necessary. I think the third option other than occasionalism and concurrentism, conservationism, is also a viable position. I think God has so ordered the universe so as to be completely in control and yet does not need to cause all events, yet He must conserve all things in being for them to actually exist. He must allow all events, and in the case that His ordering of events actualizes them He in a far removed sense is a reason for them coming about. However, that view doesn't seem to be one that has been traditionally held to by classical theists. Maybe someone could explain the reasoning to me?


1 James Arminius, WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE CONCERNING EVIL, http://www.godrules.net/library/arminius/arminius28.htm

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

19 comments:

Steven said...

(i) I admitted that concurrentism as such (which is a strange and confusing doctrine to me, anyway) doesn't lead to occasionalism except insofar as it requires conservationism.

(ii) To say concurrentism *leads to* occasionalism is not to say that concurrentism *is* occasionalism. That much is obvious.

(iii) Where is the refutation of the argument? I gave three premises, one of them being the only possible disputable premise, and you show no sign of rejecting it.

bossmanham said...

I argued from the definition of concurrentism. The definition doesn't even approach occasionalism. Plus, if the three premises are in the quote I have in the post, none of them follow from the other. Concurrentism requires that there be at least two wills in the process, because God is simultaneously working to bring about the act that the second will has chosen. That being the case, concurrentism necessarily excludes occasionalism, which has God only deciding what happens.

So when you say, "everything's being the way it is at any point in time is explained entirely in terms of God's willing it to be so at that time" you have missed what concurrentism is. Everything is not explainable due to God's will alone, but there need be other wills to explain why God works with those wills to bring about what they chose.

Steven said...

How does this refute my argument? So long as concurrentism requires that x exists at t only because God wills that x exists at t, then you have the argument. You can argue from definitions all you want; if concurrentism requires conservationism, then the extra causality on the part of the agent is superfluous.

bossmanham said...

So long as concurrentism requires that x exists at t only because God wills that x exists at t, then you have the argument

Did you even read what I wrote? That's not what concurrentism requires!

Steven said...

"Did you even read what I wrote? That's not what concurrentism requires!"

If it doesn't require conservationism, that's fine; I only argued that if it requires conservationism, then it leads to occasionalism. Anyway, conservationism is true and Scriptural, so you have to deal with my argument anyway.

bossmanham said...

Um, no I don't, because your argument deals with concurrentism.

"Concurrence leads to occasionalism" is what you said.

As far as conservationism leading to occasionalism, I assume you're misconstruing the definition of that as well. In terms of "control" that God exerts, conservationism < concurrentism < occasionalism.

God conserving creation in being simply deals with His continuing to sustain the creation. According to the Sanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, "conservationism...keeps divine causal involvement to a minimum. According to conservationism, while God conserves substances with their powers in existence, when creatures are causally active in bringing about their natural effects, God's contribution is remote or indirect. In other words, God's causal contribution consists in merely conserving the being or esse of the creature in question along with its power, and the causal activity of the creature is in some straightforward sense the creature's own and not God's (Freddoso 1991, 554)."

Now, how could God keep His causal influence to a minimum and at the same time be the maximal causal influence?

Steven said...

Brennon, in the first place, I admitted even at Birch's blog that I understood him to be talking about *conservationism* instead of *concurrentism*. You're bringing up irrelevant points, because I revised my point.

And it doesn't matter one bit what the definition of conservationism is, you can define it as you like; conservationism requires:

(CSRV) For any x and t, exists at t because God wills that x exists at t

And from (CSRV) we infer occasionalism. The definition doesn't matter, when the principles themselves lead to occasionalism. You can *say* that conservationism doesn't lead to occasionalism because, well, the point of conservationism is to make divine causal activity minimal. But that doesn't mean that *formulations* of conservationism don't lead to occasionalism. So your argument by definition isn't worth anything.

bossmanham said...

And from (CSRV) we infer occasionalism

You may, but nobody else does. With occasionalism, God must actively cause everything. With condervationism, things exist outside of God and may have causal ability within themselves.

You're simply stacking the deck.

The definition doesn't matter, when the principles themselves lead to occasionalism

Ok, but the principle doesn't lead to that.

But that doesn't mean that *formulations* of conservationism don't lead to occasionalism.

But you haven't shown that they do.

In fact, if more than one will is required in one system, and not in another, then one cannot be the other, because it defies the identity principle.

Steven said...

You may, but nobody else does. With occasionalism, God must actively cause everything. With condervationism, things exist outside of God and may have causal ability within themselves.

Nicolas Malebranche, Jonathan Kvanvig, and Hugh McCann would beg to differ.

Ok, but the principle doesn't lead to that... But you haven't shown that they do.

What do you mean I haven't shown they do? I gave an argument; which premise are you denying?

Steven said...

In fact, if more than one will is required in one system, and not in another, then one cannot be the other, because it defies the identity principle.

I'm not arguing for *idenity*; I'm arguing for *entailment*.

Lloyd said...

Great message on God's Word. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God's blessings too you. Lloyd

bossmanham said...

Nicolas Malebranche, Jonathan Kvanvig, and Hugh McCann would beg to differ.

Then we're working with different understandings of occasionalism, which makes dialog awful hard.

What do you mean I haven't shown they do? I gave an argument; which premise are you denying?

I deny that, "Everything's being the way it is at any point in time is explained entirely in terms of God's willing it to be so at that time."

I think God has decided to work with creatures. So they must act to make states of affairs at any point in time the way they are, and then God concurs with that, or simply sustains the essences in being so they can act. If that's the case, then it's not true that Everything's being the way it is at any point in time is explained entirely in terms of God's willing it to be so at that time.

I'm not arguing for *idenity*; I'm arguing for *entailment*.

Pretty ambiguous there, but it also can't be the case that if one system requires more than one will that it could entail the other. Not to mention how patently ridiculous it strikes me. But it is the consistent end of determinism; God as the only will. Thank you for being consistent...but doesn't that mean we're all simply extensions of God? Wouldn't that entail pantheism?

bossmanham said...

I'd like to order this guy's dissertation, but I sure don't want to spend the money at the moment.

bossmanham said...

Lloyd, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your kind words.

Steven said...

I deny that, "Everything's being the way it is at any point in time is explained entirely in terms of God's willing it to be so at that time."

That's the conclusion you dummy. Naturally you reject the conclusion, but which premise do you reject, and why?

bossmanham said...

Then, Steven, you are pretty pitiful at articulating an argument. It's not my fault that you are so woefully inept at communication.

Here are the premises I see.

1) You can't paint a nude without painting her a specific way; you can't carve a wooden flute without carving it a certain way; so also, God couldn't will that something exist without willing that it exist a certain way, with determinate features. (Which is extremely and ridiculously vague)

2) But then everything's being the way it is at any point in time is explained entirely in terms of God's willing it to be so at that time (maybe the way things are at that time includes libertarian freedom)

And then you state "IN WHICH CASE" which looks quite a bit like "therefore." You can't even articulate this silly argument it's so patently ridiculous.

3) in which case (1) there is no need of secondary causes, (2) God actively wills evil events to occur and so is directly responsible for them, (3) there is no libertarian freedom of the will.

Now get off my blog.

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
drwayman said...

Word of the day: obfuscation

Definition: see Debate between Brennon and Steven

I try to learn a new word every day. I was just surprised that the dictionary provided such a definition.

bossmanham said...

Steven,

Maybe you didn't understand. I told you to get off my blog. That means you are no longer welcome here. Any future post from you will be immediately deleted.

I will respond to the epic fail of a premise that is "God can't will things exist without willing they exist a certain way, with completely determinate properties."

That is one of the most innane things I have ever read. God can't will that a thing as a whole continue to exist while refraining from willing every minute detail about that thing? Sheer unadulterated pride. We can will that a fire continue to exist, and we must sustain it in being for it to exist by continuing to give it fuel. However, we don't have to (and really can't) control every minute detail about how that fire continues to exist. Or, I can sustain a ball in the air above a volcano. That ball's existence depends on my sustaining it in the air. Say there are small beings living inside that ball. Their existence also depends on my sustaining power. But I could allow them to have free reign within that ball in terms of what they choose to do.

Your argument is a failed non-sequitur. And it's pretty pathetic how boistrous you've been about how no one could defeat it. I just did by analogy and reductio ad absurdum. Fairly easy.