Philosophical Dialectics: An Essay on Metaphilosophy by Nicholas Rescher

By Nicholas Rescher

A research in philosophical method geared toward supplying a transparent view of the scope and bounds of philosophical inquiry .

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24 Philosophical Dialectics 3. A creator is responsible for all defects of his creation. 4. God is not responsible for the evils of this world. On this basis we have it that God, who by (1) is responsible for all aspects of nature, by (3) is also responsible for evil. And this contradicts contention (4). Suppose, however, that one introduces the distinction between causal responsibility and moral responsibility, holding that the causal responsibility of an agent does not necessarily entail a moral responsibility for the consequences of his acts.

Three very different philosophical positions are involved here: surdism, coherentism, and explanatory pragmatism. And it is clear that the apory at issue interlocks them into a coordinated interrelationship. Consider the freedom/causality paradox of the following aporetic cluster, which sets the stage for controversy about freedom of the will: 1. All human acts are causally determined. 2. Humans can and do act freely on occasion. 3. A genuinely free act cannot be causally determined⎯for if it were so determined, then the act is not free by virtue of this very fact.

Humans can and do act freely on occasion. 3. A genuinely free act cannot be causally determined⎯for if it were so determined, then the act is not free by virtue of this very fact. These theses represent an inconsistent triad in which consistency can be restored by any of three distinct approaches: 1-rejection: This is “voluntarism”—the exemption of free acts of the will from causal determination (Descartes). 2-rejection: This is “determinism” of the will by causal constraints (Spinoza). On Distinctions in Philosophy 43 3-rejection: This is “compatibilism” of free action and causal determination—for example, via a theory that distinguishes between inner and outer causal determination and sees the former sort of determination as compatible with freedom (Leibniz).

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