Today’s debate prompt is summarized in the title and fully stated at the end of this post.
I ask you to presuppose that the physical world is indeterministic, that there is a mental substance (minds are nonphysical), and that there are at least three types of causation: deterministic event causation, whereby the outcome of some event may be predicted with absolute certainty according to physical laws; random event causation, whereby physical laws allow for multiple valid yet mutually exclusive outcomes to some event, and where even with perfect physical knowledge the outcome may be most accurately predicted by assigning equal probabilities to each physically possible outcome; and finally semi-random event causation, which is a combination of the two such that given perfect physical knowledge, the most accurate predictions rely on disuniform probability distributions.
So to define terms, an event is a process that produces an outcome. Outcomes, groups of outcomes, and groups of events are events in their own right. Causation refers to an event producing an outcome. Events (and by extension, outcomes) may be classified according to causation. Every outcome is caused by an event, and every outcome in turn is part of at least one event causing its own outcomes, to make a “causal chain” of events causing outcomes which are events causing outcomes which are events causing outcomes, &etc.
I ask you to presume for this debate that not all events are the outcomes of other events. An event which is not the outcome of any other events is an “uncaused” event. For example, all random events are necessarily uncaused. There is a special case of uncaused deterministic event causation (only one outcome, no causes). To clarify, events can be uncaused, but all outcomes have causes.
As a matter of style I will be using capital letters for events (“event A”, “event B”) and italicized capital letters with a number to differentiate outcomes to a particular event (“outcome A1”, “outcome A2”).
Let’s put this into practice before going into the debate proper. Suppose event A randomly leads to either outcome A1 or A2, while event B randomly causes either outcome B1 or B2 with equal probability. Now suppose event C is a deterministic process acting on the outcomes to random events A and B. Physical laws allow us to definitively predict the outcome of event C if we are given the outcomes to A and B: if we start with A1 and B1, we get C1; A2 and B1 also gives C1; A1 and B2 gives C2; and finally A2 and B2 gives C3. Refer to the following tables:
|A1 (50%)||A1 (50%)|
|B1 (50%)||B1 (50%)|
|B1||C1||C1||=>||C1, C2, or C3|
Event C is deterministic, and events A and B are both random. Now suppose I grouped all three events together, and labeled the whole cluster “event G”. Treating a whole group of events as a single event is a metaphysical property events, or at least I ask you to assume it is. Outcomes C1, C2, and C3 would correspond to outcomes G1, G2, and G3 respectively. Would event G be deterministic, random, or what?
|A1 (50%)||A2 (50%)|
|B1 (50%)||C1 (25%)||C1 (25%)||=>||G1 (50%)||G2 (25%)||G3 (25%)|
|B2 (50%)||C2 (25%)||C3 (25%)|
According to probability theory, event G is 50% likely to lead to outcome G1, 25% likely to lead to outcome G2, and 25% likely to lead to outcome G3. Because the outcome to event G cannot be definitely predicted, event G is not a deterministic event. Because the outcomes are not equiprobable, event G cannot properly be described as a random event (as defined above, random events have equiprobable outcomes). Event G belongs to that third category of events, which I call semi-random. I define semi-random events as random and deterministic events grouped together, leading to multiple possible outcomes where - even with perfect physical knowledge - the outcome can be most accurately predicted only by assigning disuniform probabilities.
An agent is a person, or at least the mental state or soul that makes him or her a person. I ask you to assume an agent may not be reduced into physical pieces or processes.
Free agency in the libertarian philosophy refers to an agent’s ability to make and carry out a decision without being forced into a choice by external influences. In study of law ‘being forced into a choice’ might include coercion, but for metaphysical purposes the meaning is more narrow: literally removing the choice from the agent’s power. Libertarian free agency is the ability for an agent to do otherwise in exactly the same situation.
I’ve attempted to define deterministic causation, random causation, semi-random causation, and libertarian free agency. For debate, can libertarian free agency be a distinct form of event causation?