Assessing Analogies for Free Agency

How do we assess the strengths and weaknesses of various analogies used to try to define free agency and to understand it? And what is free agency? We want to focus on the use of various analogies, rather than directly on free agency in itself. So for our purposes we can put forward a minimalist definition of free agency: free agency is exercising morally responsible choice in making decisions.
One of the primary analogies is the analogy of physical causation. Is a decision of a free agent caused by prior conditions or not? If a decision is physically determined by prior causes, can it still be free? The use of the analogy of physical causation can lead to a dilemma. If a decision is determined by prior physical causes, it seems intuitively that it is not responsible. If, on the other hand, it is totally undetermined, it seems intuitively that it is random, and again not responsible.
There is therefore value in expanded the scope of analogies. We evaluate the following analogies for their strengths and weaknesses: the analogy of multi-level causes (Job 1-2 shows events that involve simultaneously divine, demonic, human, and physical causes); sonship (decisions made in the context of the constraint of family love); translation (decisions constrained by language); writing a novel (with two levels, the level of the author and the level of the characters); divine necessity and freedom as analogous to human necessity and freedom; and necessity and freedom of the second person of the Trinity in relation to the first person. The last two of these are the most foundational. But the existence of mystery with respect to the Trinity suggests that mystery will also remain with respect to human necessity and freedom. Human necessity and freedom reflect on the level of the creature divine necessity and freedom.

3 thoughts on “Assessing Analogies for Free Agency”

  1. interesting
    The proposal seems to propose some novel analogies to address the dilemma of human freedom vs. determinism. This paper could make a contribution to the discussion.

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