Is it good for rational agents to have free will?
Clarifying the question
Is it good for for rational agents to be able to freely and deliberatively choose between right and wrong courses of actions (in the libertarian sense)
Debates this question affects
Humans innately intuit that free will is good.
Humans intuitively recognize free will as intrinsically good, both culturally and across time. This is relevant because, in the absense of defeaters, one rationally ought to believe in accordance with ones rational intuiton.
- Augustine: “As a runaway horse is better than a stone which does not run away because it lacks self-movement and sense perception, so the creature is more excellent which sins by free will that that which does not sin only because it has no free will. I would praise wine as a thing good of its kind, but condemn a person who got drunk on that wine. And yet I would prefer that person, condemned and drunk, to the wine that I praised, on which he got drunk.... because of the dignity of [his] nature.” [On the Free Choice of the Will, Book 3.]
Freely loving God is good
The ability to freely love in a genuine relationship with God is good. This is relevant because, among other things, it requires free will.
- Peter van Inwagen (Philosophy professor at Notre Dame): “free will is necessary for love. Love, and not only erotic love, implies free will. The essential connection between love and free will is beautifully illustrated in Ruth's declaration to her mother-in-law, Naomi: And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me. (Ruth 1: 16, 17) It is also illustrated by the vow Mr. van Inwagen, the author of my fictional being, made when he was married: I, Peter, take thee, Elisabeth, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.” [“The Problem of Evil” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 2005), 209.]
Free will is instrumentally good
Many other states of affairs are good which also require free will,
- freely making truly significant moral decisions,
- Freely forming bonds of love in response to evil is good (esp. in the context of eternity).
- Freely helping others in general,
- Freely performing honorable acts in general
- Freely forming our own character is good (esp. in the context of eternity).
Note: although freely forming one's character is an intrinsic good, it is plausibly also good in virtue of being the means through which one can be reconciled with God. One might argue this way:
1. God desires to unite with us in loving fellowship; two wills integrated around the good.
2. But our hearts (and will) are wicked in a way that makes this impossible.
3. To fix this then, our hearts need fixing (in way which preserves our free will).
4. And this is best done is via a rescue operation where we make certain free self-forming choices, wherein we become progressively oriented towards the good.
- Some respond by saying free will is achievable in the _compatibilist _sense, where an agent is free insofar as she is able to do what she _wants _to do, unimpeded. But consider van Inwagen's Alphas-Delta's[Forthcoming].
- Alvin Plantinga (Philosopher professor at Notre Dame): “A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.” [The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 166–167.]