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« 2015 State of the Cocoon Address | Main | Discussions of referee and editorial practices »

01/21/2015

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Marcus Arvan

Hi Elisa: Thanks so much for sharing this. In contemporary terms, would you say that Rāmānuja's solution is a kind of compatibilism or a kind of libertarianism? It sort of seems to me ambiguous between the two. The root idea, "God performs what humans have only desired or thought", could seemingly be read as (1) a compatibilist notion (viz. the laws of nature determine what we choose, but still, *we* choose), or (2) a libertarian notion (viz. the laws don't determine what we do; our *choices* determine outcomes independently of physical law). Anyway, do you have any read on which of the two Rāmānuja might have favored?

Elisa Freschi

Thanks, Marcus. You are right in saying that the position is somehow intermediate. As for the choices, they appear to be completely free (in this sense, one would be inclined to label it a libertarianism), whereas actions are completely bound (in fact, we only act insofar as God acts through us, just like one moves her own body and the body's limbs are not at all free to move independently). Thus, something like libertarianism at the psychic level+God-based-determinism at the physical level. Does it make sense to you?

grad

In other words, is it much like Kant's "compatibilism"?

Justin Caouette

Nice post, Elisa!

Would it be accurate to describe their position as free to think but determined to act?

Elisa Freschi

@Grad, I can't see why. Kant's strategy of distinguishing the two levels of the discussion about free will, with the conclusion that free will is a necessity of practical reason, but that from the point of view of pure reason it is a noumenon, seems to me to be completely different, if only because Rāmānuja does not distinguish between pure and practical reason and in fact mixes ontological and ethical issues.
Which analogies do you detect?

grad

The comparison was response to your comment to Marcus. I just meant that the phenomenal is governed by deterministic laws, whereas the noumenal is completely free in the libertarian sense. Insofar the noumenal self is a kind of psychic area, Kant came to mind.

Elisa Freschi

@Grad, now I see. I am sorry, due to the way Typepad handles comments I had not understood you were referring to my answer to Marcus. Now your comment makes sense, thanks.

Elisa Freschi

Hi Justin, sorry for the delay, I had missed your comment. Yes, I think your description is more or less right. The "more or less" depends on an aspect I did not elaborate upon in the post, namely the fact that it is only the initial moment of thought which is free (I tentatively call it "intention" or "resolution"), whereas conceiving merciful ideas or evil proposals is already an "act" depending on God's intervention.

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