Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Dialogue: Vol 32 No 4
Mormonism and Determinism
Mormonism and Determinism Blake T. Ostler Mormons have historically rejected any form of universal causal determinism because it appears to conflict with its basic commitment to free agency. However, Rex Sears has recently argued that (1) free agency and causal determinism are compatible; and (2) Mormon commitments square better with causal determinism than the opposing view of libertarian free will.1 He further argues that metaphysical conceptions of moral accountability are misguided and suggests an alternative which views accountability as a feature of demands arising in interpersonal relationships. It is my purpose to show that Sears has sold out to a view that is difficult at best to reconcile with fundamental Mormon commitments. I intend to argue that none of his arguments in favor of determinism are compelling and that his answer to arguments against determinism are weak or simply miss the point. I will first consider arguments which Sears raises against the libertarian view. Sears argues that foreknowledge is inconsistent with libertarian free will, so Mormons should reject libertarianism and construct a notion of "agency" consistent with foreknowledge. He then argues that the reconstructed notion of agency is also consistent with causal determinism. While I agree with Sears that infallible foreknowledge is inconsistent with libertarian free will, I suggest adopting a view of foreknowledge that fits better with libertarian free will and the scriptures in the Mormon canon. Sears argues that libertarian free will is inconsistent with Mor-monism's rejection of creation out of nothing. I review his argument and suggest that his argument does not succeed. Sears also argues that libertarian free will is inconsistent with Mormonism's commitment to materialism. I suggest that the libertarian view of free will can easily accommodate a materialist metaphysic. To this point my arguments are in defense of libertarian free will as consistent with Mormon commitments. 1. L. Rex Sears, "Determinist Mansions in the Mormon House," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 31, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 115-141.