Binary powers that come in degrees?

I think there are at least two models for views that accept the following claims:

(i)                  Freedom is identified with a binary power and

(ii)               Freedom comes in degrees.

Reid and Kant hold views which claim (i) and (ii).

The first:        Suppose we have a switch with two values, OFF and ON. Now suppose that to get from OFF position to ON position and vice versa, we must go through some intermediate area. If the switch is really binary, it is not the case that position in this intermediate area corresponds to any sense in which the switch is more or less OFF or ON except in the sense that there are exactly two degrees, 0 and 1, and position in the intermediate area correlates with the switch’s being closer to one of these positions. The switch is always either OFF or ON, 0 or 1. Likewise, if freedom consists in the power to will to Φ or will not to Φ and that power is binary, it is not the case that it can admit of degrees besides 0 and 1 in any interesting sense besides being closer to farther away from being free or unfree.

The second model:   Suppose the switch is a dimmer switch. There is a point on such a switch where the light changes from off to on, and from that point on, moving the switch makes more light. In this analogy, what “more light” consists in is more freedom: being more responsive to the moral law or eschewing animal natures or whatever. This seems like a perfectly coherent possibility. And it seems to be this model, rather than the binary switch model, that Jennifer attributes to Reid.

It strikes me that (i) and (ii) on the first model is conceptually incoherent.

I want to suggest that any picture of freedom on which the following is true faces difficulties:

(i)                 Freedom is identified with a binary power and

(ii)               Freedom comes in degrees.

On such pictures, what we need in order to make sense of freedom’s being an all-or-nothing affair and nevertheless coming in degrees is a notion of a binary power that admits of degrees. I want to tentatively suggest that this is conceptually confused. If that is right, then Jennifer is too sanguine about the possibility of making sense of Reid.

Suppose we have a binary switch with two values, OFF and ON. Now suppose that to get from OFF position to ON position and vice versa, we must go through some intermediate area. If the switch is really binary, it is not the case that position in this intermediate area corresponds to any sense in which the switch is more or less OFF or ON except in the sense that there are exactly two degrees, 0 and 1, and position in the intermediate area correlates with the switch’s being closer to one of these positions. The switch is always either OFF or ON, 0 or 1. Likewise, if freedom consists in the power to will to Φ or will not to Φ and that power is binary, it is not the case that it can admit of degrees besides 0 and 1.

So Reid should either give up one of (i) or (ii) or respond to the charge of conceptual confusion. Perhaps it isn’t conceptually confused and I’m just not seeing things correctly.

But, I do think that Reid can move to the second picture and hold (i) and (ii) on it.

Hobbes and Possessive Agency

There is an intimate connection between Hobbes’ views on property and Hobbes’ moral philosophy (LV 18.10). Hobbes is explicit that there cannot be any morality in the state of nature because there is no property: no mine or yours (LV 13.13-14; 18.10; 21.8). I’ve been thinking about the ways in which Hobbes could avoid saying that liberty is sufficient for moral agency and, in light of Russell’s reading of Hobbes, how issues concerning moral agency, the contract and, now, property are related. For Hobbes, the social contract involves each individual submitting their wills to the sovereign: in particular, this submission needs to be of a particular kind. It must authorize the actions of the sovereign. How? For Hobbes, this involves a particular kind of proprietary relationship: individuals need to own the actions of the sovereign. They need to be, in other words, authors of the sovereign’s actions (See Ch.16 and 17.13).  The ownership, or property, of actions (or words) Hobbes calls authorship (16.4). Natural persons, according to Hobbes, are those that own their own actions (or words) (16.1). Thus, persons are authors of their own actions. I will call this view possessive agency. Natural persons are possessive agents.

Consider, then, what Hobbes argues with respect to inanimate objects and non-rational creatures like children and madmen. First, Hobbes notes that inanimate objects cannot be authors and, therefore, cannot authorize the actions of their representatives (16.9). In the Latin edition, Hobbes writes that inanimate objects are not persons (16.9, fn.5). Since a person is that which is said to own her own actions or words,  I think Hobbes is committed to the following: inanimate objects are not authors in general: they cannot own their actions (or words). It follows that they cannot own the actions (or words) or another and, so, they cannot authorize the actions of their representatives. They are not possessive agents, therefore they cannot authorize the actions of a sovereign.

Likewise, Hobbes continues, children or madmen cannot authorize the actions of the sovereign, at least during the time in which they are not reasonable (16.10). Should I be right about how Hobbes argues his point, then it seems Hobbes is equally committed to the view that children and madmen, during their `folly’, are not authors in general. They cannot, thereby, authorize the actions of their representatives. They are not possessive agents, so they cannot contract with the sovereign.

If one is a moral agent only in in so far as one has contracted with a sovereign and entered a commonwealth, then it follows that possessive agency is at least a necessary condition for moral agency. That is, Hobbes may be committed to the view that only those who are considered authors of their own actions could be moral agents. Since animals, children, madmen, etc., are not possessive agents, they are incapable of authorizing a sovereign’s actions and thereby incapable of being moral subjects.

If Voluntary Contractual Acts Make us Moral Agents, who is a Moral Agent?

We’ve discussed Russell’s reading of Hobbes, and that Hobbes rejects the liberty assumption. Liberty, for Hobbes, is not sufficient to demarcate moral from non-moral agents. What is sufficient? Russell argued that those who perform a particular free act (a contractual speech act) are moral agents. In short, subjects of a commonwealth, for Hobbes, are moral agents.

I have been wondering about this particular contractual speech act. If this is the type of act that is necessary for moral agency, then it seems we can exclude children and animals. This is good. However, by Hobbes’ own lights, the act need not be linguistic (LV 21.10). We could indicate our consent tacitly. Our submission (to the sovereign) need only indicate (even tacitly) that what we intend, in so submitting, is our protection. One could argue that even this act may involve abstract reasoning (thanks to Julia for this point), and our capacity for abstract reasoning is ultimately grounded in our capacity for language. This has me thinking what degree of reason (and Hobbes does think reasonableness is gradable (LV, 5.18)) is actually necessary in order to appropriately consent and be a subject of a commonwealth (be it by institution or by acquisition). In light of this, I have come across some troubling passages:

And the most part of men, though they have the use of reasoning a little way, as in numbering to some degree, yet it serves them to little use in common life, in which they govern themselves, some better, some worse, according to their differences in experience, quickness of memory, and inclination to several ends, but specially according to good or evil fortune, and the errors of one another (LV, 5.18).

Hobbes here suggests that the majority of people, while they have some minimal degree of reason, hardly use it or do not use it at all. This might suggest, then, that the kind of reasoning one would need in order to tacitly consent is quite minimal. If we are too stringent with the demands of consent (or as Hobbes usually puts it, `submission’), then it would follow that the majority of people are not actually subjects of the commonwealth and, thereby, not moral agents. This seems implausible. Yet, consider what Hobbes says in De Cive:

Infants and the uninstructed are ignorant of their [civil society’s] Force, and those who do not know what would be lost by the absence of Society are unaware of their usefulness. Hence the former cannot enter Society because they do not know what it is, and the latter do not care to because they do not know the good it does. It is evident, therefore that all men (since all men are born infants) are born unfit for society; and very many (perhaps the majority) remain so throughout their lives, because of mental illness or lack of training [disciplina]. Yet as infants and as adults they do have human nature. Therefore, man is made fit for Society not by nature, but by training (De Cive, 1.2).

It seems we should take seriously the contention that Hobbes may have excluded most everyone from being proper subjects of civil society. If this is true, then Russell’s reading of Hobbes will not do, since it would turn out that the majority of people, being unfit for civil society, do not turn out to be moral agents. In other words, Hobbes’ conception of moral agency and responsibility would be quite poor even if he does not endorse the liberty assumption. I am largely operating on the assumption that Hobbes does not hold this view in the Leviathan, but I thought others might be interested in this point so I raise the issue here.

 

Discerning Between Local & Global Character Traits

In light of Fritz’s talk at the conference, I wanted to take a moment to think through the distinction that is fundamental to the situationist camp in social psychology. This is of course the distinction between local and global character traits. Roughly speaking, local character traits are a function of particular situations, whereas global character traits are invariant from situation to situation.

In order for the central claim of the situationist to be interesting, we ought to be able to clearly discern between character traits that are local and those that are global. But I find myself wondering just how easily these two might collapse into one another. The point can be approached from two directions. First, consider a putatively global character trait – for example, being cordial. It’s altogether too easy to conjure up a situation in which even the most cordial person grows peevish (e.g., subject them to torture). Thus it seems we were rash in calling this a global character trait to begin with, for we took certain aspects of the situation for granted. We are then forced to qualify the trait (thereby making it local) by augmenting it to being cordial-when-not-being-tortured. I suspect that similar stories can be told for any putatively global trait. Thus we might conclude that any global character trait can be rendered local by considering a wider and wider array of possible situations.

Or, in the other direction, consider a putatively local character trait – for example, being helpful-immediately-after-finding-money. The string of qualifications after ‘helpful’ is supposedly what makes this character trait local. But nevertheless, if a person possessed the local character trait of being helpful-immediately-after-finding-money, I submit that it would be globally (i.e. categorically, unrestrictedly) true of that person that they are helpful immediately after finding money. Here I am thinking of ‘it is globally true that…’ as a sentential operator, akin to the box and diamond of modal logic. In the same way that ☐ P implies ☐ ☐ P in most modal logics (which in turn implies that ☐ ☐ ☐ P, ad infinitum), I’m suggesting that for any local character trait a person has, it will be true of them that in any situation (i.e., globally) they have that local trait.

The natural move at this point would be to fall back on the idea that one character trait can be more local (or more global) than another, but that it might not make sense to speak of absolutely local or absolutely global character traits. I’m not sure if this makes the situationist’s claim too banal to be worth examining.

Could the noumenal be a 4D manifold?

I take the mysterious connection between the noumenal and the phenomenal to be a prima facie strike against Kant’s account of free will. I wonder if it is possible for someone to remove some of the mystery by adopting a Kantian view about free will with a commitment to substantivalism about space-time.

One might argue that the noumenal is the 4D manifold of space-time, the entirety of which we do no have empirical access to. However, given our experience, the phenomenal world is a 3-dimensional one governed by laws of causation. Though events in the phenomenal world are explained such laws, they are in the noumenal realm the structure of space-time. There is no causing going on in the noumenal realm as the manifold is a timeless entity. One could go on to say that our noumenal selves timelessly determine the structure of space-time where our 4D worm is located. Our phenomenal selves experience our existence as traveling through the worm where all events, including our own actions, are determined.

I am not sure if anyone would be motivated to take such a position. I see at least two worries for adopting such a view. The first is whether or not it actually does make the distinction less mysterious. I think one would have to argue that, in so far as we have good reason to think the universe is a 4-dimensional object, it explains one mystery in terms of another. Whatever would explain why we experience the world as advancing in time when in fact it is a 4D object serves to explain the mystery of the noumenal/phenomenal distinction. Secondly, one might worry that it makes the noumenal realm too accessible for it to be a Kantian picture. We do know some things about space-time, like the fact that it is curved. This may be seen as too much epistemic access to qualify as a Kantian view. I take it that both of these considerations are tension. It seems that the more one makes the noumenal/phenomenal  understandable, the more epistemic access we have to the noumenal.

An Explanatory Regress?

In seminar we discussed some versions of a regress worry for Reid given by Alvarez. I wonder if there’s a similar explanatory regress as well. Reid’s insistence that all powers are two way struck me as odd given that his account of the causation ensures that when acting freely, the agent could have willed otherwise than they did. I was puzzled by what explanations one might give for the fact that an agent could have ϕ-ed and to not ϕ-ed. It could be explained by the fact that the agent had the power to ϕ (since powers are two-way). It could also explained by the fact that the action being free, so the agent could have willed to ϕ or willed not to ϕ. It appears like the possibility that the agent could have ϕ-ed or not ϕ-ed is overdetermined.

I assume that instead of it being overdetermined, one fact explains the other. I presume it is  the agent causation that explains that notion of a two-way power. That is, we explain having a two-way power in terms of the agent causation. I wonder if we get a regress worry here as well. Is it not also the case that exercising the will is a power the agent has? If it is, it must be a two-way power, and two-way powers are explained in terms of agent causation. This suggests an explanatory regress. Is this just another way of re-formulating a version of the regress objection?

Free Will & The Pragmatic Maxim

My conference paper compares the arguments of David Hume and William James on the question of determinism. One thing that I didn’t have space to address in the paper is the role that pragmatism plays in James’s argument for indeterminism. I think it might be fun to puzzle through one aspect of that topic for this discussion post.

At the core of the pragmatic school of thought is the Pragmatic Maxim, which is primarily a method for getting clear on tough concepts. I’ll quote James’s statement of the maxim at length, only because it is so succinct and beautifully written:

“[t]o develop a thought’s meaning, we need only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce: that conduct is for us its sole significance. And the tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that there is no one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve – what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare. Our conception of these effects, whether immediate or remote, is then for us the whole of our conception of the object, so far as that conception has positive significance at all” (Pragmatism, Lecture II).

James applies the pragmatic maxim to the concept of free will, and his conclusion is that the only practical effect of free will actually existing would be the promise of moral improvement in the world. In other words, the only practical difference between a deterministic world and a world filled with free will (for James, compatibilism is not a live option, for it amounts to a “quagmire of evasion”) is that in the latter we have genuine opportunities for making moral progress. Thus he calls free will a “melioristic” doctrine, “which has for its sole meaning a better promise as to this world’s outcome” (ibid., Lecture IV).

This has always struck me as a strange conclusion to draw, for it seems possible to draw precisely the opposite conclusion – namely, that the only practical effect of having free will would be the promise for a vicious world. If for some reason humans sought to do evil deeds with their free will, then moral deterioration, rather than moral progress, would inevitably result. So it appears that James has running in the background the tacit assumption that humans for the most part have virtuous natures and inclinations. I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but it strikes me nonetheless as a maximally tenuous claim.

I’ve always wondered why James didn’t simply conclude that the concept of free will fails to pass the pragmatic maxim, in the same way that the concepts of substance and truth-as-correspondence fail. Perhaps the answer has something to do with James’s incorrigibly cheerful temperament.

More on Substance and Divine Simplicity

A few days ago I asked whether we could get from Descartes’s claim that God is a primary substance to the conclusion that His will and intellect are identical. It now strikes me that we can. I saw in a paper by Dan Kaufmann, here, that Descartes argues for the doctrine of divine simplicity. Kaufmann does not pull out God’s simplicity from His being a primary substance like I do from the text in the Discourse on the Method. Instead, Kaufmann gets to Divine simplicity simply on the basis of the text itself. And that seems fine for his purposes. What I want to suggest, though, is that from a principle we can pull out of that passage and Descartes’s claim that God is a primary substance, we get divine simplicity and, in particular, we get that God’s intellect and will are identical. And that is what I wanted to show.

The passage is as follows:

And as I observed that all composition is evidence of dependence and that dependence is manifestly a defect, I concluded that it could not be a perfection in God to be composed of two natures and consequently that he was not composed of them (Discourse on the Method IV, 35).

And the principle is:

If something is composite, then it depends on something distinct from itself, like a proper part of itself.

In comments on a draft of this paper, I had not developed the argument beyond simply hinting that I wanted such an argument. Someone suggested that the identity of God’s will and intellect might be a result of its being the case that moral, modal, and alethic properties depend on God’s willings and therefore cannot be prior to them. There might be an argument like this in the offing, but I’m not sure how it goes.

Anyway, Descartes holds that God’s will and intellect are identical. He holds that he has a clear and distinct perception of this (Third Meditation, 50).[1] He writes that “the unity, the simplicity or the inseparability of all things which are in God is one of the principal perfections which I conceive to be in Him” (Third Meditation, 50). What is interesting about Descartes’s claim in the Third Meditation is that he directly connects it with dependence in the Discourse on the Method: because “all composition is evidence of dependence and… dependence is manifestly a defect, I concluded that it could not be a perfection in God to be composed of two natures and consequently that he was not composed of them” (Discourse on the Method IV, 35). Say that x is composite iff x has proper parts.[2] Descartes here commits himself to the principle that if something is composite, then it depends on something distinct from itself, like a proper part of itself. The conclusion I want, viz. that God is simple, follows via modus tollens.

From God’s status as a primary substance we can see that God is not composite. Here is why: If God is composite, then He is dependent on something besides Himself like a proper part of Himself, by the principle above.  But God is a primary substance; God depends on nothing distinct from Himself. So God is not composite. In particular, His intellect and His will cannot be distinct.

Does all of this seem to work to people?
But here is another worry: I cannot find this argument in Descartes! So even if it is true that one can get from God’s being a primary substance to His being simple, it isn’t clear to me that I can appeal to that in describing what Descartes thinks. Any thoughts on that?


[1] For this reason, Descartes would hold that it is true. Clear and distinct perceptions are veridical.

[2] x is a proper part of y iff x is a part of y and x is not identical to y. I treat part as a primitive.

Descartes on Substance and a Lower Grade of Human Freedom

In this, my third post, I continue to develop the themes of the previous two. Recall that I am interested in arguing that the analogical sense in which God and humans are substances does explanatory work elsewhere in Descartes’s philosophy.

In that paper that I am writing for this class, I argue that the particulars of the highest grade of human freedom are explicable on the basis of humans’ being secondary substances. x is a secondary substance iff x depends on nothing but God for its existence. In broad strokes, the argument is that just as humans depend on God for their existence, the highest grade of freedom that they enjoy involves dependence on God. In this paper, I say nothing about the exercise of human freedom that falls short of this highest grade. What I want to do here is try an idea out and see what folks have to say about it.

This highest grade of human freedom occurs when a human has a clear and distinct perception. Descartes apparently holds that humans act most freely when their will is determined by their intellect’s having a clear and distinct perception of a course of action’s being good. He writes that “the more I incline in one direction—either because I clear understand that reasons of truth and goodness point that way, or because of a divinely produced disposition of my inmost thoughts—the freer is my choice” (CSM I.40). In the case of a clearly and distinctly perceived proposition like 2 + 2 = 4, “a great light in the intellect is followed by a great inclination in the will” (CSMK 233). This is the limiting case of human freedom.

Suppose that I clearly and distinctly perceive that 2 + 2 = 4. Descartes holds that I cannot but believe that 2 + 2 = 4 in this case. And when I do so believe, I am most free. So far, so good. Of course, there are difficulties here involving internal and external determination, but I brush over these for the purposes of this post. So again: so far, so good.

What would he doubt about this post?

But what about cases where one falls short of the highest grade of human freedom? It isn’t entirely clear to me what to say about these cases that ties up with my attempted explanation of human freedom in terms of the type of substance that humans are. Suppose that I have what I take to be good reasons to believe some proposition, P. My intellect puts forward P as more worthy of belief than ~P, but I do not clearly and distinctly perceive P. On Descartes’s picture, my intellect’s putting P forward with these reasons inclines my intellect in one direction, but doesn’t determine it to believe P.

One thing I might say—and I don’t know if it is correct—is that this case is parallel to the case of the highest grade of human freedom. Just as in the case of the highest grade of human freedom, I am responsive to properties of the object of my intellect that depend on God’s choices. This strikes me as correct, but there is a question I don’t know how to answer.

What makes the highest grade of human freedom the highest and not this lesser grade? What is it about human will’s responsiveness to clear and distinct perceptions that makes it the case that that responsiveness is an exercise of the highest grade of human freedom?

One possibility is that it involves cognizing an object and responding to properties of that object that (i) fully depend on God and (ii) my will is fully determined by my cognizing the object’s having those properties. Both the highest grade of human freedom and this lesser grade share (i), but they differ in (ii). I can, in the lower grade, choose not to assent to the object of my intellect; in the case of the highest grade, I cannot but assent. Thus, I’d hold that the similarity in the cases is that both are cases of liberty of spontaneity. And, if that is explained by the essences of humans by the type of substances that they are, then everything is fine. I can continue to hold that human freedom is to be explicated, ultimately, by the type of substances that humans are.

The idea is that, in the highest grade, just as I depend on God for my existence, my choices fully depend on objects’ properties that depend on God. In the lesser case, I depend on God for my existence, but my choices do not fully depend on objects’ properties that depend on God; I have the ability—from myself—to assent or not to assent. In the lesser case, I am—in some sense—responsible for whether or not I assent. One feature of this theory is that it seems to cohere with Descartes’s strategy in the Fourth Meditation for exempting God from blame for our cognitive errors.

Anyway, this is where I am with things. Any comments or suggestions would be welcome.

Until next time,

Evan

Descartes on Substance and Human Freedom

I am concerned to argue that the analogy Descartes employs to explain how God and humans are both substances does real work elsewhere in his philosophy. This is part of a wider project that Matt is also interested in to make sense of created-in-the-image-of-God talk. In particular, I am interested in making sense of the ways in which God and humans are free. My thesis is that the ways in which God and humans are free is explained by the sense in which God and humans are substances. In particular, I want to make sense of Descartes’s claim that God and created things do not share essences; if they do, they do so in an analogical, non-univocal sense (CSM II.291-2).

One interesting feature of this remark is that it is situated in a text that is talking about free will. So it would seem that Descartes thought that there was some relation between these essences and free will in the Divine and human cases. What I want to suggest is that, if we take Descartes’s account of substance seriously, we get an account of why God and created creatures do not share essences and why what freedom consists in in the Divine and human cases is the way that it is.

In the paper, I am concerned primarily with God’s freedom and the highest grade of human freedom. In my last post, I talked about part of an argument for why God’s freedom consists in what Ragland calls liberty of non-motivational indifference (Ragland 2006, 382). In this post, I want to talk about the highest grade of human freedom and how I see Descartes’s account of secondary substance as relating to it. Spoiler alert: I think that the account of this highest grade of human freedom flows naturally from Descartes’s account of what sort of substances humans are.

The highest grade of human freedom involves responsiveness to clear and distinct perceptions. I will have another post about lesser grades of human freedom and how to extend the explanation I want to offer to those cases. But for now, I want to focus on the highest grade of human freedom. At this point, I’m going to introduce some terminology and then turn to my discussion of the highest grade of human freedom.

First, the terminology. Note that God and humans are substances in only an analogical sense (CSM I.210). Descartes thinks that no essence applies univocally to both God and His creations (CSM I.210). Instead, there can only be an analogy that explains why we think that God and humans have some particular property. God is a primary substance since He depends on nothing for His existence: x is a primary substance iff x depends on nothing for its existence. Humans, meanwhile, are secondary substances since they depend only on God for their existence: x is a secondary substance iff x depends only on God for its existence.

A rather unflattering portrait of Descartes.

Now, the action. The highest grade of human freedom, meanwhile, consists in liberty of spontaneity. x enjoys liberty of spontaneity with respect to an action iff x’s intellect puts forward that action to x’s will and x performs that action without being forced to do so by any external factor. Thus, liberty of spontaneity involves two factors. First, some action must be put forward to x’s will by x’s intellect as good or true, say. Secondly, x must perform that action because of no external factor.

I assume that the intellect is internal to the agent, so determination by the intellect involves determination by no external factor. I realize that this might be problematic, but it seems like the only way to read Descartes such that he turns out consistent.

We have seen that Descartes believes that humans are secondary substances; they depend only on God for their existence. I claim that this dependence is reflected in the highest grade of human freedom.

Consider the case at a level of abstraction. The highest grade of human choice consists in the will’s responsiveness to a property of a proposition, say, that the intellect cognizes. Suppose that it is responding to the clear and distinct perception of the proposition that 2 + 2 = 4. This responsiveness on the part of the will to believe that 2 + 2 = 4 on the basis of the clearly and distinctly perceived truth of that proposition involves a responsiveness to a property that depends on God’s free choice.

God makes it the case that 2 + 2 = 4 has the alethic property of being true, as we saw in my last post. Free human choice, in this case, consists in responsiveness to a property that depends on God. So just as humans depend on God, their free choices depend on responsiveness to a truth that depends on God. The ontological dependence of humans on God is reflected in the ontological dependence of their freest choices: just as they depend on God for their existence, their free choices depend on responsiveness to a truth that depends on God for its existence.

I think the parallelism is interesting, and I think that the account of free choice that we get here is a reflection of Descartes’s account of human substances. Does this seem right to people? Or is it an uninteresting part of Descartes’s view that seems to have nothing to do with substance?

I take it that there are at least two things I might say here; one is stronger than the other. The weaker claim is that there is a reflection of the account of substance in the case of the highest grade of free human choice. The stronger claim is that what the highest grade of free human choice consists in explained by the account of substance that Descartes offers. Does one of these seem more attractive?

Given Descartes’s account of substances, the account of what free will consists in for God and what it consists in for humans follows naturally. The structure of (in)dependence gets reflected in both cases. God depends on nothing and His free choices depend on nothing. Humans depend on God and their free choices—in some sense—depend on God, as well.

I think that there is much to recommend this reading. First, it coheres well with Descartes’s claim that no essence belongs to God and His creatures univocally (CSM II.292). In particular, it coheres very well with his claim that indifference does not belong to both God and humans. Instead, humans are most free when they respond to clear and distinct perceptions; this is what human freedom consists in. But what could explain this difference except the difference in the type of substance that they are? At the very least, it is a very tempting thought that it is the difference in the type of substance that explains why God and created things do not share essences in a univocal sense. Secondly, if that is the case, then the account of substance should be doing some work. I have given a sketch of how the account of substance does this work. So the account makes sense of some Descartes’s remarks.

I look forward to any thoughts any of you folks might have.

Until next time,

Evan

Also a portrait of Descartes?