perjantai 18. tammikuuta 2013

Johann Joachim Lange: Metaphysical-mechanical disputation, on necessity and contingency and freedom, inquiry for determining necessary errors of Spinozism and others (1724)

We have seen Lange criticizing Wolffian philosophy, but his own opinions have remained mostly hidden. Now, the veil of mystery is to be opened a bit, when I study Lange's Disputatio metaphysica mechanica, de necessario et contingenti ac libero, notiones ad dijudicationem Spinosismi aliorumque errorum necessarias.

The topic of Lange's treatise is apparently rather dry and academic: modalities, that is, concepts of possibility, necessity, impossibility and contingency. Yet, behind these abstractions lies the problem of determinism and freedom that the dispute between Wolff and Lange circled. Lange had criticized Wolff for not separating geometric and physical necessity – Wolff could say that the deterministic world was not necessary, because for him only God was a truly necessary entity, while the concrete world was necessary only if one already assumed the fact of creation.

We can at once note that Lange was perhaps a bit unfair in his condemnation of Wolffian notion of necessity as a mere geometric necessity of Spinoza. As I have argued, for Wolff, necessity of God is not just logical necessity or logical contradiction of the non-existence of God. Instead, God cannot fail to exist, because he has in himself sufficient power to exist – nothing can stop God from existing. In other words, God is absolutely necessary, because he does not require any external boost for becoming actual, while all the other things are at most just hypothetically necessary, because they do require such a boost.

For Lange, on the contrary, absolute necessity is twofold. God is absolutely necessary in the same manner as with Wolff: he requires nothing for becoming actual and exists therefore eternally. Absolute necessity of God is internal, but there is also external absolute necessity – namely, with things that depend only of God and not of any other free agents. External absolute necessity is then the immutability of certain deterministic things that lie beyond control of humans, such as the motions of planets.

Concept of hypothetical necessity in then restricted by Lange to things that lie in human control. This notion of hypothetical necessity clearly requires at least partial freedom of human beings – free choices are the only real source of contingency in the world. The existence of hypothetical necessity requires also that these free choices can have real effects on the world – otherwise, the contingency would be restricted to mental processes, which would be causally closed in relation to the physical world.

What Lange then does in comparison with Wolff is to emphasize the special role of finite free entities. God has, in a sense, just created the general features of the world, while the filling of the world with particular content has been left for the free choice of his creations – God has given the human being the tools, but it is human being himself who can choose how to use these tools.

Lange runs into some obvious problems, when he tries to reconcile his notion of human freedom with the idea of divine omniscience. In order that human freedom be real, God should not have decided what human beings should do, still, he must also know what they will do. There might be no problem, if God just knew on instinct what the future is like – if I know beforehand that Peter will go to work tomorrow, I am still not the cause of Peter's future actions, which could well be freely chosen by him. Problem is that God has also created human beings – if he chose to create Peter, he should have known what Peter would do in future – thus, he should be at least partially responsible for his actions: he could have chosen not to create Peter, if he knew Peter would become criminal. Problem is that Lange never faces the problem adequately, hence, the very same lack of moral responsibility of which he blames Wolff and other deterministic philosophies falls on his own theological notion of freedom.

Next time I'll take another look at Wolffian metaphysics.

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