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Paul Draper Intro1

Introduction to Section One: Mind and Will (2007)

Paul Draper


What sort of entity is the human mind? Also, what is freedom of the will, and do human beings have such freedom? Determining the correct answers to these questions is crucial for determining which of naturalism and theism is more credible. In order to introduce our first debate, I will briefly explain why.

According to theism, God, who is or at least has an immaterial mind, created the physical universe for one or more good reasons. This implies that mind preceded matter, that teleological and more specifically personal explanation[1] is fundamental, and that acts of will, in God’s case at least, do not involve physical causation. Thus, on the assumption that theism is true, it would not be surprising to discover that human minds are also immaterial and that these minds are also capable of making free choices that are removed from the nexus of physical causation. Indeed, theism appears to entail that human beings have such radical freedom since otherwise God would be blameworthy for the morally bad choices that humans perform, which conflicts with God’s moral perfection. Suppose, on the other hand, that naturalism is true and hence that matter both preceded and produced mind. Then one would expect to discover that human minds and acts of will, like other concrete entities with which we are familiar, have physical causes and are themselves physically realized.

So the controversial issue in this first debate is not so much whether facts about human minds and wills provide crucial evidence. Rather, the controversial issue is what exactly those facts are. Andrew Melnyk argues that our minds are physical and that our wills are caused. If he is right, then the facts support naturalism over theism. Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro argue that our minds are immaterial and that at least some of our mental actions are uncaused. If they are right, then the facts support theism over naturalism. So who has their facts straight? To answer that question, we must examine the arguments, and many interesting ones are offered on both sides of this debate.

Proceed to the Debate


[1] A “teleological explanation” explains why an event occurs by stating that the event furthers some goal or purpose or end. This is contrasted with a “causal explanation,” which explains why an event occurs by specifying earlier or perhaps simultaneous events that caused it to occur. A “personal explanation” is a teleological explanation that appeals to the goals or purposes of (human or non-human) persons.

Copyright ©2007 Paul Draper. The electronic version is copyright ©2007 by Internet Infidels, Inc. with the written permission of Paul Draper. All rights reserved.

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