Great Quotes: John Fletcher

I once saw a man who played the most amazing tricks with a pack of cards. His skill consisted in so artfully shuffling them, and imperceptibly substituting one for another, that when you thought you had fairly secured the king of hearts, you found yourself possessed only of the knave of clubs. The defenders of the doctrine of necessity are not less skilful.

From:  “REPLY TO THE PRINCIPAL CALVINIST AND FATALIST ARGUMENTS FOR THE DOCTRINE OF ABSOLUTE NECESSITY”

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One Response

  1. Ben, thanks for sharing the Fletcher quote. I really enjoy magic (the stage form not the occultic form) a lot. One of the key techniques of magicians is **misdirection** in which they lead you to look one way or focus on one thing, while the real trick is being performed somewhere else. It takes great skill to do some of these tricks.

    Necessitarians (I used to call them determinists but I am beginning to reconsider, because “determinist” does not properly convey their false beliefs, if a person believes that all of our actions have been predetermined and so that we must do the actions that we do, it is impossible that we do otherwise, our actions are necessitated, then why not call purveyors of this false belief/trick: NECESSITARIANS?). And being engaged in verbal magic tricks they most certainly are. Fletcher likened them to magicians doing a card trick. No wonder Immanuel Kant the German philosopher described it as “wretched subterfuge.” And where is the trick the subterfuge located? Precisely in using words that have ordinary meanings, when you know full well that you have different meanings in mind, that your meaning of the words is very different from what others mean by these same words, and yet you use the same words now with very different meanings, your meanings, meanings which are even opposite the other person’s meanings.

    Take the word “choice” for example. The ordinary man on the street when speaking of “choices” is not a Necessitarian. He does not believe that his “choices” were completely predetermined so that if he were being accurate he would say: “I had to do it, and I could not do otherwise.” That is a statement someone who believed in necessitation would say. But that is not what he means by the word “choice”. When he speaks of “choices” he has in mind both the experience of having different possibilities from which to choose (with each of these possibilities being accessible to him) and the experience of making a choice, making a selection from one of these alternative possibilities, choosing one while excluding/not choosing the other possibilities. What he means in fact is the **opposite** of the necessitarian statement (“I had to do it, and I could not do otherwise”). He means that: “I chose to do it and I could do otherwise.” [[Now whether or not his belief is true and corresponds to reality is not the issue (while that is an important issue that is not my interest here]] The issue is what does he (the man on the street) mean by the word “choice”? The ordinary understanding of the word “choice” involves the libertarian conception of free will (“I could do otherwise”).

    Now here is where the Necessitarian is playing verbal tricks. When the Necessitarian speaks of “choices”, he is speaking of situations where the person does not have a choice, he cannot do otherwise, in fact he can only do what he was necessitated to do. But the Necessitarians don’t tell you that, they don’t tell you what they mean by the word “choice”, they are not honest in their use of words, and they are not honest that what they really believe is that we never ever have a choice. If they were honest they would admit that they do not believe that we ever have choices, that they do not believe that the word “choice” as ordinarily understood ever exists for human persons. They might admit that perhaps God has choices in the ordinary sense of the word, but not human persons. Imagine what other Christians would think if they put their cards on the table and honestly and forthrightly said that they believe that we never ever have a choice (that free will as ordinarily understood and choices as ordinarily understood do not exist)?

    They believe and want us all to share in their false belief that the actions of humans are completely necessitated. So the Necessitarian will use words such as “choice”, “free will”, “free agency”, “free actions,” “can do otherwise”, “can,” etc. in ways completely opposite their ordinary meaning. Read their literature and you will see this constant redefinition of ordinary words into meanings that fit necessitation beliefs (and it really seems just like magic, except that while magic is done for entertainment purposes the Necessitarian “magicians” are attacking the truth, trying to deceive and mislead people into accepting their false Necessitarian beliefs. I wish they were honest and invented different terms that clearly and not misleadingly convey their meanings. Instead they use words that in their ordinary usage and meaning, have libertarian meanings, in ways where their meanings are opposite what we mean, and the ordinary person on the street means, by the same terms. Kind of reminds me of what non-Christian cults often do in presenting their positions and misleading people about the truth: they use Christian words and terms, but with the cult’s meanings instead of our meanings of the words.

    Robert

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