Luther (not that Luther) on the problems of agency

My brother Luther has a series of posts up which address the problem I outlined in my post “Incompatible propositions“: that meaningful agency seems to entail the ability to do serious irreversible damage, and that this is inconsistent with the hope that everything will be all right in the end. Luther’s three posts on the subject are:

I’ve been mulling over Luther’s ideas, as well as Bruce Charlton’s comments on the original post, and may post further on the subject if/when I have any additional insight.


Filed under Philosophy

6 responses to “Luther (not that Luther) on the problems of agency

  1. As I understand Luther’s argument – it is that mortal life is the kind of world where we can be put to trial, but without our choices endangering the salvation of others.

    I reach a different conclusion, probably because I argue from different premises and try to include different primary factors.

    The problem seems to be the tendency of Men to reject salvation, mostly by being unwilling to repent.

    The solution seems to involve Love as the central mechanism – love of God and also of fellow Men.

    I think this means that we can assist in the salvation of others, by our love of them – and that this must further be unilateral and permanent in effect.

    This was clarified for me by the Harry Potter series, in which Harry’s Mother’s love has an effect on him even when he does not remember his mother, and even though his mother was killed when Harry was one yea old – the love alters him (indeed, gets into his skin), and in a good way – a way that assists in his salvation (and in the defeat of Voldemort).

    I think Christian love must be like this – to love somebody, even when they do not know about it, and even if this love is temporary (as are all things in this mortal world) is material assistance to their salvation – and indeed the salvation of ourselves.

    In sum, the primary purpose of mortal incarnation is to die, the experience of death; but the primary urpose of being alive, of living, is to love – and to have the chance of being loved.

  2. Agellius

    What about the idea that what each of us does ultimately matters to himself, and also, each of us is ultimately responsible for himself? We are free to try to assist others to attain heaven (or prevent them from attaining it), but whether they attain heaven or fail to attain it, is ultimately their own responsibility. Someone who receives love might be thereby helped, but someone who doesn’t receive love is not thereby excused. After all Jesus didn’t receive love in his last hours, but that didn’t cause him to lash out and act hatefully.

    We are free in the sense of being morally free, which means we are required to do the right thing no matter whether the right thing is done to us. And whether or not we do the right thing determines whether or not everything is alright with us in the end. What follows from this is that no one can make anyone else do the right thing or the wrong thing. Therefore, it is our own actions alone that ultimately determine our own fate.

    Also, “everything being alright” means not that everyone gets what he wants, but rather that everyone gets what he should get. For some that will be happiness and for others unhappiness.

    I will just note also that I’m leaving out grace. I’m not intentionally excluding it, but assuming it. The results of our choices affect us within the paradigm of grace, such that my choice to do good and avoid sin, repent or not repent, are made possible by grace and have their effects within the context of grace. In other words, if my good choices result in heaven, it’s not because there is an automatic cause-and-effect between temporal actions and eternal bliss, but because Christ’s sacrifice has made heaven possible for those who believe in and follow him. Whereas those who reject him (according to the Christian paradigm) cannot expect his help.

  3. Bruce, Agellius, thanks for the comments. I’m still thinking about them. Like so many other problems, it comes down to a question of what agency really is and how it interacts with causation — something I’m not even close to understanding.

  4. The =meaningful in context= link doesn’t seem to work properly ?
    Fortunately; I found it by fiddling around with the root webdress ( ? ) !

  5. Thanks, Chrs. I’ve fixed the link.

  6. People love us. Loving someone inherently means having your own joy affected by their well-being. Therefore it is impossible for me to make choices that affect my own destiny but not have those choices affect others.

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