My daughter is a compatibilist – where did I go wrong?

My nine year-old daughter came home from school today with a question: “If someone invites you to do something, you want to do it, and you can do it, do you have to do it?” Apparently this is a question that she randomly came up with at school today and tried with several of her friends. And, she’s annoyed because people keep answer it incorrectly.

I got it wrong.

According to my daughter, you do “have to” do whatever is involved in this scenario because you want to do it and nothing is preventing you from doing it. Implicit in her argument is the classical compatibilist notion that our actions are always driven by our affections. Thus, the corresponding action is “necessary” (i.e. determined by your affections), while still being “free” (consistent with your own desires). I don’t know where she came up with this, since I’m pretty sure they don’t teach theories of human volition in her fourth-grade class, but apparently my daughter is a classical compatibilist.

Now I just need to figure out how to explain the consequence argument, the complexity of human affections, and the absurdity rooted deep within fallen humanity. At the rate she’s going, though, she’ll probably figure that all out by next week anyway. So, maybe I’ll just wait.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on November 12, 2010, in Anthropology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. That’s cute, and perceptive.

    Sounds like you have a little philosopher daughter on your hands; must make daddy proud 🙂 .

  2. It sounds like you’ve done something right!

  1. Pingback: My other daughter is a heretic « scientia et sapientia

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