RPM, Volume 13, Number 12, March 20 to March 26, 2011

The "Corrupted-Will" Model:
A Reformed Theological Appraisal of Neuroscience
and Cognitive Psychology of Human Will and Responsibility

A Mutliperspectival Endeavour Against Free-Will

By Tobias Alecio Mattei, M.D.

Reformed Theological Seminary
Virtual Campus
Curitiba, Brazil


So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." Romans 9:16

For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily? Martin Luther 1


In the latest years significant advances have been made on both fields of neuroscience and cognitive psychology regarding the understanding of the psychological dynamics as well as the biological structures of the brain underlying intentionality and decision-making. In the following essay, the author reviews the insights such empirical data might provide to the classical theological debate about Human Will and Responsibility.

Employing the Multiperpectival approach proposed by the reformed theologian John Frame, the analysis is divided in three main sections (Figure 1). 2

The first relates to the Existential Perspective. In this part it is analyzed how the necessity of the concept of "free-will" for understanding responsibility arises from an incorrect interpretation of the issue from an unbalanced fist-person perspective.

The second relates to the Normative Perspective. In this part, the main historical statements of reformed theology related to the question of responsibility and human will (as well as the dissident voices of each historical period) are exposed and discussed.

The third one relates to the Situational Perspective. In this last part the author explores how the latest discoveries from both cognitive psychology as well as neuroscience support the presuppositions built upon reformed tradition for a non-libertarian, deterministic and compatibilistic theological model of responsibility and human will.

I. The Existential Perspective

In Frame's epistemology the Existential Perspective refers to the sphere of questions and concerns which emerge during the epistemological process when considering the subject (or individual) who proposes to know something. 3 The existential perspective highlights the personal dispositions, temperament, presuppositions, as well as all those biases contained in the individual's past experience which influence every act of knowing.

When considering the existential perspective on the issue of human will and responsibility, we divide the analysis two main subsections. In the first we delineate the several possible philosophical and theological positions regarding human will and responsibility. For illustrating such views, we focus on Calvin's classification of human will. 4 Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that several secular philosophers have held similar views throughout the history.

In the second subsection, we explain two different important concepts of Cognitive Psychology (the differences between the First - 1PP - and Third-Person Perspective — 3PP - frameworks). Finally, we end this part, correlating both subsections and demonstrating, with basis on other previous works, that there is a strong correlation between adoption of 1PP and allocation of responsibility to the self. Such process, nevertheless, necessarily involves the inclusion of a libertarian notion of the will in order to maintain the so-called "freedom" of the individual. We defend that such an attitude is the natural effect of the noetic effects of sin over the human mind and that, whenever an unbiased 3PP framework is adopted, no libertarian notion of "free-will" is required for the allocation of responsibility.

Subsection I

Several attempts have been made in the history of philosophy to define the exact relation between human will and decisions. 5 , 6 , 7 In the field of theology, this discussion has received even more attention, because the effects human actions had to be balanced with the existence of a God, who (according to the Christian view, specially in the reformed circles) had been considered to be absolutely sovereign. 8 Actually, the very possibility of such harmonization between God's sovereignty and human will has been questioned by many authors. Some of them even defended that both concepts were simply irreconcilable. 9 , 10 In order to summarize the several theological positions regarding human will and responsibility, we found useful to employ John Calvin's classification of the will, as delineated in his masterpiece "Institutes of Christhian Religion." 11

The Coerced Will:

According to Calvin this term was in itself a contradiction, and therefore, should not be employed For him, although it was possible to define an action either as self-determined or as coerced, the human will itself (understood as an internal disposition which results from the personal preferences and inclinations) would never be amenable to coercion.

In opposition to the concept of a coerced will (which had been considered a form of an externally-determined will) Calvin proposed two other different ways of describing human will (both of them considered to be self-determined). They are:

The Libertarian Free-Will:

A libertarian self-determined theory of the will implies the real existence of an unlimited range of possible choice for each decision. Libertarianism, argues that "free-will" is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents must necessarily have "free-will" in order to be responsible for their acts. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of "free-will" that requires the individual to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances. In fact, the essence of libertarianism is, for agents, to look back on choices and be able to say: ‘I could have done otherwise.' 12

The Corrupted (Bounded) Will:

The view of a Corrupted (or Bounded Will), although affirming the existence of an entity called human will, denies that is "free" in the sense that it has an unlimited range of possible options. Calvin in all his writtings clearly considered that all human actions were not independent or outside God's sovereignty. Nevertheless, in order not to attribute directly to God the origin of sin, Calvin distinguished between God (who is the principal or sovereign cause of all things) and his creatures (who are the inferior causes).

In his words: ‘The proximate cause is one thing, the remote cause another.' 13 According to Calvin the human will was just a `remote cause,` and therefore, could not be independent or "free" from the`proximal cause` (God's predetermination).

As stated in his Institutes:

Man, since he was corrupted by the fall, sins not forced or unwilling (non invitum nec coactum), but voluntarily (volentem), by a most forward bias of the mind; not by violent compulsion (non violenta coactione), or external force (non extraria coactione), but by the movement of his own passion; and yet such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. We are all sinners by nature, therefore we are held under the yoke of sin. But if the whole man is subject to the dominion of sin, surely the will , which is it's principal seat , must be bound with the closest of chains. And indeed if divine grace were preceded by any will of ours, Paul could not have said that,"it is God that worketh in us to will and to do (Philipians. 2:13) . 14
Along the history of theology, the term "compatibilism" has classically been employed in order to describe the possibility of concurrence of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. 15 In other words, compatibilism means that God's predetermination and meticulous providence are "compatible" with voluntary choice. Although human choices are not coerced (people do not choose against what they want or desire) yet they never make choices contrary to God's sovereign decrees (which were predetermined from eternity). This biblical harmonic concurrence of both realities is clearly expressed in relation to Christ's death: "Him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay" (Acts 2:23).

In Calvin's words:

We allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man's innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. 16

Subsection II

In this part of our discussion, we would like to demonstrate how the very necessity of a libertarian notion of "free-will" for justifying responsibility arises from an excessive emphasis on the subjective and personal view of the matter. In order to understand such phenomenon, we introduce some basic concepts of what is referred in Cognitive Psychology studies as "First and Third-person perspective" frameworks. 17

It is already known that, during activities involving spatial cognition, the human brain may operates in different reference frames as "means of representing the locations of entities in the space." 18 In an "egocentric reference frame," constituted by subject-to-object relations, locations are represented in relation to a personal agent and his physical configuration. In such frame the "self" is the centre of scene and all objects and events are represented in relation to this central point. This reference frame is, in some sense, the "Euclidean space carried by the observer." It has already been demonstrated, for example, that a specific area of the brain, (the right inferior parietal córtex) is activated whenever such egocentric calculations are necessary. 19 In contrast, an "allocentric reference frame," sometimes also referred as "exocentric" or "geocentric" is constituted by object-to-object relations as described in a Cartesian coordinate system. This framework is independent of the agent's position as well as from any external observer. Examples of "exocenric reference frames" are maps in general, in which there is no subject of action or central figure but all objects are disposed homogenously in the space. There is, for, example an already established and validated "International Terrestrial Reference Frame" as well an "International Celestial Reference Frame."

The "egocentric reference frames" can be further subdivided in those employing "First-Person Perspective (1PP) and those employing "Third-Person Perspective (3PP)." In the context of spatial cognition, the first-person-perspective (1PP) refers to the perception of the centeredness of the subjective multidimensional and multimodal experiential space upon one's own body and can, thus, be opposed to the third-person-perspective (3PP), in which mental states resulting from spatial perception can be ascribed to someone else. The cognitive operations when perceiving a visual scene from one's own perspective (1PP) differs from taking a view of the same scene from another person's viewpoint (3PP), although both tasks are centered in the body of the agent (both are "egocentric reference frames"): the self or the other, respectively. The crucial difference between 1PP and 3PP is that 3PP needs a translocation of the egocentric viewpoint (Figure 2).

This differentiation between 1PP and 3PP is somewhat similar to the concepts of the contemporary philosopher Daniel Dennett. According to him, for any question in philosophy which involves action or a time lenght, it is possible to adopt two different perspectives. The first is what he calls a "God's eye view of the universe." In his words: ‘…we imagine the entire fabric of causation from the dawn of creation (on the left) to the heat death of the universe (on the right) laid out before us along the time line.' 20 The second perspective is what he calls the "zoom in," a close look at the subjective perspective of the individual throughout the time. While the first is essentially atemporal, the second is essentially existential.

Alhtough it could be said that Dennet's "zoom in" is an interpretation in an essentially 1PP, there must be some care when drawing an analogy between "God's eye view" and traditional 3PP. For most of the cases in which the term 3PP is employed (mainly in experiments in cognitive neuroscience) what occurs is only a translocation in space from a self-centered experience for an overview experience. However, the time continues to be experienced existentially at the same manner.

As Dennet's concepts were build in order to justifiy his philosophical system, the abstraction of what he calls "God's eye view" goes further than a simple 3PP, because it withdraws not only the existential experience of space, but also the subjective experience of time. in such way his "God's eye view" is not only an overview out of the individual's personal space but also atemporal. These concepts allows the philosopher to state that perspectives are , not only complementary and capable of representing simultaneously the same fact, but also that, the same event, while viewed in "God's eeye view" may seem to be completely determined, while, when viewed from the "zoom in" perspective, becomes completely undetermined (or, in better words, as unpredictable due to the limited knowledge of the subject in question).

It is important to emphasize that it has already been demonstrated that the adoption of 1PP is strongly related to internal cognitive processes which involve allocation of responsibility to the self. As stated in a recent paper dealing with responsibility and 1PP:

It can be said that the agent with strong 1PP has a certain understanding of (and a possible empathy with) other agents or creatures. This capability seems to be essential to morally responsible agency. 21
Nevertheless, we argue that such process of adopting 1PP for moral responsible agency is essentially sinful, because it necessarily implicates assuming a libertarian notion of the will in which the self is only responsible because it is independent of any external control (and even God's sovereignty). We defend that the necessity of a libertarian notion of "free-will" arises whenever the totally-depraved mind evaluate the relation between human will and responsibility in an biased "first-person perspective." In other words, human beings will always judge unfair the punishment for his own decisions if they are shown to be just the result of past deterministic processes. 22 For example, the individual would consider unjust to be judged by an evil act (even recognizing that he actually performed that act) if someone shows him that all previous conditions which led to that act had already been previously planned by someone else. In the 1PP the subject will assume responsibility only if he cannot establish a clear relation of causality between the past conditions and his act. In such situation, the human mind will naturally assume the ownership the act, considering it to be direct result of his "free-will."

Such necessity of "free-will" for justifying responsibility never arises when a 3PP is adopted. When an external judge, for example, analyzes a criminal case, although he may ask about biological predispositions or inducing circumstances for the evil which has been done (even using such facts for diminishing the punishment), the sentence will be objetively based on the occurrence or not of the act, not in the absence of predictable social and psychological causes. In an 3PP analysis the simple demonstration of ownership of the act is enough to allocate the responsibility to the individual. In the penal system, such demonstration of ownership is very objective and would only be questioned in the case where "will" and "action" were not consonants (for example, in cases of external coercion).

As conclusion of this first part focusing on the existential perspective, it could be stated that, whenever the depraved human mind evaluates the matter of responsibility and human will through an essentially 1PP, it will always logically suppose the necessity of a libertarian notion of "free-will" in order to justify responsibility. In an analysis in 3PP, conversely, natural determinism and responsibility are completely compatible without libertarianism.

The fact that any libertarian concept of "free-will logically implies physical indeterminism has, since the early debates in philosophy, been clearly perceived. In fact, historically the claim for the existence of "free-will" has always been considered to be a statement that one's actions or decisions were outside the scope of ordinary physical determinism. That is, since Epicurean proposal of indeterminism, arguing for the validity of "free-will" has been synonym of seeking to establish that one's actions or decisions were not the result of natural causes but rather that they arose, to some extent, "de vacua." 23

The Christian philosopher Donald MacKay presents an interesting analysis on the relation between these two frameworks and the matter of determinism. In his arguments, MacKay purports to establish that although one's actions or decisions can be completely causally determined in the strong sense for external observers (at 3PP), they may also, at the same time, be logically undetermined for the actor in question (1PP). 24 , 25 In other words, according to Mackay, the fact that human behavior is logically undetermined from the 1PP does not necessarily lead to the necessity of supposition of a libertarian concept of "free-will," which would imply in ordinary physical indeterminism.

Therefore, in MacKay's scheme, both physical determinism, behavior unpredictability and responsibility are fully compatible and integrated in a coherent system without the necessity of any libertarian concept of "free-will." Moreover, in accordance to our pressupositions, the fact that any interpretation of the facts in a 1PP is strongly correlated with a certain level of unpredictability for the subject, naturally predisposes the human mind to suppose the necessiy of a libertarian concept of "free-will" for explaining behavior and allocating responsibility, when the facts follows, in reality, a strict physical determinism. Conversely, as already mentioned, in a adequate 3PP interpretation of the facts, both determinism and responsibility are fully compatible.

II. The Normative Perspective

Understanding the Normative Perspective as the one which emphasizes the most basic rules governing any system or epistemic process, we believe it is possible to get an insightful understanding about the relation between human will and responsibility by focusing on the theoretical implications of adopting a deterministic or non-derterministic philosophical system. Having in mind, as extensively emphasized by Frame's works, that no philosophical, apologetic or even scientific system is neutral in itself and devoid of basic presuppositions, we propose ourselves to critically search for those presuppositions which have governed the theological writings of the classical reformed tradition. 26 In order to obtain an overview about the tone of the discussion in each period, we also provide a concise sample of the main dissident voices against which the orthodox reformed theologians battled.

In order to achieve such goal we focus our discussion on the following topics:

1) John Calvin's theology of human will expressed in his book "The Bondage and The Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice Against Pighius." 27

2) Jonathan Edward's model of human decision-making process exposed in his treatise "Freedom of the Will: A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of the Will which is Supposed to be Essential to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame." 28

3) The Reformed view of the relation between the God's Sovereignty and Human Will as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith. 29

4) Martin Luther's theology as defended in his book "The Bondage of the Will — From the Latin: ‘De Servo Arbítrio.'" 30

1) John Calvin's Theology of Human Will

After the publication of his masterpiece "Institutes of Christian Religion" in 1539, some theologians (among them the Dutch Roman Catholic theologian Alberth Pighius, who wrote a response entitled ‘Ten Books on Human Free Choice and Divine Grace') thought that Calvin's emphasis on God's sovereignty, as well as his radical view on predestination, would be a real obstacle to any Christian theory of responsibility. Truly Calvin's theology on the issue was very radical on the topic, as it may be perceived by the title of one of the chapters of his "Institutes" entitled: ‘That man is now stripped of freedom of choice and bound over to miserable servitude.'

Calvin, when saw Pighius' work, felt a pressing need to respond to his arguments. The result was his book "The Bondage and Liberation of the Will A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius" published in 1543.

Pighius defended that God's gracious election had no reference to or connection with "His hatred of the reprobate." 31 For him, it was logically possible for God to positively elect some to salvation and not actively reprobate others (something similar to an active positive election and a passive negative negligence). Actually, this is the position which most of the Lutherans would latter in history defend: the concept of Single Predestination. Furthermore, when Pighius stated that "God willeth all men to be saved" 32 we would be in accordance with the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement, a position which, after the Remonstrance, would be considered a hallmark of Arminianism.

According to Calvin, however, neither external action nor internal states of the heart were independent of God's sovereign will. He believed that God's decrees were the primary and sufficient cause of any action or desire and that the sovereign ruler of the world had "foreordained whatsoever comes to pass" before the foundation of the world not based on any prediction of any human response but only according to the "good pleasure of his will."

According to Calvin, God works internally in the minds of men so that "… whatever we conceive in our minds is directed to its end by the secret inspiration of God." For Calvin, the hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions. Interestingly, Calvin's system continues to be essentially deterministic because God would not have effected by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted. In Calvin words:

The will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things. 33

2) Jonathan Edwards' Theology of Responsibility

We believe that any reformed appraisal of the question of human responsibility and its relation to human will must, necessarily, adopt three main conclusions from the great reformed theologian Jonathan Edwards expressed in his treatise "Freedom of the Will." They are:
1) Human Responsibility does not require a libertarian notion of "free-will" nor any kind of indeterminism between decision and act.

2) There are two types of inability: natural and moral. In the first, there is dissonance between will and action (either due to external coercion or due to self-limitations of the nature). In the second, there is consonance between will and action.

3) Responsibility is generated during a dynamic process of conscious decision during which the will is transformed in action. After this point, moral inability becomes not only a limitation of a fallen nature, but a conscious decision against the commandment, characterizing a rebellious attitude and therefore amenable to punishment. 34

In fact, in such framework a libertarian notion of "free-will" (understood as a complete and unrestrained liberty) is, in itself, a philosophical fallacy once it pretends to be independent of Jonathan Edwards' Supreme Ontological Law.

Jonathan Edwards' "Supreme Ontological Law"

According to Edwards' theology, there is one law or rule relative to the "Being" (that's why I call it ontological) that is the basis of all rationality in this world and, in this way, is so primarily (reason why I call it ‘Supreme') that its validity extends even to God!

Such Supreme Ontological Law could be stated in the following terms, "The freedom of action or the range of possible acts for every ‘being' is limited by (or subjected to) the essential nature of this Being."

For Edwards, ontological nature was the supreme concept, while the range of possible actions was merely a logical consequence of such nature. For example, because of the Christian definition of God (as a holy and perfect) "Being," the range of His possible actions is limited to those considered "fair and just." This fact, according to Edwards, by no means contradicts the notion of an all-powerful God, because, ultimately, even his omnipotence is subjected to his nature. In such sense, everyone can realize how the very idea of a libertarian "free-will" is irrational if the word liberty is proposed to mean an unlimited and unrestrained capacity of volition or action. For christhians such concecpt is simply absurd because, even God's will and actions are in some sense restrained by the perfection of his nature, and, therefore, in accordance to Edwards' Supreme Law.

In the same way, the "freedom" or range of possible actions of fallen human beings would be limited by their own corrupted nature. To Edwards, this does not mean that humans cannot be responsible for their actions, but clearly proves that all beings in this world are subject to his Supreme Ontological Law. For Edwards, human freedom is basically absence of coercion. As he makes clear the concept of freedom should never be applied to human will:

The plain and obvious meaning of the words "freedom" and "liberty," in common speech, is power, opportunity, or advantage, that anyone has, to do as he pleases… being free from hindrance or impediment in the way of doing, or in conducting in any respect, as he wills. … To talk of liberty, or the contrary, as belonging to the very will itself, is not to talk good sense. 35
Edwards exposes his arguments in relation to responsibility in several sessions of in both positive (praise, reward, virtue - section 1 and 2) and in negative forms (blame, punishment, vice— section 3) in the third part of his treatise entitled: "The kind of liberty of will that Arminians believe in: Is it necessary for moral agency, virtue and vice, praise and dispraise etc.?" 36

Edwards' perform a extensive discussion on the issue with basis on the following basic arguments:

Section 1: God's moral excellence is necessary, yet virtuous and praiseworthy.

Section 2: The acts of the will of Jesus Christ's human soul were necessarily holy, yet truly virtuous, praiseworthy, rewardable etc.

Section 3: Moral necessity and inability are consistent with blameworthiness. This is shown by the case of people whom God has given up to sin, and of fallen man in general.

In this sections, Edwards refers to some biblical texts such as:
So I gave them up to their own hearts' lust, and they walked in their own counsels (Psalm 81:1).

God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves. For this cause, God gave them up to vile affections. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient (Romans 1:24-28).

Therefore it can be easily perceived that Edwards would consider a simple falacy (or trick of words), the so-called "Omnipotence Paradox" or "Paradox of the Stone" classically atributed to Averroës (1126—1198) and later discussed by Thomas Aquinas. 37 This paradox was first proposed in the form of a question: "Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even that being could not lift it?" If so, then it seems that the being could cease to be omnipotent; if not, it seems that the being was not omnipotent to begin with." 38

For Edwards this paradox would emerge from the naive error of not recognizing that every human capacity (and even every divine perfection) must be follow his Supreme Ontological Law. The paradox of the Stone only arises when someone considers that the Omnipotence of God is above or is independent from his nature.

In other words, the paradox's origin rests in the failure to reconize that even the God's perfection of Omnipotence has a range of possibilities that is limited by his other perfect attributes. Edwards' answer for the other form of the same paradox, stated by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (before 532) in the following terms: "Is it possible for God to deny himself?" 9 would be simply "No." The omnipotence of God is limited by the perfection of his nature, which includes not only omnipotence, but also rationality and coherence. Therefore, self-denial would not be among the range of possibilities of God's choices because it would be contrary to his own nature.

In the same way, the "freedom" or range of possible actions of fallen human beings would be limited by their own corrupted nature. To Edwards, this fact by no means implies that humans cannot be responsible for their actions. For Edwards human freedom is basically absence of coercion. Excluding this exception, all other actions would necessarily imply responsibility for the subject who performs them. Nevertheless as he makes clear the concept of freedom should never be applied to human will.

Jonathan Edwards' "Utility" Model of Decision

I predicate Edwards‘ model of human decision-making with the word "utility" because, when analyzing the way human will determinates actions, Edwards reach some conclusions that are very similar to modern economic models.

According to his model, every decision happens when the self is posed in front of a range of possible choices. The self, then, always chooses "what is most desireful." In economic theory language it could stated that, having a background of personal preferences (pay-offs) in relation to all possible outcomes and calculating the probability of achieving such outcomes through each one of the possible decisions, the subject attributes a certain value (utility) for each choice, and, ultimately, makes a rational decision. In Edwards' less economic original words:

What determines the will? All I need to say for my purposes is this: What determines the will is the motive that the mind views as the strongest. A motive's tendency to move the will is what I call its ‘strength': the strongest motive is the one that appears most inviting, and is viewed by the person's mind in such a way as to have the greatest degree of tendency to arouse and induce the choice; a weaker motive is one that has a lesser degree of previous advantage or tendency to move the will—i.e. that appears less inviting to the mind in question. Using the phrase in this sense, I take it that the will is always determined by the strongest motive. 40
At this point, it becomes clear that both Edwards' models of decision as well as his theory of human will are essentially deterministic. In the case of human beings, as human desires are totally constrained and, ultimately, determined by human fallen nature which generates such desires, the consequent actions are, therefore, also totally determined by the utilities or values attributed to each possible decision.

Edwards distinguished two types of inability (natural and moral), only the last one being related to responsibility. For Edwards natural inability is the incapacity (either due to internal limitations or due to coercion) to act according to the will, while moral inability is the lack of will for obeying a command. In natural inability there is a discrepancy (dissonance) between will and act, while in moral inability there is consonance. Although denying in other texts the existence of "free-will," at this point Edwards simply seems not to discuss about the characteristics of the lack of will (if it is contingent or necessary). For him, if the will is in consonance with the action, the subject is responsible for the action. In his words:

We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing, when we can't do it when we will, because what is commonly called nature does not allow it, or because there is any impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the will; either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects.

Moral inability consists… either in the want of inclination; or the strength of a contrary inclination; or want of sufficient motives in view… [it] consists in the opposition or want of inclination. 41

We can, now, clearly see that Edwards' theology would be clearly compatible with only one of Calvin's proposed options: the "Corrupted Will." Clearly, it would not be compatible with the conception of a libertarian "free-will" because this is the very idea that Edwards tries to combat. Not so evident, but easily demonstrable, it would also not be compatible with the conception of a "Coerced Will" because the proposal of a model of decision-making clearly emphasizes the existence of a choice, and therefore, links the action to an internal process which occurs internally inside the mind of the subject (which is determined in Edwards terms by the `strongest motive`, and is, therefore, self-determined and not coerced).

In opposition to Edwards' view, Arminians believe basically in three propositions about liberty or freedom:

(a) It consists in a "self-determining" power of the will or in a certain sovereignty that the will has over itself and its own acts, whereby it determines its own volitions without any prior cause lying outside the will.

(b) Liberty involves indifference, i.e., it requires that until the act of volition occurs the mind is evenly balanced between the alternatives•.

(c) Liberty requires contingency—understanding ‘contingency' as opposed to necessity. Continency would mean absence of any ?xed connection between the contingent item and some previous reason for its existence•or occurrence. 42

But how can one explain responsibility from Edward's model, if, knowing that he does not admiit a libertarian notion of "free-will" and taking in account that, no matter if actions are consonance of dissonant to the will, they are always predetermined? And why would natural inability (or dissonance) not be a reason for responsibility while moral inability (consonance) would?

An interesant solution, which would be fully compatible with Edwards' model, would be deriving responsibility from its relation to consciousness, or more specifically, to conscious decisions. The responsibility for human acts would, therefore, lie not in the range of possible actions but on the conscioussness during the decision-making process. The subject would, therefore, be responsible for his actions not because he had a powerful liberty ("free-will) which made him independent from any causal constraints and enabled him to equally choose between good or evil, but because, even having only one real option (determined by essence of his fallen nature — natural inability) he conscioussly passed through the decision-making process. Whenever consciousness exists during a choice and the will is consonant with the action there would be responsibility.

But the second question still remains. If in both cases (of natural and moral inability) there is consciousness, why does the second generate responsibility while the first does not? The answer would lie in the decision-making process. In the case of natural inability there is no real decision. Either the subject cannot act according to his will due to external forces and, therefore, the prevailing force is the coercion and not his will, or he is hindered by natural (physical) limitations. In both cases there is no consciouss decision, and, therefore, no responsibility.

This is not the case of moral inability. In this situation, the consonance between will and action supposes a conscious process that effectuates the transition between the ‘strongest motive' and action, generating responsibility.

In conclusion, Edwards holded that freedom corresponds to the liberty to act according to the will, even if this will is not contingent, but necessary. To Edwards liberty lies in the consonance between will and action (in the absence of coercion). In opposition, to defenders of libertarianism, real freedom can only occurs if the human will is not necessary, but contingent (even if there is total consonance between will and action). (Figure 3).

The "Standard Choice Model"

In a very interesting paper, Dr. Cooper (a highly qualified christhian scholar graduated in Economy and Theology) analyzes the matter of God's providence in relation to what is called in Microeconomics the "‘Standard Choice Model." 43 According to this model, an agent makes a ‘choice' from a ‘choice set.' He does that according to a ‘preference relation.' As is all economic models, it is assumed that the subject makes ‘rational choices' in order to ‘utility maximization.'

In his thesis, the author provides interesting insights from economic concepts into the discussion of the decision-making process, proposing a rather alternative definition of freedom. According to him:

A ‘free' choice is any choice made from a choice set that is not a singleton. Free choice, in this view, is not related to the preference relation, its characterization or its origin. Freedom is rather defined relative to the choice set. To use more scholastic language, in such model, freedom of choice is not defined relative to the ‘will' at all!
The author, in accordance with our position opposes the use of the adjective "free" in relation to human will. This is a very rational position because even atheists, such as the philosopher Daniel Dennett, have already pointed out that " (as a criterion of freedom) such concept "is not even testable. In other words, an agent will not be able to give a clear answer to the question, ‘Are you sure you could have done otherwise?'" 44

As already mentioned, Dr. Cooper rightly defends that the application of the word freedom to the will is incompatible with christhian standards, and proposes that freedom should simply means existence of multiple possible options in a range of choices, in opposition to a set in which only one choice is possible.

Nevertheless, in his endeavour against the predication of human will with the adjective "free", the author uses the argument that constrained acts should considered indeed free, unless God would not be free. Along this line, in order to defend human freedom, the author traces an, at least, unwarrented parallel between God's situation and man's. In other words, he rightly defends that human beingsa libertarian concept of "free-will" is not adequate to explain man's sistuation because human actions are totally constrained by their nature with the wrong analogy that both man's situation and God's one are similar.

In other words, should we use the same concept or freedom for both man's and God's actions unrespect of their complete different nature, only because both are constrained (in other words, limited by their nature)? We believe the answer is ‘No', because, although man's decision are constrained (by his nature) and foreknown and predetermined (by God), God's decisions and actions are constrained (by His nature) but completely independent from any form of coercion or necessity, and therefore, 'sovereign.'

In fact, Dr. Cooper believes that the solution for the problem of the "free-will" is to change the focus on the will and substitute it for ‘free-choice.' As set of choices, in opposition to the will, may always be hypothetical it becames clear that there might exsit multiple possible, but never real choices. He concludes: .".divine choice of complete, determined world histories is fully compatible with human free choices that are responsible."

Nevertheless, is the predication of ‘choice' with the adjective ‘free' an advisable attitude? In other words, is the concept of freedom meaningful when dealing with multiple hypothetical possibilities but no real option? In our opinion, this attitude would be similar to what Erasmus defended against Luther: ‘that there is a free-will which is, nevertheless, ineffective wihtouth God's Grace.'

We do agree with Luther that to use the adjective "freedom" to hypothetical possibilities withouth effective power is simply to use empty terms. In Luther's words expressed in his book "The bondage of the will":

Hence it follows that free will without God's grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil. . . . What is ineffective power but (in plain language) no power at all? So to say that free will exists and has power, albeit ineffective power, is, in the Sophists' phrase, a contradiction in terms. It is like saying free will is something which is not free.

To give the name of freedom to something that has no freedom is to apply to it a term that is empty of meaning. Away with such freaks of language!.

Free-will is a nonentity, a thing consisting of name alone. 45

To state that such choices are "free" is surely distorting the classical meaning of "freedom" and transforming its supposed effective power (as defended by libertarians) in merely hypothetical possibility. With such position the author disapoints libertarians without pleasing reformers.

Although the term "free-will" is commonly used in the language of folk psychology as well as atheistic debates for expressing compatibilistic or so-called "soft-deterministic" views, we strongly advocate that, as in all tradition of reformed theologians, for any compatibilistic view, the term "will" should be maintained without the adjective "free" and, as christians, we simply abandon any conception of human autonomous capacity, independecy or "freedom" when speaking of the natural man which is still slave to sin.

In conclusion the author of "Standard Choice Model" must be elogiated in his critics against libertarians models of the will as well as against the molinistic approach (which defends a libertarian view associated with an middle knowledge theory of God, in which He has not foreordained the acts of history, neither has an exact foreknowledge of them but only knows what any free creature would do in any given circumstance).

However we have strong criticisms of the proposed intermediary view called by the author "epistemic libertarianism." Such position, although recognizing that God pursues full-knowledge and sovereignity, still insists in characterize human will or, at least, human choices as "free." As long as the author correctly explains that such "freedom" is only in the first-person perspective (personal subjective level), would it not be more accurate simply to describe it as an ‘epistemic illusion of freedom'?

In fact, the bible has never qualified the depraved man as pursuing any kind of freedom (either ‘free-will' or ‘free-choice'). As Jesus clearly stated in John 8:32, real freedom is an exclusive attribute of sinners who had been regenerated through the gospel:

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

3) Westminster Confession of Faith

A reformed model of responsibility must, in our view, necessarily consider as basic presuppositions the standards proposed by the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). In relation to God's eternal decrees and human will, it is worth for us considering the statements contained in Chapter IX of the WCF — "Of Free Will" which states: (topic 1):
I. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.

II. Man, in his state of innocence, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. 46

Clearly, the reformed tradition of the WCF does assume the existence of a "human will" when talking about human choices and actions. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the above statements, the WCF seems to individualize two different historical moments of the human will:

The first period - described in section I and II of the WCF and which I call, "The Glorious State of Human Will" - is related to the time before the Fall (classically described in reformed theology by the Latin words "Posse non Pecare." According to some authors (infralapsarians but not supralapsarians) Adam, was the only human being which could really be said to pursue a will which included both possibilities (to sin or not to sin), because his range of choices were not constrained by a fallen nature.

The Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingly, for example, said:

Before the fall, man had been created with a free will, so that, had he been willing, he might have kept the law; his nature was pure; the disease of sin had not yet reached him... But having desired to be as God, he died - and not he alone, but all his posterity. 47
The second period - as described in section III of the WCF and which I call "The Corrupted State of Human Will" — is related to that period after the Fall in which the corruption of the human nature limited the range of possibilities of man's will (a state classically described by the Latin words "Non posse non pecare"). In such period, although human will still exists (and is, in Calvin words', not coerced by any external force) it is now internally limited by the corruption of man's own nature. It is, according to Calvin's definition, one of those types of self-determined will (not a "free-will," but a "corrupted will").

We wil focus our discussion on the second period because, as the reformed theologian John Frame rightly defends, the discussion about supra or infralapsarianism (in other words if God had predetermined or not the Fall) is inevitable but nonetheless, useless. In other words, the discussion of an order of decrees has been engaged throughout the whole history of theology in a speculation that the Bible simply does not underwrite. "Such discussion runs great risks of engaging in speculation into matters God has kept secret." 48

Therefore, in relation to this period, the WCF clearly states that the corruption of human will is the direct consequence of the sin, which, since then, had been transmitted to all humans since their birth.

Having in mind that WCF supposes the existence of human will (in that special form designated by Calvin as "Corrupted Will") one recurrent matter of discussion is the relation of such human will and God's sovereignty. Does the existence of the latter logically deny in any form the reality of the first? Or does the compatibilistic view, which affirms both, logically imply that God is the direct creator of evil?

In order to achieve a better comprehension about this issue we must turn our attention to WCF view about God's sovereignty, expressed in Chapter III — ‘Of God's Eternal Decree" (topic 2):

I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
As clearly perceived the WCF states that the reality of God's sovereignty by no means denies the existence of human will, nor implies that, due to God primary foreordination He can be considered the author of evil. Similar to Calvin, although God's decrees could be considered the ‘remote cause' of evil, God is not the author of sin and man (being the ‘proximate cause' of evil) is fully responsible for their actions.

Therefore, we could conclude that a reformed model of responsibility, according to WCF (topic 1) should consider a special form of will (according to Calvin's definition of a "corrupted will"). Such reformed model should also, according to the above discussion be compatibilistic, in which both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility harmonically coexist.

4) Luther's Theology of "The Bondage of the Will"

When analyzing Luther's opinion about the state of human will it is interesting to highlight the historical aspects involved in the publication of his masterpiece on the issue: "The Bondage of the Will" (in Latin: 'De Servo Arbitrio' - Concerning Bound Choice"). Such thesis was published in 1525 as an emphatic response to Desiderius Erasmus' thesis "On the Free Will" (in Latin: De Libero arbítrio diatribe sive collatio), published in the precedent year. 9

Interestingly, Luther considered as a sophism the difference established in previous debates of "Necessity of Consequence" (understood as the necessity of the occurrence of some fact as logical deterministic consequence of the foreordained fact which occurred earlier) and "Necessity of Essence" (in which the fact itself had been foreordained). To Luther, whenever talking about God, such distinction would be of no value, because attributing necessity of essence to anything outside God, would be to make the thing itself autonomous and independent of God (a god in itself). In Luther's words:

By necessity of consequence (to give a general idea of it) they mean this—If God wills anything, that same thing must, of necessity be done; but it is not necessary that the thing done should be necessary: for God alone is necessary; all other things cannot be so, if it is God that wills. Therefore, the action of God is necessary, where He wills, but no act in itself is necessary; otherwise the act would be a God in Himself. 50
Therefore, for Luther, the concept of "free-will" would necessarily suppose a will that would be free from "necessity of consequence," or, in other words, a will that would not be completely determinated by God. Therefore the adjective "free," when for predicting will would suppose that a will is autonomous or independent of God, a god in itself (in Luther's opinion an horrible heretic position).

In the same way, although the doctrine of human will should not be abandoned because terms expressing the existence of human will and decisions are extensively used in Scripture, the adjective "free" was a symptom related to the primitive sin of Edam (the desire of autonomy from God). In fact, for Luther, the doctrine of Foreknowledge and Omnipotence of God was completely incompatible with the "Freedom of the Will:"

The foreknowledge and omnipotence of God are diametrically opposed to our "free-will." Either God makes mistakes in his foreknowledge, and errors in his action (which is impossible), or else we act, and are caused to act, according to his foreknowledge and action. And by the omnipotence of God I mean, not the power by which he omits to do many things that he could do, but the active power by which he mightily works all in all. It is in this sense that Scripture calls him omnipotent. This omnipotence and foreknowledge of God, I repeat, utterly destroy the doctrine of "free-will. 51
Therefore, for Luther, God's foreknowledge and predestination were only compatible with only one of Calvin's position in relation to will (the "Corrupted Will").

Up to the time of the Reformation, it could be said that there were basically two views of anthropology and soteriology. One either believes in salvation by works or in salvation by grace. Everyone could be classified either as Pelagian (pure or semi) or as an Augustinian, depending on the belief that salvation was either totally dependent on sovereign grace, or in any proportion dependent of human merits.

In between these two "extremes" Erasmus of Rotterdam tried, unsuccessfully, to find a middle position: the doctrine of synergism. Synergism is the soteriological doctrine that ascribes salvation both to God and man. For synegists, in salvation both God and man make an equal contribution. Salvation is both by merit and by grace. It is a cooperation between God and man, a joint venture, a partnership. The result is that while God receives the glory, man also receives the reward for his merits. This view has been best summarized and made popular by the eighteen-century preacher John Wesley: "God helps those who help themselves."

For reformers, synergism could be understood, in essence, an illegitimate hybrid of grace and free will. 52 In Erasmus' original words:

We should not arrogate anything to ourselves but attribute all things we have received to the divine grace, which called us when we were turned away, which purified us by faith, which gave us this gift, that our will might be synergos (a 'fellow-worker') with grace, although grace is itself sufficient for all things and has no need of the assistance of human will. 53

And so these passages, which seem to be in conflict with one another, are easily brought into harmony if we join the striving of our will with the assistance of divine grace. 54

As conclusion of the Normative Perspective we have found that a reformed model of responsibility must be, according to Edwards' theology and using Calvin's definition consider human will as self-determined (in opposition to a coerced). Yet it should be a compatibilistic (non-libertarian) because the language about human choices is clearly expressed in the Bible and there is no logical contradiction, as demonstrated by Luther and the WCF between human will and the other attributes of God, such as Foreknowledge and Omnipotence.

III. The Situational Perspective

Understanding the Situational Perspective as the one which emphasizes the facts of reality or the objects of knowledge, I propose to conclude our survey analyzing the biological basis of our object of study (the human will), with special emphasis on the cognitive psychology of Intentionality as well in the neuroscience of decision-making.

In other words, we will, at this last part, try to unveil the nuances of the decision-making process focusing on the neurological structures responsible for intentionality as well as in the cognitive psychology of conscious agency. We will, finally, realize how both aforementioned empirical sciences strongly support the theological model of a deterministic, non-libertarian and compatibilistic view of human responsibility and human will which has been previously built upon the presuppositions of the reformed tradition.

1) Cognitive Psychology of Conscious Will:

The very definition of the concept "will" has been somewhat vague and subject to many controversies both in the history of philosophy and psychology. Hume, for example, could not define it without recurring to other even more imprecise metaphysical concepts such as: impression, feeling, consciousness, knowledge, motion and perception.

In Hume's words:

Will is nothing but the internal impression we feel and are conscious of, when we knowingly give rise to any new motion of our body, or new perception of our mind. 55
It became clear, since early times, that the question of human will was intimally related to that of the decision, which, by its turn, had close relation to each individual's preferences. Nevertheless the exact relation between act and will, as well as between will and desire had not always been clear. The philosopher John Locke, for example, identified will with preference, desires and choice, taking all these terms as equivalent. Nonetheless, he latter denies a univocal relation between will and preference:
The will signifies nothing but a power or ability to prefer or choose… Although the word "preferring" seems best to express the act of volition, it doesn't express it precisely; for although a man would prefer flying to walking, who can say he ever wills to fly? 56
Although the further division of the mind by William James into three basic functions (cognition, emotion, and conation - this last corresponding to the will or volitional component) added some further clarification on the issue, it must be recognized that it was a very simplistic and quite arbitrary division. For example, in opposition to his rigid division, it could be stated of someone as "willful loving" or "passionately reasoning." 7

The definition of will seems to be so subjective and so existentially-related that although intentions, plans, and other thoughts may be experienced consciously, the action could indeed be said to be unwilled if the person says it was not. Furthermore, in common everyday language, the term "will" may refer to complete different concepts: either to well-elaborated organized plans for the future as well as to profound feelings or emotion-related desires.

The mater of Intentionality, as well as that of conscious agency, has fascinated generations of psychologists for centuries. In fact, the nineteen-century psychologist William James believed that "human will" plays a crucial role to the subject, organizing his personal existential interpretation of life. In his Principles of Psychology he states:

But the whole feeling of reality... the whole sting and excitement of our voluntary life, depends on our sense that, in it, things are really being decided from one moment to another, and that is not the dull rattling off of a chain that was forged innumerable ages ago. 58
Interestingly, several non-christian (and most of them even atheists) psychologists and researchers of human behavior have agreed that the human notion of "free-will" is an elaborated and recurring illusion of human mind. 59 Since initial researchs on the phenomenon of conscious agency, it has been perceived that such natural and almost instinctive feeling may be fooled in several situations. This happens in several clinical disorders such as "the alien hand syndrome," the dissociative identity disorder" and "the schizophrenic auditory hallucinations." It also may happen with normal subjects during ‘hypnosis', ‘automatic writing', ‘Ouija board spelling', ‘water dowsing' and ‘facilitated communication' (all of them illustrating in different ways the possibility of dissociations between will and action).

This has led to the formulation of an interesting theory called "Apparent Mental Causation." According to this theory, when a thought appears in consciousness just prior to an action, is consistent with the action, and Is exclusive of salient alternative causes for the action, human beings experience conscious will and ascribe authorship for the action to the self. Experiences of ‘conscious will' thus arise from processes whereby the mind interprets itself — not from processes whereby mind creates action. Conscious will, in this view, is an indication that the subject believes he had caused an action, not a revelation of the causal sequence by which the action had been produced." 60

Another valuable insight has been the conceptualization of "Authorship Processing System." 61 Such psychological system of the human mind would stand outside the processes that cause the action itself, laboring in parallel with it in order to generate to the subject "feelings of doing" which inform the subject of an estimate (based on available information) of who in fact did the action. These estimates are accompanied by associated experiences of ‘'conscious will.' The authorship processing mechanism would, therefore, give rise to subjective experiences of conscious will that compel people to believe that they actually caused their actions."

Prof. Daniel Wegner, from the Psychology Department of Harvard University explores deeply such phenomenon is his most recent ‘best-seller': "The Illusion of the Conscious Will." 62 In this book he strongly denies any causative power to the subjective experience of the will considering it an epiphenomenon of the "Authorship Processing System:"

The experience of conscious will is a marvelous trick of the mind, one that yields useful intuitions about our authorship — but it is not the foundation for an explanatory system that stands outside the paths of deterministic causation. 63
Despite not being Christian the author openly advocates an interesting position, denying that responsibility relates strictly to causality of actions but linking it to the conscious experience of authorship of the actions:
Qualms about responsibility arise when we make the mistake of believing that responsibility is the same thing as causality. And of course it is not. Causality is something you can see in mechanical systems, a relationship between events, and is not dependent on what kinds of events are involved. Responsibility, on the other hand, involves persons — those selves that are constructed through the process of identifying actions as caused by an agent... 64
As conclusion of the first part of our analysis of the Situational Perspective, we can perceive that several empirical experiments in cognitive psychology supports the concept of the "free-will," (or a will which does not dependent on deterministic causes) as a complex and recurrent psychological illusion of the human mind, which might play a role in social adaptation of human beings, but which lack any effective power in physical event triggering and causation. 65

Such empirical evidence from cognitive psychology reinforces our presuppositions built upon the reformed tradition, which defends an essentially deterministic model of human will and responsibility, and which does not attribute to human will any causative power, but consider it as a subjective epiphenomem of the human mind.

2) Neuroscience of Decision-Making and Intentionality

Progressive amount of research data, especially those employing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) experiments, suggests that human decision-making is not an unitary and simple process but rather involves a series of interdependent steps which depend on multiple areas of higher-order processing of the brain. Each neurophysiological subsystem seems to play a unique role in some specific phases of the decision-making process, so that it seems impossible to attribute to a single area all the complexity of it.

In such fMRI experiments the subjects are solicited to perform some specific tasks (such as reading, speaking or moving the arm) and the increase in cerebral blood flow of specific areas of the brain activated by such tasks is detected through high-field Magnetic Resonance Imaging. In the case of the decision-making research, such tasks employ complex paradigms, which involve the selection of multiple choices or the decision among differently valuable options. (Figure 4)

Such tasks, differently from pure motor, visual or language tests, tend to activate several areas of the brain, such as:

1. The frontal cortex, responsible for analytical processing and cognition. In relation to intentionality or agency, it has been known for a long time that the frontal cortex plays a central role in initiative and purposeful behavior, since lesions in this region induced aphatic states characterized by abulia (lack of motivation) with diminution of both active (motor as well as cognitive) behavior.

2. The limbic system, responsible for the processing of emotion-related informations.

3. The so-called "reward-system," composed of mesolimbic and mesocortical structures, which are responsible for evaluation of stimuli and regulation of behaviors that involve pleasure and reward.

4. The mesial temporal structures (such as the hippocampus and amygdala) responsible for learning as well as past-memories evocations.

5. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus, which seems to be activated whenever the decision-making process involves any complex ethical dilemma.

6. The left parietal lobe, responsible for numerical evaluation and calculating of outcomes related to each option involved in a decision.

7. The right parietal lobe, responsible for processing of any spatial information that might be related to the decision of a motor act. 66

The complexity of right parietal cortex related to spatial cognition has been extensively discussed by us elsewhere, where we have demonstrated that the cognitive framework through which spatial information is processed has an important parallel with one of Kant's category (an special form of "a priori" and synthetic knowledge) responsible for generation of Geometric information. 67 We have also demonstrated that different types of neurological lesions affecting the parietal lobe have may lead to complex disturbances of spatial cognition. 68

A recent multidisciplinary approach called Neuroecomics has provided valuable insights into the biological basis of the decision-making process. Neuroeconomnics (which is founded in principles of Ecological Biology and Modern Economics) utilizates concepts of Bayesian statistics (like probability and relative utility) combined with evidence from functional anatomical data of neuroscience. 69

It is known that, in everyday life, successful decision-making requires precise representations of ‘expected values.' However, for most behavioral options more than one attribute can be relevant in order to predict the ‘expected reward.' Thus, to make good or even optimal choices the reward predictions of multiple attributes need to be integrated into a ‘combined expected value.' Importantly, the individual attributes of such multi-attribute objects can agree or disagree in their reward prediction.

An interesting finding of Neuroeconomics, for example, had been the discovery that human brain encodes the combined reward prediction (average across attributes) and the variability of the value predictions of the individual attributes in different areas of the prefrontal córtex. In this fMRI study, the combined value has been shown to be encoded mainly in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) - which could be considered a ‘Global Value Encoding' Area - while the variability of value predictions of each individual attributes of a choice has been shown to be encoded in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) — which could be considered an Individual ‘Attribute Encoding Area.' 70

In fact, it has been possible to demonstrate not only that specific aeas of the brain are activated during different types of decision-making scenarios, but also that some areas become activated whenever the subjects propose themselves to judge or imagine the subjacent intention of other individual's actions. A recent work has elegantly demonstrated that a specifi region of the posterior portion of the right superior temporal sulcus is actived whenever the subject is required to analyze the intentions of other people's actions. 71

A few group of cientists have proposed undeterministic models for neuroscience which might account for a certain level of intederminancy, and, therefore, might enable the possibility of a libertarian view of "free-will" (the most recent and famous model has been based on quantic reactions named "Orchestrated Objective Reduction" which are supposed to occur inside an cellular organele called microtubulli and give rise to consciousness. 72 Nevertheless most neuroscientists agree that, attributing even a small level of indeterminancy to each human individual would lead, ultimately, to such an enourmous amount of uncertainty that almost no human behavior as well as social phenomen would ever be amenable to description, explanation and prediction by science. 73

Furthermore even atheists scientists agree that, for matters of the criminal law, even a hard form of determinism would not undermine responsibility as well as punishment. According to such authors, no abstract notion of "free-will" or indeterminancy would ever be necessary for supporting any ethical or legal system of the modern world. 74

Most of old scientists defended not only determinism but also a strict version of the relation between human mind and brain called physicalism. For example, the biologist Gerald Edelman, awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972, argued that both the mind and consciousness are wholly material and purely biological phenomena, arising from highly complex cellular processes within the brain. 75

Nevertheless, although for many years the working hypothesis in neuroscience has been that a complete account of brain function was possible in strictly neurophysiological terms without invoking conscious or mental agents, this long- established materialist-behaviorist principle has been recently challenged by the introduction of a modified concept of the mind-brain relation in which consciousness is conceived to be both emergent and causal. 76

In such context the psychophysical interaction between brain and mind is explained in terms of the emergence in nesting brain hierarchies of higher-order, functionally-derived, mental properties that interact by laws and principles different from, and not reducible to those of neurophysiology. Reciprocal upward and downward, interlevel determination of the mental and neural action is therefore accounted for on these terms without violating the principles of scientific explanation and without reducing the qualities of inner experience to those of physiology.

In accordance to such concepts of emerging consciousness, as well as downstream causation, some christhian scholars, bringing together insights from both philosophy and neuroscience, defends a non-reductive version of physicalism whereby humans are really the authors of their own thoughts and actions, the mind is understood as a complex embodied system constituted by action-feedback-evaluation-action loops in the environment, and, appart from physical indeterminism, there is possibility of account of downward (mental) causation explained in terms of a complex, higher-order system exercising constraints on lower-level processes. 77

For the christhian psychology Nancy Murphy the real problem in the discussion of human brain and behavior is not neurobiological determinism, but neurobiological reductionism. 78 For her, the real relevant question is whether humans, as whole persons, exert downward causation over some of their own parts and processes.

Nevertheless, what then would account for responsibility, if all organisms perform such downward causation, at least to some extent? In other words, what needs to be added to this animalian flexibility to constitute a responsible action? Dr. Murphy proposes that the answer for these questions are sophisticated language and hierarchically-ordered cognitive processes which allows (mature) humans to evaluate their own actions, motives, goals, and moral principles. 79

As conclusion of the second part of the Situational Perspective we can perceive that our reformed model should consider the human will, as well as other complex psychological features of human behavior such as consciousness, intentionality and agency, as having a complex biological basis which is essentially deterministic, but not being reducible to the biological structures of the brain underlying human actions. Such higher-order functions, furthermore, should be understood as do pursuing causal power over lower-level constraints of human behavior as well as other basic brain functions.

IV. Conclusions

We have demonstrated, on the Existential part of our Multiperspectival Approach, that the question about the necessity of a libertarian model of "free-will" for justifying responsibility arises from an erroneous interpretation of the relation between human will and responsibility from an exclusive and biased first-person-perspective.

After analyzing the origin of the question, we proposed to search for a model that would most accurately reflect the biblical principles as well the opinion of the reformed tradition on the issue. As departing point we seeked to define the most basic presuppositions of our model according to the Classic Reformed Tradition as expressed in the works of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, as well as in the Westminster Confession of Faith. From this analysis we concluded that, in order to satisfy the above-mentioned requirements, our model should necessarily explain human will in a "self-determined" corrupted way.

At this point, we demonstrated that the very concept of "freedom," when applied to the will in such a libertarian way, is meaningless and irrational, because neither God is in this sense "free" in order to act contrary to his nature. As faithful to traditional reformed, and in opposition to the Standard Choice Model, we advocate the abandon of the concept of "freedom" when referring to compatibilistic theories and recommend the use of the term ‘human will' or ‘human choices' without adjective. We also concluded that, in order to be compatibilistic and permit that human will and God's sovereignty harmonically coexist, our model should be founded in a deterministic theory of biological working of the brain.

Departing from these basic presuppositions we demonstrated how significant amount of data from contemporary cognitive psychology related to conscious agency and intentionality strongly supports the view of "free-will" as a complex and elaborated "illusion" of human mind which might have played a role in establishment of social relations. We also explored the complexity of the neurobiological apparatus underlying the decision-making process and intentionality, emphasizing the integrative character of this complex system composed of several harmonized subunits, which are essentially deterministic but not reducible to the biochemical and neurophysiological levels.


The author express special gratitude to:

Pastor Ismail Sperandio, my Theologial Mentor and special friend, who has been an example of passion for the gospel and endurance with joy through all the daily challenges inherent to the faithfull leadering of the communitary life of the local church. Prof. John Frame, for his inspiring exaustive intelectual works, which enabled me to know more and adore God in all his complex theoretical and analytical beauty.

Figure 1

Multiperspectival Approach for the study of Human Will and Responsibility: Proposal of "The Corrupted-Will Reformed Model."

Figure 2

An easy way to realize the difference between the 1st and 3rd-person perspectives' is to perceive how different computer games employ each one of these framekworks (both considered to be egocentric agent-controlled strategies).

Figure 3

Jonathan Edwards' "Utility" Model of Decision, which is essentially deterministic and compatibilistic. Edwards differentiate between Natural Inability, in which sinful actions are performed against the will (by coercion) and Moral Inability, in which sinful actions are performed in accordance with the will. According to Edwards, the relation between the ‘strongest motive' and the ‘will' is always constant and necessary. In Moral Inability, but not in Natural Inability, such unique option becomes actual after a process of conscious decision which generates responsibility.

Figure 4

It has been possible through High-field Magnetic Resonance Imaging, to functionally map the activation of specific areas of the brain during tasks involving neuropsychological paradigms which are able test different cognitive functions, such as language, motor and even complex decision-making processes.


1. Martin Luther. "The Bondage of the Will: A New Translation of De Servo Arbitrio (1525), Martin Luther's Reply to Erasmus of Rotterdam." J.I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, trans. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957, pg. 149.

2. John M. Frame, "A Primer on Perspectivalism," np http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/PrimerOnPerspectivalism.htm [accessed 21 Jul 2010].

3. John M. Frame, Doctrine of The Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987).

4. John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will, A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice Against Pighius. (Carlisle: Baker Academic, 2002).

5. David Boaz, Libertarianism: A Primer(Free Press: 1998).

6. William Belsham, Essays (University of Michigan:1789) [original from the, digitized May 21, 2007].

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8. John M. Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2001).

9. 8 David Basinger, The Case for Freewill Theism: a Philosophical Assessment (InterVarsity Press: 1996).

10. Richard Rice, The Openness of God: The Relationship of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will (Review and Herald Pub. Association: 1980).

11. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1599.

12. Robert Hilary Kane,"Free Will: New Directions for an Ancient Problem" in Free Will, 2003 (Ed. Kane: Blackwell).

13. Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 181.

14. John Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion", 1599.

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16. Bondage and Liberation of the Will, 3.

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21. Richard H. Corrigan , Divine Foreknowledge and Moral Responsability (Prism Academic Publishing: 2007).

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26. John M. Frame. "Presuppositional Apologetics." in W. C. Campbell-Jack, Gavin J. McGrath, and C. Stephen Evans. New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics. InterVarsity Press. 2006.

27. John Calvin, Bondage and Liberation of the Will, A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice Against Pighius. (Carlisle: Baker Academic, 2002), 137.

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29. Ibid., 38.

30. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bonham: Norton, 1599), 137.

31. John Murray, "The Free Offer of the Gospel," in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 4,p. 75 (Banner of Truth: Great Britain, 1982).

32. Ibid, p. 104.

33. John Calvin, "Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God" (London: James Clarke and Co., 1961), 181.

34. Jonathan Edwards, "Freedom of the Will" (WJE Online Vol. 1: Ed. Paul Ramsey 1754).

35. Freedom of the Will, 17.

36. Freedom of the Will, 5.

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40. Freedom of the Will, 3.

41. Freedom of the Will, 28.

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47. D'Aubigne, "History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century" (Vol II, Book VIII, Chapter IX).

48. John Frame, "Doctrine of God — A Theology of Lordship." P & R Publishing (2002) pg. 335-337.

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50. The Bondage of the Will, 9.

51. The Bondage of the Will, 216.

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54. Ibid, pg 74.

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56. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. (1690).

57. William James. The principles of psychology, vol. 1. (Henry Holt: Harvard University Press, 1890).

58. Ibid.

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62. The illusion of conscious will.

63. Daniel M. Wegner, The Mind's Best Trick: How We Experience Conscious Will. pag 7.

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