Please evaluate the following argument strictly for formal logical validity. I am NOT interested in debating the content or in philosophical perspectives on the content. However, I AM interested in ways to tweak this argument to make it valid if it is not.

  1. All effects, big or small, are either caused by spontaneity (assuming it even exists), by other effect(s), or a combination thereof.
  2. There is no "real choice" in spontaneity, or in effects caused by other effects.
  3. If cause and effect are not linear, "real choice" must be judged by the same physical laws. (see NOTE below)
  4. "Real choice" is an impossibility. (conclusion)


  1. "real choice" is an impossibility.
  2. "gods" that require "real choice" are an impossibility. (conclusion)

"Free will" = "real choice" = "the idea that one has any, non-imagined, level of control over their actions or thoughts."

NOTE: "There would be no reason why you could not specify in your premises that if cause and effect are not linear then free-will must be judged by the same physical laws. With that you can then proceed to argue that God does not have free will at any one instance of time because he must either have been created by something else, created spontaneously without his will, or created by himself, but at another point in the cause-effect cycle which renders his current choices not free by our new definition of free will. A complex argument, but a sound one I think. – Isaacson"

  • I rephrased your closing paragraph and moved it to the beginning to make it more likely that people will provide the kind of answers you are looking for. Questions like these tend to attract off-topic debate unless they are very carefully posed. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 13:00
  • Keep in mind that mere logical validity will not get you very far. Debates in philosophy are almost never about validity of arguments.
    – E...
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 13:02
  • Thank you @ChrisSunami! --much better. @Erilran If it's valid, and the premises are truthful, the conclusion must be accepted.
    – John
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 13:12
  • You'll want to analyze each statement and break it down into it's propositional components. Be wary of ambiguity, but get your argument in a form like so: "F requires C. All E are cause by R, other E or R+E. There is no C in R. There is no C in E caused by E. There is no C in R caused by E or E caused by E. Therefore, there is no F" & "Any G must have F. There is no F, therefore, there is no G" & then you'll better be able to evaluate the truth value of each premise and work your way to a sound argument.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 14:13
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    It would be better if you differentiated premises from inferences. E.g. is 5 a premise or conclusion?
    – Dave
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 14:13

3 Answers 3


I'm going to presume from the way you've worded your question that you would like to frame your argument in ordinary language rather than in any particular form of Logic. To that effect, 2 and 3 could be conflated more neatly by simply asserting that the only two factors from which effects can arise are randomness and determinate cause. This would not be an unreasonable assumption and rules out in one premise the possibility that a combination of the two may give rise to a third form of effect as you have specified that no other factors can be involved. Here you have a relatively neat argument for determinism or compatibilism.

The problem arises when you reach the second part of your argument.

Your conclusion at 3 only results from your premises 1 and 2 if God is subject to the rules that you have just specified in the first part. If he is not, then he can simply "create" free will in defiance of these rules. You would need to start the argument with an additional premise that any God is subject to the rules outlined above, and I'm not sure that would allow your argument to be much used against the majority of religions (assuming that's the point).

In effect, you then do not need the first part of your argument at all. You could simply say that any God who, by exercise of any of his powers, limits free will is not a beneficent God and so not worthy of worship (as your second argument already includes the concept of worthiness we have not lost any certainty). Most religions already have their version of a refutation of this argument. Virmaior has provided a excellent outline of these here for Christianity.

The trouble with using logic to argue against religion is that logic requires accurate premises in order to be useful which can only be obtained empirically from physical laws. Most religions consider their Gods to be above physical laws.

To paraphrase Wittgenstein, you cannot use rational argument to counter a view which was not arrived at rationally in the first place.

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    – user2953
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 14:58

If 5. is a premise then 3. and 4. are unecessary, at least according to any way that I'd formalize the problem.

If 5 is meant to be an inference, then 5 does not follow from 3. and 4. without additional premises.

In words, 3 rules out choice for "pure randomness" cases, and 4. rules out choice for "pure caused by effects" cases. Without some additional information on the structure of what constitutes a choice we cannot rule out that there are effects that are caused by a mix of randomness plus prior causal effects that lie within the set of things that comprise choices.

More formally, Let R, E be the set of random causes and the set of effects respectively; together these constitute the domain of discourse. I'm going to formalize "choice" as a predicate on the subsets of the domain of discourse. Bullet 3. is "for any subset r of R, choice(r) is false". Bullet 4. is "for any subset e of E, choice(e) is false". This says nothing about choice(x) when the set x contains a combination of elements from both R and E.

  • The conclusion I'm attempting to draw with the first argument, is that it doesn't matter if the randomness is pure or not. If it's pure, it's not a choice. If it's not pure, then the part that's not pure is effect, and effect is not a choice. All effect provides no choice either.I believe the reasoning is sound, but I need help figuring out how to word it properly. The biggest issue I see is that "free will" is a synonym for "real choice", which means I need to do something about my first premise. My guess is that the first argument needs to be broken into two.
    – John
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 14:56
  • @John You are assuming a particular kind of "decomposability" on the assessment of choice/no-choice. Here, something like: "for any mixed effect, choice(mixed)=choice(random part) or choice(effect part)". If you add that (or something similar) to your set of premises then you'd be set. Without it there is no constraint on how to assess choice(mixed), that is my point.
    – Dave
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 15:27
  • @John, you might dig on Prof. Searle's thoughts re free will and randomness in this chapter, this chapter and this article
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 15:29
  • @Mr.Kennedy Thank you, I will take a look at those a bit later. However, I don't know that they will apply, as my first argument is designed to account for that which we may not be aware of. The idea is that it simply doesn't matter what, if anything, caused an action... there is no logical way to get from there to a "real choice" of any kind.
    – John
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 15:33
  • @Dave I think I understand you (it's been about 15 years since I took logic, just so you know). That I need to somehow include a premise that states no combination of premises 3 or 4 lead to a "real choice". I tried that with my 5th premise, but I could use some help there. I almost think I need an argument just to prove that.
    – John
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 15:36

"All effects, big or small, are either caused by randomness (assuming it even exists), by other effect(s), or a combination thereof." - If you observe carefully there is nothing called as randomness. Everything is being played by some laws gross or subtle (physical laws), Water droplets scattered apart when fall from a building. Air, surface tension, humidity etc a lot of physical factors determine the scattering or fusion of droplets so where is randomness?

There is no "real choice" in randomness, or in effects caused by other effects. Real choice is an impossibility. (conclusion) - Now we know there is nothing like randomness, so talk about effects caused by other effects. Yeah, every effect is followed by some parent effect which itself is a child effect of some parent effect therefore there must be a primordial effect. Therefore

  1. There is no randomness
  2. Every effect is a effect of some other effect. Therefore there must be a primordial effect.
  3. Since, There is no randomness and there must be a primordial effect , therefore must be a free will to cause the primordial effect.
  4. Free will is possibility,so God is.


  • My argument doesn't need randomness to work --that's the point. It works either way. As far as whether randomness actually exists, irrelevant to my argument, you haven't provided proof of this. For all we know, one random event occurs every 5 trillion years, and maybe that's just the phasing in of one photon for a fraction of a nanosecond. Or maybe there is no randomness... doesn't matter. In regard to your "primordial effect" argument, that would imply that there was either no beginning, or work as a proof for randomness. Either way, it doesn't' affect my argument.
    – John
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 4:52
  • It doesn't effect your arguments but your statements didn't take into account primordial effect. Your statements covered only limited possibilities.
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 4:55
  • Also, you can't get from 3 to 4. the lack of "free will" make a god impossible, but the existence of "free will" does not necessarily necessitate a god is possible. Also, your "primordial effect" isn't well defined, and appears to be just another word for a random effect (negating your initial premise).
    – John
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 4:58
  • My primordial effect is defined as per normal definition as first effect. Yeah, existence of free well isn't sufficient condition for existence of God DEPENDS UPON what do you mean by God? And what are we assuming in concern of God at first. Even if we go through your ways, though we can't conclude about existence of God we also can't conclude inexistence of God. (Using my arguments of free will existence). Free will is necessary condition for God, but not sufficient. Proving God THEN we need to talk about omniscience, omnipresent, omnipotence etc which will be OFF TOPIC.
    – Mr. Sigma.
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 5:12
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    Yes, it's a little tricky. All causes are effects, but not all effects are causes. For instance, take this series of effects: A -> B -> C They are all effects, as stated, but only A and B are "causes" since A caused B and B caused C. However, C did not cause anything, so it is not a "cause" until it does so. If C were to cause D effect, it would then be called a "cause". I think this is more of a trick with the English language than anything since "cause" is being used as both a verb and noun. In the end, they're all effects.
    – John
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 6:57

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