Let them off the lead

11th January 2008 at 00:00



Here is an example my A-level philosophy of religion pupils found helpful in considering the free will defence.

An owner collects their puppy, takes it home and shows it where it will sleep and eat. Arrangements are made for the required immunisations so that it can venture outside.

A lead is bought and puppy training classes are arranged. Then the puppy is taken for walks on the lead. So far, so good, but what the owner really yearns for is a companion to bond with the puppy. At some point the owner will have to take a chance on letting the animal off the lead.

Everything has been done to give the puppy a good reason to return. But there is still a chance that the puppy will run off and not return. It is also possible that the puppy could behave badly towards other dogs or people. The owner considers the risk worthwhile in order to see the puppy enjoying the freedom to run.

If the owner wanted to be certain of the behaviour of a dog, an alternative would be some kind of pre-programmed virtual dog or robot dog. Not quite the same thing.

The puppy with freedom to run, and hopefully return, is more likely to reward emotional investment. Perhaps human free will is God letting us off the lead. Pupils should next start looking for potential flaws in this argument. They can find clues in The Puzzle of Evil by Peter Vardy.

Ian Millsted teaches philosophy of religion at Churchill Community School in North Somerset.

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