Sunday, September 1, 2013

More on Free Will

There was quite a response to my blog post on Friday.  I guess I'll write more about that. Yesterday's long post worked kind of well, so I'll just duplicate the technique of dumping a bunch of different points on you readers.

1.  Our current society is formed around the idea that free will exists, and people are responsible for making their own choices.  If humans do not have free will, then all advice, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain.

2.  In response to C's question, it is important to note God's frame of reference, in regards to time.  That's because this particular argument forcibly constrains God into a certain time frame.  Another popular argument, "What was God doing before he created the universe?", does the same thing.  This is the point where those arguments fall apart; God doesn't fit into certain time frames as God exists outside of time.

The theologians teach us that God exists in "the eternal present".  This is to say that every time of eternity exists in the present, for God.  It is impossible for there to be a future or a past for God.  Hence, it is impossible to talk about past time, in regards to God, which is what the "before the universe was created" argument tries to do.  It is equally impossible to talk about future time, in regards to God, which is what the "God knows things before they happen" argument tries to do.

3. Also in response to C, you said "God has to be right; it cannot be any other way. It precludes all other outcomes there might have been."  I just want to make a minor clarification, because that's technically not how omniscience works.  If someone is truly omniscient, that person knows all actual scenarios and all possible scenarios.

That could make a good science fiction book.  You know, a book about someone who knows all possible scenarios, but doesn't know all actual scenarios.

4. I find it interesting that Albert Einstein would be a Newtonian determinist.  That's because Einstein sort of...um...disproved the Newtonian notion of how time works.  That is, Einstein worked to show that time is relative, in direct contrast to the idea that time goes forward, in one direction, at the stable rate of one second, per second, for everyone and everything.

Of course, the world mostly still follows Newton's view of time (source: Back to the Future). And if we really want to get technical about it, that's Aristotle's view of time, in more modern scientific terms.

5. In response to Athena, I must protest against your portrayal of the Christian view of free will.  There are some deterministic Christians, such as Saint Augustine (to a small extent), or the heretic John Calvin (whose heresy mostly centered around the issue of determinism. He held other heretical views, though).  I would say the majority of Christians are not determinists.

Specifically, though, I must emphatically insist that Christ's life was not predetermined.  The fact that Jesus was able to predict things ahead of time did not mean they necessarily had to occur.  Jesus had three types of knowledge, one of which is called "knowledge of blessed" or "knowledge of divine things", which he received from his participation in the Beatific Vision.  From this, he knew that he would suffer much and be handed over to his enemies.  And, in fact, anyone who closely and correctly reads the Old Testament, like Jesus did, would know this fact.  But the specific manner in which this was to happen was not determined.  Jesus could have been betrayed by one of his other disciples, but Judas was always the most likely to betray him, seeing as he was the greediest, and he left the Last Supper early.

Um...that was kind of an info dump there.  Let me try a different tack.  The Christian philosopher teach us that two specific moments in regards to Jesus (Mary's acceptance to give birth to Christ, and Judas' betrayal of Christ) had to have chosen freely, because they would lose their efficacy if they were predetermined.  Intellectually speaking, it's interesting that these two crucial moments in salvation history are almost exact opposites; one is accepting the will of God, while the other outright rejects it.

6. Here's a crux of the matter. What would you consider to be "adequate proof", either for or against the existence of free will?  Clearly, examples of people exercising free will is not considered adequate proof, for reasons I don't understand.  Has anyone brought up St. Thomas Aquinas' teaching that free will is a necessary condition of rational thought?  For him, the argument isn't, "Does free will exist?"; the argument is more "Does rational thought exist?  Yes.  Therefore, free will must exist."

7. Anonymous asked how we reconcile the concept of free will with the idea that "God has a plan for everyone" and "everything happens for a reason".  Let me answer by quoting the Book of Sirach. The Protestants removed this book from their version of the Bible.
In the beginning, God created humans, and he left them to follow their own wills. If you choose, you can keep the commandments, which will place you in God's favor.  Set before you are fire and water; stretch out your hand to the option you choose  Before everyone are life and death, and whatever they chose shall be given to them.  The Lord's wisdom is immense; he is mighty in power, and he sees all things. The eye of God sees all that he has made; he understands every human deed.  He never commands anyone to sin, nor shows leniency toward deceivers. (Sircah 15:14-20)
This Bible passage actually explains a lot of what I've discussed today.  Maybe I should have opened with it.  Anyway, if you want a Bible passage which directly talks about human free will and God's knowledge, this is a good one. Note that the two are not at odds with each other here.

20 comments:

GameOverTown said...

"Of course, the world mostly still follows Newton's view of time (source: Back to the Future)"
That's so like you, Michael.

C said...

Even if we disagree - and even though I am sorely uneducated and misinformed about a lot of things - I am glad that you are addressing these questions and presenting solid, coherent points. I like those better than the brief posts you've made in the past that touch on these kinds of subjects. They're probably a hassle to write up though, so I just want to say that even though I'm pain in the butt I appreciate them. Thanks.

Will respond to the actual entry later.

Clive Astic said...

Even though this is off topic... Michael will you please finish up the miracle mask, and get on with curse of blackmoore manor?

C said...

In response to your 3rd point: I know what omniscience is, and that's why I used the word 'infallible' 3 times in my comments on the other entry - a word you have not yet used.

I never said God doesn't know all possible scenarios. I said he knows which one or ones will actually come to pass, which doesn't mean I don't also think that he knows exactly what would have played out otherwise.

William D said that God knows all scenarios - but the actual choice is known only unto the person himself. Is that what you're trying to say?

The whole God out of time makes sense to me. I agree with it, as I said before. But again, I still don't know why God's eternal present timeframe matters to us. We can't relate to it; we only relate to our own linear sense of time. But I'm going to drop this point, because I feel we're fundamentally looking at this differently.

Point 6: I don't think anything can prove or disprove the existence of free will, because we can't prove higher powers. As I said in the other post (the Anon was me; I clicked the wrong name thingy), it really doesn't matter to me.

To your point 7 - I'll look into this book, since, being a Protestant, I have not heard of it *goes to do so*

William D said...

@clive: he did finish it o-o

C said...

Here's a quote I found (nothing to do with Sirach):

"If we move in the direction of absolute free will, God's omniscience becomes limited (because his knowledge of future human choices is curtailed), his omnipotence is weakened (because he no longer controls human choice), and the inherent truth of prophecy is eliminated (because all is contingent on human decisions). If we move in the direction of absolute predestination, God becomes implicated in evil (by ordaining that some will sin) and can even be accused of being unjust (by punishing those he ordains to be evil)."

--

Another quote:

"Since we have seen that the reason for God knowledge cannot be found in a creature, it must be found in Himself. In fact God knows all of our future free actions, because He has decreed from all eternity what they will be. Not only does God predetermine what we will do, but He also predetermines that we will perform these actions freely. Everything is caused by God; our free action is not an exception. Every effect comes from God."

This confuses me. How can an act be predetermined, and yet free? If he means that we will make then without him pushing us one way or another - well that comes down to what I (accidentally on Anon, as I said) commented before - it depends on how one is defining free will.

I will repeat myself: Thus in our heads, we feel as if we have weighed all our options, considered all circumstances, and explored all outcomes. For all intents and purposes, we feel we have free will, even though there was never any option of choosing differently. We don't know which option was the inevitable one until we have made it - but we were never going to make the other choice.

--

Sirach 33: "All men are from the ground, and Adam was created of the dust. In the fullness of his knowledge the Lord distinguished them and appointed their different ways; some of them he blessed and exalted, and some of them he made holy and brought them near to himself; but some of them he cursed and brought low, and he turned them out of their place. As clay in the hand of the potter-for all his ways are as he pleases- so men are in the hand of him who made them, to give them as he decides."

I understand that separation of different groups for different levels of greatness isn't exactly a curtail on free will - but the bolded line seems to contradict free will directly.

--

A response someone made to a similar objection as my own:

"It is true that in order for a person to act freely, he must be able to determine what his act will be. But, it is not true that he must be the first determiner of what his act will be. Thus, God determines people to determine themselves in a specified way."

Hmm.

So ...

I must object to your point 6. I don't agree with what you have called the crux of the matter. I think the crux is this last quote I found, and what I posted the other day, and pasted above.

C said...

I think I'm starting to see where you're coming from on the time thing. Was reading something about Judas and something made it make sense to me ... then I lost the clarity, and now I'm too tired to think about it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Michael you could do a post on the situation in Syria and the US possibly becoming heavily involved? It might be an interesting blog post and educate some of your readers.

GameOverTown said...

Michael, on your next blog post could you put the lyrics from the professor layton end credits song?

Anonymous said...

Point 3: How about "Blink" by Ted Dekker?

Anonymous said...

GameOverTown, or you could just use google and read them yourself. Honestly. Why does everything Michael post have to be walkthrough/game related for you? I'm sure he has plenty of other interests, not to mention there are way more important world events occurring that probably warrant more of a discussion than dumb Layton lyrics.

GameOverTown said...

I think you may have forgotten to read the blog post. MORE ON FREE WILL. Michael can blog on whatever he wants to and I can comment on whatever I want to. I'm not forcing Michael to talk about professor layton on his next blog post, unlike you, implying "...there are way more important world events occuring that probably warrant more of a discussion than dumb Layton lyrics."

Anonymous said...

I wish you could see me rolling my eyes right now. Obviously I read all of his blog posts and pay attention to the coherent and interesting discussions people bring up in the comments. Which is exactly why I'm saying that I appreciate the serious posts. It give people a chance to talk and learn about different point of views. AND that is why I suggested Syria as a discussion since it has to do with the world right now and is rather more interesting to mull over than layton lyrics. So go have fun googling them. Bye~~~

GameOverTown said...

I couldn't find them :(

William D said...

THE JOKES ON YOU ANON
Michael posted the lyrics XD

William D said...

Who keeps posting under my name O_O

GameOverTown said...

Wait, so that last person wasn't you?

William D said...

Nope o-o DDX UGH
MOOOOOOM DDX

C said...

Why don't you just make a blogger account?

William D said...

Mom won't let me DX
Dont do the whole "But your 14" Mom doesnt care XD She says next year :P