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OMNISCIENCE NOT COMPATIBLE WITH FREEWILL
Posted: 22 February 2011 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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This post was inspired by an argument I recently had with a believer in which he advanced the famous doctrine of freewill by way of proving God’s love for man. It then occurred to me that one cannot speak of freewill if God is supposed to be omniscient. For omniscience, for example, implied foreknowledge on the part of God that Adam was going to eat the apple even before he did. How then can you say Adam and Eve (you and I) had the power of making free choices, unrestrained by external forces?  And doesn’t that imply foul-play on the part of God, since he foresaw the Fall of Man and yet let it happen all the same, having it in his power (omnipotence) to make it otherwise?
  I couldn’t elicit any reasonable replies from my interlocutor, but I can well imagine repartees along the following lines:

1.  God knows that not all people would obey his commands,  but creates them nonetheless to serve as examples (scapegoats, if you will) to discourage others from doing likewise. But isn’t that begging the question?
2.  God isn’t omniscient in the sense of knowing the actions of men beforehand. But this, again, entails a contradiction.
3.  God works in mysterious ways and it would be presumptuous to imagine we can discern the workings of a Mind such as His. To this, I cannot dispute. But then the argument takes on a mystical garb, which cannot be subjected to the rules of logic.

The implications of such a view would be in line with the doctrine of predestination, and touches upon the age-old philosophical debate between determinism and freewill.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Meh. This assumes that free will involves an absurd notion of acting without causation. It doesn’t. In fact, free will needs some modicum of determinism to work at all. Beliefs and desires have to cause actions for the actions to be free. (For much more on this see the Free Will thread(s) in this folder).

Of course, while this means that omniscience is perfectly compatible with free will, it also means that God would be ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the universe. And that means that the Problem of Evil is a very big problem, indeed.

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Posted: 22 February 2011 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Good point Pam.  I’ve used that argument myself quite a few years ago, but got the same mystical babble in response.  Must be wonderful when one isn’t fettered in an argument by the rules of logic.  LOL

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Posted: 23 February 2011 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Doug, I quite agree. I think the whole freewill vs. determinism debate is founded on a confused understanding of the two concepts—on an old-fashioned conception of cause and effect which QM has since rendered obsolete. But still, my argument assumes more than just that: it also assumes the existence of God and the accuracy of accounts in Genesis, which are by no means settled matters.
Come to think of it, I only used the argument in jest, you know, to spite my interlocutor. Occam, I bet you catch my drift? wink

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Posted: 23 February 2011 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Pambania - 23 February 2011 06:36 AM

Doug, I quite agree. I think the whole freewill vs. determinism debate is founded on a confused understanding of the two concepts—on an old-fashioned conception of cause and effect which QM has since rendered obsolete.

Well, yes and no. I mean, clearly QM has exploded the notion of Newtonian, mechanical determinism. But it’s replaced it by probabilistic causation that is accurate to an extraordinarily high degree in macroscopic objects. That’s to say, a neuron’s activity may not be caused by or cause effects in the brain with 100% certainty, but it does so with, say, 99.99999999999999999% certainty. And if its effect is swamped by some low-probability quantum mechanical fluctuation, all that results is something that isn’t an action but is instead the equivalent of a twitch or jerk: something unintended and undirected.

It’s still the case that the free will is in the causal determination.

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Posted: 23 February 2011 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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dougsmith - 23 February 2011 07:40 AM

It’s still the case that the free will is in the causal determination.

Doesn’t it depend upon what is meant by free will Doug?

Yes, free will can mean something compatible with determinism. This free will is very important and when we think about it we can see what we are thinking about when we think about what we could have done. I now think Dennett’s right about “Austin’s putt”, the example you introduced me to, and have done for some time, as you know.

But free will can also refer to the thing that is supposed to give us ultimate responsibility, which is incompatible with determinism.

My impression is the version pambania is talking about is the incompatibilist version, so to say to someone who is refering to that “yes we have free will” is misleading.

It would be nice to keep it simple and insist free will is one thing or the other but surely it can refer to both and the subject needs to be approached as such.

Stephen

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Posted: 25 February 2011 08:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Ok I’ll refrain from being a sa

[ Edited: 25 February 2011 10:33 PM by ExMachina ]
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Posted: 26 February 2011 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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You and me, E-M.  We just have to grit our teeth, shake our heads, and let the conversation continue.  zipper

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Posted: 26 February 2011 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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  dougsmith - 23 February 2011 07:40 AM

  It’s still the case that the free will is in the causal determination.

Doesn’t it depend upon what is meant by free will Doug?

Yes, free will can mean something compatible with determinism. This free will is very important and when we think about it we can see what we are thinking about when we think about what we could have done. I now think Dennett’s right about “Austin’s putt”, the example you introduced me to, and have done for some time, as you know.

But free will can also refer to the thing that is supposed to give us ultimate responsibility, which is incompatible with determinism.

My impression is the version pambania is talking about is the incompatibilist version, so to say to someone who is refering to that “yes we have free will” is misleading.

It would be nice to keep it simple and insist free will is one thing or the other but surely it can refer to both and the subject needs to be approached as such.

Stephen

Well put. Couldnt have expressed it any better myself.

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Posted: 27 February 2011 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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StephenLawrence - 23 February 2011 12:41 PM

But free will can also refer to the thing that is supposed to give us ultimate responsibility, which is incompatible with determinism.

Here you go again. Ultimate responsibility. It does not exist, and we do not need it. Responsibility, without ‘ultimate’, is enough.

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Posted: 27 February 2011 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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GdB - 27 February 2011 07:19 AM
StephenLawrence - 23 February 2011 12:41 PM

But free will can also refer to the thing that is supposed to give us ultimate responsibility, which is incompatible with determinism.

Here you go again. Ultimate responsibility. It does not exist, and we do not need it. Responsibility, without ‘ultimate’, is enough.

The point is free will can means two things (at least)

On responsibility what you don’t understand is you do believe in ultimate responsibility. Ultimate responsibility is the denial that it’s your fortune good or bad what state the universe was in 1,000 years before your birth and therefore what beliefs and desires arise.

Stephen

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Posted: 27 February 2011 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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StephenLawrence - 27 February 2011 07:39 AM

On responsibility what you don’t understand is you do believe in ultimate responsibility. Ultimate responsibility is the denial that it’s your fortune good or bad what state the universe was in 1,000 years before your birth and therefore what beliefs and desires arise.

If you do not believe in responsibility at all, then any tiny bit of responsibility must look to you as ultimate responsibility.

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Posted: 17 April 2011 11:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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GdB - 27 February 2011 07:19 AM
StephenLawrence - 23 February 2011 12:41 PM

But free will can also refer to the thing that is supposed to give us ultimate responsibility, which is incompatible with determinism.

Here you go again. Ultimate responsibility. It does not exist, and we do not need it. Responsibility, without ‘ultimate’, is enough.

well put.  Another way would be to say that ‘ultimate responsibility’ is equally incompatible with indeterminism.

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Posted: 18 April 2011 12:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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isaac - 17 April 2011 11:38 PM
GdB - 27 February 2011 07:19 AM
StephenLawrence - 23 February 2011 12:41 PM

But free will can also refer to the thing that is supposed to give us ultimate responsibility, which is incompatible with determinism.

Here you go again. Ultimate responsibility. It does not exist, and we do not need it. Responsibility, without ‘ultimate’, is enough.

well put.  Another way would be to say that ‘ultimate responsibility’ is equally incompatible with indeterminism.

Quite right.

My point was it isn’t the case that free will is compatible with determinism.

It’s the case that defined in one way it is and defined in another way it isn’t.

So if someone asks do I have free will the answer might be yes and might be no depending upon what they mean.

Stephen

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Posted: 22 April 2011 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I just joined this forum and wanted to get something posted.  So, this may not be as carefully expressed as it should have been. But…

Suppose we understand “God is omniscient” as “God knows all facts” or “God knows all true statements”. [Peter Geach has suggested something such as this]

On this understanding, the so-called problem of the conflict between God’s omniscience and freewill disappears, doesn’t it?
To use the “Adam” story to illustrate, when God created Adam, the statement “Adam took a bite of the apple” was not true.  Since it was not true, God couldn’t know it— there was nothing to know.  But this absence of knowledge is nothing more than a logical consequence of the truth condition on knowledge. 

cheers,

Elizabeth

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Posted: 22 April 2011 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Elizabeth - 22 April 2011 05:25 AM

I just joined this forum and wanted to get something posted.  So, this may not be as carefully expressed as it should have been. But…

Suppose we understand “God is omniscient” as “God knows all facts” or “God knows all true statements”. [Peter Geach has suggested something such as this]

On this understanding, the so-called problem of the conflict between God’s omniscience and freewill disappears, doesn’t it?
To use the “Adam” story to illustrate, when God created Adam, the statement “Adam took a bite of the apple” was not true.  Since it was not true, God couldn’t know it— there was nothing to know.  But this absence of knowledge is nothing more than a logical consequence of the truth condition on knowledge. 

This is misleading. On Geach’s understanding, it might well be that God could not know “Adam took a bite of the apple” before it happened. But he would know (by virtue of knowing all true statements) “Adam will take a bite of the apple”, which amounts to the same thing for the purposes of the present discussion.

(Edit to add: or to put it another way, God would know the tenseless statement: “Adam takes a bite of the apple in 6042BC on June 12, at 8:32 AM).

[ Edited: 22 April 2011 05:40 AM by dougsmith ]
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