Do we have freewill ? is it biblical ?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by zacariah88, Feb 22, 2023.


Do you believe you have freewill

  1. yes

    5 vote(s)
  2. no

    6 vote(s)
  1. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    That's irrelevant.
    I'm not talking about whether it is technically possible, as this isn't an argument for the existence or otherwise of God.
    It is simply stating that IF an omniscient God exists then it means that they know in advance of you doing something what you will do, and there is no way you can not do what they know you're going to.
    If you could do something else then they wouldn't have known in advance.
    Thus not omniscient.
    That's what it means.
    The mechanism by which it is achieved is a red herring.
    Have we not posited the existence of an omniscient God?
    It is not "imaginary", therefore, within the argument.
    And as for being acausal: I don't know, nor do I need to know for the argument to still stand.
    How can you not be constrained to do what was seen, if what was seen is known to be a true foretelling of the future?
    Give me just one example of where your future is known (not just guessed at but actually known) and you then not doing what was known.
    Again, this isn't an argument for the existence or otherwise of an omniscient God, but the implications of the existence of such a God.
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  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Irrelevant. You can't posit a restraint without a cause. Is it just spontaneous? Magical?

    How about this for a solution? Just because God is the omniscient superpower doesn't mean he has to engage it all times, does it?

    I am a strong man, but I don't become "not strong" simply because I choose not to lift a sack of bricks 24/7, right? Being strong does not equal exerting it perpetually.

    So, God is omniscient but chooses to give humans free will and simultaneously chooses not to look into human's future. (I mean, there's certainly some godlike logic there. A God who knows exactly how the universe will play out might very well deliberately introduce a wildcard out of the godlike equivalent of boredom).
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2023
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  5. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    You can posit anything you want without explaining the mechanism behind it if the mechanism is irrelevant to what you are positing.
    In this case omniscience is a property, and unless your contention is that the mechanism somehow alters that property rather than just give rise to it, then you are continuing to argue a red herring.
    If you are omniscient then you know everything.
    If you choose not to know something then you are not being omniscient.
    If God chooses to not be omniscient then you are arguing a strawman, as the case in question is about an omniscient God, not a God who opts for non-omniscience.
    If we posited that God (or anything else) was not ominscient, then that would be an entirely different discussion.
    But here we are, looking at whether omniscience is compatible with freewill.
    Being strong is not the same as "lifting something heavy", as the latter is merely an example of "being strong" in action, an action one can do or not do.
    Being strong IS a perpetual state (at least while you are strong).
    Being omniscient means "knows everything".
    That is also a perpetual state.
    An example of it in action might be to reveal what is known.
    God could certainly choose not to reveal, but I contend it is the omniscience itself that is the constraint, not any revelation, for example.
    So your solution doesn't work, as far as I can tell.
    Omniscience isn't just about looking into the future, but knowing the future.
    If you don't yet know then you aren't yet omniscient.
    And we have posited an omniscient God, have we not?
    If he did that then he wouldn't know how the universe would play out, and so not be omniscient.

    I note you haven't answered either of my questions (although they were raised in a post to James R, but feel free).
    They're not trick questions, as I'm curious as to whether you would say "yes" for the first and "no" for the second, and if so what change in the scenario causes the change in answer.
    But if you'd rather not, no problem.

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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    And you haven't shown that it is irrelevant. Sometimes, a 'black box' model is incorrect - say, if the black box is employed to violate causality.

    I am not convinced this is strictly true.
    Being X doesn't not necessarily mean one is doing X all the time. You may think so, but I think that's an opinion of the meaning of the word.

    Or you choose not to look. I'm not convinced of the universality of your definiton of the word.

    You seem to be positing that God ( your "they", above) is doing the controlling. Okay. I can live with that.

    So, if God sees that I chose chocolate next Tuesday, then he (or an agent of his) is indeed constraining me.

    But note: that is not the same thing. That is not Omniscience eliminating free will; that is Omnipotence* eliminating free will.

    * or some manifestation of a powers that can actively control peoples' actions.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2023
  8. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    Full Disclosure:::
    As you may well know… DaveC… i dont thank free-will exists… period.!!!
    One example… some babies are borned wit anencephaly / such incomplete brains that they have no consciousness… so i dont emagine that they coud make a choice… much less a free-will choice.!!!

    To be clear about whare you’r comin from… do you thank free-will coud exist in a deterministic universe.???
  9. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I am relying only on the meaning of the word, not how it is achieved.
    How it is achieved is thus irrelevant.
    To me at least, and to my argument here.
    The model is correct for the purposes it is being employed.
    We are only looking at the outputs, not the mechanism.
    It is a separate matter to look at the mechanism with regard a specific reality, because that is looking at whether omniscience is possible at all within that reality, not whether it is, as a notion, compatible with freewill.
    If you want to discuss whether omniscience is possible, sure, we can go there, but it's not the question at hand.
    You don't "do" omniscience, though: it's not an activity.
    It is a property in the same vein as being strong, tall, black, white, male, female, etc.
    You either are, or you are not.
    Looking, or choosing to be omniscient or not at a given moment, is irrelevant.
    If reality allows omniscience then it is because it is a reality where everything can be known.
    It doesn't need to be known by anyone, but the fact that it is available to be known is sufficient for there to be the constraint.
    Omniscience also isn't necessarily the cause of the constraint either, but simply an indication that there is constraint in the system.
    Me saying "omniscience constrains" may thus have confused you in this regard, and if so I do apologise.
    More accurately I should have said "omniscience is an indication of constraint".
    Not God, no, or not necessarily.
    The system is doing the controlling.
    God might be that system, or God might just be someone who has full knowledge of the system.
    E.g. if someone sets up a system that adds 1 to the previous number after a fixed interval of time, and starts with 0, anyone else knowing the nature of the system can glean that it is constrained to go through the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.
    They may not have caused it, but because of the nature of the system they can know everything about what is going on in that system at any time.
    I'm not going to get into what types of system those might be, but if it is possible to know in advance the output of the system at every point in its future, the system is constrained.
    Omniscience may not causally/actively control, but it is an indicator for a system that constrains if it is a system that allows someone to be omniscient about it.
    As said earlier, maybe me saying that "omniscience constrains" was confusingly cutting out the middle-man, so to speak, and if so I apologies, but, to be clear: if a system allows omniscience (i.e. is such that someone either outside or inside the system could know everything about it at all times) then it is a system that constrains.
    If a system constrains then it is not free.
    Thus omniscience is incompatible with that system, or any element within it, being free.
    Whether the cause is omnipotence, pixie dust (other forms of magicks are available), or something else, doesn't make a difference to that.

    Does this make sense?
    'Cos if so I'd like to move on to my surprise at your answer to the second question, as I thought you were a compatibilist?

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  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    "I want to ask if there would be time dilation effects for my secret faster-than-light drive."
    "How does it work?"
    "Doesn't matter."
    "No, not asking about details, can you at least tell us if it follows any logical mechanism beyond your thoughts?"
    "No, let's take it for granted that it works because I'm the author and I say so, and tell me what time dilation effects I can expect."

    "Unicorns. You can expect unicorns."

    That is the standard answer when someone says Nevermind logic, what would happen if I just demand it to be so?

    "What happens to the Earth's orbit if the Sun is instantly snatched away?"
    "Well it can't be just instantly snatched away, that's naive fantasy and more relevantly it will lead to paradoxical results. The Sun could be rocketed away, very fast, and you could show..."
    "No, just 'poof', it's gone. Locked in a black box."
    "You mean, like magic?"
    "Yes, like magic."

    "Unicorns. You can expect unicorns."

    What happens if you just demand something to be? Demand that a property such as omniscience will manifest - in reality - a control over a human? Paradoxes happen.

    Nothing you have said is substantially different from just demanding that an abstract logical riddle can manifestly control human behavior by the power of its argument alone.

    I think I'm comfortable leaving off here. I will attempt to stay tuned in case you bring further elements to your case.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    The incompatibilist position, as I understand it, is to believe in a deterministic universe, and therefore to assume that no action of any kind can be "free". "Free", for the incompatibilist, requires that one can act in opposition to the dictates of determinism, which is impossible if you're committed to determinism. Therefore, no freedom.

    Am I wrong?
    The incompatibilist believes there is a constraint, though: determinism.

    Actually, I suppose that technically you can be an incompatibilist if you believe that "if determinism, then no freedom", without having to actually believe in determinism.

    I don't recall what your actual position is on these matters.
    I would consider myself free if I could do whatever I chose to do. That's the compatibilist position. It's irrelevant to me whether somebody else correctly predicted what I would choose. Their prediction didn't affect my choice of what to do.
    Yes. Why not? But what's all this about them "controlling" me? Are you saying I can't choose what I want to do? If that's the case, then I'm not free.
  12. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Again, to be clear: omniscience does not necessarily manifest a control over a human.
    I apologise if my previous choice of phrase confused you, but I did try to explain above what I meant.
    There are two things at play: omniscience and control.
    Control doesn't necessary imply omniscience, but omniscience implies control.
    I.e. wherever you have a system that allows omniscience, there is control of the elements of that system.

    And yes, paradoxes happen.
    That's the point of this, to understand whether such a paradox arises, and if so then it logically proves that one of the properties can not exist in the same realm as the other.
    The same as the unstoppable object v the immovable one.
    Noone needs to explain how it happens, one merely needs to look at the implications of those properties.
    Your continued need to know how is a red-herring, and
    All elephants have 3 legs.
    The sun is an elephant.
    The sun has 3 legs.
    This is valid logic, you agree.

    But, wait, what's that?
    I've suddenly demanded that all elephants have 3 legs!
    I've suddenly demanded that the sun is an elephant!

    All we're doing here, in positing whether omniscience is compatible with free will, is look at such things in the same way.
    And, for hopefully the last time, I am not saying that omniscience is the controller, only that it is an indication of there being control.
    Thanks, and I hope you have understood the clarification I have offered, that omniscience itself is not necessarily the constrainer, but an indicator of it.
    And, for the record, you'll need to be able to look at just the implications of a property, not how it arises.
    Because that's what this is: a look at whether one property is compatible with another.
    If the properties co-existing result in a paradox then you have your answer.
    If the paradox only arises because of how the property is achieved then that is only looking at one specific case of that property (i.e. the case where that property is brought about by that specific mechanism).
    By looking at the property itself you look at all cases of it.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Now I'm confused.

    Omniscience means "all seeing". It means you know everything. That doesn't mean you can control everything; that would be omnipotence.

    Why do you you think omniscience implies control?
  14. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Unfortunately you are wrong now, and you were wrong when last you spoke about determinism.
    Further, this discussion isn't about determinism per se, but about omniscience and free-will.
    A deterministic universe is certainly an example of a universe that allows omniscience, however, but it isn't necessarily the only one.
    As to what other one might allow it, I don't know and I can't say, but that's neither here nor there.

    But to answer the question: yes, you are wrong: the incompatibilist does not assume that no actions can be "free".
    That is the conclusion of their thought process.
    They start with an understanding of what it means to be free: no constraint, for example.
    They posit the nature of a system: e.g. deterministic
    They look at whether one is compatible with the other.
    In this case, no, they are not, as far as they are concerned and for the reasons they give.

    You are also wrong in that the incompatibilist does not necessarily believe in a deterministic universe.
    But I see that you address that below.
    They conclude that in a deterministic universe there is a constraint they deem sufficient to make their notion of free will incompatible.
    My position is that incompatibilists deem freewill to be incompatible with a deterministic universe, and that compatibilists have different take on what it means for the will to be free so as to allow for compatibility in such a universe.
    That's as far as I go.
    I can argue for both and against both, as I see it a case of arguing apples v oranges.
    And I always have done.

    That's not the question I asked.
    If you could only do what someone else said you could, would you consider yourself free?
    For some it would be because, whether you are aware of the control they have over you, you are being controlled and can not do anything other than what the controller wants, even if you, personally, think it your own choice.
    You now seem to have provided two different answers to the same question.
    The question is quite clear: if you were oblivious to what they were asking you, or of how they controlled you, but nonetheless could only do what they said, would you consider yourself free?
    To break it down, if that will make it easier:
    You are controlled.
    You are not aware of being controlled.
    Everything you do is what the controller wants you to do.
    But you are not aware of what he wants, or the control.
    Do you consider yourself free?
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It's not unfortunate to make mistakes. That's how people learn things.
    Does it not matter whether determinism is true, then, to decide the question of whether free will exists?

    It sounds like we're in agreement, if this is your position.
    I can't see why it would necessarily allow omniscience. There might be a lot of very good practical reasons for omniscience to be impossible, despite the universe being completely deterministic.
    Okay. I think we're on the same page, on that. They demand that "freedom" means "no constraints". Determinism imposes the most severe constraints. Therefore, no freedom.

    Isn't that the gist of what I wrote, previously?
    I don't think it's a requirement that one actually adopts a stance on whether the universe is actually deterministic, in order to be considered an incompatibilist (or a compatibilist, for that matter). I think one only needs to hold the view that if the the universe is deterministic, then there can be no free will (or the opposite, if you're a compatibilist).
    Again, it looks to me like we're on the same page.
    Didn't I answer that?

    My answer is: if I could do what I chose to do, I would consider myself free, regardless of only being able to do what somebody else said I could. If, on the other hand, I could not do what I chose, then I would not consider myself free, regardless of only being able to do what someone else said I could.
    For me, it makes no practical difference whether I'm being controlled to choose what I want or whether I magically have the ability to choose what I want. Either way, I get to choose what I want. What else does free will mean, other than the ability to choose what you want?
    I don't think so.
    Yes, as long as I could choose to do what I wanted.
    Yes, as long as I can choose to do what I want. That's the only kind of freedom that matters.
  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Correct, but as I have explained above, wherever you have omniscience you have control.
    Note that this does not mean that control implies omniscience.
    If it is raining the streets will be wet, but if the streets are wet doesn't mean that it is raining, etc.
    To know everything means that you therefore know the path, the course being taken, before it is taken.
    There is thus no ability to do otherwise but take that path.
    No genuine alternative to what is known.
    Hence control, as you are, and always will be, on the one path that is known by the omniscient.

    As said previously to DaveC426913, there doesn't even need to be an entity that is omniscient, but rather it is sufficient for omniscience to be allowed for that to imply the control.
  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    If I'm on a train heading down a track with no switches, then I know exactly where the train is going. But I don't necessarily have access to the control cabin. I have no ability to make the train take a different path. I can't stop or start the train. I can't even use the PA system. My knowledge of the path and the journey doesn't give me any special power over the train itself.
  18. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Determinism is a system on a single-path trajectory.
    If you take the example I gave earlier: if I set up a system that starts at zero and adds 1 to the previous number after a set interval, this is a deterministic system, on a single trajectory.
    By knowing the starting point and the rules, and given sufficient processing capability, one can establish what the state of the system will be at every interval in the future, present, and past.
    One can be omniscient with respect to that system.
    A deterministic universe is conceptually no different: a single trajectory, and if one knows the starting point and has the rules by which that system operates then omniscience is possible, given sufficient processing capability.
    It might be a more complex "program" but that is just a matter of processing capability required to know.
    Thus it is allowable.
    Please don't try to use such perjorative language.
    They don't "demand" anything.
    The compatibilist has the same meaning of freedom, do they not?
    The difference is in what it is applied to: the meta picture (i.e. the system applying constraints) or the personal picture (i.e. awareness of constraints upon the working process of the will).
    The debate took hold when the universe was considered deterministic, but with the advent of quantum mechanics, and our understanding at that level, I think it is more commonly accepted to be indeterministic.
    However, that, to many, only introduces randomness to the debate, which probably doesn't alter their conclusions much, if at all.
    But that's a different issue to the one of omniscience v freewill.
    To some it means that there are genuine alternatives to what you ultimately choose.
    I.e. that you could genuinely have done something else than what you did.
    Not just consider and reject as part of the choosing process, but could actually have done them.
    If there is omniscience, if there is just the single path trajectory, then there are no genuine alternatives.
    No genuine alternatives, no freewill.
    So the argument goes.
    But what are you choosing between?
    There is only one possible outcome, even if you are not aware of there only being one.
    You might consider and reject many others as part of your process, but there is only the one result you could ever end up doing.
    Are you, ultimately, concluding that freedom is to be found in the lack of awareness of the control/constraint that is actually there, or that it is just a matter of a fully constrained process working correctly?
    Or something else?

    Note, I don't necessarily disagree with you, only asking you to consider these issues.
  19. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I have clarified my position: omniscience implies constraint, not necessarily is the constraint.
    Using your example, if you know the train is on a single track with no switches. you know where it is heading etc - i.e. if you are omniscient about the train system - then there is constraint, whether you are the one doing the constraining or not.
    If you weren't omniscient, if you didn't know where the train was heading, then there may or may not be constraint, and the lack of omniscience implies neither constraint or lack of constraint.

    But omniscience means the system you are omniscient about is on a single track, with known destination.
    Thus omniscience implies, if not means, the system is constrainted.

    So I'm not sure what you made this post for: if it was to show that the omniscient individual doesn't need to be the one constraining then I agree, and I have already clarified this on several occasions now.
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    In practice, there will always be a limit to processing capability. Unless you're a God, I suppose.

    The mere fact that a system is deterministic does not mean that omniscience about the system will be practically achievable.
    The word "just" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence.
    Oh no? So if I were to ask an incompatibilist politely "Would you be so kind as to let go of your claim that 'freedom' means the absence of all constraints?" I suppose they'd be happy to do that, then? Or do you think they'd respond... perjoratively?
    No! Or at least, not in the version of compatibilism I have been putting to you. I only require that there be an absence of constraints on freedom of choice. As a compatibilist, I say you can have your determinism and still have freedom to choose.
    The difference is that the incompatibilist says that the kind of "freedom" he would require for "free will" to be a thing would be the freedom to do other than what you must. And because the incompatibilist also believes that there's no possible scope for anybody doing other than what they must, he concludes that "freedom", and therefore "free will", is impossible.

    The incompatibilist position is set up so that free will must fail. It says physics is deterministic and that you can't break the laws of physics, and then goes on to require that any "true" free will would have to break those very same unbreakable laws of physics. Ergo, the incompatibilist smugly concludes, there is no true free will. (Oh dear, I said "smug". How perjorative of me.)
    My own view is that quantum indeterminism doesn't provide a "solution" to the "problem" of free will, if you want to define freedom as the ability to break the laws of physics. If I were to flip a coin to decide whether to have chocolate or strawberry icecream, the result one way or the other wouldn't imply that I made a "free choice" of which icecream to have. Randomness alone can't provide the relevant kind of freedom, in my opinion.
    You need to be able to break the laws of physics, in other words.
    I don't think omniscience matters. Determinism alone would be sufficient to rule out the kind of "genuine alternatives" defined.
    When choosing an icecream flavor, for example, I'm choosing between getting the flavor I'd prefer and one I don't think I'd enjoy so much. Maybe I get the flavor I prefer. Or maybe it turns out the icecream shop is fresh out of that flavor and I'm forced to settle for one I won't enjoy quite so much. In the first case, I'd say I had a "free choice". In the second case, I'd say my ability to choose freely was constrained (in this case, by the particular circumstances that led to the shortage of my preferred flavor).

    In a deterministic universe, I agree it was inevitable that I'd end up with either the chocolate or strawberry icecream. But I think that requiring that I have the magical ability to break the laws of physics and choose something other than what I actually chose would be quite unreasonable; it would be setting me up to fail.

    Wouldn't it strike you as a little strange for somebody to insist that none of the many choices you made today was actually your free choice? I'm confident you felt like you were choosing "freely". But apparently, this is not enough for the incompatibilist. No, he requires you to somehow be able to go back and do other than what you chose to do, before he will accept that you had a free choice. And you can never do that, of course. He's setting you up to fail.
    I don't think I can explain myself any better than I already have. For me, "free will" is my ability to do what I want to do. If something prevents me from doing what I want to do, then my "will" isn't "free" - it's constrained or it becomes irrelevant.

    I can be fully aware that the universe is (probably) deterministic, but that awareness doesn't affect anything important to me about free will. I'm free if I can do what I choose to do. I'm not free to the extent that external things or people prevent me from doing what I want.
    What gave you the impression I haven't considered them already?
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Okay. That all seems fine and uncontroversial to me.

    The behaviour of an unconstrained system would be impossible to predict. So, being able to predict anything about a system implies some constraints. Omniscience just takes that up a notch, to being able to predict everything about the system.

    Well, maybe I misunderstood you when you wrote this:
    "Correct, but as I have explained above, wherever you have omniscience you have control."​

    It sounds like what you meant was something more like "Whenever you have omniscience, something has control."
  22. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Yes, you misunderstood.
    But that's okay.
    What I meant was what I wrote, since "you have" can mean "there is".
    At least where I live.
    "Whenever you have a festival you have rain" or "wherever you have international aid you have corruption" (I'm not speaking to the veracity of these, just using them as examples of the idiom).
    If you weren't familiar with that, and you couldn't fathom the intended meaning, then sure, at least you're all caught up now.
  23. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Apologies, James R, but after reading your post (#137) I have no intention to rehash the same material that was discussed a few years ago.
    This thread was interesting because it involved omniscience, not determinism, but for some reason you dragged it to determinism.
    Which is a shame.
    I also note that you are still deliberately misrepresenting the incompatibilist position.
    Which is also a shame.
    I get that you're a compatibilist, but don't worry, I know your arguments as well as, if not better, than you do.
    And since you have nothing new to offer what I already understand of the issue, and since I really have no wish to engage further on determinism, I will not be responding further to you.

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