Thursday, September 11, 2008

Free Will and Omniscience.

Apparently, wikipedia was kind enough to compile a variety of responses that supposedly are attempts to resolve the contradiction of "free will" and absolute foreknowledge on the part of a creator. They've conveniently lined them all up to shot down.

God can know in advance what I will do, because free will is to be
understood only as freedom from coercion, and anything further
is an illusion.

Hmmmm. Doesn't mesh. Free will is not just freedom from "coercion" in the form of outside intervention but also the ability to make choices free from constraints and causations beyond one's control. Since God knew what events would happen beforehand, from your birth to your death, to every factor set in place from biology to environment that would influence you in a pre-known fashion, you could hardly call that freedom from "coercion" because God isn't doing directly.

God can know in advance what I will do, even though free will in the fullest
sense of the phrase does exist. God somehow has a "middle knowledge" -
that is, knowledge of how free agents will act in any given circumstances.
The problem with middle knowledge is this: it is knowledge of every single possible outcome without knowledge of which one is actually going to happen. Obviously an omniscient deity should have knowledge of every possibility, but, unfortunately, omniscience is worthless if it doesn't even give you an inkling about which occurrence is more probable than others. By giving him knowledge of every feasible option, but no way of discerning the nearly certain from the nearly impossible, it makes that knowledge absolutely worthless.

God can know all possibilities. The same way a master chess player is able to anticipate not only one scenario but several and prepare the moves in response to each scenario, God is able to figure all consequences from what I will do next
moment, since my options are multiple but still limited.

Same problem as middle knowledge. Knowing the possibilities without awareness of which one is going to occur or which one is most likely is essentially worthless, and, given that God would know a nearly infinite number of possible courses of action for billions upon billions over the years, without having some foreknowledge of the actions taken, God would be completely unaware of the future beyond a few days.

God chooses to foreknow and foreordain (and, therefore, predetermine) some things,
but not others. This allows a free moral choice on the part of man for those
things that God choose not to foreordain. It accomplishes this by attributing to
God the ability for Him, Himself, to be a free moral agent with the ability to
choose what He will, and will not, foreknow, assuming God exists in linear time
(or at least an analogue thereof) where "foreknowledge" is a meaningful concept.
Rather arbitrary. Positing selective omniscience, which, somehow, gives us a small amount of free will in regards to "moral" action creates a few problems . If moral actions include the choice between whether to engage in warfare and violence, or whether to rape someone, I don't know how it is possible for God to have a blindspot in regard to that particular decision, yet still have foreknowledge about the potential victim's life. Unless God only "foreknows" predestined events that occur on a global level, but even then, if it has to do with national politics, or collective human activity rather than individual, then God's omniscience is limited to an absurd degree. But, I assume it makes it so that praying actually makes sense...

It is not possible for God to know the result of a free human choice. Omniscience should therefore be interpreted to mean "knowledge of everything that can be known". God can know what someone will do, but only by predetermining it; thus, he chooses the extent of human freedom by choosing what (if anything) to know in this way.
If God cannot know the results of human choice, then he is completely blind in regards to all human activity, society, and warfare, unless he managed to rob that particular individual of his free will. And, the funny thing about positing that he CAN rob us of our free will at a whim that you cannot say with certainty whether a given person is acting freely or not! We could be given as little or as much free will as he desires, and we would never be able to tell the difference (note: this is pretty much the objective verdict of free will in regards to supernatural influence).

God stands outside time, and therefore can know everything free agents do, since He does not know these facts "in advance", he knows them before they are even conceived and long after the actions have occurred. The free agent's future actions therefore remain contingent to himself and others in linear time but are logically necessary to God on account of His infallibly accurate all-encompassing view. This was the solution offered by Thomas Aquinas.[4]

This doesn't help. Existing "outside of time" would mean that he would be aware of past, present, and future with even more certainty than if he were to exist in linear time along with us. By existing outside of time, he can see past, present, and future events and actions all set out before him, with no regards as to what point the current timeline is located. The future has already occurred in such a position. Unless, of course, being beyond time is supposed to mean that God doesn't interfere which means, once again, we get to the problem with the first argument. If it is supposed to mean that he can see an infinite series of possible timelines, we go back to the problem with the second argument.
Instead of producing a parallel model in God's own infallible mind of the
future contingent actions of a free agent (thus suppressing the agent's free
will), God encodes his knowledge of the agent's actions in the original action
Hrrmmm. Crap. I can't even understand what this means. I'm not sure if this is supposed to mean that God regains knowledge that he once had of an agent's action after the agents have already acted, or that he is always aware of the next action they will make, and only that action. Or if the agent's themselves have God's knowledge of their own future actions. All I know, is it sounds like another "can't predict human social, military, or moral activity past the course of one day" things

God passively seeing the infinite future in no way alters it, anymore than us reading a history book influences the past by simply observing it
retrospectively. However, He might choose (or not) to read any chapter or the
ending, or open the book at any page.

This is the most ridiculous of them all, because it intentionally ignores the fact that God set everything involved in that infinte future into motion while knowing every detail of it. On top of that, he had the power to make it whatever he wanted, and the power to change it at a whim as well. This analogy only works if God was not an omnipotent creator in addition to being omniscient.

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated that man does have limited free
will; he can decide whether or not to surrender to the will of Krishna.
Otherwise, all material happenings and their implications are inconceivably
predestined. This concept being subject to challenge in customary affairs, it is
then also somewhat ridiculed as a philosophy.

So, this is another one of those free will blindspots, except, the blind spot is incredibly small. Now, here is the problem again: if their is an omniscient deity, who knows and predetermined everything save one specific form of choice, he cannot be aware of any consequences arising from that choice either. If their life is affected, in any way, by the acceptance of Krishna, the omniscient one cannot know about this without effectively being aware of whether it happened. A guy accepts Krishna and saves three thousand people over the course of 40 years due to his belief system, and the all-knowing god cannot be aware of that fact without compromising free will. A guy accepts Krishna, and is told that he should go around killing and eating people to appease him, and winds up ending 60 lives and makes many in the general populace lose faith in humanity, detach from their former religion, and eventually begin civil war with the unfazed maintainers of the status quo. And yet God cannot be aware of any of those facts either, lest he be tacitly aware of the mass-murderer's acceptance.

This brings me to my conclusion: free will and an omniscient Creator just don't mesh. You need to take away one of those (free will, omniscience, or creator) in order for them to make sense together. Even then, it is iffy. Every attempt was either a bizarre attempt to work around omniscience, or to hide parts of the puzzle under the table to make the pieces look like they fit together. They just don't.


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