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 Post subject: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:27 am 
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Greetings, forum goers. A question from your local, friendly atheist.

Do you think free will exists? In what sense?

To me it largely seems that religious people have a libertarian view of free will (not the political position, the metaphysical one). I, on the other hand, am a thoroughgoing determinist.

Hopefully we can delve into the metaphysics of free will, a bit of psychology and cognitive neuroscience.

I'd be curious to hear your views. For me, concepts like retribution, punishing the dead, or genuine praise and blame are illegitimate given that no one chose to be the sort of person they are, ultimately. Determinism makes the god hypothesis even more difficult (for example, an omniscient god would have made us knowing what specific sins and suffering we would face, and would have created us anyways).

So, are you libertarians with respect to free will? If so, how do you justify this?

Cheers.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:17 am 
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dschiff wrote:
Greetings, forum goers. A question from your local, friendly atheist.

Do you think free will exists? In what sense?


Yes. But as a Thomist I am wary of "libertarian" free will. More on that later

Quote:

I'd be curious to hear your views. For me, concepts like retribution, punishing the dead, or genuine praise and blame are illegitimate given that no one chose to be the sort of person they are, ultimately. Determinism makes the god hypothesis even more difficult (for example, an omniscient god would have made us knowing what specific sins and suffering we would face, and would have created us anyways).

Even with free will, heck even though who hold "libertarian free will" God knows what specific sins and suffering we will face and created us anyways. That part is unaffected by any question of whether we truly have a will or no. If determinism were true, the unfortunate consequence would be that we were not in any sense free not to sin and yet would still be punished for it. But responsibility, good or bad, relies on a notion that we could have done otherwise.
Quote:
So, are you libertarians with respect to free will? If so, how do you justify this?

Cheers.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "libertarian" free will. I would hold, for instance, that God is supremely free, and yet He cannot sin. Those in heaven are freer than we, yet cannot choose sin. And so on. But then again, I do not think freedom is adequately defined as the ability to choose this or that.

The will is better understood as the "appetite of reason" That is, it follows from the ability to understand things (like an end, deliberation about means). As such, it has as its necessary object always "the good" in that we always act for our perceived good (good meaning here not necessarily what society calls good, or what we abstractly call morally good, but the desirable. Even a suicide sees his death as desirable, viz. as an ending of suffering and in that way a "perfection" to be obtained). This is why the blessed cannot sin, because assuming that you are face to face with God, and have obtained your perfection in Him, you are already at your end. There is nothing against that that could seem desirable in the concrete or the abstract, while here we lack such a good and hence, not having our end, still seek out fulfillment.

Now before we continue, a question. What do you mean by claiming you are a determinist? E.g., most models of quantum physics affirm a certain level of indeterminancy in nature, whether this is chance or at the very least contingent causes and effects. I am not going to claim, since I think it would be patently false, that this is any basis for free cause-effects, as if we could act freely because of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. But, while not free, these causes and effects are not, in the strict sense, deterministic either.

I guess what I am asking is whether you are a hard determinist (a Newtonian view about necessity in nature and the denial of free causes) or a soft determinist (there are no truly free agents, everything comes about though unwilled physical processes, but this includes indeterminancy, at least on some levels)

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:03 am 
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Malleus Haereticorum wrote:

Yes. But as a Thomist I am wary of "libertarian" free will. More on that later


Even with free will, heck even though who hold "libertarian free will" God knows what specific sins and suffering we will face and created us anyways. That part is unaffected by any question of whether we truly have a will or no. If determinism were true, the unfortunate consequence would be that we were not in any sense free not to sin and yet would still be punished for it. But responsibility, good or bad, relies on a notion that we could have done otherwise.


If we have genuine libertarian freedom, it would seem that we could make choices with genuinely open outcomes. Thus god would not know the specifics, to an extent. Of course, omniscience and free will come into conflict here.

I agree with your version of determinism here. Punishing people who happen to have been born with the genetic code of a murderer (for eternity) does not seem fair.


Quote:
I suppose it depends on what you mean by "libertarian" free will. I would hold, for instance, that God is supremely free, and yet He cannot sin. Those in heaven are freer than we, yet cannot choose sin. And so on. But then again, I do not think freedom is adequately defined as the ability to choose this or that.

Quite interesting. Can god not sin by definition, or is he just restricted to good actions? That is, if god kills or rapes someone, is it by definition not a sin, or are you saying that god would never do such a thing, by his nature?

I agree that isn't a successful definition of freedom. I do tend to think it is the commonplace definition though. i.e. You are only free if you could have done something else.

Quote:
The will is better understood as the "appetite of reason" That is, it follows from the ability to understand things (like an end, deliberation about means). As such, it has as its necessary object always "the good" in that we always act for our perceived good (good meaning here not necessarily what society calls good, or what we abstractly call morally good, but the desirable. Even a suicide sees his death as desirable, viz. as an ending of suffering and in that way a "perfection" to be obtained). This is why the blessed cannot sin, because assuming that you are face to face with God, and have obtained your perfection in Him, you are already at your end. There is nothing against that that could seem desirable in the concrete or the abstract, while here we lack such a good and hence, not having our end, still seek out fulfillment.

Lost me a little on the theistic language. I can see will as attaining your desires, either your first order desires or second order volitions. Thus even suicide could be a goal.. I'm not sure how sin factors in here. So freedom of will as the ability to follow in accordance with your will. Of course, if your second order desires and so on are not caused by you, the deterministic problem remains. No one should be held responsible for that which they could not have done otherwise.

Quote:
Now before we continue, a question. What do you mean by claiming you are a determinist? E.g., most models of quantum physics affirm a certain level of indeterminancy in nature, whether this is chance or at the very least contingent causes and effects. I am not going to claim, since I think it would be patently false, that this is any basis for free cause-effects, as if we could act freely because of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. But, while not free, these causes and effects are not, in the strict sense, deterministic either.

I guess what I am asking is whether you are a hard determinist (a Newtonian view about necessity in nature and the denial of free causes) or a soft determinist (there are no truly free agents, everything comes about though unwilled physical processes, but this includes indeterminancy, at least on some levels)

appetite of reason
[/quote]

Sure thing. Note that that is not specifically the distinction between hard determinism and soft determinism. Hard determinism simply means soft determinism + incompatibilism. That is, a hard determinists thinks both that determinism is true and and that free will cannot exist. A soft determinist is instead a compatibilist.

As for whether there is some indeterminacy or not, I am not sure. I do not think it enters at the quantum level. While we cannot describe the position and speed of particles, this is indeterminacy about observation, not about predictions. The predictions are exceedingly accurate, and by definition singular (as all partial differential equations are). So I don't think quantum physics is chaotic. Now there might be chaos in nature otherwise (possibly) but this chaos would not lead to indeterminacy at the brain level.

Notice that even if there is some chaos or randomness, this does nothing to save the commonsense idea of free will. If my choice to pick A or B is determined, that is not free will. If my neurons fire randomly at some point, then my choice to pick A or B is partially determined (my life, my brain, the circumstances which led to the choice) and partially random. Neither does anything to secure a place for the brain to make contra-causal choices. Thus, as a hard determinist, I am agnostic about possible indeterminacy in the universe, but do not think it would be sufficient to allow for more than randomness, and thus not free will.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:24 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:38 pm 
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We are determined to the extent that God created us entirely. But He created us to be autonomous within the context of life and within the context of our finite physical body. Pathologically I'm just a high functioning animal and I'm thoroughly determined by what's in the interests of my physical survival and pleasure but that aspect of me that chooses the good of others gratuitously over the good of my physical wellbeing, is a choice with mysterious origins.


Last edited by ellietrish on Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:50 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
Free will has to be determined to the extent that God created us entirely. But He created us to be autonomous within the context of life and within the context of our finite physical body. Pathologically I'm just a high functioning animal and I'm thoroughly determined by what's in the interests of my physical survival and pleasure but that aspect of me that chooses the good of others gratuitously over the good of my physical wellbeing, is a choice with mysterious origins.

What???


Please, please read something on the subject before you answer. Not a single proposition in what you have written is incontrovertible, and it is hard to see it as a Catholic.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:26 pm 
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dschiff wrote:

Notice that even if there is some chaos or randomness, this does nothing to save the commonsense idea of free will. If my choice to pick A or B is determined, that is not free will. If my neurons fire randomly at some point, then my choice to pick A or B is partially determined (my life, my brain, the circumstances which led to the choice) and partially random. Neither does anything to secure a place for the brain to make contra-causal choices. Thus, as a hard determinist, I am agnostic about possible indeterminacy in the universe, but do not think it would be sufficient to allow for more than randomness, and thus not free will.

I agree with your point. It is one of my major beefs with amateur apologist-pseudo-scientists who try to use quantum theory as some proof or basis or mechanism for free action. Randomness/incertitude is not the same thing as freedom. But the reason I ask is that free causes are a type of contingent cause, as is "chance" (insofar as you call it a cause) and generally other things not necessary in nature.


Now I have to ask you, what do you mean by "contra-causal" choices. For the sake of argument, grant that there is a "free will". Then that itself much be a faculty that is the cause of a free act, whether this is in a Cartesian framework (the idea that the soul is a ghost in a machine, the other thing that moves the body) or some other framework (whether the biological naturalism of Searle* or the hylomorphism that we Catholics hold)

You speak of there needing to be a "place" for such a choice. I know many theists speak that way (they also treat divine intervention/providence the same way, trying to find a causal gap). But I believe they are very wrongheaded.

But perhaps it would be better to take point by point? I know I have a tendency to go off on tangents. So perhaps I could address some of the simpler points first, and then get into the neuroscience, etc. afterward, as those subjects require a little more attention.

Quote:
Quite interesting. Can god not sin by definition, or is he just restricted to good actions? That is, if god kills or rapes someone, is it by definition not a sin, or are you saying that god would never do such a thing, by his nature?


We say God can no more commit evil than He can make a square circle, or make a thjstjsjytjw. That is, a square circle is nonsense, it isn't a thing.

Now of course morals and ethics are not the most exact things....many actions can be good or bad, depend on circumstances, intention, etc. Now if something is inherently evil, then of course God can in no wise be the cause of the evil. Nor can He will it to be otherwise. Blasphemy is evil not because God said so, but because He is. Further, we speak of acts contrary to the natural law. What we mean by natural law is human reason's apprehension of our ends and natural tendencies, and its prescriptions and proscriptions that are made based on that (not on what monkey's, or eels do, but on our nature). If something is inherently contrary to the natural law, God cannot make it good without contradicting Himself. In other words, He made as such, and as such certain things are always bad. Same reason we say God cannot change the past. For Him to do so would mean that He contradicts what He previously willed.

There are somethings that are wrong because God commanded it. But we have that in human law too. We might say reason suffices to say that it is wrong to drive unsafely, but what side of the road shall it be?

Quote:
Lost me a little on the theistic language. I can see will as attaining your desires, either your first order desires or second order volitions. Thus even suicide could be a goal.. I'm not sure how sin factors in here. So freedom of will as the ability to follow in accordance with your will. Of course, if your second order desires and so on are not caused by you, the deterministic problem remains. No one should be held responsible for that which they could not have done otherwise.

I do suspect that different terminology is going to be an issue here. I haven't heard the language of "first and second order volitions" in a while now. Correct me if I am wrong, but by that you mean the difference between "I want to go out with friends" and "I desire to want to go out with friends" (i.e. desire to stop being apathetic)

Traditional philosophy generally distinguishes between "will" and "free choice" or as it is more frequently, but unfortunately rendered "free will" (which leads to some very funny sounding translated texts from Latin and Greek, such as Aquinas having a question about whether will and free will were the same faculty or two). The will concerns the end, free choice the means. The will necessarily is for happiness**, but is not determined insofar as somethings are not necessarily linked for or to one's happiness and insofar as not knowing everything, we don't always see what will make us happy, or at least the necessity of certain things. As an atheist, you are not going to see God as your end, and aren't going to choose things in order to obtain him, of course.

"Free will" (or better, free judgment, liber abritrium is the term Aquinas and Augustine use) comes from an affirmation of man's intellectual capacity and an affirmation of the contingency involved in the matters upon which he judges. Animals exercise a judgment too, but one from instinct and/or habituation, e.g. through training, as when a dog growls at every man because it had been abused by a man.

Aquinas had the following as a conclusion to a brief argument for free judgment.

But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:06 pm 
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(FWIW, I can't imagine how anyone could see a conflict in the omniscience of God and my own free will. Free will doesn't have anything to do with someone else knowing the outcome of all my decisions in advance of me making them.)


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:59 pm 
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Student wrote:
(FWIW, I can't imagine how anyone could see a conflict in the omniscience of God and my own free will. Free will doesn't have anything to do with someone else knowing the outcome of all my decisions in advance of me making them.)

Well to answer a difficulty you must first understand it, no?

How does God know future events?

a) He knows the entire universe and all His creatures completely and fully and therefore sees what they will do.

b) He is outside time and therefore past, present, future are present to Him

c) He Himself is the cause of them


If by a) ∴ no free will ∵ it would be known as one knows necessary effects from necessary causes. The nature of the will itself must not be determined, ∴ a) is insufficient to explain free will and prescience

If by b) ∴ God is not omnipotent, is not pure act ∵ our free choices would be the cause of His knowledge of the actual future. Further, He could not know all future contingents in this way. While He could know through a) all that we could do, He could not know, assuming there is free will, what we would have done had we been in different circumstances.

a) and b) are therefore insufficient for God to have prescience, and us to have free will

only c) remains.

Predestination is the cause of free will!

Of course this is not to even touch the very difficult questions about God's knowledge and counter-factuals.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:59 pm 
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DesertSailor wrote:
You walk into McDonalds. You look at the menu board. You order. You used free will.


This is a nice description of the folk psychology version of free will which I can relate to. But with a little neuroscience and philosophy, we can undermine this apparent freedom as an illusion.

Let's try a little thought experiment. Think of a celebrity. Which one did you think of? Now why did you think of him/her and not Frank Sinatra? I can't account for why I thought of Jennifer Lopez, for example. The thought just came to my mind. Try to think of things and see if you 'choose' them or if they come to you.
i.e. you are not the author of your thoughts. Your thoughts come to you.

This feeling of free will is your mind cogitating on the decision your neurons have already made, a decision determined by physical laws (essentially Newtonian mechanics along with neurochemistry). Your mind becomes aware of a choice that is made; it is not the author of that choice.

We can replicate this in studies. We can show that you are going to make a certain choice up to 10 seconds before you are even aware of your choice! We do this by measuring 'readiness potentials' and other indicators in the brain. See Goodenough, Nichols and Knobe, Wegner, Greene and Cohen and other neuroscientists who have dispelled this illusion.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:01 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
We are determined to the extent that God created us entirely. But He created us to be autonomous within the context of life and within the context of our finite physical body. Pathologically I'm just a high functioning animal and I'm thoroughly determined by what's in the interests of my physical survival and pleasure but that aspect of me that chooses the good of others gratuitously over the good of my physical wellbeing, is a choice with mysterious origins.



An interesting thought. I don't think the origins of your moral behavior are so mysterious. Empathy is well established in the animal world. We care for our children and our tribes. We are social creatures by nature and value others. It is not so mysterious that we are not purely selfish. We simply take our empathetic instincts (my people shouldn't suffer) and abstract them to create more rich systems of moral rules (other tribes shouldn't suffer, other races should be considered, even other species should be considered).

This is the atheist/naturalist explanation of moral behavior and morality, which doesn't rely on the supernatural.

See Frans de Waal for moral behavior and cooperation in animals:
http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_ ... orals.html


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:28 pm 
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Thanks for getting back to me. This should tip off an interesting discussion. I lose you at some points, or at least what the general purpose of a claim is. So we might both be getting lost in tangents.
My two thoughts would be:
1) How exactly do you conceive of your freedom of will? What is the source? How does it operate in the natural world (or is it supernatural?) Do animals have free will too, and if not, why do only high primates have it?
2) Then perhaps we can get into the neuroscientific studies that indicate that our apparent freedom is an illusion created by our brains.

Malleus Haereticorum wrote:

Now I have to ask you, what do you mean by "contra-causal" choices. For the sake of argument, grant that there is a "free will". Then that itself much be a faculty that is the cause of a free act, whether this is in a Cartesian framework (the idea that the soul is a ghost in a machine, the other thing that moves the body) or some other framework (whether the biological naturalism of Searle* or the hylomorphism that we Catholics hold)


The reference to libertarian metaphysics as entailing a contra-causal will isn't as clear in a universe that already has free will. On this idea, the 'soul' or mind or such is the source of choices as such sources are already supposed to exist. In that sense, it is the cause. When I use contra-causal, I mean instead that this soul purports to be able to disrupt the causal chains that necessarily exist to lead to genuinely open options.

This is more clear in the deterministic world, every thought would be governed by physical laws, moving in orderly and theoretically predictable ways, determining choices and so on. Everything in the universe would literally be part of a complex chain of causation. Yet the 'free will' would literally be able to disrupt the flow of causation and start a new branch. You could pick left or right, up or down. In the deterministic world, any choice would be causally determined in advance. So violating this, via the libertarian position, would be contra-causal. I hope that's more clear... Contra-causal is meant in this sense.

Quote:

You speak of there needing to be a "place" for such a choice. I know many theists speak that way (they also treat divine intervention/providence the same way, trying to find a causal gap). But I believe they are very wrongheaded.

Right, something like a soul or the mind. A source that can somehow violate the laws of physics and insert new freedoms and choices into the world. Otherwise, what is the source of this mysterious freedom (that determinists do not believe exists)? I'm curious how you will interpret it alternatively.



Quote:


We say God can no more commit evil than He can make a square circle, or make a thjstjsjytjw. That is, a square circle is nonsense, it isn't a thing.


Ah, ok. So it seems like you take it as a definitional truth that your God is only good, and thus cannot commit evil acts against his nature. This does seem somewhat in contrast with omnipotence, as I don't think the analogy with logic quite holds. We can't make sense of how your God could make a round square. But it's perfectly conceivable that your God could do things that you and I would call evil (as I claim the God character does quite often in, for example, the Pentatuach).

Quote:
Now of course morals and ethics are not the most exact things....many actions can be good or bad, depend on circumstances, intention, etc. Now if something is inherently evil, then of course God can in no wise be the cause of the evil. Nor can He will it to be otherwise. Blasphemy is evil not because God said so, but because He is. Further, we speak of acts contrary to the natural law. What we mean by natural law is human reason's apprehension of our ends and natural tendencies, and its prescriptions and proscriptions that are made based on that (not on what monkey's, or eels do, but on our nature). If something is inherently contrary to the natural law, God cannot make it good without contradicting Himself. In other words, He made as such, and as such certain things are always bad. Same reason we say God cannot change the past. For Him to do so would mean that He contradicts what He previously willed.

A few separate points. Indeed I think that good and bad are just words we attach to certain actions, and sometimes differently. Your way to render some good and evil as natural and some as created (perhaps for rational reasons) is thus quite other. For example, I'm not sure what you mean by blasphemy, but I'm not sure in what sense it is evil.
Denying that something exists which does?
That could be based on ignorance, confusion, being raised in the wrong culture, lack of rational or other faculties. None of this is evil. They are just mistakes. If someone is directly rude and insulting your God, this is perhaps rude, but I don't know how it constitutes evil. Is anyone hurt? That is, I can't make sense of good and evil beyond affecting sentient creatures like humans and animals. If you blaspheme privately, how is that evil?
If god cannot change the past because he has previously willed it, he must have made perfect decisions, and not wish to change them (being omniscient about his future actions as well?) To me, this brings up the problem of evil, and the roundabout and unsuccessful attempt to intervene with scripture. These are rather separate points thought, and perhaps we should table them for now.

Quote:

There are somethings that are wrong because God commanded it. But we have that in human law too. We might say reason suffices to say that it is wrong to drive unsafely, but what side of the road shall it be?


Right. We can distinguish between moral norms and conventional norms. Putting your elbows on the table isn't bad for the same reason stealing is. And obeying stop lights is about safety, which is arguably deeply moral. The color and location of the light and which side of the road is of course arbitrary, but the purpose of the practice is grounded in morality.

Quote:
I do suspect that different terminology is going to be an issue here. I haven't heard the language of "first and second order volitions" in a while now. Correct me if I am wrong, but by that you mean the difference between "I want to go out with friends" and "I desire to want to go out with friends" (i.e. desire to stop being apathetic)

Yes, that's right.

Quote:

Traditional philosophy generally distinguishes between "will" and "free choice" or as it is more frequently, but unfortunately rendered "free will" (which leads to some very funny sounding translated texts from Latin and Greek, such as Aquinas having a question about whether will and free will were the same faculty or two). The will concerns the end, free choice the means. The will necessarily is for happiness**, but is not determined insofar as somethings are not necessarily linked for or to one's happiness and insofar as not knowing everything, we don't always see what will make us happy, or at least the necessity of certain things. As an atheist, you are not going to see God as your end, and aren't going to choose things in order to obtain him, of course.

I would agree that the will is indispensable for life. It gives us a sense of personhood, gives us meaning, and separates us from non-sentient beings. So it is certainly part of what makes us happy. Our critical reflection and awareness of our ability to will things is what separates us from non-human animals. However, I would still see the freedom of 'free choice' as an illusion.

Quote:
"Free will" (or better, free judgment, liber abritrium is the term Aquinas and Augustine use) comes from an affirmation of man's intellectual capacity and an affirmation of the contingency involved in the matters upon which he judges. Animals exercise a judgment too, but one from instinct and/or habituation, e.g. through training, as when a dog growls at every man because it had been abused by a man.

Aquinas had the following as a conclusion to a brief argument for free judgment.

But man acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.

[/quote]
I like the use of free judgment. Of course, I would maintain that for any freedom, I can provide an error theory for how this apparent freedom is actually an illusion. This is the stance of a great many philosophers and neuroscientists, though of course not all. So: being rational allows us to think, construct arguments, abstract away principles, makes choices. But all of these thoughts, arguments, and choices are pre-determined. We hear a logical argument in a book or at school, via sound waves and such. We internalize it, via deterministic laws. It changes the way we think about a certain topic. After considering something, we come to a new conclusion, again via deterministic law. The consideration and conclusion is a subconscious process that we have no control of, and moreover, one that happens deterministically. We then hear that conclusion in our active awareness, in our mind, and imagine we created it right then. But really the brain inevitably created that conclusion and then fed the results to our awareness.
So Aquinas's argument for free judgment is consistent with my error theory in a deterministic universe. As a result of the complete subjective ignorance of brain-phenomena, it is easy to come to the conclusion that we are free to choose, when we are only free to hear the options and then hear the conclusion that our brain has necessarily chosen for us.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:31 pm 
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Student wrote:
(FWIW, I can't imagine how anyone could see a conflict in the omniscience of God and my own free will. Free will doesn't have anything to do with someone else knowing the outcome of all my decisions in advance of me making them.)



There is a vast literature on this question.
I refer you to this page, which discusses the arguments clearly.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free- ... knowledge/

You can see if one of the arguments is appealing to you, such as the Aristotelian, boethian or Augustinian/Frankfurtian solution.

To make the problem concrete, consider this argument. It's a bit crass an undeveloped, but hopefully the point comes across:

Your god knows in advance which people will choose to reject him and/or his ways. He created the rules such that people who do reject him will be tortured for eternity (or withheld heaven, etc.). So, already knowing what will happen, he creates people to punish them for eternity (with a brief natural life beforehand). He creates people to punish them for eternity, then acts as if there was a real test involved.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:30 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
2) Then perhaps we can get into the neuroscientific studies that indicate that our apparent freedom is an illusion created by our brains.


Ok, I will just... YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!! (the "you" doesn't necessarily refer to dschiff, but anyone who thinks that neuroscience render philosophical [and religious] concept about our mind moot).


Ok, histerical rant over.


Do continue.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:13 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
Your god knows in advance which people will choose to reject him and/or his ways. He created the rules such that people who do reject him will be tortured for eternity (or withheld heaven, etc.). So, already knowing what will happen, he creates people to punish them for eternity (with a brief natural life beforehand). He creates people to punish them for eternity, then acts as if there was a real test involved.


Your definition of God is a bit of a strawman.

What we believe is that there was some kind of cosmic challenge to God’s supremacy. A fallen angel who believed he could defeat God. That fallen angel entered into Gods creation during the time of the first perfectly created people and laid claim over the flesh of man. Instead of God eliminating this challenge immediately, he gave His people the free will to choose between Him and the evil one.

God put at our disposal, 3 main weapons that could overcome the devils trickery. Faith, hope and love. Where those are, the devil can’t exist. They are mutually exclusive. To settle this cosmic battle for supremacy, we are being asked to decide our allegiance through the passage of our life.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:13 pm 
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beng wrote:
dschiff wrote:
2) Then perhaps we can get into the neuroscientific studies that indicate that our apparent freedom is an illusion created by our brains.


Ok, I will just... YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!! (the "you" doesn't necessarily refer to dschiff, but anyone who thinks that neuroscience render philosophical [and religious] concept about our mind moot).


Ok, histerical rant over.


Do continue.


A lot neuroscientists and philosophers happen to think such things - they are not kidding you whatsoever. And it's not rendering them moot, just challenging our subjective assumptions about how things work. Why do you not think neuroscientific experiments can challenge our assumptions about free will?

Science amplifies philosophical concepts.

If we can predict your choice 10 seconds before you are aware of it, then our assumptions about how free will works are obviously not immune to revision by neuroscience.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:15 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
dschiff wrote:
Your god knows in advance which people will choose to reject him and/or his ways. He created the rules such that people who do reject him will be tortured for eternity (or withheld heaven, etc.). So, already knowing what will happen, he creates people to punish them for eternity (with a brief natural life beforehand). He creates people to punish them for eternity, then acts as if there was a real test involved.


Your definition of God is a bit of a strawman.

What we believe is that there was some kind of cosmic challenge to God’s supremacy. A fallen angel who believed he could defeat God. That fallen angel entered into Gods creation during the time of the first perfectly created people and laid claim over the flesh of man. Instead of God eliminating this challenge immediately, he gave His people the free will to choose between Him and the evil one.

God put at our disposal, 3 main weapons that could overcome the devils trickery. Faith, hope and love. Where those are, the devil can’t exist. They are mutually exclusive. To settle this cosmic battle for supremacy, we are being asked to decide our allegiance through the passage of our life.



My definition of this god may be a straw man by *your* version of what god is. It is not a general straw man, however, as many hundreds of millions believe in such a god. The vast literature discussing this problem, which dates back centuries, does not come from my definition of god.

Again, I commit you to this page on the arguments and counter-arguments about this paradox. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free- ... knowledge/


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:16 pm 
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It's quite a bit of a straw man:

Christ did not die for the predestined only (de fide) [i.e., a defined doctrine of the Catholic faith)
Christ did not die for the Faithful only, but for all mankind without exception (sent. fidei proxima) [i.e., not defined of itself, but not deniable without denying defined doctrines)
Despite men's sins God truly and earnestly desires the salvation of all men (sent. fidei proxima)

The interplay between grace and freewill is far too complex a question to be summed up easily, but that gets at least some of the straw out of the straw man.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:03 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
ellietrish wrote:
dschiff wrote:
Your god knows in advance which people will choose to reject him and/or his ways. He created the rules such that people who do reject him will be tortured for eternity (or withheld heaven, etc.). So, already knowing what will happen, he creates people to punish them for eternity (with a brief natural life beforehand). He creates people to punish them for eternity, then acts as if there was a real test involved.


Your definition of God is a bit of a strawman.

What we believe is that there was some kind of cosmic challenge to God’s supremacy. A fallen angel who believed he could defeat God. That fallen angel entered into Gods creation during the time of the first perfectly created people and laid claim over the flesh of man. Instead of God eliminating this challenge immediately, he gave His people the free will to choose between Him and the evil one.

God put at our disposal, 3 main weapons that could overcome the devils trickery. Faith, hope and love. Where those are, the devil can’t exist. They are mutually exclusive. To settle this cosmic battle for supremacy, we are being asked to decide our allegiance through the passage of our life.



My definition of this god may be a straw man by *your* version of what god is. It is not a general straw man, however, as many hundreds of millions believe in such a god. The vast literature discussing this problem, which dates back centuries, does not come from my definition of god.

Again, I commit you to this page on the arguments and counter-arguments about this paradox. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free- ... knowledge/


Unfortunately, my ability to discuss within a strict philosophical framework is severely limited. (I'm a first year phil.100 student at the moment but it’s very basic at this stage.)

If you’re referring to definitions of the biblical God, (the God of the Jews, Muslims and Christians) I would think you’d need to tackle the first conundrum. If God knew everything already, how did it eventuate that an angel came to attack His supremacy and put a curse on His perfect creation? The mysteries of Gods ‘knowing’ things and yet allowing it, is already established there.

Compatibalism seems to me the closest way to reconcile the two things - the attribute of God's 'knowing' and our free will.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:23 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
A lot neuroscientists and philosophers happen to think such things - they are not kidding you whatsoever. And it's not rendering them moot, just challenging our subjective assumptions about how things work. Why do you not think neuroscientific experiments can challenge our assumptions about free will?


Do you recall a run of the mill scenario when a proud young atheist suddenly, after entering college and brainwashed by the professors there, shout that Physic has render St. Thomas argument from motion moot?

Nowaday, we, theist and some atheists, know better how gullible that young atheist is.


The same thing happens with neuroscience. The difference is, there are less people (both neuro-scientist and theist), know the culprit nowadays. But given enough times, thanks to the internet, people (both neuro-scientist and theist) will learn that neuroscience doesn't touch free will.

Food for thought, try to google "qualia" for a start.


Quote:
If we can predict your choice 10 seconds before you are aware of it, then our assumptions about how free will works are obviously not immune to revision by neuroscience.


Yes, this claim is like the claim that physic has render the argument from motion moot or that the disprove theory of Big Bang has render St. Thomas' causality argument moot.


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