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Passions in Poetry

Free Will and Omniscience

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aaron woodside
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0 posted 12-26-2002 12:05 AM       View Profile for aaron woodside   Email aaron woodside   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for aaron woodside


Just wondering what everyone thought about Mankind's Free Will and God's Omniscience.

Are they compatible?  Can you have one with the other?

I'll post my opinions after I read some of yours.

ex animo,
Aaron Woodside

There are no great men, only men in great circumstances.

Local Parasite
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1 posted 12-26-2002 12:22 AM       View Profile for Local Parasite   Email Local Parasite   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Local Parasite's Home Page   View IP for Local Parasite

Great topic.  Guess you're talking about the Christian God YHWH, right?  Here's my thoughts...

a)  If God is omniscient, he must have knowledge of all things past and present.
b)  If God is omniscient, he has knowledge of all things present and how they respond to one another - therefore knowing what the future will be.
c)  If Mankind has free will, he is allowed to make decisions based entirely on his environment and his own knowledge.  "Free Will" suggests that a person has freedom to decide which choice they make in life.

It is impossible for God to have full knowledge of someone's decision, while still giving them any decision at all.  Sure it is our choice based on our knowledge and opinions, but if the choice can be known prior to our making it, do we have any choice at all?

If God knows what is going to occur for all people, then free will is meaningless - because we can only make "decisions" that seem like decisions for us, but are really just us satisfying the future that God knew would happen.  

Let's say God takes his knowledge of one person's decision and writes it down on a piece of paper, seals it in an envelope.  The choice that is written on the piece of paper will invariably be the one that occurs, because God has knowledge of all things that would influence the person's opinion, their effects on his decision, and therefore, what his decision will be.

Because God knows the future, that is the future that will always occur - otherwise God would be wrong.  And if God was wrong, he wouldn't be omniscient.

Free will is an illusion... it can seem like we're making a choice, but if our choices can be predicted with 100% accuracy by an omniscient God before we ever make them, how are they choices at all?

It seems like the only one who makes any choices at all is God himself.
aaron woodside
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2 posted 12-26-2002 02:32 AM       View Profile for aaron woodside   Email aaron woodside   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for aaron woodside

"wink"

I could play Devil's Advocate, but I'll bide my time for now and let someone else do it.

Very insightful answers.  

ex animo,
Aaron Woodside

There are no great men, only men in great circumstances.

Ron
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3 posted 12-26-2002 11:31 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

There are probably about a thousand different ways to show that omniscience and free will are NOT contradictory, and another few thousand to demonstrate that omniscience by its very nature is a self-referencing paradox resulting in the kind of circular reasoning evidenced here. We've probably talked about most of those ways in the past few years, too. (Do a search on omniscience to find most of them. Then try one on paradox.)

So, let's try a new approach.

If I knew the exact day and hour of your death, would that affect your actions from now until then?

If I told you the exact day and hour of your death, would that affect your actions from now until then?

See the difference?
Local Parasite
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4 posted 12-26-2002 11:52 AM       View Profile for Local Parasite   Email Local Parasite   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Local Parasite's Home Page   View IP for Local Parasite

quote:
If I knew the exact day and hour of your death, would that affect your actions from now until then?

If I told you the exact day and hour of your death, would that affect your actions from now until then?

See the difference?


I'm going to risk sounding slow and say, I don't?

If an omniscient God was to tell you what your future would be, for whatever reason, it would influence your choices - but he would still have knowledge of how it would influence those choices, what choices you would make.  God couldn't really do that without lying in the long run.

I suppose I see a paradox you're making here - that God couldn't tell someone their future without it changing, and therefore having been a lie, because of free will.  But I'm not satisfied; that doesn't change the property of omniscience, that if it can know future event with 100% accuracy, that event will inevitably occur.

In the long run, God would know even his own actions, which means he would know that he would tell the person their future, and his knowledge of their future would really have been based on the person's response to this knowledge...

So with an omniscient God... that just sticks them in a paradox.  Could you clarify your point a little?  I'm not sure how this suggests that omniscience and free will can co-exist.

[This message has been edited by Local Parasite (12-26-2002 11:53 AM).]

Ron
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Any form of absolute power becomes a self-referencing paradox. Can God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift? If he can't, it's not absolute power. If he can, it's not absolute power. The same is true of omniscience. You concluded your first post with the observation, "It seems like the only one who makes any choices at all is God himself." But if He has absolute foreknowledge, He already knows what choices He will make and therefore has no choices to make. Self-referencing paradox.

Here's links to a few earlier discussions on paradoxes:

http://piptalk.com/pip/Forum8/HTML/000296.html

http://piptalk.com/pip/Forum8/HTML/000365.html
Local Parasite
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6 posted 12-26-2002 12:49 PM       View Profile for Local Parasite   Email Local Parasite   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Local Parasite's Home Page   View IP for Local Parasite

You make a good point, Ron.  But I don't think the self-referencing paradox you described can be used to illustrate that omniscience itself cannot exist.  Perhaps omniscience cannot co-exist with choice, because that choice would be known even to the omniscient being, and therefore would not be choice at all, but mere obedience to the being's own foreknowledge.  The property of all knowledge wouldn't negate itself, because knowledge of knowledge doesn't defeat knowledge... it just confirms it.  A being could exist with omniscience and simply not make choices, couldn't it?

I've heard the "can God make a rock too heavy for himself" argument and agree with it... it does suggest that omnipotence is impossible.  I still believe, however, that omniscience does not self-contradict... if I'm just in the dark here, would you mind enlightening me?
Ron
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7 posted 12-26-2002 01:16 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Does God know how heavy a rock would have to be before he couldn't lift it?

Any absolute power, whether omniscience or omnipotence or omnipresence, is a paradox just waiting to happen. Indeed, virtually any absolute necessarily references itself and has the potential to be a paradox. "All rules have exceptions," is either false or a paradox.

But you're right, that certainly doesn't mean omniscience can't exist and that's not what I'm arguing. If you followed the links above, you've read about the Liar's Paradox, and I doubt any of us would argue that lying doesn't exist. What I'm saying is that you can't legitimately use a self-referencing paradox to prove anything - because you can use a self-referencing paradox to prove EVERYTHING. Why stop with free will? The same logic can be used to prove there is no conscious thought and everything you are thinking is a drama playing in the mind of God. You could also use it to demonstrate there is no such thing as time. A paradox, almost by definition, contradicts reality. If you accept a paradox, as the free will versus omniscience argument does, all of reality is refuted.

The only thing that fascinates me about this very old paradox is that it's the only one I know of that carries its own paradoxical answer. A paradox is a contraction in reality, but omnipotence defines reality. Were God to share his absolute knowledge with you, it could not create a paradox because it would redefine your reality to include that paradox.
Local Parasite
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8 posted 12-26-2002 02:54 PM       View Profile for Local Parasite   Email Local Parasite   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Local Parasite's Home Page   View IP for Local Parasite

I like "virtually any absolute."  Way to dodge an absolute.  

The liar's paradox exists only in speech... "this statement is false" is a paradoxical statement, but that doesn't mean ~all lies~ are self-referencing paradoxes.  I wouldn't say that lies don't exist, but I would say that "this statement is false" doesn't exist.

Saying something is a paradox is saying that it self-contradicts, which is perhaps the only way to prove that something is false.

Let's take the omnipotence paradox for example.  It's really a self-contradiction, and here's why:

1.  An omnipotent being can do anything.
2.  An omnipotent being can lift anything.
3.  An omnipotent being can create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it.
4.  Therefore an omnipotent being cannot do anything, if he could not lift this rock that he created.

See how it self-contradicts?  You cannot have the power to do anything and also knowingly limit yourself while still having the power to do anything.  Therefore you cannot be omnipotent.  A self-referential paradox is the same as a self-contradiction, and self-contradictions by their very nature are false.  I can't have a chair with no more than four legs that also has five legs.  

quote:
Why stop with free will? The same logic can be used to prove there is no conscious thought and everything you are thinking is a drama playing in the mind of God. You could also use it to demonstrate there is no such thing as time. A paradox, almost by definition, contradicts reality. If you accept a paradox, as the free will versus omniscience argument does, all of reality is refuted.


I'm going to quote you on this the next time someone asks me why I don't believe in God.  


It's amazing the effect ice can have on the world.
~Allysa

[This message has been edited by Local Parasite (12-26-2002 02:56 PM).]

Ron
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quote:
A self-referential paradox is the same as a self-contradiction, and self-contradictions by their very nature are false.

This sentence is false.

Surely you see the problem with your logic? You CANNOT draw the conclusion that a paradox is false without creating the very paradox you seek to thwart. The Aristotelian Law of the Excluded Middle asserts that "every proposition is either true or false." That doesn't mean that we have to KNOW the truth value, just that it has to have one at any given point in time. A paradox doesn't, which is precisely why a paradox refuses to fit into our system of logic.

Here's a more comprhensive (and therefore more complicated) discussion of The Law of the Exluded Middle.

quote:
but I would say that "this statement is false" doesn't exist.

You were, at least, on somewhat stronger ground with this attempt. One might argue, of course, that your very reference to the statement proves its existence, else you couldn't reference it. But we don't need to go that circuitous route, either. Essentially, you are denying the Law of the Excluded Middle and asserting a third possibility, one of non-existence (most who go this route try to argue ambiguity as a third alternative, but one's as good as another).

That doesn't work either. Let's assume a statement has three possible values, as you suggested:

a) True statements
b) False statements
c) Statements that don't exist

Now consider the statement:

This statement is false or does not exist.

If the statement is true, then it is false or does not exist, i.e., the statement is not true. Obviously, a contradiction.

If the statement is false, then the statement is true. Another contradiction.

If the statement doesn't exist, then the statement is true. Oops. Here we are again.

Any paradox that defies the Law of the Excluded Middle can be extended into Nth dimensions and will STILL be a paradox. It falls outside our system of logic and CANNOT be used within our system to prove anything (or, rather, it can prove anything you want it to prove).

quote:
I'm going to quote you on this the next time someone asks me why I don't believe in God.

All I've really demonstrated is that human constructs can't define God. That hardly seems surprising to me. On the other hand, if you COULD define God within human understanding, I would be willing to accept that as proof that such a defined God didn't exist as a God.
Stephanos
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10 posted 12-26-2002 08:31 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"An omnipotent being can create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it."


What does omnipotent really mean in the context of Judeo-Christian tradition ...the ability to do anything at all, including the hopelessly absurd?  God's omnipotence is better defined as having all power to accomplish what he deems worthy to be accomplished ...  As Ron said, he defines reality.   And he defines what the "impossible" is, which only he can perform.  He has chosen to raise the dead, for example, because he has decreed that life should triumph over death.  And life comports with his nature and character.  He has not decreed things which are actually paradoxical, only those which are seemingly paradoxical to finite minds.  Why does a seed have to die to bring forth life?  Upon reflection, certain "paradoxes" turn out to be the truest nature of things.  


Consider the statement...  "God is good".  A speculative human definition of omnipotence could argue that an omnipotent being should have the power to be both good and evil at the same time.  But a biblical definition of omnipotence denies such thinking as foolishness.  Yes, reality is what God defines it as.  But I would argue that this is not completely arbitrary ... but is reflective of God's innate character.  Is God bound to his own character?  The Bible seems to suggest so ... "He cannot deny himself" is what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy.  Now I admit that the fact that the uncreated God has a character which he does not arbitrarily create, is a mystery and presents finite minds with a great struggle.  But the character and nature of God have the claim of divinity about them.  Why have they existed in such an uncreated, and uncontingent state for all eternity?  Because they, in and of themselves, have the eternal right to do so.  Their justification is self evident.  It is self evident, for example, that love is better than hate.  


But again, my point is that demanding the absurd of omnipotence only forces "omnipotence" into the speculative juxtapositions of our minds.  Does omnipotence have parameters?  In Genesis, God is said to have made man in his image.  An "image" communicates the idea of form.  Form is always an exlusive thing .... it cannot be just anything at all, but must be "true to form".  


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-26-2002 08:33 PM).]

Local Rebel
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11 posted 12-26-2002 11:23 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Let's see... what was that punchline?  

Oh.. yeah...

Put them in a round room and tell them to pee in the corner...  
Caelestis
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12 posted 12-27-2002 08:23 PM       View Profile for Caelestis   Email Caelestis   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Caelestis

One might define omnipotence as the ability to do anything that can possibly be done.
In this case, a rock too heavy for an omnipotent god to lift could not be created.

I can't back this up, but I have a feeling, or perhaps a hope, that if a god or gods did in fact exist, that they would be bound by the laws of logic.  Certain things, such as being both exclusively red and exclusively blue, are not logically possible.  Creating a rock too heavy for an omnipotent god to lift is not logically possible.
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13 posted 12-27-2002 10:33 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Well you're close.

It's much simpler though really.  Focus instead of our own limitations.

We, for example, do not have the free will to spin straw into gold, to spontaneously combust, or to lift more than our skeletons can physically support.  Our 'Free' will is, in fact, limited to a very few choices.
Ron
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14 posted 12-27-2002 10:52 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Confusing free will with abilities, LR? People have been doing that since Jefferson wrote "All men are created equal" (and before, I'm sure).

Without a distinction, the result is a hierarchy of elitism.
Brad
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15 posted 12-28-2002 01:24 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Don't confuse free will with freedom. Free will means we can try to spin straw into gold, it doesn't guarantee success. Freedom is limited by environment, free will is limited by our ability to think of something desirable.

No contradition between free will and omniscience. In fact, it doesn't matter what metaphysical schema you put in place to describe the world (free world may not exist in hypothetical worlds, philosophical zombies for instance), free will is there because you can act/not act on your desires. The results are irrelevant, foreknowledge is irrelevant, the origins of desire are irrelevant, free will exists.

Take a deep breath, stand up, notice the others watching the play, hear the cough in the back row, and tip toe carefully (Don't disturb the others, they're too happy being fooled) out of the Cartesian theatre and into the fresh night air.

Now, don't you feel better.

Local Rebel
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16 posted 12-29-2002 08:40 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

OK then... even by that standard your free will is still limited by your intellect and imagination.  

Still confused?

quote:
Take a deep breath, stand up, notice the others watching the play, hear the cough in the back row, and tip toe carefully (Don't disturb the others, they're too happy being fooled) out of the Cartesian theatre and into the fresh night air.




Rather Zen of you Brad... lol

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (12-29-2002 01:18 PM).]

Brad
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17 posted 12-29-2002 05:48 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sure, free will is limited by the choices we can make. I don't have free will if I can't think of a choice.

Zen? Really?

I'm reading Dennet right now, probably a little too close to it for a more 'balanced' view of what he's saying.

Local Rebel
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18 posted 12-29-2002 09:02 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Maybe a touch of Tao too...

It reminded me of Kapra
JP
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19 posted 03-13-2003 07:00 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

I'm a bit confused here... are we debating free will, pre-determination, or omnipotence?  It seems to me that our arguments are overlapping and that we may be purporting the idea that the existence or nonexistence of one has a bearing on the others.  Brad nailed free will just fine in his last reply. Foreknowledge has no bearing on free will whatsoever.

Foreknowledge does not equate to pre-determination.  If our reference God is all knowing then it will obviously know all paths created by any choice we make, yes it will even know what choice we do make, but that doesn't mean we aren't the ones making the choice.  If our paths were set then we would be writing about pre-determination and that would eliminate free will.

Paradox?  Ron had the right of it I believe.  If I am the power, I determine the reality, therefore, paradox is irrelevant to me because I control it.

Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
Nil Desperandum, Fata viem invenient

defenestrate
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if the sun sets, do you not see it become dark?
if a man makes a choice based on a soul that is theoretically created by a god, can the god not see the man making the choice?
does omniscience (or, for that matter, does free will) REALLY require cause and effect?

part of the purpose of religion is to cover the areas of existence that can be experienced but not quantified, rationalized, compartmentalized, or sequenced (by the observer). i feel that causality nullifies the very concept of faith in a higher being.

my personal take: i've seen the tail wag the dog, but that does not make the tail not a part of the dog.

now snatch the pebble from my hand.
Stephanos
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21 posted 03-14-2003 02:43 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

defenestrate,


quote: " i feel that causality nullifies the very concept of faith in a higher being."


Why?  Could you elaborate and be specific?


Stephen.
Ron
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Think about it, Stephen. If you believe for every effect there must be a cause, you come front and center with the first question every three-year-old asks. So, who created God?
JP
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23 posted 03-14-2003 03:56 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Now we're bordering on proof of existence of a higher power....

faith is the only proof here.  Logic cannot answer some of the questions asked, who created God?  He was always there.  Can we prove that?  Absolutely not.  It must be accepted through faith, and through faith we go beyond ourselves and our human limitations and experience something outside of ourselves.

Of faith this can be said:  It is the true essence of humanity and the spark that ignites our ability to become more than dirty, hairy, cave-dwelling, talking animals.

Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
Nil Desperandum, Fata viem invenient

Stephanos
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24 posted 03-14-2003 11:49 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

"Think about it, Stephen. If you believe for every effect there must be a cause, you come front and center with the first question every three-year-old asks. So, who created God?"


Ron... Are you masquerading on your own poetry forums again?  I could've sworn that I addressed "Defenestrate".       Just funning, It's always good to talk to you Ron.  Here goes...

Causality is necessarily the belief that everything is caused?  Not accepting the monistic aspect of naturualism, and believing in the unique and indispensible existence of God, I have no problem ascribing causality to all things except the Eternal Creator.  But there is the natural / supernatural distinction that I rely on.  My question meant to ask, why should believing in causality, as a general principle, rule out the existence of God?   I just don't think it has to.  No one ever claimed that God is like everything else, or that he is subject to temporality.    I believe that all things in the natural world have causality because of their dependent nature ... But why should one be forced philosophically, or even logically, to apply this dependence to the Creator?  Applying causality to God would put us into an infinite regress of trying to get to the bottom of all worlds, ... would the original please stand up?  And this is perhaps a more maddening problem than merely being willing to ascribe the originality to God that holy men have asserted all along.  In fact you would end up having to deny causality to something, by pinning it to everything ... indeed, the chain of causality itself.   In the end, it is my theory, we will end up erroneously ascribing the attributes of God to other things if we do not give it freely to him.


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (03-15-2003 12:06 AM).]

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