Author Topic: Time and free will?  (Read 1322 times)

Offline Daniel

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Time and free will?
« on: November 11, 2018, 08:45:42 AM »
All right, so this question is mostly directed at the Thomists and the libertarians.

I am wondering how you go about reconciling God's knowledge (providence) with libertarian free will? I know james03 has tried to explain it in other threads, but I can't seem to follow his argument. I'm thinking maybe his argument is based in some other theory of time which I'm not familiar with.

So what sort of theory of time must be adopted in order to reconcile God's foreknowledge with libertarian free will?
 

Offline Gardener

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2018, 09:08:36 AM »
How do you understand it, and at what end specifically do you direct that understanding? Perhaps it would be easier to correct your (mis)understanding of a position than explain it anew.

James doesn't like the term foreknowledge since it has a flavor of time, which God exists outside of. Hence he uses the term Divine Providence.

Providence is much more than mere foreknowing, as it has an element of direction as well. One could argue it even has an element of reaction, though that doesn't easily square with the immutability of God.
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 09:25:19 AM »
I'm not entirely sure, but I'd probably go with four-dimensionalism. The entire universe--past, present, and future--(including our future free actions) eternally exists, and God knows our future actions because they are eternal and He eternally sees them. But this leads to a contradiction: our free actions are the cause of God's knowledge, yet God is immutable so His knowledge has to be uncaused.
The only answer seems to be that we need to reverse the action-to-knowledge causal relationship. Our actions don't cause God's knowledge; God's knowledge causes our actions. But if God causes our actions, then our actions aren't "free" (at least not in the libertarian sense).
That, or we could say that there's no causal relationship at all, but that just seems weird. God knows our actions, and our actions are free, but neither one causes the other... as if it's all just one big coincidence.

I am familiar with the theory of presentism (a single moment (the present moment) exists, and that moment is ever-changing) and also the "growing block" theory (all past moments and the present moment exist, but the future does not yet exist). I'm not sure their implications, but my first thought is that they both seem a lot more problematic than four-dimensionalism. But I'm not sure if there are any other theories out there either...
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 09:44:36 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2018, 10:55:04 AM »
As far as I understand the issues as you stated them.
1. "Our actions are eternal"; no, our actions occur in time, and they are finite, therefore they cannot be eternal. But they are known to God in eternity.
2. I think you are right, that our actions are caused by God's knowledge; but our actions are also free, in the libertarian sense; i.e. They are not forced on us, and we could have freely chosen to do "other". How is this possible? Beats the heck out of me.
3. Our actions cannot be "un-caused" because only God is uncaused. So even though God causes or enables us to operate, yet He does it in such a way that we operate freely.
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Offline james03

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2018, 11:36:22 AM »
I am pointing out a common problem in theology.  Explaining God through man's perspective.  Hence the term "pre"-destination is an absurdity.  God is entirely separate from His creation, which is in time.

So we must separate the two, man and God.

Divine Providence means that creation runs according to God's Sovereign plan, which from God's perspective I say God "is professed" reality.  That's the best I can do since I am stuck in time.

From Man's perspective, I say God predestined.

Now inside of time, I have Free Will.  Gardener gave us the quote from St. Thomas saying that the decision to cooperate or impede Grace rests with man.  This is Free Will.  We are not compelled to do either.

Quote
One could argue it even has an element of reaction, though that doesn't easily square with the immutability of God.
This is why I reject Radical Molinism, and why I am a Congruentist.  God "is professed" a reality that includes our Free Will choices.

Why did He "is chose" this particular reality?  Unknown.  My opinion is that it is some kind of optimal.  However it could be that He has a particular preference for hair color in heaven.  While we can talk about the probability of one reason over another (and multiple alternatives), for the standpoint of Justice, it is ambivalent.  Either reason would not offend Justice.  If you do not understand that, then you will be in error due to you not understanding what Justice means.  And there is a likelihood you'll also be a leftist, but I digress.
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Offline james03

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2018, 12:01:21 PM »
Quote
I know james03 has tried to explain it in other threads, but I can't seem to follow his argument. I'm thinking maybe his argument is based in some other theory of time which I'm not familiar with.

The theory you might not be familiar with is called Congruentism.

From the human perspective (how it appears to us):  God has a Sovereign Plan, and created things to end up in a certain way.  He intervenes with Graces and miracles to achieve His secret purpose.  However God has foreknowledge of our Free Will acts, so He incorporates our choices into His plan.  While the plan plays out, we are entirely free and do not choose due to compulsion.  When we decide to sin, it is our Free Choice.

So is it Divine Providence or Free Will?  It is both, and we call this Congruentism. 

Consider two complaints and the corresponding error with each:

1.  It's not fair that Hitler sinned and went to hell.  (Denies Free Will).
2.  Why didn't God intervene and kill him right after baptism?  (Denies God's Sovereignty )
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Offline mikemac

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2018, 07:06:32 PM »
I couldn't find Congruentism in the Catholic encyclopedia.  I did find Congruentism in an article titled 'The Doctrine Of Salvation: ELECTION: A Biblical Case For Calvinism' and in a book titled 'Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of "Traditional" Southern Baptist Soteriology'.  I was starting to get worried until I found this reply to a blog post.  I particularly like his last sentence.

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Since his view has not been formally condemned by the Church it is not correct to call it heresy. Benez, Molinis, Congruentism and the other systems are equal opinions a Catholic may hold. I like Fr William Most's additions to the subject. OTOH Benez views make sense only if one surrenders to Mystery.

I don't know how Free Will works or how Grace moves the Will yet keeps it free.
I don't know how sufficient grace is truly sufficient and I don't know it's real difference with efficacious grace. I only know I can by Grace freely choose Heaven yet take no credit for my free choice but I can also freely choose Hell and it is no fault but mine and I had enough Grace to have chosen otherwise.

I don't know how it works & I don't think we are meant to know.
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2018, 08:17:48 PM »
Thanks, everyone :)
 
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Offline TomD

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2018, 11:22:24 AM »
All right, so this question is mostly directed at the Thomists and the libertarians.

I am wondering how you go about reconciling God's knowledge (providence) with libertarian free will? I know james03 has tried to explain it in other threads, but I can't seem to follow his argument. I'm thinking maybe his argument is based in some other theory of time which I'm not familiar with.

So what sort of theory of time must be adopted in order to reconcile God's foreknowledge with libertarian free will?

Regarding time, I think there is no way around it, a four-dimensionalist approach to time is necessary if we are to accept the doctrine of foreknowledge and libertarian freedom.

By saying that God has foreknowledge we are affirming that propositions regarding future free choices have a truth value. Now, if the future does not yet exist, these propositions have truth value prior to the choices themselves (ontologically and temporally). In that case, libertarian freedom cannot exist. On the other hand, if the future does exist, then it follows that even if there are true propositions regarding future free choices (as those who believe in foreknowledge must affirm), the truth of these propositions need not be prior to the state of affairs they report, i.e. the choices.
 

Offline Xavier

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2018, 12:05:27 PM »
In academic literature, the alleged incompatibility between foreknowledge and free will is now recognized to be a formal fallacy, called the modal fallacy. The truth value of a proposition is being confused with its modality by imprecise terminology.

"Ultimately the alleged incompatibility of foreknowledge and free will is shown to rest on a subtle logical error. When the error, a modal fallacy, is recognized and remedied, the problem evaporates ...

But this third premise, we have seen above, is false; it commits the modal fallacy. Without this premise, Maimonides' argument is invalid; with it, the argument becomes valid but unsound (that is, has a false and essential premise [namely the third one]). Either way, the argument is a logical botch.

Once the logical error is detected, and removed, the argument for epistemic determinism simply collapses. If some future action/choice is known prior to its occurrence, that event does not thereby become "necessary", "compelled", "forced", or what have you. Inasmuch as its description was, is, and will remain forever contingent, both it and its negation remain possible. Of course only one of the two was, is, and will remain true; while the other was, is, and will remain false. But truth and falsity, per se, do not determine a proposition's modality. Whether true or false, each of these propositions was, is, and will remain possible. Knowing – whether by God or a human being – some future event no more forces that event to occur than our learning that dinosaurs lived in (what is now) South Dakota forced those reptiles to take up residence there." https://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/

Here, we see theology slowly catches up with truths we already know by Faith. And a mistaken objection falls by the wayside.

We say something is actually (or contingently) true if it can be possibly false.
We say something is necessarily true if it is true in every possible world.

When God foreknows from all eternity that I will choose to do X, all that follows is that it is contingently true that I will choose X. It by no means follows that it is necessarily true that I will choose X - which is exactly what atheists claim, thus making the modal fallacy.

The fallacy comes from equivocation. "if God knows you will choose X, then you will necessarily choose X." If God knows I will choose X, then I will actually choose X, yes, but not necessarily. These two terms are completely different in modal logic and so the fallacy collapse.
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2018, 02:03:19 PM »
In academic literature, the alleged incompatibility between foreknowledge and free will is now recognized to be a formal fallacy, called the modal fallacy. The truth value of a proposition is being confused with its modality by imprecise terminology...

...

The fallacy comes from equivocation. "if God knows you will choose X, then you will necessarily choose X." If God knows I will choose X, then I will actually choose X, yes, but not necessarily. These two terms are completely different in modal logic and so the fallacy collapse.

The claimed incompatibility between foreknowledge and free will doesn't arise from an argument of the form: If God knows you will choose X, then, necessarily, you will choose X.  If it did, then yes this would be a modal fallacy.

But in fact it arises from this argument:  Necessarily, if God knows you will choose X, then you will choose X.  This is true because there is no possible world in which God knows you will choose X and you do not choose X.

If God's knowledge of you choosing X is ontologically prior (to be distinguished from mere temporal priority) to your choice of X, then your choice is not truly free, but predetermined.  And, the argument goes, the meaning of foreknowledge implies ontological priority.  This is different from, say, my knowledge the sun will rise tomorrow morning, which is temporally prior to the sunrise, but not ontologically prior to it - my knowledge is ontologically subsequent to the fact of the sun's rising.

An alternative is to make God's foreknowledge in fact ontologically subsequent - that goes by the name of "simple foreknowledge" - but it makes God ontologically dependent on something outside of Himself, contrary to His aseity.

So, since that doesn't work either, the only answer must be that the relationship between God's knowledge and true facts is not causally determinative in either direction.

 

Offline james03

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2018, 02:29:44 PM »
Quote
Knowing – whether by God or a human being – some future event no more forces that event to occur than our learning that dinosaurs lived in (what is now) South Dakota forced those reptiles to take up residence there.

This was a point I made on another thread.  Foreknowledge and History are EXACTLY the same with God.  We easily see that "History" is set in stone, unchangeable.  And we also see that to claim this precludes Free Will is false.  It is the same with foreknowledge.

"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

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Offline james03

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2018, 02:33:45 PM »
Quote
If God's knowledge of you choosing X is ontologically prior (to be distinguished from mere temporal priority) to your choice of X, then your choice is not truly free, but predetermined.

There is a modal necessity to your choice.  There is not an ontological necessity.  That is what is meant by free will.  You are not God's puppet.  Restated, the efficient cause of your choice to cooperate or reject grace is you.
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Offline Xavier

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2018, 11:23:39 AM »
Quote
Knowing – whether by God or a human being – some future event no more forces that event to occur than our learning that dinosaurs lived in (what is now) South Dakota forced those reptiles to take up residence there.

This was a point I made on another thread.  Foreknowledge and History are EXACTLY the same with God.  We easily see that "History" is set in stone, unchangeable.  And we also see that to claim this precludes Free Will is false.  It is the same with foreknowledge.

Correct. St. Thomas compares the divine vision of Omniscience to a man on the top of a hill being able to discern by observation the trajectory of persons and things moving below: God doesn't cause the things He sees from His omniscient view of all space-time, but He has perfect knowledge of them. And we Christians above and before all others know this fact for certain, because Christ Our Lord has demonstrated by fulfilled prophesies that He knows the future with absolute certainty - e..g some of His prophesies like the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem that came to pass exactly as He said it would, in 70 A.D. and the universal spread of the Gospel and of His Church etc. The mystics and Saints say that Christ had a kind of divine light before Him in which He saw all things. The Saints are sometimes given such similar visions of the future. It is certainly possible to know the future. As you said, God knows it in the "eternal now", in the "constant present" of the view from "outside time" - that fact is important to remember.

C. S. Lewis has a decent explanation, James, which I think you would agree with: "But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call "today". All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday, He simply sees you doing them: because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow, He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way—because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already "Now" for Him."

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The claimed incompatibility between foreknowledge and free will doesn't arise from an argument of the form: If God knows you will choose X, then, necessarily, you will choose X.  If it did, then yes this would be a modal fallacy.

Yes, it would be; and other attempts to resuscitate the fallacious argument of the atheists and skeptics also end in complete failure.

Quote
But in fact it arises from this argument:  Necessarily, if God knows you will choose X, then you will choose X.  This is true because there is no possible world in which God knows you will choose X and you do not choose X.

This is a subtle variation on the above that attempts to sneak in the same erroneous conclusion, that is known to be contrary to the Faith.

It does not stand. God knows which one of the many possible worlds will in fact become actual by my or your choice of X. But the other worlds always remain possible worlds that just are never actualized.

And so the argument is mistaken. And has mostly been abandoned.
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Time and free will?
« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2018, 12:50:07 PM »
Quote
But in fact it arises from this argument:  Necessarily, if God knows you will choose X, then you will choose X.  This is true because there is no possible world in which God knows you will choose X and you do not choose X.

This is a subtle variation on the above that attempts to sneak in the same erroneous conclusion, that is known to be contrary to the Faith.

I really have no idea what you are trying to say here.  Do you deny there is a difference between:

1) If God knows you will choose X, then, necessarily, you will choose X; and
2) Necessarily, if God knows you will choose X, then you will choose X.

A modal fallacy is involved in going from the latter statement to the former.  But the latter statement is true.  Deny this, and you admit the possibility God could "know" something which is in fact false.

Quote
It does not stand. God knows which one of the many possible worlds will in fact become actual by my or your choice of X. But the other worlds always remain possible worlds that just are never actualized.

My failure to choose X is in itself possible (there are possible worlds where I fail to do so), but it is impossible given God's knowledge that I choose X (there is no possible world where God knows I choose X and yet I fail to do so).  This is simply the meaning of 2).

Now, if God's knowledge that I choose X is ontologically prior to my choice, my choice is predetermined by something prior to it - it cannot be otherwise given God's knowledge.  If, on the other hand, God's knowledge is ontologically subsequent to my choice (e.g. He knows what I choose because I choose it), then something about God is determined by something outside of Himself, contrary to Divine aseity.

The only answer, then, is that God's knowledge is neither ontologically prior nor subsequent to my choice.