Wednesday, July 18, 2007

more on divine plans

Bill T. writes, over at Dr. Vallicella's blog:

Hi, Kevin.

You wrote: But yes, Dr. V, at a visceral level, I find the idea that something as massive as Stalin's purges or the Holocaust might be part of a divine plan utterly repulsive.

As we all should. God does not will the evil that men like Stalin or Hitler do. Those crimes are not part of the "plan". No evil is. If any good comes from the evil we do, sobeit. But there is no doubt that it is far better that we do no evil in the first place.

God's purpose in creating us as moral beings capable of freely choosing to do good or evil is that more good will result from us having that capability than if we did not. So the less evil we do, the better.

Regards, Bill T

It would be reassuring to think that evil is not part of the plan and that human freedom somehow exculpates God, and if I were a theist, I would probably lean in that direction. But I think the majority of Christians and Muslims who believe God has a divine plan also believe that nothing lies outside of God's control, and that the holy scriptures predict a specific outcome toward which all human (and, presumably, material) action is being funnelled. This outcome is in the general form of an ultimate victory for the forces of light, a happy ending to the story. If it's true that the plan predicts and, through God's will, ensures an ultimate victory, then historically speaking, the dice are loaded.

Not being a scriptural literalist, I'm not a big fan of using scripture to make a point. But for those who listen to such arguments, I'd note that scriptural evidence would seem to support the idea that nothing occurs without God's knowledge and, on some very basic level, consent. Witness Jesus' whisper to Judas to go and do what needs to be done. Some might say that, if Jesus is indeed God (as most trinitarian Christians affirm), then God willed Judas to enact his betrayal and pave the way for Jesus' execution. The evil of crucifixion becomes part of a greater plan.

As an aside... I've long wondered whether a divine plan can be interrupted by a random asteroid impact. If the plan is supposed to end in some kind of personal or collective ultimate human fulfillment, be that in the form of a new heaven and new earth or something equally glorious (Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point comes to mind), then what becomes of that plan if a chunk of rock slams into Earth and we go the way of the dinosaur? I suppose diehard literalists might call such an impact the star Wormwood, spoken of in Revelation. I wouldn't be so inclined.


_

22 comments:

usinkorea said...

Perhaps your focus on the idea of control and foreknowledge interferes with the concept of free will...?

Are you ultimately saying something like, "If God knew the Holocaust was going to happen and didn't do anything to stop it, he can't be moral..."

or, "If God is all powerful and all knowing, he must have wanted the Holocaust to happen - so he is in effect doing it himself, and is thus immoral."

Is the point of contention that God should have done something to stop the Holocaust - or - that since the Holocaust happened, it could only happen if God made it happen (if he is all powerful and all knowing)?

And moving from either of these positions to saying both no divine plan or scheme can exist (or no god as normally thought of)?

You seem to be saying that if there is an all powerful all knowing god with a plan, he must therefore be a dictator ---- that all actions of man are thus his doing.

I don't think these different aspects have to turn out that way.

Anyway, I am curious as to what you have in mind as both the nature of evil in the world (the Stalins and Pol Pots and Hitlers) and the solution.

I haven't followed your blog close enough on these matters in the past, but I don't take you for an existentialist.

But, if major evil in the world is a proof that there is no supreme deity, what do we have left to hang our hat on besides existentialism?

There are alternatives, but what is the alternative you favor? I'm just curious...

usinkorea said...

"Not being a scriptural literalist, I'm not a big fan of using scripture to make a point."

Then what is the point of reading up on philosophy&religion?

Kevin said...

USinKorea,

I definitely think divine foreknowledge precludes the possibility of free will. I've written a lot on this point.

re: studying philosophy and religion

You'd be surprised at the number of nonliteralists and skeptics who are attracted to this field, all for various reasons. For me, I'm not antireligious, but I do think religious traditions need to work out their logical kinks and preach more ethical theologies-- not, for example, theologies of fatalism or what have you.


Kevin

usinkorea said...

"their logical kinks"

Here is another point where you and I diverge fundamentally.

For example, when I read Hawkings telling me scientific cosmology has advanced to the point it is realistic to predict that one day soon the mathmatecians are going to reduce the complexities of the universe down to one equation, I start to shake my head like some do at Iron Age folk lore...

If there is a system out there that can ease the pain of the Holocaust or Stalin's purges, that makes sense of it all to a point it doesn't sting, I hope to find it one day.

Man is a limited creature. Mankind is a limited species.

Derrida decided to get around all this by saying it wasn't his job to construct at all but just point out the cracks in what everyone else had to say.

Satisfying? Not for me...

usinkorea said...

I would like to read your thoughts on the last question I mentioned. If you have answered it already in the past, perhaps you could give me a link?

"But, if major evil in the world is a proof that there is no supreme deity, what do we have left to hang our hat on besides existentialism?"

Where is the ethical system that fits a Holocaust in?

Kevin said...

USinKorea,

I'm not sure that a universally satisfying ethical system is possible, or even desirable. Religious worldviews are as much about challenging people as they are about comforting them.

Regarding this question:

"But, if major evil in the world is a proof that there is no supreme deity, what do we have left to hang our hat on besides existentialism?"

I don't think major evil is proof there is no supreme deity. I'm not a theist, and part of my reason for not being a theist has to do with the so-called "argument from evil," but philosophically and theologically speaking, I think the presence of evil is not enough to disprove God's existence. Besides, if one's convictions about God's existence are ultimately a matter of faith, then many people will be unswayed by arguments, no matter how well reasoned.

To answer your question, though, I'd say that Buddhism does a fine job of presenting a metaphysics that takes evil into account, though "evil" is not an absolute category in Buddhism. (For more on that, see my post titled "Right and Wrong.")

Christianity, in its own way, also does a fine job of not only noting human weakness, but of noting that such weakness afflicts even the greatest of people-- Moses and Jesus both had moments when they didn't want the responsibility they had been given, and great figures like David are portrayed as succumbing to lust and/or other sins.

What I don't buy is the biblical explanation for the origins of sin. I also don't think that theology does a good job of reconciling the logical problems associated with defining God as omnipotent and omnibenevolent while also affirming the existence of evil. Something's got to give, and in my opinion, if you truly believe God is all-powerful, then it follows that God is ultimately responsible for all that occurs, including the events supposedly traceable to human freedom. I argue this point in my post titled "On Theodicy."


Kevin

usinkorea said...

Just a quick mention on the idea that God created everything and is thus responsible for evil, I would again say that a qualification for God's guilt here would be the idea of free will: as in - God made man imperfect and gave him choice. Whether he knew what choices we would make or not does not seem to me to erase our will.

If there is a god who is the creator of all, there is no question but evil was a part of it.

Laying the Holocaust at his feet, however, and taking it away from mankind would seem a stretch -- to me...

But, I'd like to follow up on the other line of thought in this exchange...

What does Buddhism have to offer by way of the Holocaust or Stalin?

I was thinking about that today.

I feel more comfortable with a notion of hell and eternal damnation for a Hitler than an idea that Hitler will have a few more hundred lives to work out his issues.

I'm at least half serious here...

I'd rather not think about Hitler coming back as Jeffrey Daumer and only killing (and eating) a handful of people and then perhaps progressing in the next next life into just being a serial child rapist (minus the murder) and so on until a few thousand years from now he moves up to being an average person.

But, I haven't read enough Buddhism. What is its belief in the origins of evil or ill besides the advent of the material world or is that the core idea? (like in Confucianism with the concept of Li and Chi or I and Ki in the Korean if I remember correctly)?

usinkorea said...

I couldn't leave a comment on the Theodicy post.

The vague question that came to mind with it was on the idea of punishment...whether that is considered unloving and thus not a part of a god who is supposed to be wholly good?

That seems to be part of the hang up here --- that any god who would punish people or would allow massive suffering can't be good.

That narrows the field down too much for me....

I also had a different impression about the drift of mainstream Christianity in American society. I had the feeling that the devil was increasingly being nudged out of the discussion (as well as the Old Testament - like the parts you mentioned) in favor of a more positivistic sense of "God's eternal love for all."

I think the creator of The Sopronos spent a fair amount of time over the years hitting at this quietly, especially the first year where Carmela kept going to the priests to talk about her family problems and the advise they would give her.

If anybody decides to watch those episodes again, start with the one where she goes to see the Jewish psychiatrist then watch all the scenes where the priests (the white one and the black one) give their point of view....

usinkorea said...

P.S.

If you have any Buddhist texts to recommend, please do so here or email me --- usinkorea@hotmail.com

It has been a long time since I read any primary texts from Buddhism and I never read that many to begin with and I will have the time until January....

usinkorea said...

Quick note on the free will item.

The reason I am curious about your views here is the fact it touches on some stuff I had been reading and blogged about.

I think Deuteronomy 31:19-22 would be interesting here.

According to the text, God has Moses teach the Israelites a song just before they cross over the Jordan to take the promised land.

In the song, God lays out that, even though he has shown them incredible signs of his existence and power, and even though he has told them what is right and wrong, he already knows they are going to cross the Jordan and forget about him and go whoring after other gods, and then he is going to punish them, and then they will return to him --- only to fall away again.

Basically, the song sums up the Old Testament in a nutshell.

But, in our discussion, the fact that God is telling them what they are going to do means they had no choice in the matter.....

....that doesn't follow for me.

Kevin said...

USinKorea,

Just a quick mention on the idea that God created everything and is thus responsible for evil, I would again say that a qualification for God's guilt here would be the idea of free will: as in - God made man imperfect and gave him choice.

I addressed this point in my theodicy post. I don't find such reasoning at all convincing. If man has inviolable free will, then God is not omnipotent. The reason there's a "problem of theodicy" at all is that the concept of God (largely a product of both Judeo-Christian theology and Greek philosophy) is not reconcilable with the existence of evil. There might indeed be a God, but this God can't be omnipotent if people have free will.

That is, in fact, the position taken by Rabbi Harold Kushner in his Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Some try to counterargue that God's inability to violate free will is God's choice and therefore not a limitation on his omnipotence. But as many thinkers have pointed out (Rem Edwards comes immediately to mind), God's self-limitation is still a limitation. The counterargument fails.

Whether he knew what choices we would make or not does not seem to me to erase our will.

Why not?

Here, too, the logic is inevitable: if God knows what I'm going to do five minutes from now, I cannot do other than what God knows I will do. I think I have choices, but God knows what the future holds. That future is not possible to God; it is actual to God.

There are two possible ways out of this dilemma. One is to fall back on the theological notion of "middle knowledge," which I've also blogged about. Another is simply to claim "Divine mystery!" and leave it at that. That's a legitimate alternative, I suppose, though some people cry "Mystery!" before they've really thought the issues through.

If there is a god who is the creator of all, there is no question but evil was a part of it.

I agree. In other words, the existence of evil is ultimately God's responsibility. That seems clear.

Laying the Holocaust at his feet, however, and taking it away from mankind would seem a stretch -- to me...

Why is that a stretch? If God is ultimately responsible for all evil, then of course the Holocaust is ultimately God's responsibility.

Consider this analogy: I decide to set up a playground for my children in my back yard. I make it as safe as I can, then allow my kids to go play on it. The entire time, I realize there's a risk my children will get hurt on the playground. If they do get hurt, then of course I bear responsibility for having set the playground up to begin with.

One might counterargue that the children would have gotten hurt while playing somewhere else, that there was nothing inevitable about their getting hurt on the playground. I would respond by asking: If God created everything, what exists aside from the playground? Nothing!

Now consider this analogy: I set up a playground full of rickety, dangerous equipment. I then tell my kids to go have fun, but to be extremely careful because the playground is dangerous. Almost inevitably, someone's going to get hurt.

This second analogy is closer to what God seems to have done: he has placed us in a rickety, dangerous playground where sin and suffering abound. God is responsible for this mess. Who else built the playground?

Here, too, one might counterargue that the children could be faulted if they misuse the playground. True: they could. But this still wouldn't account for those instances where the playground's own faultiness causes suffering. This is analogous to what philosophers call "natural evil"-- the natural sources of human suffering, such as tsunamis, tornadoes, disease, etc. "Natural evil" isn't the same as what is termed "moral evil," but both are components of our world.

What's more, the line between natural and moral evil is by no means clear. In the playground analogy, let's say that one kid unintentionally misuses a piece of equipment, resulting in another child's injury. Are neglect and unmindfulness sins? If they're not, then the fault lies clearly with the maker of the playground. If they are, the playground-maker still bears responsibility for creating such a playground despite knowing that his youthful charges would be unmindful.

In the same way, God constructs this rickety world, peoples it with unmindful, sin-prone charges, and is fully aware that suffering will be the end result. How is God not responsible for this situation?

And why are people so bent on absolving God of responsibility? I think it would be a lot more honest to affirm that God is the ultimate source of evil. If God creates a universe in which the potential for evil exists, then evil is in some sense a part of God's nature.

What does Buddhism have to offer by way of the Holocaust or Stalin?

Buddhism looks at all action in terms of karma, which is described variously as the law of action, or the law of cause and effect. It's pretty common-sense in the abstract: actions have consequences. In other words, if people get the ball rolling by acting a certain way, then there's a good chance that those consequences will snowball into something larger, be that good or bad.

This is, in fact, what we see: Hitler was an evil brute, but he had the support of most of the German people. He didn't simply "pop" into power; a whole process was involved in getting him there. In other words, evil always has a cause, because everything follows the laws of cause and effect.

I feel more comfortable with a notion of hell and eternal damnation for a Hitler than an idea that Hitler will have a few more hundred lives to work out his issues.

I do, too, but I don't believe in hell, Buddhist, Christian, or otherwise.

I'd rather not think about Hitler coming back as Jeffrey Daumer and only killing (and eating) a handful of people and then perhaps progressing in the next next life into just being a serial child rapist (minus the murder) and so on until a few thousand years from now he moves up to being an average person.

I don't think Buddhists would say it works that way. An evil person is reborn into a hell realm, and their bad karma is burned away as they "serve their time." They can then migrate upwards to a better realm-- perhaps not the human realm at first, but they might get there again.

The problem I have with the traditional Christian view of hell (and we should be clear that the Christian scriptures present, at best, a muddy view of what hell is) is that it's hard to see how, exactly, God's mercy is shown to be infinite here.

But, I haven't read enough Buddhism. What is its belief in the origins of evil or ill besides the advent of the material world or is that the core idea?

Buddhism has no creation myths, so there's no "origin story" to explain where sin and evil come from.

The Buddha's approach was primarily psychological: he observed the human condition, noted the prevalence of suffering, and constructed a "therapy" from that point of departure.

1. All life is characterized by suffering.

2. The root of suffering is desire.

3. The elimination of desire leads to the elimination of suffering.

4. The method for this is the 8-fold path: right views, intention, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

The Buddha was simply teaching a method that can be adopted by anyone; it's not based on propositional belief, like so much of Christianity is (e.g., many Christians claim you must believe that Jesus us the only Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity).


Kevin

Kevin said...

But, in our discussion, the fact that God is telling them what they are going to do means they had no choice in the matter...that doesn't follow for me.

God knows the future down to the minutest detail, or so the traditional theist says. We have to be very clear on what we mean by the word "know," because that word has a strict sense and a looser sense.

The sense of "know" that is important here is the strict sense: knowledge means infallible knowledge. Anything less than that is merely a guess.

In order to know something, it must be there to be known. We cannot know what isn't there to be known. For example, I cannot know that George Bush is currently the king of France, because reality dictates otherwise. God cannot know that George Bush is currently king of France, either, for the same reason.

If God's knowledge is infallible, then whatever God knows must be there to be known. If God knows the future, then the future already exists as far as God is concerned. So as I wrote earlier, the future is not possible to God; it is actual.

If God knows I'm going to sneeze in five minutes, then I'm going to sneeze in five minutes. This cannot be otherwise.

Note how this is different from the parent who says: "If I put a cookie on the table, I know my son will come along and eat it." The parent doesn't really know this for sure-- not in the strict sense of knowing. At best, the parent has a pretty good idea of how his son will behave, based on past behavior. This is an example of the word "know" being used in the loose sense.


Kevin

usinkorea said...

"this God can't be omnipotent if people have free will....(and) Here, too, the logic is inevitable: if God knows what I'm going to do five minutes from now, I cannot do other than what God knows I will do. I think I have choices, but God knows what the future holds. That future is not possible to God; it is actual to God."

I still don't see it - and probably never will...

Yes, there is no possible future outside of the choices God knows I will make, but that does not mean I do not have the choices.

Perhaps from God's point of view, you could say I have no real choices, but even there, I'm not sure it must fall that way. But, from my own point of view, I surely have choices.

I do not see why it must follow that God makes the choices for me if he knows what choices I will make. The decision is still mine even if he knows what the outcome will be.

"Here, too, the logic is inevitable: if God knows what I'm going to do five minutes from now, I cannot do other than what God knows I will do."

I think it would be better stated, "I will not do other than what God knows I will do." I have no idea what God knows I will or won't do. He is not making the choices for me.

"Why is that a stretch? If God is ultimately responsible for all evil, then of course the Holocaust is ultimately God's responsibility."

Cut man's penis off and take away his free will, then all evil must be direct by God himself.

Grant that man has free will, then the workings of the world are largely a product of mankind.

This whole arena we are talking about is found in the first text of the Judeo-Christian tradition with Adam and Eve. The idea is clearly that those two had a choice in whether to eat the apple or not, and I am not convinced that logic dictates that God's foreknowledge erases that choice.

Taking up the playground analogy --- if my son decided it would be a neat idea to swing on the swing set as high as he could then let go and twist his body so as to land on his head, I am responsible in part for building the playground in the first place, but my dipshit of a son is more responsible.

I keep having the Korean notion of I and Ki coming up, and I think it fits here:

In the 4-7 Debate, Toegye gave greater emphasis on I (principle, I think it was) and the person opposite Toegye (and later Yulgok) objected to this emphasis, because they said it described a dominating position of Principle over Material Force.

That seems to me what you are doing with the idea of God as single deity: that if there is a God whose primary principle is good, he could not create a Material world in which evil takes place. That a just God must be a dictator of good or not exist.

And this is buttressed by your idea that God didn't give me any power to choose:

Hitler had no choice but to slaughter 6,000,000 Jews because God knew he was going to kill 6,000,000 Jews...

Whereas I see no problem with the idea that a Material world created by a single just God can be given room to act outside of any direct dictating by God.

To return to the analogy, I'll also refer to Deuteronomy 31 where God lays out for the Israelites what their future will hold as far as following God's will, I can build a playground. And I can tell my dipshit son, "Do NOT swing real high then jump off and do a swan dive into the ground. Repeat --- do NOT swing real high then jump off and do a swan dive into the ground" and then watch as my son goes over to the swing and does exactly what I told him not to do, as I knew he would, because he is a dumbass.

The idea of free will remains the core issue. If you give me no free will on the playground, then God is solely responsible. If you allow me to make choices, then the burden for much falls more to man. Like, I'd blame Hitler a hell of a lot more for the Holocaust than God for creating an imperfect world in which a Hitler could end up killing so many people.

The idea of God perhaps being immoral if he created a less-than-perfect world for man to live in is (perhaps) countered by the concept of an after-life:

Our life here on earth is short compared to the concept of eternity: This world that God put us in might be imperfect, but it is a temporary one, really just a micro-dot on the scale of eternity, and he has given me means to achieve a better one after this life in the imperfect world is over.

"I think it would be a lot more honest to affirm that God is the ultimate source of evil. If God creates a universe in which the potential for evil exists, then evil is in some sense a part of God's nature."

I am with you on the first sentence, but not the second. I do not see where the one must follow the other. Man is not God. The material world is not God. God does not have to be in part immoral or evil just because he created a universe in which evil exists.

"I don't think Buddhists would say it works that way. An evil person is reborn into a hell realm, and their bad karma is burned away as they "serve their time."

This is something I have barely caught even a glimpse of in what little I've read of Buddhism.

I was just doing some spot reading on Buddhist texts via Google book search, and the little I was reading reminded me of the little I had read over a decade ago.

I would venture with this very sparse knowledge that it seems to me the Buddhist is saying that ----- yes, the material world is ultimately bad or wrong for us, and what we should do is renounce it altogether to reach a higher state above the problems that must come from being part of the material universe.

Thus, it isn't really a question of good and evil, however defined, but of escape.

Which isn't completely outside the Judeo-Christian tradition with its heaven and hell: namely, that a person can attempt to follow correct principle and achieve a new being in a better existence beyond our material universe or suffer. But, Buddhism gives you a lot more shots at getting it right...

In all three, and in Confucianism, and I tentitively say Hinduism as well, the idea is that this universe we are a part of is imperfect and we have to ultimately cast it off before we find "true" or ultimate happiness.

Kevin said...

USinKorea,

re: foreknowledge and lack of choice

I still don't see it - and probably never will...

Whether you agree with this point or not, the need to understand this is important before we can continue.

Perhaps from God's point of view, you could say I have no real choices, but even there, I'm not sure it must fall that way. But, from my own point of view, I surely have choices.

I do not see why it must follow that God makes the choices for me if he knows what choices I will make. The decision is still mine even if he knows what the outcome will be.


The entire point I'm trying to make is that, if God knows the future, then there are are no choices. Period. If you are unwilling or unable to grant this, then we can go no further. What I'm talking about, though, is a matter of simple logic.

Traditional theology holds that God knows everything you will do, not everything you might do. This is because traditional theology holds that God is omniscient, and his omniscience includes a fully detailed, infallible knowledge of the future.

So yes, of course: from your own point of view, you think you have choices. But if you seriously believe God knows the future in perfect detail, then it is impossible to grant that you actually have choices in what you do. God can't know an unwritten future. What is uncertain to God?

And that's the problem in talking about freedom. What is freedom, after all? Most philosophers will say that human freedom is the ability to do otherwise than I have done. But if God knows I'm going to sneeze in five minutes, can I do otherwise? If God sees me agonizing over a Bennigan's menu and knows I'll choose the Southwestern Sampler (damn, I'm hungry... it's lunchtime here), can I do otherwise than point to the Southwestern Sampler? Not at all. The future is written.

There are interesting objections to the logic of this argument, US, but they aren't the objections you're making. One objection comes from the notion of "middle knowledge," which I briefly mentioned before. I haven't asked you your religion, but I'm assuming at this point that you're a Christian. You might be very interested in reading about middle knowledge before we go any further.

Another objection is, as I also mentioned, the argument from mystery: God knows the future and we have choice, and while that's not logical, it is possible because God is almighty.

I won't address this second objection because it's not rooted in logic so much as faith (how do you argue with faith?), but I do have objections to the argument from middle knowledge. Actually, I've blogged about that topic before.

In your future comments, I'd like you to focus on this narrow hypothetical question, then:

If God, in his infallible wisdom, knows that Alfred is going to shoot Bruce Wayne in the head at 2:25PM on November 12, 2015, then

(a) what will Alfred do on that date, at that time?

(b) can Alfred do otherwise?


Discussion in this thread has been all over the place, and really needs some focus, so you'll pardon me for asking for some focus. A big topic like this needs to be combed over carefully, and we can't afford to throw around Confucianism, Buddhism, etc., willy-nilly without first agreeing on some basics. So-- here we stand.


Kevin

Kevin said...

Whoops-- I do owe you some Buddhist text recommendations.

These days, you can find decent translations of core Buddhist texts all over the place. If you just want the texts themselves, I'd recommend:

The Tripitaka
The Lotus Sutra
The Diamond Sutra
and a shorty, The Heart Sutra

For a big, heavy sutra, try The Flower Garland Sutra.

For a basic understanding of how Buddhism works, I'd recommend Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught.

I'd also recommend Seung Sahn's The Compass of Zen, which has been excellently rendered by his American student, the famous Zen monk Hyeon Gak (formerly Paul Muenzen before he took his dharma name).

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Thien (Vietnamese Zen) monk who has written innumerable books, some of which are scriptural commentary. His very short commentary on the Heart Sutra is very good. His Living Buddha, Living Christ is a classic interreligious work.

Alan Watts is a womanizing, druggie asshole, but his scholarship, while somewhat contested these days, still makes for good reading and is largely solid. Try his The Way of Zen and his The Spirit of Zen.

Then, of course... there's my book. Click the banner ad to find out more, or click the link to my book's FAQ blog on my sidebar.

We have to keep in mind that Buddhism, unlike Christianity, does not have a "closed canon." Scriptures can be added to the collection of Buddhist scriptures already in existence.

In other words, you can spend your life trying to read all the Buddhist scriptures out there, but it's unlikely you'll ever finish because it's possible for more to appear.


Kevin

usinkorea said...

Then we can go no further, because I still don't see it. I can entertain an idea as truth to follow a line of argument, but if you want me to give a yea or nay on the idea that there can be no free will if a God knows everything, we will have to stop at that.

I wonder if it is a matter of simple logic why I have not heard before that everyone generally agrees that logic dicates there can be no God as defined by the Jeudeo-Christian and Islamic tradition and free will at the same time. If logic has proven the two cannot exist at the same time, I would have thought those three religions would have taken a much bigger hit in the world than they have as of yet.

"So yes, of course: from your own point of view, you think you have choices. But if you seriously believe God knows the future in perfect detail, then it is impossible to grant that you actually have choices in what you do. God can't know an unwritten future. What is uncertain to God?"

I know this is same ground we've just trod, but isn't there something in here about point of view that is more substantial than in your formulation?

You are activating God's knowledge. You are saying God's knowledge dictates my choices.

In reference to your two questions, the answers are in line with what I have stated before: Alfred will do what God's knowledge says will happen: he'll shoot Bruce Wayne in the head and that is the only outcome possible.

But, again, I do not see why logic dictates that that knowledge means no actual choices were made --- that Alfred did not "choose" to shoot Wayne in the head.

If this is simple logic I just am not getting through my thick skull, maybe it will dawn on me a few days from now as I ponder these things, but I do not see it.

I would rather use your food and menu analogy, because that is one I had thought of between now and last posting:

(This analogy specifically looks at this line from your comment: "if God knows the future, then there are are no choices.)

Say God is in a room behind a table. One the table are an orange, apple, and banana.

I enter the room, and God says, "Take your pick."

In your view, God's foreknowledge is just the same as if God added, "But you can't pick the apple or orange" and he takes them off the table.

I thus have only one item to choose from. God has dictated my options down to the one he knew I'd have taken anyway.

Is that really what knowledge does - (God's knowledge - not my own)? That seems to me to turn knowledge into an all powerful, active force rather than a passive knowing. (

I do not understand why the apple and orange have to be removed from the table in order for God's foreknowledge to exist. I do not see why God can't say, "Take your pick" and know which I'm going to choose and I still have a real choice to make.

If your thought was worded, "If God knows the future, then there are no possible alternative outcomes" --- I have no problem agreeing on that basic principle to move forward.

But, if I have to accept as a simple truth that God knowing the future means there are no choices, we have hit a brick wall. Because I cannot see why God's knowledge has to be active and removes the apple and orange from the table.

God and I are not the same people. His knowledge and my knowledge are not the same.

God knows Alfred is going to shoot Bruce Wayne in the head. That is the only possible outcome, but from Alfred's point of view, he might have incredibly grave doubts, might be in intense inner turmoil, in such turmoil right up to the moment he pulls the trigger and blows Bruce Wayne's brains all over the table.

Alfred and God are not the same people. Alfred does not know absolutely what he is going to do in the future even if God does. From Alfred's point of view, he is making all kinds of choices every single day that leads up to his blowing Bruce Wayne's head off.

You can come up to him award and console him that he never really had any of those choices - that he was destined to do what he did from the beginning of time because God knew he was going to eventually shoot Bruce.

I'd still have to say that Alfred made all those choices his whole life including pulling the trigger.

usinkorea said...

http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/2007/03/two-senses-of-going-to-happen.html
I had the vaguest of memories of this post at Gypsy Scholars (and perhaps one or two more) that touched on these issues. I had to go back and look for it to really remember anything from it, but I would say the objections I have been trying to say to your concept of what God's knowledge dictates does fall somewhere near what Gypsy Scholar was saying in this post.

Specifically, "My foreknowledge that my friend will choose chocolate thus does not cause his choice. I merely know his choice."

Kevin said...

USinKorea,

Eh bien, mon ami, I'm going to have to wait until you give simple, direct answers to (a) and (b). You're trying to agree and disagree at the same time, and you'll have to choose one or the other, man. What I see now is something of a jumble.

You wrote:

If your thought was worded, "If God knows the future, then there are no possible alternative outcomes" --- I have no problem agreeing on that basic principle to move forward.

That's essentially what I'm saying, but in different words. "No possible alternative outcomes" = no freedom, period. Things cannot happen otherwise. This should be crystal clear.*

NB: it doesn't matter how the situation looks from my (or Alfred's) point of view; I'm concerned here with the ultimate point of view-- God's. If I think I'm free, but in reality am not free, then I'm deluded. The actual reality, the reality God knows, is that I'm not free. My "freedom" is a sham.

OK... I'll stop here and pray (!) for simple, clear answers to (a) and (b).

Now I gotta go watch "Live Free or Die Hard" over in Yongsan's CGV cinema.


Kevin
now praying at theaters near you

*If it's not, then maybe we need to examine your definition of freedom. I apologize for not having asked before. This is actually crucial to our discussion.

If your idea of human freedom is substantially different from the one I mentioned earlier (i.e., the ability to do otherwise than one has done), we need to get that on the table so we know how to proceed.

Kevin said...

Specifically, "My foreknowledge that my friend will choose chocolate thus does not cause his choice. I merely know his choice."


The problem here is the same: it's not that foreknowledge is causal; it's that knowledge of the future can only truly be knowledge of the future if the future event is inevitable. We're not takling about causality at all.

What Dr. Hodges is referring to, in talking about knowing his friend's choice, is "knowing" in the weak sense. This is not infallible knowledge; it's an educated guess based on past experience. That's a very different animal from divine foreknowledge.

But not totally unrelated. Suppose I have a friend who always orders a hoagie on Wednesdays at noon. Always. Wednesday noon rolls around... so what does my friend order? Why, a hoagie! Just like clockwork! Assuming my friend is 100% consistent, then my knowledge and his actions are linked, not by causality, but by the inevitability of the situation. My friend obviously has an attachment to hoagies. That's not freedom.

A diver jumps off a diving board. I know he's going to get wet. I didn't cause him to get wet, but I know he'll get wet because the situation is inevitable.

The connection between my knowledge of event A and the actual occurrence of event A is the inevitability of event A.

You might argue that the difference between the diver and my hoagie-loving friend is that the diver, once launched, has no choice. My point is that, in both situations, true knowledge has to do with inevitability: things cannot happen otherwise.

If you say that my hoagie-loving friend might order a different sandwich, or he might order it at a different time, then the reply is: I obviously didn't know what I thought I knew. My "knowledge" turned out not to be true knowledge; it was only an educated guess. Freedom precludes foreknowledge.

So something always has to give: if you truly know that future event A will happen, that knowledge is true because event A is somehow inevitable. If there's a chance that event A won't happen, then you don't truly know the future.


Kevin

Kevin said...

OK, that's really it for me. I'll wait for (a) and (b). Heh.


Kevin

usinkorea said...

I thought I had answered the two simple questions.

A) Alfred will shoot Bruce.

B) Can Alfred do otherwise? Yes.

Will he? No.

The fact that God knows what the choice will be does not mean God forces him to make a specific choice. It does not mean God has taken alternative choices for Alfred to make off the table. It means God knows Alfred will not pick those alternatives.

Whatever my lack of reading and clarity might be, I would say I have been roughly making the same points as Gypsy Scholar in that thread: namely:

"If I knew enough about my friend, I could inerrantly foreknow that he would decide upon chocolate if he truly is going to choose chocolate.

Now, I make the further assumption that my friend has libertarian free will. By this, I mean that his choice is not the result of a causal chain, either internal or external. My foreknowledge that my friend will choose chocolate thus does not cause his choice. I merely know his choice.

God happens to be in the position of omnisciently foreknowing choices, but this does not mean that he causes those choices."

usinkorea said...

"If your idea of human freedom is substantially different from the one I mentioned earlier (i.e., the ability to do otherwise than one has done), we need to get that on the table so we know how to proceed."

I'll have to think about it, but here is my initial thought -

I'm not sure this definition of freedom makes sense:

How can I do what has already been done?

I can only do what I am doing right now.