Question: What Is Free Will? A philosophical question specifically for theists

WolfgangSenff
WolfgangSenff's picture
Posts: 67
Joined: 2007-05-10
User is offlineOffline
Question: What Is Free Will? A philosophical question specifically for theists

Before you ask if I wanted this to be in the philosophy forums, I do not. This question is intended for theists, and I thought this forum would be the best place to find them. Though it is intended for theists, if an atheist wants to chime in about something I did wrong, I invite them to do as much without hesitation.

My question comes about from a realization: Free will does NOT in any way imply evil and vice versa. Evil need not exist for free will to exist. Why? A reason which I've decided is not a great one is simply that if evil is a prerequisite for free will, then there must be evil in heaven. This presupposes free will in heaven, though, so it's a little bit harder to get at, since you can easily just say, "No one in heaven has free will."

But a better argument that is both simpler and stronger is this:

Premise: Assume evil is an attribute of something which exists if it is to have free will

Argument: God has free will

Conclusion: God has evil as an attribute

 

So, I ask you, theists, what is free will, in your world? I ask because I don't believe I've equivocated anywhere above except possibly on the words free will. If you feel I have elsewhere, please point it out! I would appreciate that a lot. Thanks for responding, or not.

Edit: Whoops, left something out. One premise to the above is that God is omnibenevolent, i.e. is not evil in any sense. Since the conclusion contradicts this, one or other (or both) of the premises must be wrong. Another way to look at it is simply that if evil were a prerequisite for free will, then anything we choose to do that is good is also necessarily evil. Proof for this will come later, when I'm less tired. Smiling

"Jesus -- the other white Moses" - Me.


sapphen
Theist
sapphen's picture
Posts: 232
Joined: 2007-01-22
User is offlineOffline
not sure if this helps but

not sure if this helps but i see free will as the ability to choose whatever you desire whether it is good or bad.

i think you may be searching deeper into the question.  i've never really thought about free will beyond what i stated above.  perhaps now that you see where i am coming from you could better explain your question.

May God bless us and give us the words to express our ideas in a creative and civil manner, while providing us an ear that we may truly hear each other, and a voice to clearly project our thoughts.


LosingStreak06
Theist
LosingStreak06's picture
Posts: 768
Joined: 2007-05-22
User is offlineOffline
Free will is, as far as I

Free will is, as far as I am aware, an illusion.

I believe in it for solely practical purposes (i.e. to prevent insanity from setting in), but when it isn't boiling down to beating the existential angst, then I'm pretty much a total determinist.


Broncosfan
Theist
Posts: 94
Joined: 2007-02-05
User is offlineOffline
Dictionary.com defines free

Dictionary.com defines free will as "the power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will".

I would agree with this definition..!


wavefreak
Theist
wavefreak's picture
Posts: 1825
Joined: 2007-05-10
User is offlineOffline
Free will is what lets me

Free will is what lets me eat ice cream or pie or both at once.


Tilberian
Moderator
Tilberian's picture
Posts: 1118
Joined: 2006-11-27
User is offlineOffline
But the circumstances that

But the circumstances that led up to your decision to eat ice cream or pie were all entirely out of your control.

The whole idea to eat one or the other popped into your head without you consciously trying to invoke it. Even when presented with the choice between both, you will probably reference what you "feel like" eating. How is that a conscious decision? Did you decide to feel like one or the other?

If you actually weigh other factors in making the choice, well, the other factors are in charge of the decision, aren't they? If you weren't trying to lose weight, you would have had the ice cream. If you hadn't seen a bad movie years ago while eating ice cream, you wouldn't have the subconscious drive to prefer pie. 

Our choices and decisions simply cannot be detached from the chains of circumstance that create them. Therefore, there is no free will. 

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


Broncosfan
Theist
Posts: 94
Joined: 2007-02-05
User is offlineOffline
Tilberian wrote:But the

Tilberian wrote:

But the circumstances that led up to your decision to eat ice cream or pie were all entirely out of your control.

The whole idea to eat one or the other popped into your head without you consciously trying to invoke it. Even when presented with the choice between both, you will probably reference what you "feel like" eating. How is that a conscious decision? Did you decide to feel like one or the other?

If you actually weigh other factors in making the choice, well, the other factors are in charge of the decision, aren't they? If you weren't trying to lose weight, you would have had the ice cream. If you hadn't seen a bad movie years ago while eating ice cream, you wouldn't have the subconscious drive to prefer pie. 

Our choices and decisions simply cannot be detached from the chains of circumstance that create them. Therefore, there is no free will. 

I don't understand your comment that the circumstances that led up to my eating the ice cream were entirely out of my control.

It's a Saturday afternoon and I'm enjoying a Red Sox - Yankees baseball game on TV (the Red Sox are thumping the Yankees in this example).

 I suddenly develop a craving for some ice cream - I MUST have some Cherry Garcia. So I put on my shoes, walk to the local store, buy some ice cream, walk home, scoop out some ice cream into a bowl, sit down in front of the TV again and enjoy my ice cream and ball game.

EXACTLY  what part of this above scenario was entirely out of my control...???!!!


LosingStreak06
Theist
LosingStreak06's picture
Posts: 768
Joined: 2007-05-22
User is offlineOffline
Broncosfan

Broncosfan wrote:
Tilberian wrote:

But the circumstances that led up to your decision to eat ice cream or pie were all entirely out of your control.

The whole idea to eat one or the other popped into your head without you consciously trying to invoke it. Even when presented with the choice between both, you will probably reference what you "feel like" eating. How is that a conscious decision? Did you decide to feel like one or the other?

If you actually weigh other factors in making the choice, well, the other factors are in charge of the decision, aren't they? If you weren't trying to lose weight, you would have had the ice cream. If you hadn't seen a bad movie years ago while eating ice cream, you wouldn't have the subconscious drive to prefer pie.

Our choices and decisions simply cannot be detached from the chains of circumstance that create them. Therefore, there is no free will.

I don't understand your comment that the circumstances that led up to my eating the ice cream were entirely out of my control.

It's a Saturday afternoon and I'm enjoying a Red Sox - Yankees baseball game on TV (the Red Sox are thumping the Yankees in this example).

I suddenly develop a craving for some ice cream - I MUST have some Cherry Garcia. So I put on my shoes, walk to the local store, buy some ice cream, walk home, scoop out some ice cream into a bowl, sit down in front of the TV again and enjoy my ice cream and ball game.

EXACTLY what part of this above scenario was entirely out of my control...???!!!

The craving for the ice cream. 


wavefreak
Theist
wavefreak's picture
Posts: 1825
Joined: 2007-05-10
User is offlineOffline
Tilberian wrote: But the

Tilberian wrote:

But the circumstances that led up to your decision to eat ice cream or pie were all entirely out of your control.

The whole idea to eat one or the other popped into your head without you consciously trying to invoke it. Even when presented with the choice between both, you will probably reference what you "feel like" eating. How is that a conscious decision? Did you decide to feel like one or the other?

If you actually weigh other factors in making the choice, well, the other factors are in charge of the decision, aren't they? If you weren't trying to lose weight, you would have had the ice cream. If you hadn't seen a bad movie years ago while eating ice cream, you wouldn't have the subconscious drive to prefer pie.

Our choices and decisions simply cannot be detached from the chains of circumstance that create them. Therefore, there is no free will.

This is like the argument about the glass being half empty or half full. While listening to the argument, I'll pick up the glass and drink. The argument is over and I'm the only one that isn't still thirsty.

 

Free will is like omniscience or omnipotence. The more you define it the less coherent it becomes. 

 


Broncosfan
Theist
Posts: 94
Joined: 2007-02-05
User is offlineOffline
LosingStreak06

LosingStreak06 wrote:
Broncosfan wrote:
Tilberian wrote:

But the circumstances that led up to your decision to eat ice cream or pie were all entirely out of your control.

The whole idea to eat one or the other popped into your head without you consciously trying to invoke it. Even when presented with the choice between both, you will probably reference what you "feel like" eating. How is that a conscious decision? Did you decide to feel like one or the other?

If you actually weigh other factors in making the choice, well, the other factors are in charge of the decision, aren't they? If you weren't trying to lose weight, you would have had the ice cream. If you hadn't seen a bad movie years ago while eating ice cream, you wouldn't have the subconscious drive to prefer pie.

Our choices and decisions simply cannot be detached from the chains of circumstance that create them. Therefore, there is no free will.

I don't understand your comment that the circumstances that led up to my eating the ice cream were entirely out of my control.

It's a Saturday afternoon and I'm enjoying a Red Sox - Yankees baseball game on TV (the Red Sox are thumping the Yankees in this example).

I suddenly develop a craving for some ice cream - I MUST have some Cherry Garcia. So I put on my shoes, walk to the local store, buy some ice cream, walk home, scoop out some ice cream into a bowl, sit down in front of the TV again and enjoy my ice cream and ball game.

EXACTLY what part of this above scenario was entirely out of my control...???!!!

The craving for the ice cream. 

I'm sorry - I just don't get it. 

In my example, I felt like some ice cream - I had two choices - i could either act on it or I could ignore it. I chose to act on it.

Right now, I feel like looking at a Ferrari in my driveway, but I think I'll pass on going out to the dealership to buy one. 

In both instances, I chose how to act - I exercised free will - I have no idea what part was beyond my control. 

No need to respond, these "navel gazing" discussions get very silly very quickly.


Job
Posts: 17
Joined: 2007-01-03
User is offlineOffline
WolfgangSenff

WolfgangSenff wrote:

Premise: Assume evil is an attribute of something which exists if it is to have free will

Argument: God has free will

Conclusion: God has evil as an attribute

I don't believe that evil is a prerequisite for one's will to be free.  I don't know of any theists that would say that, actually.

I think what you *might* hear is that in order for a person's will to be free, they necessarily must be *able* to choose evil.  IOW, the *ability* to make an evil choice is a prerequisite of a "free will".

And for what it is worth, your discussion about Heaven is a great one.  If people in Heaven have a free will, and a free will means the ability to sin,  then people in Heaven must have the ability to sin.  Whether they ever will is another question, of course, but that only leads to the next question - if they can, why wouldn't they?

Quote:
So, I ask you, theists, what is free will, in your world?

I don't believe we posses free will in the way it is commonly termed.  I am a determinist, which is entirely incompatibile with the common conception of a free will.My view is that a choice of mine is free if and only if I made that choice; IOW, I chose it because I wanted to.


sapphen
Theist
sapphen's picture
Posts: 232
Joined: 2007-01-22
User is offlineOffline
i wonder if it is still free

i wonder if it is still free will when it conflicts another's free will?


LosingStreak06
Theist
LosingStreak06's picture
Posts: 768
Joined: 2007-05-22
User is offlineOffline
Broncosfan

Broncosfan wrote:
LosingStreak06 wrote:
Broncosfan wrote:
Tilberian wrote:

But the circumstances that led up to your decision to eat ice cream or pie were all entirely out of your control.

The whole idea to eat one or the other popped into your head without you consciously trying to invoke it. Even when presented with the choice between both, you will probably reference what you "feel like" eating. How is that a conscious decision? Did you decide to feel like one or the other?

If you actually weigh other factors in making the choice, well, the other factors are in charge of the decision, aren't they? If you weren't trying to lose weight, you would have had the ice cream. If you hadn't seen a bad movie years ago while eating ice cream, you wouldn't have the subconscious drive to prefer pie.

Our choices and decisions simply cannot be detached from the chains of circumstance that create them. Therefore, there is no free will.

I don't understand your comment that the circumstances that led up to my eating the ice cream were entirely out of my control.

It's a Saturday afternoon and I'm enjoying a Red Sox - Yankees baseball game on TV (the Red Sox are thumping the Yankees in this example).

I suddenly develop a craving for some ice cream - I MUST have some Cherry Garcia. So I put on my shoes, walk to the local store, buy some ice cream, walk home, scoop out some ice cream into a bowl, sit down in front of the TV again and enjoy my ice cream and ball game.

EXACTLY what part of this above scenario was entirely out of my control...???!!!

The craving for the ice cream.

I'm sorry - I just don't get it.

In my example, I felt like some ice cream - I had two choices - i could either act on it or I could ignore it. I chose to act on it.

Right now, I feel like looking at a Ferrari in my driveway, but I think I'll pass on going out to the dealership to buy one.

In both instances, I chose how to act - I exercised free will - I have no idea what part was beyond my control.

No need to respond, these "navel gazing" discussions get very silly very quickly.

I'll go ahead and respond anyway, but feel free to ignore me. Your desire to have a Ferrari is not a strong as your desire to not spend the money it would cost to buy one. However, you can't choose to want to pay for a Ferrari. With the ice cream, your desire to get the ice cream is greater than your desire to avoid paying for the ice cream. In either case (the Ferrari, or the ice cream), the forces steering your decision are not within your control. 


qbg
Posts: 298
Joined: 2006-11-22
User is offlineOffline
Job wrote: I am a

Job wrote:
I am a determinist, which is entirely incompatibile with the common conception of a free will.

Only if you are an incompatibilist...

"What right have you to condemn a murderer if you assume him necessary to "God's plan"? What logic can command the return of stolen property, or the branding of a thief, if the Almighty decreed it?"
-- The Economic Tendency of Freethought


Job
Posts: 17
Joined: 2007-01-03
User is offlineOffline
qbg wrote: Job wrote: I am

qbg wrote:
Job wrote:
I am a determinist, which is entirely incompatibile with the common conception of a free will.
Only if you are an incompatibilist...

What makes one (i.e. allows one to be) a compatabilist is that they don't subscribe to the common conception of a free will.


WolfgangSenff
WolfgangSenff's picture
Posts: 67
Joined: 2007-05-10
User is offlineOffline
Job wrote: I don't believe

Job wrote:

I don't believe that evil is a prerequisite for one's will to be free. I don't know of any theists that would say that, actually.

I suppose this was a borderline fallacy of equivocation on my part, and I apologize. My problem was that I was saying having the ability to sin is the same as sinning; that's where my proof was going, anyway. For the record, I know at least three people who believe evil is a necessary prerequisite for free will; not just the ability to choose it.

Job wrote:
 

I think what you *might* hear is that in order for a person's will to be free, they necessarily must be *able* to choose evil. IOW, the *ability* to make an evil choice is a prerequisite of a "free will".

 While I'm sure what IOW means Smiling, I agree with your belief here more than the one I listed above, which is what a few Christians I know believe. It had stunned me to hear what they said, enough to not even question their idiocy. Your explanation is much better. However, it still falls very slightly short: Free will can exist without being able to choose to do evil. That is, free will in the typical sense, anyway. You could just have to choose between two "good" things! You could choose to eat ice cream or choose to eat pie, or both. Barring any extreme circumstances, I don't think evil played any part there. At least, you can imagine circumstances where it didn't play any part.

Job wrote:
 

And for what it is worth, your discussion about Heaven is a great one. If people in Heaven have a free will, and a free will means the ability to sin, then people in Heaven must have the ability to sin.

Thanks! It's worth a lot to me. Your post opened up my eyes quite a bit, actually, and I appreciate the complement. Part of the problem with Heaven is that if we assume that people have free will but NEVER choose evil, that is no different from saying that people have free will but cannot choose evil (that is, it cannot be determined. Even if they say they thought about it but didn't, which is again broken up by the God of the Bible who listens in on thoughts). Again, according to my Christian friends, it is the temptation provided by "original sin" which  makes people ever give in. The people who are in heaven don't have original sin, I thought, so they don't even have the option to sin. This is what I've thought all along, anyway. But this probably doesn't remove their free will. It does, however, contradict these other people's definition of free will. I think.  

That was a pretty good post. I appreciate it. That goes for everyone who responded! Thanks a lot for your inputs everyone.

 On a related subject, Job's post is really making my mind fly. I just realized that if Adam and Eve ever existed, then they did not have free will (if we accept that the ability to choose evil came only after eating the Apple). My wife just pointed out that they must have been able to choose evil before and that the Apple just represents them actually disobeying God. Hmm, I'll have to think about this more. Thanks again everyone.

"Jesus -- the other white Moses" - Me.


LosingStreak06
Theist
LosingStreak06's picture
Posts: 768
Joined: 2007-05-22
User is offlineOffline
The fact of the matter, is

The fact of the matter, is that "evil" is not necessary for "free will" to exist. We could have been created to have free will without evil ever entering the picture. For example, let us look at the analogy of a trampoline. I have the "free will" to choose to jump on the trampoline or not to jump on the trampoline. However, if the trampoline did not exist, it would not remove my "free will" to do anything else, it would merely remove the opportunity to jump on the trampoline.

That "evil" exists as an optional result of free will means that God created it. He could have made there to be more than just "good" and "evil." He could have simply removed "evil" from the whole equation. But he stuck it in there, and therefore he must have had a purpose in doing so. Why would God create "evil", knowing full well that it would bring about the doom of man? Why put the trampoline before me if he knew that my jumping on it would lead to serious injury on my part? Either he did not create "evil," meaning that "evil" does not exist, and we are all jumping on an imaginary trampoline, or God himself is "evil."

Not that I believe in any of that trash anyway. 

 


spumoni
Theist
spumoni's picture
Posts: 108
Joined: 2007-01-31
User is offlineOffline
There are several suggested

There are several suggested forms of free will.  I hold to libertarian free will.  This is the assertion that free will is the power to choose otherwise.

God may be said to have free will but his nature is such that it limits what he in fact will do.  Evil is simply a privation of good.  It is a lesser or secondary principle.  It requires good for its existence.  God's nature is fundamentally good therefore he will never commit evil.  He may in fact have the power to do so but he never will. 


Dave8324
Theist
Posts: 22
Joined: 2007-07-13
User is offlineOffline
Free will is being able to

Free will is being able to choose between two or more options. No free will would mean there is no choice.

If you believe there is no free will, it is up to you to prove that Smiling

Something to chew on, most people who think there is no free will seem to think that everything can be predicted, maybe by science. Ok, what about with nonlinear systems? Ever hear about chaos? Nonlinear time variant equations can be unpredictable, and not only that, but it can come into a state in more then one way.

 


Froggy618157725
Theist
Froggy618157725's picture
Posts: 55
Joined: 2007-07-12
User is offlineOffline
Dave8324 wrote: Free will

Dave8324 wrote:

Free will is being able to choose between two or more options. No free will would mean there is no choice.

If you believe there is no free will, it is up to you to prove that Smiling

Something to chew on, most people who think there is no free will seem to think that everything can be predicted, maybe by science. Ok, what about with nonlinear systems? Ever hear about chaos? Nonlinear time variant equations can be unpredictable, and not only that, but it can come into a state in more then one way.

 

Chaos is not synonymous with random. Mathematical chaos is deterministic. It's a butterfly effect, not randomness. Chaos is difficult, not impossible, to predict.

The sentence below is false.
The sentence above is true.
This sentence doesn't care.


Dave8324
Theist
Posts: 22
Joined: 2007-07-13
User is offlineOffline
I wasn't plaing on going

I wasn't plaing on going into detail about nonlinear physics, but yes, it can become impossible to predict. Yes, the butterfly effect is one part of things, (there will always be error though, so you can't get around it) basicly, you can't predict anything to 100% certianty. Thats the deal.

Similar in quantum physics, you can only predict the probablities of a partical being in different states, you can't predict exactly what will happen. So you could theoretically predict all paths, and all states of a object, but you will never know which ones it will take.

Since it is all based on statistical physics, you always only get probablities. I wasn't making a case for randomness. It isn't impossable to predict all the possiblities a person may choose from, but it is impossable to absolutely know the exact path (everything that will happen in their life and all the choices they will make) they will choose. If we can't predict that kind of thing for a particle, I doubt we can for a person.

From wikipedia

"In quantum physics, the outcome of even an ideal measurement of a system is not deterministic, but instead is characterized by a probability distribution, and the larger the associated standard deviation is, the more "uncertain" we might say that that characteristic is for the system."

That is some pretty basic stuff and you can look it up in any basic quantum physics textbook.