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Cogito ergo sum

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Free Will and Omniscience

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  • Free Will and Omniscience

    I'm sure this has been discussed here before, but what are your thoughts on this subject? How are free will and omniscience not mutually exclusive?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Machinist View Post
    I'm sure this has been discussed here before, but what are your thoughts on this subject? How are free will and omniscience not mutually exclusive?
    I don't believe in omniscience, but I imagine that an omniscient being could know what your free will choice is going to be, in the same way that an ordinary being in the future can know what your free will choice was.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Machinist View Post
      I'm sure this has been discussed here before, but what are your thoughts on this subject? How are free will and omniscience not mutually exclusive?
      Perhaps - consider whether omniscience might not be restricted to what is, but extends to the probabilities of given circumstances arising. Of course, that would presuppose that the future exists only in prospect. If the future is fixed, such things as cause and effect are pure illusion. Everything is how it is simply because it has always been that way at that point in time, and always will be. The number of times that prophecy has been cancelled or modified in the Biblical record simply doesn't work for a fixed timeline.

      Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series gives a fairly accurate account of how prophecy works.
      sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Stoic View Post

        I don't believe in omniscience, but I imagine that an omniscient being could know what your free will choice is going to be, in the same way that an ordinary being in the future can know what your free will choice was.
        Pretty much my view. An omniscient being would know what I was going to do before I do it but still in no way control what I am going to do. Even if said omniscient being was omnipotent, it won't necessarily have to exert it's power over me but it would still know what I was going to do.

        Here's a question: does an omniscient being have free will or is bound by the choices it already knows it will make?.
        "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

        "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post



          Here's a question: does an omniscient being have free will or is bound by the choices it already knows it will make?.
          Isn't that the same as asking if God can make a rock so big He can't lift it?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post

            Pretty much my view. An omniscient being would know what I was going to do before I do it but still in no way control what I am going to do. Even if said omniscient being was omnipotent, it won't necessarily have to exert it's power over me but it would still know what I was going to do.

            Here's a question: does an omniscient being have free will or is bound by the choices it already knows it will make?.
            Seems to me that an omniscient being would never have reason to change his mind. No new information can come to light, including whether or not his inclinations would change.

            So assuming he had free will to start with, he's never going to need it again.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Stoic View Post

              I don't believe in omniscience, but I imagine that an omniscient being could know what your free will choice is going to be, in the same way that an ordinary being in the future can know what your free will choice was.
              It just always seemed to negate free will by the existence of a being having a fixed foreknowledge of events. Someone said once that it's "paradoxical, not contradictory". I can't really tell if that's actually correct or if it's just a wild card. If the omniscient being has foreknowledge of a persons choice in a matter, then that person has no choice but to act in absolute accordance with that being's foreknowledge. It's sort of a chicken/egg thing.


              I guess an Absolutely Omniscient being would necessarily have to be Absolutely Eternal. That being would necessarily have to be the essence of being and existence itself.
              Last edited by Machinist; 07-12-2021, 06:06 AM.

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              • #8
                I've seen this discussion before elsewhere. It usually boils down to athiests saying that omniscience and free will aren't compatible, and theists saying they are.

                If I know (and watch) water in a river running down and emptying into the ocean, I am only an observer. I am not affecting the water or its flow. The atheist will often say my mere knowledge of that flow negates the free will of the water. If I know with certainty where that water is going, it has no option of going anywhere else, no free will. So the question then becomes: Does knowledge equal manipulation? Just because I know something doesn't mean I am manipulating it.

                It also has to do with time. In a universe without an omniscient being, Joe Doe lived in 1800 and wrote an all-inclusive autobiography during his lifetime. Did he have free will? Yes. And now I read his autobiography in 2021 and know all of his thoughts and actions. Does Joe Doe still have free will? No, according to atheist argument. My knowledge of Doe's life in minute detail - from my perspective - removes his free will. He was incapable of doing anything else.

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                • #9
                  Thank you. That's some good food for thought!

                  It sorta seems like it involves relativity in some way.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ronson View Post
                    I've seen this discussion before elsewhere. It usually boils down to athiests saying that omniscience and free will aren't compatible, and theists saying they are.
                    I've actually encountered this in Christian preaching. They taught because God is omniscient, we have no free will. I must add a disclaimer that I think the pastor was preaching outside his intellectual capabilities on this topic.
                    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post

                      I've actually encountered this in Christian preaching. They taught because God is omniscient, we have no free will. I must add a disclaimer that I think the pastor was preaching outside his intellectual capabilities on this topic.
                      Maybe he was a Calvinist?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ronson View Post

                        Maybe he was a Calvinist?
                        That day he was. His preaching shifted depending on the current fad.
                        "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                        "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Knowing what someone will do and causing them to do it are two different thing entirely. God knows what you will do because you choose to do it. He doesn't make you do it.

                          Think of the past. You, a mere human know what other humans have done in the past, correct? Do you know what they did because they chose to do it or because you caused them to do it?

                          If you had a time machine and could go back to before they did what you already know what they did, would you knowing it before they did it cause them to do it? Or would they do what you know they did because they choose to do it.

                          If you could go back to November 21, 1964 (the day before JFK was assassinated) you would know that Oswald would shoot Kennedy the next day. Why do you know it? Because that is what Oswald did. Whether you know it in 2021 or go back and know it a day before it happened, your knowledge is dependent on what Oswald freely chose to do. If he chose to shoot JFK's driver instead, then that is what you would know. But he didn't.

                          God's omniscience is like that. Think of it as a knowledge of the past from the point of view of the very far future. He knows what you will do because that is what you will choose to do. If you choose to eat cheeriios for breakfast tomorrow, he will know that. But if you choose to eat a pop tart tomorrow, that is what he will know.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sparko View Post

                            Think of the past. You, a mere human know what other humans have done in the past, correct? Do you know what they did because they chose to do it or because you caused them to do it?




                            It would not be you causing them, but rather the mere existence of that information would necessarily have to agree.

                            Perhaps what we're dealing with here is another quantum function.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                              Knowing what someone will do and causing them to do it are two different thing entirely. God knows what you will do because you choose to do it. He doesn't make you do it.

                              Think of the past. You, a mere human know what other humans have done in the past, correct? Do you know what they did because they chose to do it or because you caused them to do it?

                              If you had a time machine and could go back to before they did what you already know what they did, would you knowing it before they did it cause them to do it? Or would they do what you know they did because they choose to do it.

                              If you could go back to November 21, 1964 (the day before JFK was assassinated) you would know that Oswald would shoot Kennedy the next day. Why do you know it? Because that is what Oswald did. Whether you know it in 2021 or go back and know it a day before it happened, your knowledge is dependent on what Oswald freely chose to do. If he chose to shoot JFK's driver instead, then that is what you would know. But he didn't.

                              God's omniscience is like that. Think of it as a knowledge of the past from the point of view of the very far future. He knows what you will do because that is what you will choose to do. If you choose to eat cheeriios for breakfast tomorrow, he will know that. But if you choose to eat a pop tart tomorrow, that is what he will know.
                              Of course, when you put omniscience and omnipotence together, it gets a little more dicey. Assuming God created a universe that was exactly what he wanted, knowing in advance how everything would turn out, including all of your decisions, it's a little harder to say that he didn't influence (or mandate) your decisions. If he didn't like some decision that you make, he could have created a slightly different universe.

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