Free Will

  • Thread starter DrWatson
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  • #1
DrWatson
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If there is an omnipotent god, how can we have free will? An omnipotent being would know the future, therefore the future would be set down, and we could not make decisions for ourselves.
 

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  • #2
turbo
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I there was an omnipotent deity, would not that deity have the power to ignore the future and take whatever results from our expression of free will?
 
  • #3
DrMoreau
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Or, the deity could see all possible futures, and people would go through whatever future they choose.
 
  • #4
turbo
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Or, the deity could see all possible futures, and people would go through whatever future they choose.
Another equally valid possibility.
 
  • #5
raolduke
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The point is.. Is that we don't know.

There are 2 possible outcomes when you talk about a divine being's judgement in several faiths - Salvation or damnation. Every decision that we make from the time we are born to the time we die determines where we are placed.

When you go to a store you can easily steal something you were planning on paying for by accidentally putting it in your pocket.. It is your decision whether not you will return to the store and pay for the item or not. An occasion of ignorance, an example of free will?
 
  • #6
AsianSensationK
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If there is an omnipotent god, how can we have free will? An omnipotent being would know the future, therefore the future would be set down, and we could not make decisions for ourselves.
How would that be possible? Would this omnipotent being also be thinking for you and performing all of your actions?
 
  • #7
Burnsys
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You don't have to be a god to know in advance the future decisions of other people.
If you know enought from one people you can know what decisions he will make.
 
  • #8
Nesag
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The deity would know what you're going to do, but he did not make you do it.
 
  • #9
arunma
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If there is an omnipotent god, how can we have free will? An omnipotent being would know the future, therefore the future would be set down, and we could not make decisions for ourselves.

Well I believe in an omnipotent God and I don't believe in free will, so I have no problem with your conclusion. Seems plausible to me that any omnipotent deity might predetermine his subjects' actions.
 
  • #10
JoeDawg
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If there is an omnipotent god, how can we have free will? An omnipotent being would know the future, therefore the future would be set down, and we could not make decisions for ourselves.

Actually an omniscient, all knowing, being would know the future, an omnipotent being is just 'all powerful', so they might or not choose to use their power to know any particular thing.

In terms of freewill though, the important thing is omnipotent, but not because of knowing things. If you tell me you're going to kill someone, assuming you're not lieing and you're capable, I know you're going to do it, so I'm in the same position as an omniscient god, with respect to that one thing at least. Doesn't mean I'm making the choice for you. I may simply not care. I know lots of things I never had any choice in. 'Future knowledge' is still just knowledge. For an omniscient god, its all 'past'.

Now, omnipotent, does create a problem for freewill. An 'all powerful' god, whether it uses its power or not, can make you do anything it wants. So even if its refraining from forcing you to do something, that still leaves the choice of an action.... all up to it. You might choose to kill someone, but if an omnipotent god doesn't want you to, it still has the final say. You don't really have a choice in any real sense.
 
  • #11
DrMoreau
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Omnipotence

This is all implying that omnipotence is possible in the sense of knowing the future without any doubt. To forsee the future, you would need to know the exact position and velocity of every particle in the universe, which, according to quantum mechanics, is impossible, as it violates the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
 
  • #12
JoeDawg
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This is all implying that omnipotence is possible in the sense of knowing the future without any doubt. To forsee the future, you would need to know the exact position and velocity of every particle in the universe, which, according to quantum mechanics, is impossible, as it violates the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

While I agree omnipotence is nonsensical, being bound by physical laws is exactly what an omnipotent being wouldn't be. The being could simply change the physical law or magically get around it. And an omniscient being wouldn't need to 'observe' anything, by definition they would already know it.
 
  • #13
jiohdi
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there was an article in Scientific American years ago about why no one, not even a god could know the actual future. It had to do with the need to sample data in order to become aware of it and anything less than an infinite sample, which is impossible, will introduce data gaps which exponentially increase and very quickly obscure whatever projections you might make about the future.
 
  • #14
JoeDawg
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which is impossible
Omnipotent means 'all powerful', and yes thats nonsensical from a science/logic point of view, but it also, by definition, means nothing is impossible for such a being, assuming one believes in an omnipotent being.
 
  • #15
bassplayer142
432
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Another equally valid possibility.

The point is.. Is that we don't know.

There are 2 possible outcomes when you talk about a divine being's judgement in several faiths - Salvation or damnation. Every decision that we make from the time we are born to the time we die determines where we are placed.

When you go to a store you can easily steal something you were planning on paying for by accidentally putting it in your pocket.. It is your decision whether not you will return to the store and pay for the item or not. An occasion of ignorance, an example of free will?


Yes but if god controlled our fate wouldn't you notice if someone is a good person throughout life then he all of a sudden robs a bank. That is unless this omnipotent dude doesn't mess with people.:smile:
 
  • #16
I like this one.

I'll assume that when you say omnipotent you mean omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. And, assuming that this god has foreknowledge (neat word, sorry) of a persons actions. It doesn't follow that the person did not have free will with their actions.

Consider free will without this god. If you believe in fundamental and static laws for this universe then it is reasonable that there is a predetermined outcome for everything. This situation isn't much different from one with an omniscient god, except that this god knows your choices your choices before you; they were inevitable anyway.

Like JoeDawg said, you only really lose your free will when this being uses its power to force certain choices onto you. Sorry, I know this has all been said, but I wanted to state my solution in my words.
 
  • #17
jiohdi
38
0
I'll assume that when you say omnipotent you mean omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. And, assuming that this god has foreknowledge (neat word, sorry) of a persons actions. It doesn't follow that the person did not have free will with their actions.

Consider free will without this god. If you believe in fundamental and static laws for this universe then it is reasonable that there is a predetermined outcome for everything. This situation isn't much different from one with an omniscient god, except that this god knows your choices your choices before you; they were inevitable anyway.

Like JoeDawg said, you only really lose your free will when this being uses its power to force certain choices onto you. Sorry, I know this has all been said, but I wanted to state my solution in my words.

if this god is also the creator, then you lose your freewill because it was his ultimate and knowing choice, presuming he had freedom, that made the entire universe presumably fit his desires and so your actions were all determined by this one act. The flaw I see in this scenerio is that this being seems to be a slave of its own omniscience and never had any choice in what it had to do because it always had to do it.
 
  • #18
JoeDawg
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The flaw I see in this scenerio is that this being seems to be a slave of its own omniscience and never had any choice in what it had to do because it always had to do it.

The way christian theologians usually get around this is by saying that god is 'eternal', or as they say, outside of time. This actually makes sense with regards to physics, since time doesn't really exist 'before' a big bang, time is an aspect of the 'created' universe. Also within this type of logic, the entire history of the universe, the universe itself, is just a 'moment', an object for consideration by this god. Of course the problem with words like omniscience and eternal is that they describe things we have no real relation to, let alone any sort of proof of.
 
  • #19
CAbbott
3
0
if this god is also the creator, then you lose your freewill because it was his ultimate and knowing choice, presuming he had freedom, that made the entire universe presumably fit his desires and so your actions were all determined by this one act. The flaw I see in this scenerio is that this being seems to be a slave of its own omniscience and never had any choice in what it had to do because it always had to do it.

What would omnipotence even want? What would it lack? What form would awareness take in the realm of omnipotence?

Seems to me that only the less than omnimpotent would be cursed with such things as desire. Human life seems to be nothing but desire. It seems to control everything human beings do and believe.
 
  • #20
scarfox
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there was an article in Scientific American years ago about why no one, not even a god could know the actual future. It had to do with the need to sample data in order to become aware of it and anything less than an infinite sample, which is impossible, will introduce data gaps which exponentially increase and very quickly obscure whatever projections you might make about the future.


That is what I always thought, like you would have to sample a poor damn baby from it's birth, watch all its movements, patterns, brain waves... its just not going to happen consciousness wont let it. In the end, I think theres something besides free will or determinism. A third theorem which is a tad more complex.
 
  • #21
Schrodinger's Dog
817
6
Ah the classic omniscience and free will debate.

The fact is if you look at free will in a broad sense, and God knows everything from the beginning of time to the end, then any action you take is predetermined, God knows your action from now until you die.

Now you may believe that every action you take is a matter of choice, but let's set up an argument.

I have a choice: to either eat cheese sandwiches or ham sandwiches, ie I have at least two possible choices and two possible outcomes, and I chose ham, now God knew I would choose ham so the only possible outcome was ham, so in fact although I was convinced I had a choice there was only one possible outcome. Choice by it's nature means that we should have a range of outcomes, in the omniscient sense of this we don't.

This is only an illusion of free will, it is not a choice, in other words: the illusion of free will is so complete it might as well be true, but in fact might it? Or are we just in a cage of self delusion?

There are two arguments to argue this age old issue:- http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/" [Broken] that try to resolve it either way.

There is no answer, what you can be sure of though that the paradox of God's omniscience and choice has been in existence since the latter half of the first millenium AD amongst theologians both Jewish and Muslim, and no one has come up with a satisfiable answer unless it removes the absolute omniscience ie it says God knows the ultimate future but is hazy on the details in between, so God is in some way not omniscient as we understand it, and as in fact it was understood in the OT. Why give the Earth one hundred years to change or perish in a flood, when God already knows you will fail, it's kind of cruel :smile: it's like dangling a carrot on a string in front of a donkey.

This idea of a God who was not totally omniscient changed with the advent of organised religion and lead to an ever widening chasm the Church has dug itself into; now we can't get into a discussion about which church was right the ancient Jewish one or the new Christian one. But we can scratch our heads and claim that they have shot themselves in the foot these days. :smile:
 
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  • #22
Hell_SD
35
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If i were religious I'd go with, god is omniscient ie can calculate all possibilites but uses free will to deny himself knowledge of any specific outcome unless he so chooses.

Adam and Eve as a parable for free will kinda proves that. God set up a test, knew what the possible outcomes would be and left it to us to exercise free will.

As mentioned in another thread though The multiverse with branching timelines for each choice and its opposite makes a stronger case for free will. For if both choices enacted lead to different outcomes in differing universi then we are free to choose either and although the result is known, it is not known which choice we will make.
 
  • #23
Nesag
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If God knows the possibilities but not the outcome, then he is not really omniscient is he?
 
  • #24
Nick666
168
7
If a conscious mind can think about all of this, isnt it an omnipotent being? Or isnt it an omnipotent mind? If we have an omnipotent mind/imagination, what is there left for god to have?
 
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  • #25
Hell_SD
35
0
If God knows the possibilities but not the outcome, then he is not really omniscient is he?

...yes, if he knows the possibilities and chooses not to know the outcome as per adam eve and the fruit ???
 
  • #26
Binah
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Found this quite interesting.
http://kbb1.com/subliminal.htm [Broken]
There are two videos that kind of support each other.
I think the experiment was really tricky. Was it kind of hypnosis?
Or environment is really that powerful? Is there free will?

---

"All the changes are only in the perceivers." - Baruch Ashlag http://www.kabbalah.info
 
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  • #27
DaveC426913
Gold Member
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This is all implying that omnipotence is possible in the sense of knowing the future without any doubt. To forsee the future, you would need to know the exact position and velocity of every particle in the universe, which, according to quantum mechanics, is impossible, as it violates the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
No, you're talking about predicting the future. An omniscient being is able to be in the future even while being in the present. He could simply observe future events without knowing (or - being omniscient - at least without caring) about individual atoms.
 
  • #28
JoeDawg
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No, you're talking about predicting the future. An omniscient being is able to be in the future even while being in the present. He could simply observe future events without knowing (or - being omniscient - at least without caring) about individual atoms.

Actually an omniscient being is generally attributed with being 'outside of time', and looking in, at the whole of time, all at once.
 
  • #29
turbo
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It might be a good time to consider free choice on the part of the omniscient entity. Is the omniscience intrinsic (can be selectively invoked by the entity, thus preserving some degree of free will), or is it total omniscience, implying no free will for the entity and predestination for all creatures?
 
  • #30
...yes, if he knows the possibilities and chooses not to know the outcome as per adam eve and the fruit ???
Any god that "chooses" not to know something, then during the time internal of the choice, that god is not "all knowing"--it is trivial that such a god "wills not to know"--the fact is it does not know at all time intervals between any two moments.
 
  • #31
rewebster
843
2
If you 'think' you have 'free will' , then you're one step ahead of being used and abused (avoidence of fear).
 
  • #32
setAI
472
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the greatest understanding about consciousness that Marvin Minsky discovered was identifying and defining 'free will' as merely 'ignorance of one’s own thought process'

it is a eureka! moment- consider that when a conscious agent makes a 'choice' they feel like they are deciding with a Will what to do next- however an examination of what is really going on reveals that a 'choice' is a set of essentially deterministic neural interactions that take place unconsciously- once the jumble of 'choices' are resolved into a 'decision' THAT is when the consciousness begins to be aware that it is 'making a choice' about something- however this is entirely an involuntary process guided by the rules of neurochemistry that the consciousness merely witnesses the end-result which only feels as if a choice is being made-

Apprentice: I'm afraid that I have to agree with you. If they have consciousness at all, it seems too shallow to be of much use. But what could have made them evolve that way?

Surveyor: It is because of how they started out. To make up for the slow speed of their neurons, their brains evolved to use parallel distributed processing. In other words, most of their decisions are made by adding up the outputs of thousands of brain cells - and most brain cells are involved in thousands of different types of decisions.

Apprentice: So each operation is distributed over many brain cells? I suppose that helps them keep going when some of the brain cells fail to work.

Surveyor: That's the good news. The bad news is that the trillions of synapses involved in this make it almost impossible for the other parts of their brain to figure out how those decisions are made. So far as their higher level reasoning can tell, those decisions just happen - without any cause.

Apprentice: Is that what they refer as "freedom of will?"

Surveyor: Precisely. It means not knowing what your reasons are.
 
  • #33
Quatl
33
0
If there is an omnipotent god, how can we have free will? An omnipotent being would know the future, therefore the future would be set down, and we could not make decisions for ourselves.

I think that there are two very different ideas that are usually grouped into Free Will, that don't really belong together. This results in apparent paradoxes like the one you're asking about.

One idea is freedom of choice, and the other is freedom of outcomes. It is not inconsistent to have the former and not the later. Ultimately I think that freedom of choice requires (I could also say creates) a lack of freedom of outcome.

An agent looking at it's situation and deciding on a specific course of action is deterministic in the sense that it will make the same judgment with the same data. The outcome for that set of cases can be said to be predetermined just as an aspect of the system as a whole. In this sense "non-deterministic Free Will" is a concept which doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

To rephrase that: Free Will like systems can never have freedom of outcomes, because by their nature they make choices based on information that they have available. Having perfect information doesn't change this.

I think that the concept of free will that is implied in your question (and many others) is not internally consistent. In the normal realm in which Free Will is assumed to exist, this refinement of meaning has no negative effects that I can see.
 
  • #34
Moridin
688
3
The metaphysical free will does not exist, but one can do things voluntarily. Your subconscious starts acting before you conscious know what is happening. If you had the same genetic and environmental influences as any given mass murderer, you would have done the same thing. The key is to understand causality.
 
  • #35
JoeDawg
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The metaphysical free will does not exist, but one can do things voluntarily. Your subconscious starts acting before you conscious know what is happening. If you had the same genetic and environmental influences as any given mass murderer, you would have done the same thing. The key is to understand causality.

Freewill is all about being able to do something you want to do. When you have competing choices, based on your tendencies, you are going to choose a certain course in a certain circumstance, but the question is, could someone of a different tendency, but the same ability, in the same circumstance, choose a different path. If so, you have freewill. People get confused when they start thinking about someone's ability to choose what they 'wouldn't normally', just for the sake of making an alternate choice. Then you just get into a recursive loop of 'if I don't want to make a choice I would normally make... but knowing what I would normally do...' There really is no normal standard, because each choice is a sum of all that went before, including the recursive nonsense, regardless the choice gets made.

Whether someone, god or other, knows you are going to make a certain choice, really has no bearing on it, unless they are forcing either a tendency on you (which an omnipotent god would be doing) or forcing the actual course of action on you, either coercively or by physical force.
 

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