Jump to content
SouthernMo

The Nature of Agency

Recommended Posts

35 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

Compatibilism applies not just to causal determinism but also if there are truths about the future (i.e. things akin to foreknowledge). Arguably many of the arguments also apply to randomness - the opposite of determinism.

If God has foreknowledge then the same problem appears and typically accurate knowledge of the future is a part of most Mormon readings of scripture. There are attempts to avoid this. So for instance Blake Ostler argues that God has foreknowledge only of things he can bring about. I think that runs into problems if there's foreknowledge of how Christ was killed for instance since it would imply God brought about crucifixion which seems problematic at best. There's also the question in science (still open) over whether the four dimensional universe is the proper conception of relativity. That is that pass and future are determined at the same time. It gets tricky and there are different ways to conceive of the issue. However an even bigger problem is that if there are multiple creations you have the problem of how God can interact with them all at the same time. That seems to clearly imply faster than light communication which logically requires a block universe and thus compatibilism.

Where open theism attempts to deal with this, I find the arguments against relativity to be extremely weak. Primarily I think people who are disturbed about compatibilism look for any possibility, however strained, to avoid foreknowledge. However I think it's clearly presupposed by scripture and the relativity issue is also deeply problematic for such theology (as is the big bang).

This is my favorite explanation of how God's foreknowledge might allow for free-will without relying on compatibilism, which simply waters down free-will. 

It's short enough that I will just copy and paste the whole article for your convenience:

Quote

 

Modern scripture speaks unequivocally of the foreknowledge of God: "All things are present before mine eyes" (D&C 38:2). It affirms that God has a fulness of truth, a "knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come " (D&C 93:24,emphasis added).

Divine foreknowledge includes the power to know even the thoughts and intents of the human heart: "There is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart" (D&C 6:16). Divine foreknowledge is at least, in part, knowledge of his own purposive plans for the cosmos and for humankind, plans that "cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught" (D&C 3:1). "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18; Abr. 2:8). These include the conditions of the Plan of Salvation. For example, "God did elect or predestinate that all those who would be saved, should be saved in Christ Jesus, and through obedience to the Gospel" (TPJS, p. 189). It is likewise foreknown that all humankind will die, be resurrected, and be brought to judgment.

In scripture, the root terms for divine knowing connote more than a subject-object, cognitive relationship; they imply a close, direct, participative, affective awareness. Divine foreknowledge is the knowledge of a Heavenly Father, not knowledge of a metaphysical abstraction. Scriptures that speak of divine foreknowledge emphasize God's understanding of an experience with his people and their destiny rather than the content and logic of that knowledge. Anyone seeking to understand divine foreknowledge must begin by recognizing that scripture does not directly address the question as it has been formulated in philosophy and theology, where the emphasis is on the content and logic of knowledge. The scriptures are explicit that God knows all and that we can trust him. They have not been explicit about what that means philosophically or theologically. Consequently, short of new revelation, any answer to the theological question of God's foreknowledge can be only speculative.

In an attempt to reconcile divine foreknowledge and human freedom, major Jewish and Christian theologians and philosophers have offered three alternatives. In the first, both horns of the dilemma are affirmed: "Everything is foreseen, and freedom of choice is given." This is the position of Rabbi Akiba and Maimonides (Aboth 3, 19; Yad, Teshuvah 5:5), as well as of Augustine and Anselm (City of God 5.9-10; The Harmony of the Foreknowledge, the Predestination, and the Grace of God with Free Choice 1.3). Maimonides argues that though it is logically impossible for human foreknowledge of one's actions to be compatible with freedom, God's foreknowledge, which is of a different and mysterious kind, is compatible with freedom.

In the second, God's foreknowledge is limited. Since people are free, God knows the possibilities and probabilities of human choice, but not the inevitabilities. God is omniscient in knowing all that can be known; but not in knowing beforehand exactly how people will use their freedom, since that cannot be known because future, contingent events do not exist. This is the view of the Talmudist Gersonides (Levi Ben Gershon, 1288-1344; Milhamot Adonai, III, 6) and, with some modifications, of Charles Hartshorne and process philosophers.

In the third, humans are not genuinely free. Freedom is an illusion that arises from human ignorance of divine cause and necessity. All that individuals do is actually determined and predetermined. God both pre-knows and pre-causes all that occurs. This is the view of Spinoza and Calvin.

Historically, most Latter-day Saints have taken the first general position: everything is foreseen and freedom remains. Some have taken the second, that God's foreknowledge is not absolute. The third alternative, that human freedom is illusory, is incompatible with LDS belief in genuine free agency and responsibility. Praise and blame, accountability and judgment, are meaningless unless humans are free. Any doctrine of foreknowledge that undercuts this principle violates the spirit and letter of LDS scripture.

Consequently divine foreknowledge, however it is finally defined, is not predestination. What God foresees is not, for that reason, divinely caused, even though it is in some sense known (Talmage, p. 317). Divine foreknowledge is the background of foreordination. But, again, foreordination is not pre-causation. Rather, "foreordination is a conditional bestowal of a role, a responsibility, or a blessing which, likewise, foresees but does not fix the outcome" (Maxwell, p. 71).

https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Foreknowledge_of_God

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
11 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

Did anyone see them take the cookies?

I ain't tellin' !  ;)

 

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

...but the way I see it is that they serve no purpose without antimormons.

Isn't that kind of true though?  To defend against critics where there are no critics seems kind of moot.  Likewise, to defend free-will against determinism where there is no determinism is equally moot. 

1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

I kind of see compatibilism as the apologists for free will.

It might defend one version/definition of free-will, but not the version I believe in. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
26 minutes ago, pogi said:

This is my favorite explanation of how God's foreknowledge might allow for free-will without relying on compatibilism, which simply waters down free-will. =

Yeah, I don't buy that. I think Jim in his three choices misses the obvious example of compatibilism. It's not even an option he presents even though among the figures he mentions it was a very live and common option. The Pharisees for instance were compatibilists and the idea was debated at the time even though Pharisee compatibilism was different from Stoic compatibilism which was the dominant position of that era. Jim points to Maimonides statement but he's an incompatibilist proper yet sees God's foreknowledge as mysteriously not applying. Whether that is because he see's God's foreknowledge as middle knowledge or something else isn't entirely clear. (Middle knowledge is more or less the idea that God sees all possibilities that are freely chosen - although its very debatable of whether that works for incompatibilists)

I honestly don't know if Jim advocates open theism or not. He's written elsewhere on archetypes and the idea that foreknowledge is knowledge of repeating patterns and not individual facts. I think that's true since the modern conception of facts, time and individual events really arises after the rise of Christianity and it's merger with Greek thinking. That doesn't mean individual facts aren't entailed by various texts though. Nephi's vision of the future in 1 Nephi 11-14 being the obvious example. Again the interpretation by open theists to Nephi's vision is that it either is prophecies God is able to bring about (such as the gentiles coming to the new world) or is expansions in the 19th century on what were originally much vague prophesies on the plates.

 

 

Edited by clarkgoble
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

William James uses the analogy of God as a master chess player with infinite intelligence, vs we amateur chess players

He knows us inside and out -think of that as the game. In principle his foreknowledge is naturalistic, like a chess master knows his game. Chessmasters cannot actually foretell the future yet they know with near certainty what will happen in any given situation. 

I like the analogy because it places us in some sense as operators within the same realm as God, as members of the same species had yet he of course is infinitely above us and intelligence.

So what we see as foreknowledge is for God no more than understanding the principles of the game with abilities far beyond what we can even imagine.

We still make choices but he anticipates with virtually certain accuracy what they will be.

So like us God's ability lies upon predicting what will happen and then having it happen. that is something like the methodology of science and its ability to predict what will happen.

The difference of course is that God can anticipate our motivations and decisions where science cannot.

Edited by mfbukowski
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Yeah, I don't buy that. I think Jim in his three choices misses the obvious example of compatibilism. It's not even an option he presents even though among the figures he mentions it was a very live and common option. The Pharisees for instance were compatibilists and the idea was debated at the time even though Pharisee compatibilism was different from Stoic compatibilism which was the dominant position of that era. Jim points to Maimonides statement but he's an incompatibilist proper yet sees God's foreknowledge as mysteriously not applying. Whether that is because he see's God's foreknowledge as middle knowledge or something else isn't entirely clear. (Middle knowledge is more or less the idea that God sees all possibilities that are freely chosen - although its very debatable of whether that works for incompatibilists)

I honestly don't know if Jim advocates open theism or not. He's written elsewhere on archetypes and the idea that foreknowledge is knowledge of repeating patterns and not individual facts. I think that's true since the modern conception of facts, time and individual events really arises after the rise of Christianity and it's merger with Greek thinking. That doesn't mean individual facts aren't entailed by various texts though. Nephi's vision of the future in 1 Nephi 11-14 being the obvious example. Again the interpretation by open theists to Nephi's vision is that it either is prophecies God is able to bring about (such as the gentiles coming to the new world) or is expansions in the 19th century on what were originally much vague prophesies on the plates.

My point is that there are other alternatives ways to potentially reconcile foreknowledge without relying on compatibilism, which does not align with my understanding of both foreknowledge and free-will.

Compatibilism is only necessary given the presupposition of a certain kind of foreknowledge, but as Jim points out "the scriptures are explicit that God knows all and that we can trust him. They have not been explicit about what that means philosophically or theologically. Consequently, short of new revelation, any answer to the theological question of God's foreknowledge can be only speculative."

I think there are good alternative explanations of foreknowledge might be that align better with our theological understanding of free-will and which does not require compatibilism to water down free-will into something that most Latter-day saints wouldn't recognize as free-will.  Mark gives one such example above which sounds a lot like what Jim wrote here, 

Quote

Consequently divine foreknowledge, however it is finally defined, is not predestination. What God foresees is not, for that reason, divinely caused, even though it is in some sense known (Talmage, p. 317). Divine foreknowledge is the background of foreordination. But, again, foreordination is not pre-causation. Rather, "foreordination is a conditional bestowal of a role, a responsibility, or a blessing which, likewise, foresees but does not fix the outcome" (Maxwell, p. 71).

Given that understanding of foreknowledge, free-will doesn't need to be defended by watering it down. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
On 1/10/2019 at 3:01 PM, pogi said:

My point is that there are other alternatives ways to potentially reconcile foreknowledge without relying on compatibilism, which does not align with my understanding of both foreknowledge and free-will.

Well the question is whether they work. Blake Ostler has a fairly good discussion of why middle knowledge doesn't work in his first theology volume. The Maimonides method doesn't work since it makes God's knowledge not normal propositional knowledge of the future. (It's not clear if he's asserting middle knowledge, but if he is then it's irrelevant for what Jim is discussing) So what's left is knowledge of God's character or knowledge of plans God can and says he will bring about. The problem with that as I mentioned, are prophecies involving future destructions or prophecies involving particular types of torture.  But of course the open theists make that same argument. Whether it can account for all the purported prophecies though seems the problem and is why not everyone accepts open theism.

On 1/10/2019 at 3:01 PM, pogi said:

Given that understanding of foreknowledge, free-will doesn't need to be defended by watering it down. 

It's worth turning the tables and asking why a particular conception of free will is what's so important to maintain. Blake does have an argument along those lines that's quite interesting. God punishes people. But it's only just to punish if the choices they are punished for are free. Therefore given God punishes we are free. (At least part of the time anyway) The counter argument typically is that God's punishments are actually developmental and not retributive. This position actually goes back to early Christianity and the conceptions of whether hell is punishment and whether there's universal salvation eventually. There was a conception where hell as such is just a process of purifying souls who wouldn't let Christ purify them through his sacrifice. (You can see echoes of that position in places like D&C 19) It's just that the more retributive conception of hell won out, particularly in American history. Given D&C 76, D&C 19 and others it's not entirely clear that judgment is punishment. A very common interpretation is God gives people as much as they are able to accept but that he's constantly trying to develop them. i.e. there's just not the retributive justice Blake Ostler requires for his conception of free will.

I'm fairly agnostic on the whole thing. So I don't really have a position on the free will issue, although I am typically pretty skeptical of the arguments for free will.

Edited by clarkgoble
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

This idea goes back to the argument of Nature verus Nurture, which is a discussion that seems to have no bottom. It is true that the circumstances that you are born into and many circumstances that come after, you have no control over. Some of these may be natural from merely existing where you are, when you are, or a byproduct of existing itself. And others may be the “flaws” or “weaknesses” that you are “given” before this life. An example of those, say my family has 5 generations of Alcoholism, then I too will most likely be prone to Alcoholism. This weakness is given to me by birth within this family.

 

It is difficult to say how much choice/agency/free-will you have in a specific moment of a specific scenario. Whether I choose red or blue.

 

I do feel there is a strong argument for “Angecy” if one thinks of it in terms of “sacrifice for the future.” The more you are willing to sacrifice for a future goal, the more your agency has an affect on your life. An example, If one sacrifices their time and youth in school or a specific craft, they choose to limit their Free-Will now to increase the opportunities of Free-Will for the future person. Things such as money, status, influence, knowledge, sexual market value, and so on can be increased this way. This can be applied to any goal a person feels is worth aiming for. Such benefits and opportunities can be decreased if a person does not choose to limit their Free-Will. Instead the sacrifice is placed upon the future person. The future options are more limited or even unavailable (sacrificed) because no effort (no sacrifice) was made by the person in their past.

 

The idea of Free-Will I am presenting is less about “Do I want blue or red right now?” and more about “Do I want to be able to choose blue, red, green, yellow, and purple in the future?” 

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×