Wow, well written and a very difficult opening post for me to respond to, I must say. You clearly are well versed on the various philosophies which exist on this subject. I'm more of a layman.
Well, as I said in my PM, I am studying Philosophy for A-Level, and we spent 3 months covering the argument. This is good revision for my exam
I believe that God is all knowing, that we have free will within certain parameters, and that our actions are not strictly pre-determined but are instead influenced by the world around us and by past events.
Okay. Influence needs clearing up, I’ll address this below.
It is impossible to imagine an event with no cause at all. Every event has a reason >snip< "The cause of the collision was speed" and "speed was the reason for the accident".
Indeed. You have this pegged. There is a large difference between reason and cause.
and this is where our views start to head in different directions because I cannot make the leap from 'influenced' to 'determined' when it comes to our actions, or use the words interchangeably as I can for 'cause' and 'reason'. Constant real world experience hammers home to me that I have the final say in what I do, regardless of how few possibilities I have and regardless of the process whereby those possibilities arose.
You need to clarify the definition of influence and causation in your mind. Influence is when an event causes you to process something. Personal causation, i.e. action by a person, is when external influences combine and cause something to be done by us. In terms of determination, our influences cause us to act. Influences are all events, and the events all are sensed by our eyes, nose, mouth, touch and ears, then sent to the brain, which then processes them and we make a conscious decision based on those external influence. The influences are still events that cause other events. What we need to talk about is how that pertains to the idea of free will.
For example, I am a composer of music. I could not compose music if I had not learnt music by experience before, and it is clear to see that my composition contain influences from other musicians, who in turn developed their styles from musicians before them. This chain goes on pretty much unbreakingly in a ‘causal chain’. Yes, I am influenced by things, but if I wasn't influenced by anything then I would never do anything.
Also, I don’t have a say in whether I write the music in one way or another, I was always going to write it in one way. This is because I had the previous influences/events which caused me to write. I feel like I do have free will. However, feeling like having free will is not free will, it is ignorance of the full determined events, because as I said, nobody can know the ‘full picture’ as it were.
Wouldn't you agree that we're both participating in this debate voluntarily?
Yes. I am participating voluntarily. I feel as if I am doing it of my own accord, but in reality, a series of events in my life caused me to enjoy debating, and to end up on here and talking to you at the same time.
I know I am. We were influenced by several factors, no doubt, and largely these are completely out of our control. We can't control the fact that we both enjoy debating, for instance. But we can control whether or not we indulge that desire. We determine what we do.
Hang on Miles, there's another level of causation here. On controlling desires, we need to look at the FOD's and SOD's. This was an argument proposed by Harry Frankfurt. He said that Humans have free will because we possess the ability to reflect on our actions.
Imagine you are hungry, and crave chocolate cake. Simple situation. You can reflect on your urge and decide to eat or not. This is what you are saying about indulging desire.
However, PSYCHOLOGICAL DETERMINISM rears its head here. Say you decide not to eat the chocolate cake because you are worried about getting fat. If we look at the reason behind that, it is that in the past for example you've seen fat people, or read the calorie count or you have been influenced in the past to not want to eat the cake because it is fattening.
Here we can see how even what we think is free is actually just more previous external influences or events leading up to a decision. Again, free will is an illusion. But that is satisfactory because we can never comprehend in an instant about why we are making that decision, as it involves too many factors for the most advanced supercomputer (even an atom 15bn light years away could have influenced what you are doing now...). Mind blowing stuff
I assume by this you don't mean that we can't predict what will be the consequence of certain actions...(cause and effect), but rather that we can't predict things like exactly when Joe Crazy might open fire in a shopping centre. You'll correct me if I'm wrong no doubt.
I think that we have the illusion of free will, because we can never predict what happens next, so things always seem to be free. In reality, all of our choices are determined by the past, and there is no room for 'free will' from God.
Sort of. We can predict simple things by the external factors we can measure. Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? Imagine going back in time and killing a butterfly 5,000,000 years ago. This would so severely disrupt the causal chain from then that it would be impossible to figure out what might have been if you had not killed the butterfly. That may have spawned offspring that fed things and something may have starved preventing the birth of something important... Just try and imagine the complexity of 5,000,000 years worth of causality.
Now picture that on a universal scale. It is literally impossible to know the location of every single particle in the universe. Therefore, it is impossible to predict the future state of the universe unless you know every single variable, i.e. every single atom. This is why we can only make limited predictions about things like the weather, and why even with our advanced technology we can still get it wrong.
The variables leading up to a massacre in a shopping centre would include the determination of every single person in that shopping centre being influenced by other events to be there at the time, and a psychological map of the killer for his entire existence. As you can see, it is literally impossible...
I am proposing here, that God cannot have given us free will, as to have free will would be to influence the causal chain uncausally, which is something that cannot be done on a super-atomic scale.
Well, as much as I like that idea on some levels I tend to be stymied by the fact that every day I choose to do things. Even if I am reduced in my capacity by natural laws ( I cannot fly if I want to ), and circumstances played out in history ( I was a Preachers Kid whether I wanted to be or not - I didn't ), I still have one hell of a wide variety of choices that I can make each and every day.
I expect that to some degree this debate might rest on what precisely we consider free will to mean. I tend to see it as the distinction between doing things voluntarily or involuntarily.
Thing is, there is no such thing as voluntary and involuntary if you look at the universe logically. We have the illusion of free will (and that is great!) but in reality, because of the past points I've made, it is all predetermined. However, the free element of that is that we don't know and cannot know how it is all determined. That is the only bit of freedom we have. It's essentially turning a blind eye to the fact it's all determined.
Some more on God being all knowing, then. I have only quite recently come to believe that the bible does not necessarily support the widely held view that God knows every detail of our lives in advance. ( in fact, so recently that what follows may even contradict opinions I have given on this forum). I'd also like to qualify this by stating that I'm probably not yet still 100% convinced of this. But the more I think about it, the more its getting that way.
God is not all knowing, all of the divine attributes are human made lies. We have assigned what we think God to be as a perfect being the attributes we
think are perfect. This is not perfection at all, because we are imperfect. As the traditional Christian argument goes, we are imperfect and cannot know perfection or the mind of God. We attributed him the powers he supposedly has, omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omniscience... These are things we think are perfect, yet they may not actually be perfect, for we cannot know perfection. To do with God predestining our lives, he cannot. It is an inconsistency with omniscience and the problem of evil.
If God knows bad things are going to happen to us, then he cannot interfere through free will. Therefore he is redundant and not worthy of worship. If God caused the first cause, then he cannot have done anything else, and there is no point in asking him to do things as he cannot interfere.
Basically, God cannot interfere in our lives, because it messes with his own existence. Therefore, free will can only exist independently from God. And because of the argument from determinism, free will is an illusion. A good illusion, but still an illusion.
I think God has full control and full knowledge in the sense that he chose, through His wisdom, to create a world and inhabit it with humans who had free will. However, he does not know for sure in advance what we will do with that. He's still all knowing, because he knows what there definitely is to know. What someone does in the future isn't yet there to know. I think God probably has a very good idea of what we'll do, given that He can see our hearts.
Well put, but again it doesn't make any difference to whether we have free will or not. God cannot interfere with our free will, and as a result he really cannot interfere in our lives due to causality. Linking to the butterfly effect again, if he interferes, he starts a new causal chain that would have massive effects on everyone's lives.
I could link in to an essay which says this better than me, but I want to use my own words and ideas as much as possible.
I'm impressed magicmiles, you have presented your thoughts pretty well. I've been studying the issue of free will and determinism for a few months now as part of my exams and it is a lot of banging heads against brick walls. (yes screwtape, I read your post
) however, this is mainly to show that determinism is a better explanation for actions than God-given free will.
Thats all I have for now.
Looking forward to your reply.