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Free will

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William of Ockham wrote about free will

Free will is the ability to choose future alternatives. It is a philosophical term that refers to "a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives" and is closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility.[1] Free will is contrasted by determinism. Determinism can be both naturalistic and theistic; with naturalistic determinism the belief that purely genetic, physiological factors are at work in man, and thus alleging we are the products of our environments/circumstances, and theistic determinism (e.g. predestination) stating that God decides beforehand what a person's life and choices will be.[2][3]

The logic of free will has two main parts, the agency which does the choosing, and the alternatives which are chosen. These two parts are wholly different from each other, the agency is called spiritual, what is chosen is called material. Together with these dual substances come dual ways of reaching a conclusion, subjectivity and objectivity. You have to choose to identify what is in the spiritual domain, resulting in opinions (subjectivity). You have to measure to find out what is in the material domain, resulting in facts (objectivity). [4]

Philosophically, free will is the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces. This topic is frequently discussed in biblical circles, scientific arguments and concepts to apologetics and even the very formation of the world and how life came to be. The choice of free will has been tossed around philosophically as inconsistent and contrary to God himself. However, biblical scholars insist the choice of free will not only exists but was instituted in us by God’s grace. Philosophy neither proves or disproves this topic, though it has been debated for many years. Philosophers are still trying to figure out the meaning of this topic and debate. Free Will has been determined in this way: " A capacity to have done otherwise." Now, exactly what that means is open to interpretation but before getting into that, think about what exactly it is being stated/debated. If a group of people were gathered and asked what exactly they thought free will was, it is unlikely they would even know where to begin. Free Will is a concept all people think they know until asked to give a response about what it is. People argue tirelessly regarding the problem, but only because they do not like whatever the answer provided is. So what is the problem with Free Will?

Morality

Main Article: Morality

Morality is a system of conduct concerned with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior"). The system of conduct can be referred to as ethics, which is defined as "The science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science."[5] The word is rooted in the ancient Greek term ἦθος, ēthos which meant "moral character" or "nature".

The biblical creationist worldview holds to the concept of natural law, that is, morality is absolute, because what is moral is established by the nature of God. This morality informs reasoning of good and evil. Accordingly, mankind being made in the image of God humanity has the law "written in their hearts".[6] Having it written on our hearts means that even atheists can know what is moral. The distinction highlighted within Christian philosophy when confronted by natural relativistic theories of morality presented by evolution is not necessarily how to know what is moral, called epistemology, as it is written in the heart of humanity. Rather what is approached is why objective moral values and duties exist at all and what a person ought to do about them, which would be considered ontological or metaphysical. Actions are not good or bad because of their effectiveness at permitting reproduction. Rather, they are absolutely and objectively right or wrong.

Types of Will

The philosophical debate over individual free will has developed into two rival schools of thought which are essentially metaphysical determinism and metaphysical libertarianism.[7]

Determinism

Determinism is the view that the past somehow will determine what happens in the future. Events have predetermined every action a person will take before they were even born. There is a physical event that happened in the past that made you act. The concept and status of free will is that of an illusion according to adherents of determinism. According to most contemporary philosophers determinism is, "contingently true" and empirically derived rather than a priori (See: Metaphysics).

We tend to agree with most contemporary philosophers on these matters (that if determinism is true then it is contingently true, and that whether determinism is true is an empirical matter), but we will not argue for these claims here.[8]
Determinism in a nutshell

Determinists believe that no action we make is entirely free. Everything that has happened before and that is happening now is dictated by an unbreakable chain of events. Most Determinists believe in a motion called Reductionism. Reductionism states that "the practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of phenomena that are held to represent a simpler or more fundamental level, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation." The Physical world is deterministic. When a baseball bat cracks against a baseball, the baseball will fly through the air. Most people think that they are free to choose to hit said baseball or not but that is also deterministic, not liberty. [9] Choosing to hit a baseball or not is a mental state, which is tied to brain states. Brain states are biological states which make the state physical, which has already been said; the physical world is deterministic. Also, from a scientific standpoint, why would we assume that we were free anyway? Why would we determine that we are any different than any other thing in the entire universe? Admittedly, determinists can not pinpoint the exact link between cause, action, temperament, and desire, but they can isolate them. If someone knew enough about the five factors, cause, action, temperament, and desire, they would be able to know enough about what is happening inside the brain to give a physical answer. People can "choose" to behave a certain way, but the choice would still be determined. A person could make a choice to be happy or sad in order to fir their "character" but it would still be determined and not a free option. Any way you choose to act has already been determined by a past event that make up you and who you are or claim to be. [10]

Incompatibilism and Compatibilism

Incompatibilism states that free will and determinism are incompatible categories. Many Christians and therefore creationists are considered incompatibilists. On the other hand compatibilism is the notion of acting freely (i.e. with moral freedom) even if the actions were determined by previous conditions, including conditions a million years ago. Essentially, this view is saying that free will is compatible with determinism.

Libertarian Free Will (Moral Freedom)

In the libertarian view, there is no outside determining factor that is both controlling of, and unrelated to, the will of the person. Within libertarian free will the source of a human act of the will is known as the 'agent'. Therefore the cause of things is agent causation rather than deterministic causation. This is reflective of the nature of God, or of the image of God in which mankind was created. God is a metaphysically libertarian being. That is, His acts are not determined by some previous cause but rather God is acting solely by His own necessary nature. Humanity, while not classified as a necessary being like God, still acts freely, even though there are external influences that could cause particular actions. Ultimately however, the decision itself to act, and the physical movement of the moral or immoral action, are all controlled and based within the rational mind of a human agent exercising libertarian free will.

Sometimes the agent is said to be a “prime mover unmoved,” meaning one who causes without being caused to do so.[11]

Arguments Used For and Against

For Free Will

This picture gives an overview of the free will topic

Free Will is a complex subject and as stated before, is widely debated. Though some philosophers doubt the existence of the entity entirely. Sam Harris, a Determinist against the existence of free will says this: "Free will is an illusion." Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them." [12] Determinists determine that since we are unable to pick our genes, past, and who we are, basically stating that a person is only free if we get to choose those things. No one has proven or will prove that the every-day choices we make are the result of past events and traumas. Obviously, if you were hit by a car you would be more paranoid when checking both ways before crossing the street, but stopping to tie your shoe 6 years ago would not determine you to choose oatmeal over a bagel today. [13] Because that is not what free will is about or what it means. Free will tells us that we have the choice in who we follow, who we let guide our life, and who we choose to respect. Choosing between apple flavored gum and mango flavored gum is not free will and not what God instated in us to have. We cannot choose not to breathe or we die. However, we can choose how we breathe. We can breathe quickly, slowly, staggered or not at all. There are no reasons that motivate certain actions, but that we are free to choose what our mind focuses on.

Against Free Will

How Free Will is an illusion

" Christianity would be helpless without the idea of Free Will, and Free Will would be helpless without incongruity" -Kedar Joshi. Free will is one of the bedrock claims of Christianity. Spiritually speaking, people have the right to choose their own way based on morals, impulses, and desires. [14] Christianity itself is the choice to freely love, worship, follow, and devote themselves to God. If Free Will does not exist, that would mean our salvation is not up to us. If we can not truly choose Jesus Christ, our salvation rests in his hands, not our own, and we would be helpless and powerless to change our fates. The problem is if the vast majority of people are going to hell, then that means God meant to send them to hell to be tortured for all eternity; which is overwhelmingly cruel. This would also say God is responsible for all evil in humanity. Though most people will say the words " I choose to believe in _____", you can not simply just believe in it. You cannot just out of nowhere believe that alligators are holding the world up by their tails, go ahead and try. You cannot, you would need some form of proof to support such an absurd claim. People can not also choose to love someone. If someone were to picture someone they found physically and emotionally unattractive, simply believing they were deeply in love with them is impossible. Same goes for the belief of God or another chosen deity. Even the "choice" to do good or evil is polluted by certain instincts. A mother could choose to toss her baby into the sea but it goes against the motherly instinct to protect their child. Often times, the "right" choice is the choice common sense points to. The argument that God gave us free will as a gift is unsettling, to say the least. If he had not the world would be in absolute chaos so why is it something to brag about that we have the common sense not to perform heinous deeds? [15]

Biblical interpretation

The biblical doctrine outlined in the book of Genesis, during the creation of the world captures the source of metaphysical libertarianism. The original parents of mankind, Adam and Eve as real historical persons, made the first human choice. This was a choice between the will of God, which they were influenced by since their creation, and their own will influenced by Satan. Both original and separate influences offered distinct choices that humans decide to follow based on the experience filtered through their sensory system which was analyzed by logic within their minds to make the body produce an act of the will. The libertarian free will exercised by Adam and Eve severed the covenant with God by acting outside of His will. This act of free will had the consequence of a generational curse upon the rest of mankind, fundamentally altering life as they (Adam and Eve) knew it because of their sin. This original sin against the will and therefore nature of God physically and spiritually had a sort of epigenetic affect on all of biology, introducing death and the struggle and survival that comes with it.[16]

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" 2The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" 4The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:1-6

However logically valid an expression of emptiness may be, that does not mean that such an expression is morally good. In creationist theory the universe starts with a free act, and ends with a final free act. The morality of any individual choice is often portrayed in relation to these choices of original creation and final judgement. In creationism morality is about the spiritual content of the choice, and is focused more on the way in which a choice is made, then on the result of a choice.

Video

This video explains the Free Will problem, why it exists, and why it is challenged.

References

  1. O'Connor, Timothy (2010, October 29). "Free Will." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab. Stanford University.
  2. Geisler, Norman. "Determinism." The Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (ISBN 0-8010-2151-0).
  3. Geisler, Norman (1999). "Free Will." Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Books.
  4. William of Ockham, http://www.philosophos.com/philosophical_connections/profile_050.html#ocksec2 , quote: "we can have no knowledge of an immaterial soul; nor can we prove its existence philosophically. Instead we must rely on revealed truth and faith"
  5. Webster 1913 Dictionary edited by Patrick J. Cassidy.
  6. Romans 2:14-15
  7. Free Will By Wikipedia
  8. John W. Carroll and Ned Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Cambridge University Press 2010), pg. 51
  9. McLeod Saul. Saul Mcleod The Great Debate. Web. Published May 2013.
  10. Ram. Ram Determinism Vs Free Will '. Web. Last Modified 14, December 2013.
  11. John W. Carroll and Ned Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Cambridge University Press 2010), pg. 71
  12. Harris, Sam. Sam Harris The Information Philosopher. Web. Written April, 1967.
  13. Krueger, Joachim. Joachim Krueger Five Arguments For Free Will. Web. Posted 11 March, 2018.
  14. Cave, Stephen. Stephen Cave Free Will exists and is measurable. Web. Posted 10 June, 2016.
  15. Hewett C W M. C W M Hewett The Great Debate. Web. Posted July 2006.
  16. Epigenetics Offers New Solution to Some Long-Standing Theological Problems: Inherited Sin, Christ’s Sinlessness, and Generational Curses Can be Explained By Norman L. Geisler, 2010