So it would appear that I’m only capable of concerted philosophical reflection once a week, as the other times this past week I’ve attempted to sit down to this I’ve either bogged myself down in wandering-thought-thread-tangle, almost immediately gotten too tired (physically) to continue, or hey, even both! Then there’s also the fact that I’m addicted to IM and even, occasionally, the fact that I’m a student, and studentish things crop up. But anyway… many apologies for taking so long to reply! (And for the length. Believe it or not I looked back to try and trim... and just ended up adding here and there.
So much for that.
I’m afraid I’m really only going to get to TFBW’s first post in reply to mine. This is mostly because the discussion following seemed to branch off into implication of these points about time and free will, and I’m still working through kinks in understanding them and how they might work. I also think those points were mostly covered – I found things I would’ve worded differently, but in the end I think the concepts would’ve been the same. And then of course there’s the fact that if I tried to go into anything more… the resulting post would be even more ridiculously long than it is, and just might take another week to finish.
Most of what follows may amount to a translation of what’s already been said into whatever language my mind speaks, since it really doesn’t have what you call “mathematical intuition” (good term, actually). And really, I know I understand something when I can put it into my own words. There may be some elaboration of things, though, too.
In any case, those misunderstandings are just a sideshow. What's being missed is that free will and determinism can be compatible. Assume that the future is, in fact, "already determined" in some sense. This is logical fatalism: the simple tautology that "whatever will be will be". The important question is "how does it become what it will be?" What we really want to know is whether the future is shaped by our free wills -- not whether it is "determined" an any other sense.
Okay, basically, this is saying that it doesn’t matter if everything is “already determined” or “already established” because our free choice can still “have been” part of what determined it. The fact that we don’t know what comes next, or that we have the subjective experience of making a choice and experiencing a before and after to that process, doesn’t mean we didn’t “already choose” from God’s perspective outside “the function,” or outside the flow of time.
If this is the case, it would seem that in a sense, for a given decision, we might have chosen and not chosen at the same time… which really does seem to flout logic (non-contradiction!). But then again, I can see how this would only be a seeming, because even the law of non-contradiction, as I learned it, is pointedly time-based: a thing cannot both be and not be (or be and not be itself, or I suppose there could be other variants) in the same sense in the same place at the same time
. And I suppose in a special sense, within time and outside of time would always have to be two “different times.” It’s not that “right now” (or at any given moment) a choice could both not yet be made (within time) and already made (outside time). It’s that there is no “right now,” in our sense of the words, outside of time; only within time. So in a strict sense, there would be no “same time” shared between “within time” and “outside of time”. Because of this, it would be possible for there to be no “hasn’t happened yet” outside of time, but only within time, because “yet” is time-dependent. But it’s hard, if not impossible, to conceive of things without reference to time, and so even the idea “outside of time” we basically drag back into time, and this is where the contradictions crop up.
Or, since the timeline is a common image, I could see it in those terms. In my experience of time, going along the line, I reach a place where I must either go right or left. The difficulty is put that either I have free will, in which case the line doesn’t exist ahead of me but is only created by my passing, or I don’t have free will, and the line already exists going in whichever direction I’m about to “choose,” but I didn’t really choose it, because it was already set in place before I had the chance. But on the theory that determinism and free will can be compatible, this would be a false dichotomy. Because instead when I come to the point of choice, the line does
already exist in front of me, and anyone looking down on the line from above would be able to see it… but it still exists going in the direction it does because
(in the causal sense) I choose the direction I do rather than the other. If I chose the other direction, the line would already exist ahead of me in that direction instead. It’s not self-contradictory, again, because of the difference of being inside time and being outside of time.
So if all this works, I can see the possibility. Or at least the removal of the impossibility usually suggested. Now, on to modality…
You give a couple of options for the ways in which freedom of wills might be accomplished: namely, it would be included either in the initial conditions of the universe or related to the laws of physics by which the universe operates. So taking these one at a time…Freeness of wills as part of initial conditions of universe
I’m not sure I see how the initial conditions could in any way be impacted by us, or even how the freedom of our wills could be included in them. But then, part of the point is that just because we can’t see how something can be, that doesn’t mean it’s not the case. Some of these things we can’t see because we are limited by being within time, among other things. Still… I can think of nothing that would help me wrap my mind around the idea, so I’m going to leave this option at that – possible, but not one I can formulate at all. Freeness of wills as related to the laws of physics
I think I was a little unclear on this one – I could see it working in two ways, and wasn’t sure which was intended (or whether it could work with either one). 1) I could see the freedom of wills being one of
the laws of physics – same kind of thing as gravity, etc. Or 2) I could see freedom of wills as being the ability given to the will (through creation in the image of God) to somehow interact with the laws of physics – influence them, trigger them, have input into them – more directly than we would through our physical bodies. (This may fit what you were saying better… but again, not sure)
I guess at this point, looking at relating freedom of wills to the laws of physics, I’ve got to step back and ask what is necessary to establish a will as free. In non-universe function terms, I’d say for a will to be free, its decisions would have to at least partially be undetermined by the flow of cause and effect or God’s choosing. These decisions would be causes, of course. However, there would be an extent to which the will making them would, in its deciding process, be independent of other causes. Not that such a will must be utterly free of outside influences, but the decisions it made could not be purely and only effects of the general cause-effect chain or of God’s choice. In universe function terms… I’m having trouble thinking how to distinguish this idea. The universe function allows me to see, to an extent, how freedom of wills could be written in, but not the necessary conditions for considering wills free.
My reason for plunging off into that, though, is that given such an idea of a free will, I don’t see how option 2 of the two relations to the laws of physics could result in free will. It allows them to be causes in a rather interesting way, but I don’t see how this could accomplish the limited independence described above.
That said, I could see how option 1 could theoretically achieve this independence. It could actually, in effect, write independence in: these particular beings (humans, and perhaps others as well) are free, which means that x
limits are set for the extent to which their decisions can be influenced by anything outside themselves.
So I guess at this point I’ll close with… did I understand everything correctly, and is there anything I just said that doesn’t work?