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Ask a Theologian II

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, May 9, 2008.

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  1. scy12

    scy12 Chieftain

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    Can you name one of them ? Maybe there is something that you can reveal regarding this case(maybe the subjects you are addressing?) which wouldn't reveal your name.
     
  2. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    I'm pretty sure that if you pm him, he will point you in the right direction. :)
     
  3. Pessimus Dux

    Pessimus Dux Seeker

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    Sorry for not answering for a while...

    I'll try to explain my opinion:
    A) Yes, we have free will.
    B) God KNEW all our actions even before He created us.
    Logical paradox? No, because He doesn't (O.K., except in some cases) trying to stop us. He simply let us to act as a free beings. Are we spoiling His plan because of that? We could not know that for sure, but I could almost bet that we are not. Why? Because He is "almighty" after all, and can ( if nothing else) see things from significantly different perspective (some would say: from the perspective of the absolute).
    Another important thing is: (which could justify orthodox Catholic view) - we just don't know what His plan is - that's the whole catch. I assume that all our free actions are included in it - in SOME way.
     
  4. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    I take it your not a big fan of the compatibilist arguments either. Always sound to me like they are just trying to avoid the question by saying us being unaware of Gods plan means we have a choice. Bit of a cop out. A cage is still a cage even if you can't see it.
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    No, I think compatibilist free will is the only kind of free will that even makes sense. It's got nothing to do with an appeal to ignorance, it's about self-determination as opposed to a lack of determination.
     
  6. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I don't know anything about free will in the context of divine foreknowledge, but I'm a compatibilist in general. Frankfurt cases convinced me that we don't need alternative possibilities to have free will.
     
  7. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    So you think there argument restores free will to a Universe with determinism? I don't myself I think it is a way of avoiding the argument. If someone is unaware that what they chose has already been foreseen, they still only have one choice, even if they believe they don't. Just believing you have a choice isn't the same as free will. To truly have free will you must be able to chose which path through life you will take, if it is determined then your life is simply a procession from a to b where you are supposedly unaware of its linearity. The Universe is the same likewise, there is no freedom in a sterile universe who's every particles evolution is already known from now til eternity. If you only have one possible future then each time you make a choice it is from one possible choice that leads again to a singular choice that leads to an inevitable conclusion. I don't think you can really avoid that, without saying that the future does not exist and thus Gods omniscience is still complete, but it is possible for our will to really be free, now we have a chance to do anything, we are no longer in a tunnel plodding our way through without being aware of it, we are in an almost infinitely branching set of tunnels. That is free will. Mind you that said obviously compatibilists don't agree, they say only the belief in choice is needed, not a range of things to chose from or a range of possible futures that is massively complex. Which is a bit of a redefinition and a cop out at the same time. I suppose It all boils down to what you want to define as free will. I don't find the idea that we have no choice about where we are headed but we believe we do is freedom.
     
  8. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    The alternative possibilities definition of freedom is hardly an uncontroversial part of the concept of free will. Besides, even if common sense notions of free will assume that we have alternate possibilities, that could just mean common sense is wrong.

    How do you feel about Frankfurt cases, Mr. Sidhe?
     
  9. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    It holds adequately if you take the definition of free will to only mean choice and the actual coercion or lack of it to be evident. Otherwise it does not. So likewise its a matter of how you want to define freedom. Given God places no condition on your choice and does not cause it to happen it is valid from that perspective. I think realistically you have to be free to head in any direction you chose, not to have headed in one direction no matter how free you believe that choice to be or it in fact is. It's a matter of taste then, how you want to set up the condition or definition of free will in the first place. Given that compatibillism says that that freedom to make a choice is all that free will is as a precondition, it's not really possible to argue against it.
     
  10. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    You didn't say how you feel about Frankfurt cases! In your opinion, does the agent without alternative possibilities in Frankfurt cases have moral responsibility?

    I don't think its just a matter of how you want to define it, but a matter of what is right. We are trying to figure out what the right conception of free will is.

    I'm not sure what you're saying here, could you please rephrase?

    Sure it is! There's quite a few arguments against compatibilism.
     
  11. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    Well if I define it my way moral agency is irrelevant, like I say if I chose to say that multiple futures have to exist for free will to be truly free. How would you determine what is right anyway, surely they're just separate cases?

    I had a look at the examples, and I agree given the definition of free will as x, they make a strong case for compatibillism, I've heard some of them before when looking at compatibillism generally, and I'm not really in conflict with them, if I accept a certain definition of free will as free agency.

    No I don't disagree with compatibillism in terms of its internal consistency, so I haven't looked into the arguments against too deeply, or really thought of cases that would make it untenable, I read about them when I was looking at a pdf, but they were well disputed, PAP and PAP+ is what they were called, I agree given the criteria it was a solid argument. I'm not to sure I want to go into deeply, or read all the material so I can make an argument myself, because I don't agree on the initial definition anyway.

    The question is interesting though, but I don't really have the will to get into it atm.
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Sidhe, it sounds like you don't really understand what compatibilism is. You seem to think that compatibilists claim that we have free will if we believe that we do, regardless of the reality of the situation. That's not true. It's got nothing to do with what people believe, it's to do with the extent to which they determine themselves. According to compatibilists, an action is free to the extent that it is determined by the agent, and it is unfree to the extent that it is determined by external causes. So a prisoner in a cell, or being frogmarched by his guards, is unfree because his actions are determined by other people. Whereas a person who chooses to sit in a room with an unlocked door or go for a walk is free, because the impulse to do those things comes from within himself. This seems quite a common-sense definition of free will.

    We've already discussed this at length here. You can also find more information, including much more about the various kinds of compatibilism, here.
     
  13. Sidhe

    Sidhe Chieftain

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    I understand it I just dispute their definition, I think it's BS? Have I expressed that simply enough to have a case, or should I learn to a great extent why deluding yourself that you are free is free will? If there is no future but one, then I say you are deluding yourself. I'm not sure how much more simply I can put that without sounding patronising? So I'll give up. I'm not interested in compatibillism because it's tennants do not agree with mine, if you can't agree on the definition of free will, then it's a waste of my time talking about it no? Compatibillism is a colossal cop out and a dead end, just incompatibilism is, I don't acknowledge either as that would mean having to agree with the term free will as they define it, which is a nonsense. Is that clear enough? I think modern philosophy in this area is garbage? K :D It's an opinion, it's also why the subject really doesn't rock my world, and why I wouldn't touch those threads with a colossal barge pole.

    In short I'm not interested in their semantic rigmarole, I think they are talking crap.

    If there's a definable character for someone who thinks philosophy is wasting its time in this area I'm it. If that's incompatabillism in any form file me under can't be bothered to interest myself in delusional bollock scratching and arm waving. I'm sure there's a category for me, there's a category for everyone in philosophy. :lol:
     
  14. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Can you tell me about papal infallibility and it's criticisms?
     
  15. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    Without opening up a whole can of worms....

    I'm not sure that's a very good example of "unfree" as opposed to free. If a prisoner is being marched (Say, to the gas chamber to be executed) then he has no choice about where he's going - the guards will pick him up and carry him, if they have to. But he still has free will about how he acts: he can sit down, and refuse to move. He can try to punch the nearest guard. He can swear and curse or beg and plead or amuse the guards with hilarious anecdotes as he walks to his death. There's no way that he can change his ultimate fate, as he is still going to die. But I would argue that he still has free will, because he can still choose between different actions.

    I'm not sure whether I agree with compatabilism, but I confess that might be because I don't know if I really understand it. ;) I'll read the Stanford article on it.
     
  16. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    Do all dogs go to heaven?
     
  17. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Hey! A question about theology as opposed to philosophy!

    And a good one; I am sure that Eastern religions have the issue covered, but what do Western religions say about that sort of thing?
     
  18. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Plotinus:

    In my virtue epistemology readings, I came across two notions (which apparently find their roots, expectedly, in Aristotle & Aquinas). They were given only a passing treatment in what I was reading, so I was wondering if you could say (generally) what these things are:

    -"The Catholic Doctrine of Actual Grace" (The book I was reading said it was somewhat analogous to Nozick's Transformation Machine)

    -Beatific Vision (it was either vision or awareness... I can't remember the word she used right now...)
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, the notion of papal infallibility really developed in modern times, especially in the seventeenth century. At that time, orthodox Catholics all agreed that the Catholic Church as a whole is infallible, but some of them argued that that infallibility rests in the Pope as the head of the church, while others insisted that it did not, and only the church as a whole could be infallible. One of the leading proponents of the latter view was Jacques Bossuet, the bishop first of Condom (amusingly) and later of Meaux, and tutor to the dauphin of France. Bossuet was an absolutely uncompromising Catholic who believed that the infallibility and consistency of the church's teaching was axiomatic to Christianity. This made him a fervent opponent of Protestantism, which he believed was a heresy because it denied the truth and authority of the church's teaching. He corresponded with Leibniz about the possibility of reconciling the Catholic and Protestant churches, but they didn't get very far because Bossuet insisted that any such reconciliation would have to begin with the Protestants recognising the infallible authority of the Catholic Church, which Leibniz thought a bit unreasonable. But Bossuet was also absolutely opposed to the notion of papal infallibility; he is most remembered as the apologist of Gallicanism. Gallicanism was a movement in the French Catholic Church at this time, which stressed the links between Catholicism and French culture, and which saw the French Catholic Church as having a degree of autonomy in its own right, quite apart from the power of the Pope. In 1682 there was an assembly of the French clergy which decided that the king of France (and not the Pope) had the right to appoint bishops throughout the whole of France. Bossuet wrote his Defence of the Gallican principles after this assembly, defending the theory that lay behind the decision. Bossuet believed that the infallibility of the church was based on the apostolic succession, and expressed in ecumenical councils, which could overrule the Pope. Papal infallibility was not found in scripture or taught by the church, and was therefore not part of Catholic doctrine.

    Bossuet is important because he represents a very conservative kind of Catholicism which regarded the doctrine of papal infallibility as a dangerous innovation, and because his criticisms of the doctrine remained the main ones within Catholicism itself. They remained current in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the guise of "Febronianism", named after Johann Nikolaus von Hontheim, bishop of Trier, who wrote under the pseudonym "Febronius". Like Bossuet, Febronius argued that the Catholic Church as a whole exercises valid authority, but the Pope is only a servant of that church and has no real authority over it. All bishops are therefore equal. Febronius was condemned by Rome, but many liked his ideas, especially as he had intended them to be more amenable to Protestants, with an eye to the reunification of the churches. The Ems Congress of 1786 had sought to put the German Catholic Church on a Febronian footing, but its negotiations with Rome unsurprisingly failed. However, Emperor Joseph II of Austria was impressed by Febronianism and instigated a version of his own sometimes known as Josephinism. This was essentially Erastianism, the complete subjugation of the church to the state: under Joseph, the church became a state department. The Catholic Church in Austria was reorganised along aggressively Austrian lines: bishops were not allowed to communicate with Rome, and members of religious orders could not contact their superiors abroad. The system collapsed with Joseph's death in 1790, but Febronian ideals remained very much alive both Austria and Germany in the nineteenth century.

    The question whether the Pope is infallible or not, and if so in what way, remained hotly debated right up to the first Vatican council in 1870, when Pope Pius IX decided that he was infallible after all. Here is a bit of something I wrote about that:

    You're right, of course. It's more accurate to describe acts, rather than agents, as "free" or "unfree". In the case of the frogmarched prisoner, his action of walking about is not a free action, because he has no say over it. But his action of shouting (or of not shouting) is free, because he does have a say over it.

    That depends on who you ask. Some Christian theologians have argued that there is no fundamental difference between humans and animals when it comes to spiritual matters. The most obvious example is Origen, who not only shared the common Platonic belief that many things (such as animals, plants, and the stars) have souls, but who also shared the Pythagorean belief in reincarnation in different bodies; on this view a human being could come back as an animal, or vice versa, depending on how well they did in their lifetimes. Origen also believed that all souls, even those of demons, would eventually be reconciled to God. So he would have said yes.

    However, later on such ideas were frowned upon. In the late Middle Ages, for example, the influence of Aristotle meant that it was orthodox to hold that all living things have souls: plants have a "nutritive" soul, animals also have an "animal" soul, and humans also have an "intelligent" soul. However, only humans have an immortal soul; there is nothing about souls per se that makes them immortal. The Catholic Church had by this time generally accepted Augustine's version of heaven, which was the vision of God, rather than the earlier and more Byzantine version, which was union with God. The vision of God requires intellectual understanding and is therefore appropriate only for human beings. So Aquinas and the other medieval and theologians would have said no. Early modern theologians would of course have been even more inclined to say no - after all, given the experiments that were done on animals from the seventeenth century onwards, no-one could have contemplated the notion that animals were spiritually significant as it would have been too horrible to bear. The Cartesians argued that animals not only didn't have immortal souls but didn't have any kind of souls to begin with, and although by no means everyone agreed with that, they did mostly agree that animals were not moral or spiritual beings.

    Of course, in recent years all that has changed, together with the assumptions about the nature of the soul, the nature of life after death, and the relations between humans and animals that have also changed. Most theologians today wouldn't believe in an immortal soul at all, whether for humans or animals; they would also be inclined to believe in universal salvation, perhaps at a cosmic rather than a personal level. And they would certainly be more inclined to take account of animal rights. So the notion of animals' being saved would be more popular today, although I can't name names off the top of my head.

    I'm not sure what "actual grace" refers to, although presumably it contrasts with "potential grace". So it would be grace that you're actually getting rather than grace that you are merely capable of getting. Part of the problem here is that the Catholic taxonomy of grace is rather complex and confusing, and it developed considerably over the years; for example, after Aquinas' day there developed the distinction between "sufficient" grace and "efficaceous" grace (the former is grace that's good enough to save you, but which doesn't, and the latter is grace that actually does save you). The very notion of "grace" as this sort of "stuff" that God bestows upon people, rather than as a quality of God himself which drives him to act upon people in a certain way, was itself a late medieval innovation.

    The Beatific Vision is simply the vision of God which the saints enjoy right now in heaven, and which all the faithful will enjoy after their resurrection to life everlasting. Have a look at Summa Theologiae supplement, q. 92.
     
  20. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    How is the Jesus-quote "Give emperor what is his" to be read? Is it 1. Do what emperor wants you to do, or 2. Let emperor keep his money &c, but you don't have to obey him.

    Are there Jews, who take the Old Testament literally? Some of the laws there are so harsh, that it would seem impossible, but on the other hand, as christians show, the temptation to interpret the Bible that way is big. (Maybe Maimonides knows more about this).

    Also, I had a conversation with a christian friend, and said something about the "spirit of christianity", meaning that some teachings of Jesus would be more important than others and can overrule for example teachings in other books in New Testament, even if they wouldn't directly contradict. For example Paul's sayings about female priests or homosexuals could be seen as contradicting "the spirit of christianity", even though they don't (as far as I know) contradict sayings of Jesus.

    Now this friend said that I can't pick some saying of Jesus and raise it to special status, and I think he's quite right there. On the other hand, I feel very deeply that this can't be the end of the discussion, but can't explicate why I feel this way. So can you help me out a bit? I'm sure theologians have discussed similar things. One thing that comes to mind, of course, is that christianity would become very void if sayings of Jesus wouldn't be extrapolated to other things also. On the other hand, christian could just say "well, then it is void".

    Now that you have started a new thread, it's probably appropriate moment to thank you [Plotinus], and also Margim and Maimonides for good answers, and also I'm very pleased to read insightful posts of some "ordinary" people, the storming mormon for example. It's a pity there aren't more threads like this here.


    EDITed the option 2 in first paragraph, because the usage of the word "soul" was ambiguous.
     
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