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Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. Mott1

    Mott1 Chieftain

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    Plontis: Thanks for your reply, as always I appreciate the commitment you have to this forum. Although I certainly acknowledge the points you make (and they are good points), it seems that we are arguing in circles. If we were to discuss the Golden Rule outside of this particular argument, there would be no contention other than perhaps our philosophical disparities. I understand your premise that the Golden Rule variations lie in how they are phrased in the various traditions, these variations are in turn associated by the basic principle "of putting yourself in someone else's shoes and acting (in some way) towards them as you would want to be acted on yourself."
    However if Kung utilizes the Golden Rule as a variable in which he acknowledges that certain traditions make no distinction between the principle and parochialism then Global Ethic encounters a very real problem. If in a certain tradition the "Golden Rule" (or its basic principle) and parochialism are interwoven and inseparable, then I can't see how Kung expects the Global Ethic project to succeed without first clearly expressing the necessity for the said tradition to subvert. On the contrary we see that Kung expresses the opposite, in that the very fiber of the religious doctrines need not change.

    This is the basis of my argument with regard to Kungs understanding of the Golden Rule as a principle with no variation, or atleast no parochial variation. You have also acknowledged this contradiction, however you seem to imply that the parochialism that exists in Islam is not a doctrinal fundament.
    What I am saying is that the "shell" Kung wants to remove is in essence part of the "kernal." In Islam, the codification of parochialism is not just some outside factor that has limited the very basic and simplest form of the Golden Rule, it is the factor on which the "Golden Rule" (or its basic principle) functions.
    I am not entirely sure that I have understood you here. Are you suggesting that there may exist a variation of the Golden Rule in some traditions where history and prejudice have not yet been removed to reveal its universalism? While this may be true of some ancient doctrines be they secular or relgious, you must consider that other doctrines are formulated on a history of prejudice. Where its essential principles are constructed on the very language of parochialism.
    If you are saying the opposite, in that versions of the Golden Rule in some traditions are not universal in nature even after the encrustations of history and prejudice are removed. Then I would agree.
    Kung's principle is "a minimal basic consensus relating to binding values, irrevocable standards and moral attitudes, which can be affirmed by all religions." Stripping away the "undeniable dogmatic or theological differences" will not result in a consensus to binding values, parochialism is an irrevocable standard and moral attitude in Islam.

    This is such a beautifully rendered and well executed analogy, I was left undecided on whether to taint it with a rebuttal. Any rebuttal would be akin to vandalizing the Mona Lisa! well, Mona Lisa could use a mustache, a beard and a pair of horns so I'll try my untrained hand at art.;)

    As a composer, Kung must understand that the differences in the melodies are just as important as the similarities, especially when the orchestras are not playing from the same piece of music. The musical compositions that each orchestra is playing may have similar pitches, modes and gradations, however there are discernable differences. Lets say the composer writes a simple tune taken from the chords in which the various musical compositions share, this simple tune played together with the other musical compositions should correspond in harmony. However if a particular orchastra is not in harmony with the rest, then this would suggest that its musical composition contains notes that discord from the others. The chords it shares with the other orchestras works only within the strophe of its own musical composition. The composer should express the necessity to rewrite these notes or have them stricken from the musical composition in order for the orchestra to play in harmony with the his simple tune. If the composer does not acknowledge that the notes within the musical composition must be improvised then he is simply plugging his ears and ignoring the cacophony.

    I find this part of your analogy interesting. It seems that you are suggesting that the Global Ethic project is Kungs way initiating dialogue and directing criticism at those traditions which hold to parochial principles. If that is the case, I believe he should make it clear so his audience is not misled into thinking that all religions share the same ethical prinicples.
    .
    I agree, I'll read more of Kungs literature on Global Ethics and then perhaps the truth will reveal itself. I based my opinion on these links:
    http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicin...s/laughlin-lectures/kung-world-religions.html
    http://cae.hkbu.edu.hk/html/newsletter/vol8/8B_Becker.html
    http://www.scu.edu/scm/summer2005/kung.cfm
    I couldn't agree more. I might add that to me the "winner" in any debate is the person who learns the most, and in this regard I believe I have been the winner in all the debate we have had in the past.;)
     
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't know enough about Islam to comment on this example, but I think your basic point is right. In fact this is a common criticism of projects like Küng's, especially those that try to do it with doctrine rather than with ethics. For example, John Hick is a very well known theologian and philosopher who argues for a pluralist understanding of religion, whereby instead of judging other religions by the standards of our own, we should judge them all according to a universal standard which supposedly contains the best of them all. So Hick says that all religions are true inasmuch as they express "Reality" and the need for people to attain salvation through this "Reality", and he thinks that this is the basic point of all religion (at least, all "great" religion). But of course it's been pointed out many times that this is a pretty arbitrary approach. Why fix on "Reality" and salvation as the focal point of all religion? Why not fix on self-improvement, or submission to authority, or dedication to the community, or any number of other things that are important to various religions? In fact, in his emphasis on "Reality" and salvation, it looks like Hick really is judging other religions by his own, because if you rename Reality "God" then this is the essence of Christianity.

    In other words, anyone who tries to go beyond the differences and extract a common core which is similar everywhere is really going to be extracting the common core that they want to find. It's quite arbitrary what you pick. In Küng's case, he thinks that the parochialism of the various religions is simply encrustation that can be stripped away, to reveal a common universalism underneath. But perhaps this is because he wants to find a universal ethic. Perhaps a less benevolent theologian, engaged in the same task, would argue that the universal tendencies of the different ethics are the encrustation, and a tendency to parochialism is really what they all have in common, and which is more fundamental. Who's to say which is which?

    Actually I was just saying that by claiming there is a common core to all the ethical systems, Küng is not committed to the further claim that there was once a time when these ethical systems were actually identical. That is, I just wanted to make it clear that talk of "encrustation" and so on can be metaphorical. It's not like there was once a pure, ur-ethic which later developed into the different systems, like Latin developing into Italian, French, Spanish, and so on. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many theologians believed that something like this had really happened - that there had once been a pure religion which had degenerated in various locations into the religions we know today. Since they were all deists, they thought this original religion was deism, and they sought to "reform" the existing religions to return them to this state of purity. Of course we know now they were hopelessly wrong. I was just trying to make the point that Küng is not committed to such a naive position.

    Of course you could have binding parochial values. In fact, you could have binding parochial values that are shared by everyone in the world. For example, take the Confucian emphasis on "filial piety", the notion that you are permanently in debt to your parents and owe them special attention for as long as they live. That's clearly a parochial value: you have to treat certain people, who are close to you, differently from others. But everyone could share that value, if everyone were to become Confucian. In fact less extreme versions of it do seem to be generally shared by most people. Not by me, I hasten to add. I think Confucianism is my least favourite religion. And I'm not going to get into an argument over whether it's actually a religion or not!

    Anyway, the point is that, perhaps ironically, parochialism is perfectly capable of being a universal value. The fact that everyone is parochial to some degree demonstrates this. And I think the example of "filial piety" indicates that, further, it is possible for everyone to be parochial in the same way. Not that this makes much difference to the argument, but it's worth pointing out. The problem with reconciling the different ethical systems as Küng wishes to do is not their parochial nature per se, but (a) the fact that they are all parochial in different ways and towards different sets of people, and (b) the fact that he (quite rightly, in my opinion) doesn't want the Global Ethic to be parochial at all.

    Glad it made sense! And I think your point here is the same one I made above, that it is arbitrary to select some features of the system under study as essential and others as unnecessary. To the adherent of the system, perhaps they are all essential.

    I don't know if that is what Küng wants to do, although it does seem to me to be implied by his criticisms of parochialism in that lecture, and indeed by the project of identifying a Global Ethic in the first place. If the Global Ethic is not to criticise some aspects of traditional religions, then why have it at all?
     
  3. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    Mott and Plotinus:
    I hope i am not jumping off the conversation which is one of the best i have seen in awhile but i do want to interject by saying that in order for "Global Ethic" can be applied to the world is simply to take many religious ethics that are similiar to one another and extirpate it in a Kantian fashion in order to institutionalize it.What i mean by "Kantian" is that taking and seperating moral principles from the all of religions of the world and create a new set of morals for new pedagogues to instil on subjects(childrens at an early age) in a global institution that transcend bounderies of any nation-states.With this transnational school system with its own education and language can teach a new breed of Global citizens that share the same ethical view-point in the world.:king:
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I suppose you could say that universalisability (if that's a word) is central to both the Global Ethic and to Kantian ethics, though I think in rather different ways. With Kant, universalisability is a sign of consistency, the idea being that you should act in a way that is consistent with wanting everyone to act in that way. And consistency is important because Kant believes that moral values can be rationally deduced. I don't think that's important to Küng. But it does have to be said that Kant, like Wittgenstein, is one of those philosophers that modern theologians seem to be disproportionately awed by. I'm not sure why.
     
  5. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    It should be important to Kung since it requires an global imparative of having a global institutions of educators and students that inhabit it in all places in the world that share the same systems.Of course families,nationalistic pride,ethic pride,religious pride and many others are the reason that an Global ideal on how to provide the universaliality of our educational system is never will be actualized because of already establish institutions that exist now are already in competition of one another and they are not indeed gonna let another new-kid-on-the-block to compete.

    Well firstly,Kant and Wittgenstein are fundementally different in many ways and that can correlate on the fact that theologians study with their own language of the problems of religion and philosophy have also their own language to study the concepts of religion and science.Kant have his own idiomatic way of using the language of philosophy of approaching philosophy based on his existence of the 18th century Europe and Wittgenstein have his own idiomatic way of using the language of philosophy of approaching philosophy in the 20th century which is broaden not only of the western world but the world itself since European colonialism have reached its peak.
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I've been reading an awful lot of quodlibets over the past couple of weeks so I thought I'd revisit this question and say a little more about it.

    "Quodlibets" were a subgenre of "question" literature. The "question" as an academic exercise developed in the twelfth century and really came into prominence in the thirteenth. It developed out of the idea of a debate: the master would set a question and everyone would suggest answers to it, and provide arguments for those answers. The debate would be settled not by a vote but by the decision of the master. By the thirteenth century, this was quite formalised, and the setting and adjudicating of these questions was one of the things that an advanced student would have to do as part of his training to become a master (basically the equivalent of a modern doctor's degree).

    The prospective master of theology had to fulfil two main criteria. First he had to write a commentary on the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard. This became the standard textbook of theology in the early thirteenth century, making it possibly the most influential theological work ever written, although hardly anyone reads it today. Here's something I wrote on Peter Lombard and his "Sentences":

    The commentary that a graduate student would write on the "Sentences" was often a major piece of work. Often, scholars would continue to work on the commentary even after they had officially become a master. The student would read other people's commentaries on the same subject, of course, and try to evaluate their interpretations. This meant that the commentary would be widely read - much more so than a modern doctoral thesis - and so it was possible to become famous purely on the basis of your Sentence commentary. For example, Richard of Middleton was a pretty obscure scholar until his commentary on the "Sentences" was published in the 1290s (about a decade after he'd finished the first draft and become a master). After its publication he became not just famous but acclaimed as a Doctor of the Church (because of his reliable orthodoxy, he's known as the Solid Doctor, not the most exciting title really).

    The second thing an advanced student had to do was hold a series of Quaestiones or questions - that is, debates like the ones I described above. These debates would be written down in a formal style and published, just like the Sentence commentary. Here, the student had a freer hand in what subjects to tackle; the Sentence commentary obviously had to follow the format of the "Sentences", but the questions could be on pretty much any subject; typically, a master would hold a series of questions on the same subject, and these might be published together to make up a sort of treatise. So in a way you could say that the whole course was rather like a modern American-style doctoral degree: the Sentence commentary was like the taught segment and the questions were like the dissertation. Most of the "treatises" by thirteenth-century theologians are actually collections of questions: for example, Thomas Aquinas' book "On Truth" is three volumes of questions on logic and metaphysics. Sometimes, however, a master would hold "quodlibetal" questions. "Quodlibet" basically means "whatever you want", so these were sessions with no set topic. Students would suggest all kinds of things to discuss and the master just had to do the best he could. In other words, it was a lot like forum threads like this one.

    Normally, quodlibetal questions covered the normal things that philosophers and theologians talked about. Here's a typical example from one major theologian of the late thirteenth century:

    Pretty hideous stuff. As you can see, it follows the normal pattern of a (published) question: first the question is asked, and then a number of arguments are given for answering it in one way. But then we are given a longer argument for answering it the other way, and the original arguments are refuted. This pattern will be familiar to anyone who's looked at Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, which obviously follows the same sort of pattern. You can also see the typical thirteenth-century method of arguing, using mainly rational arguments, but appealing to authority to back them up - mainly the Bible, Augustine, and Aristotle (the Philosopher).

    However, it seems that sometimes students (or even the masters themselves?) would suggest slightly more unusual topics. Here's a famous example from an author not normally noted for his sense of humour:

    As all this suggests, I think the answer I gave to the original question the first time around was right. Quodlibetal questions, like other quaestiones, were asked in order to get an answer. Of course, some, like the question addressed by Aquinas above, weren't entirely serious. Henry of Ghent's text is far more typical. As a rule, quodlibetal questions were more puzzling than other questions, because they were raised by people who wanted them to be debated. But the master would always come to some conclusion or other. The medievals typically did not believe in unanswerable problems; there was always a solution of some kind.
     
  7. kuukkeli

    kuukkeli Chieftain

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    Concerning the earlier discussion of the Question of Evil and the notion that free will is at times used to solve it. To me it appears obvious that free will can't solve any questions concerning omniscient creator god because free will is logically impossible under those conditions.

    1. God is omniscient
    2. God is the creator of all
    3. God knows what each man will do during his life
    4. God creates each man to do certain things
    5. Men live their lives as decided by god
    6. Men have no free will

    1 and 2 are traditionally traits of a christian notion of god. 1 leads to 3. 2 and 3 will lead to 4. 5 and 6 are just the same as 4 but from the perspective of man.

    So Plotinus, how is the concept of free will usually incorporated to christianity? How did theologians argue in favor of free will? And when was the free will seriously questioned for the first time (was there anyone before Luther)?
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Those are lots of big questions, especially the last part on history. I don't have time to address the historical question right now, except to say that free will was certainly questioned long before Luther by many people. In fact, the very first Christian philosopher - the Gnostic Basilides - rejected the doctrine of free will.

    However, I disagree that freedom of the will is logically impossible under the conditions you state. I think your argument is invalid. I think it's OK down to 4 (although I suspect that many people would reject the move from 2 and 3 to 4, but I think you're probably right there). However, I don't see that 5 and 6 follow from 4.

    The first problem is that you haven't defined what you mean by "free will". There are definitions of free will that are perfectly compatible with being determined by God - namely, "compatibilist" free will. Clearly, such a notion of free will is useless for addressing the problem of evil, but then that's hardly the only reason why Christians have traditionally believed in free will.

    More importantly, though, I don't see that from "God creates each person to do certain thing" it follows that "We live our lives as decided by God." And even if it did follow, I don't see that it would follow from that that we don't have free will, even contra-causal free will. It would follow, if by 4 you meant that God creates people, and then forces them to do what he wants. But that's not what Christians believe (not all of them anyway). Leibniz argued that God understands each person as a possibility before he creates them. For example, God understands the possible Caesar who will freely choose to cross the Rubicon. He also understands the possible Caesar who will freely choose not to cross the Rubicon. In fact he understands a vast number of possible Caesars who all choose to do various things. In fact, God decides to create the possible Caesar who freely chooses to cross the Rubicon. Now he does this because, for his own ineffable purposes, he wants the Rubicon to be crossed. But he hasn't forced Caesar to do it. All he's done is to actualise the Caesar who he knows freely chooses to do so. I don't see how this compromises Caesar's free will at all.

    So I think that divine omnipotence and omniscience are perfectly compatible with free will however defined. However, this compatibility means, once again, that free will is useless for explaining evil. Because if God can choose what actions are taken, by creating people who he knows will freely take those actions, then it follows that he wants all the evil actions that have been taken to have been taken. The fact that they were done freely by created beings doesn't make any difference.
     
  9. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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    If a god creates people as possibilities their combined possibilities could lead the world any possible way, which again would mean that said god had no particular plan creating them.

    What do you mean by contra-causal free will?
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Not at all. When I say "possibility" I don't mean something necessarily uncertain. For example, the possible Caesar who crosses the Rubicon is simply a possible person who, if actual, actually crosses the Rubicon. If God knows all these possibles (and, being omniscient, he must know all possibles as well as all actuals), then he knows what they would all do if created. If he knows what each one would do then he knows what the total outcome would be, the complete history if you like. For example, before creation, God understood the possible me who would start this thread. God also understood the possible you who would post on it. God chose to actualise both of us, which means that he knew I would actually start this thread and you would actually post on it.

    You can express the same idea with the notion of possible worlds, a possible world simply being a way the universe could have been (there is a possible world where I did not start this thread, for example). God knows all possibilities; this means he understands every one of the infinite number of possible worlds. He chooses one of these possible worlds to make actual. Therefore he understands the actual world and knows everything that happens in it. And none of this has any implications for free will.

    This is basically a long-winded way of saying that just because something is certain doesn't mean it's not free.

    Indeterminate free will. If you perform an act with contra-causal freedom, it means that nothing caused the act, or at least that it was not fully determined by the circumstances immediately before it. To put it another way, you could have had exactly the same situation immediately before the act, and the act could have gone the other way. Someone with perfect knowledge of the state of affairs immediately preceding the free act could not have predicted it.

    This contrasts with compatibilist free will, according to which your act is free if it is what you wanted to do (as opposed to doing it because you're forced by external circumstances). An act that is free in this sense could still be completely determined; it just has to be determined entirely or largely by you.

    Traditionally, Catholics have insisted that we have contra-causal free will, while (most) Protestants have rejected this notion and said we have only compatibilist free will. Today, though, many Protestants have reverted to the Catholic view, because the claim that we have contra-causal free will is the basis for the free-will defence against the problem of evil. However, if what I said in the above post is right, then even if we do have contra-causal free will (which most philosophers think is pretty dubious), then it's no help in the problem of evil.
     
  11. kuukkeli

    kuukkeli Chieftain

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    I haven't actually thought of an exact definition. The most obvious (to me at least) would seem to be that actions of an individual are not determined before they actually happen (in contrast to determinism).

    I'm trying to clarify. If god creates man with knowledge of that man's all future actions the creation itself forces the man act in predetermined way. Contra-causal free will (according to your explanation) does not in my opinion refute determinism of omniscient creator god. God still creates Caesar that is destined to live the life decided by god. He has no free will as there never was any doubt of any of his decisions, his whole life was predetermined.
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's contra-causal free will. But if you define free will in a compatibilist way, as suggested above, then you can have free will and be determined. Augustine argued that although having the ability to sin or not to sin is a greater freedom than being unable not to sin, the greatest freedom of all is being unable to sin. On that view, compatilibist free will (combined with a will that is determined to good rather than evil) is preferable to contra-causal free will.

    There's a further problem with the definition of contra-causal free will as indeterminacy, though, which is that we normally think of undetermined events as random, not willed. For example, according to the Copenhagen school of quantum physics, many quantum events are not determined - they are random. Assuming that these events are indeed undetermined, we wouldn't say they are "free" in any meaningful way. So what's the difference between a free act and a random one? This is why many philosophers believe that the notion of contra-causal free will is either completely incoherent or incomprehensible. You have to explain how something can be neither determined nor random.

    Not at all. Here's an analogy (can't remember whether I used this earlier in this thread or just planned to). Suppose I want a new chair. I look through a catalogue and I see there are many chairs on offer. I decide to order a blue chair. The blue chair duly arrives in a delivery van and appears in my room. Now, there could have been a green chair or a red chair, since these were also options in the catalogue. But I chose the blue one. Thus, the fact that there is now a blue chair in my room is caused, in part, by my decision that it was best to have a blue chair rather than one of any other colour.

    However, I did not make the chair blue. All these chairs already existed in the warehouse; I simply chose the one I wanted. I might have achieved the goal of having a blue chair by the alternative route of ordering an unpainted chair and then painting it blue myself, but I didn't.

    Now on Leibniz' view (which he actually takes from de Molina, and I think de Molina was right), we can think of God choosing what to create in exactly the same way. God wants there to be a Caesar who crosses the Rubicon. Now we could think of him creating Caesar and then determining him to cross the Rubicon (this was the view of de Molina's opponent, Banez). That's like buying an unpainted chair and then painting it yourself. On this view, we really are puppets in the hands of God. But the alternative view is to think of God as surveying the various possible Caesars and choosing which one to create. This is like considering a selection of ready-painted chairs and deciding which one you want. Just as I don't make the chair blue, so too God doesn't make Caesar cross the Rubicon. Considered even as a possibility, Caesar makes that decision himself, freely (on whatever definition of "freely" you want). Note that God does not determine what the possibilities are. If something is possibly true, it is necessarily the case that it is possibly true; thus the choice of possibles before God is actually necessary. That is, he necessarily faces that array of (infinite) possibilities. But virtually all theologians have agreed that God does not determine what is necessarily true. Descartes is generally regarded as thinking that God can decide what is necessary, and Peter Damian is often (I think wrongly) interpreted in this way, but that is a very minority view with very problematic consequences. So there all these possibilities for God to choose between, just as there are various chairs in the warehouse that I could order. But God doesn't decide what those possibilities are, any more than I decide what chairs are on offer. Considered as a possible only, Caesar still freely chooses to cross the Rubicon, just as the chair is blue even when it is only in the warehouse. Transferring the chair to my room doesn't make it any bluer. Making Caesar actual doesn't make his decision any less free.

    It makes perfect sense to talk about the free actions of possible, non-actual, beings: we could say that Mr Darcy freely chooses to marry Elizabeth Bennett. As things stand, Mr Darcy does not exist in the actual world; he is only a possible person. Suppose God decided he wanted that to happen in actuality: he would simply actualise the Mr Darcy who freely chooses to marry Elizabeth. And bingo, you have an actual Mr Darcy who freely makes that choice. He chooses in accordance with God's will, because if it weren't God's will, he wouldn't have actualised him. But he still chooses freely. God doesn't determine him to do anything. God simply creates the person who will freely choose the things that God wants him to.

    I think you're confusing certainty with determinism. We normally think that if you know, with certainty, what someone is going to do, then that act is not done freely. But this is because our knowledge is normally rather uncertain. If we had certain knowledge of a future act like that, then this would have to be because there was some kind of inevitability about it, either caused or simply known by the knower. But in fact we don't think there's anything intrinsically unknowable about free acts. I know what I did yesterday, but my knowledge of those acts doesn't mean they weren't free (by whatever definition). Someone else can also know what I did yesterday, but that doesn't stop them being free acts. Now God is supposed to be outside time. For him there is no past or future; the whole of history is laid out before him. That means he knows, with certainty, what everyone does. Why does that mean that everyone's acts must be predetermined, any more than if God were at the end of time, remembering everyone's acts? If you really think that God's omniscience destroys free will you need to make it more explicit. Why does God's knowledge of my (past, present, or future) actions have to mean that those acts are determined, when someone else's knowledge of my (past) actions not mean that they are determined?
     
  13. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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    Perhaps the real issue here is what it means to be outside of time? At least I think it is for me.

    If something is outside of time it must mean that causality in a sense no longer exists, which makes choices irrelevant as well.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Certainly the problem of what it means to say that God is eternal, and whether it's possible, is another of the big issues in historical theology. Of course Christians haven't always believed that he is literally outside time (I think Origen was the first Christian to argue this, and it became standard after Augustine) and they don't all believe it now (many theologians in the past century have rejected it, especially those influenced by process theology).

    You're right that one of the criticisms of the idea that God is outside time is that it brings up problems with causality. If we assume that a cause must temporally precede its effect, than a non-temporal God cannot cause anything. Personally I'm not sure that that principle must hold anyway, so I don't really see such a big problem. For example, we could change it to say that a cause cannot come after its effect, in which case God could still cause things without breaking that principle.
     
  15. kuukkeli

    kuukkeli Chieftain

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    I do appreaciate your answers as it must take a lot of time to come out with such indepth answers to many posters. So to save your time I try to be as brief as possible (knowing myself that might not be very brief).

    I do see your point but it doesn't appear to be valid for the matter at hand. First, omniscience removes the concept of randomness. There are no undetermined outcomes for the omniscient god. Second, if undetermined is classified as random in this context then I don't see what is left to be called free will; The possibility that god chose wouldn't have free will as its life would only be a result of a cosmic roll of dice, not a result of free will.

    This is the core problem. I don't agree that in such an event god is not determining the person's whole life. It's like smilies: :lol: does not laugh because it wills so but because someone made it that way. If I choose to "create" another :lol: it still doesn't laugh because it wills; It has no will, it has only one fixed course. Same is true for actualized possibility; it has no will, it's only moving onwards on a set of rails.

    There is no way for me not to consider the following as determinism:
    1. God knows X will do Y
    2. God creates X
    3. X does Y

    On the other hand I can't see where determinism is in following:
    1. X is
    2. X does Y
    3. Z learns that X did Y

    There are two important differences between these cases: 1) timing* (knowing before) and 2) creation (responsibility of X's existence in the first place). I also don't think that #1 can be refuted by making a claim that god is outside time because the other possibilities were never actualized so the choice of which possibility is created can't be based on a "memory" (i.e. being outside time is indifferent).

    *Physicists in here can correct me but I'm under impression that time is still considered to have a direction which means there is difference between past and future.
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I still haven't seen a good reason for this.

    Remember that "determine" is ambiguous. In one sense, it means to cause something. In another sense, it means to find something out. For example, in a sentence such as "Archaeologists have determined that Alexander's palace was 100 feet high", "determine" just means "discover". But in a sentence such as "The Bank of England has determined that interest rates will rise this quarter" it means "cause" or "bring about".

    Now of course, for an omniscient being, there is nothing indetermined in the sense of uncertain. There is nothing for an omniscient being to discover. However, it does not follow simply from that that for an omniscient being there is nothing indetermined in the sense of uncaused. And it absolutely does not follow that for an omniscient being there is nothing which is indetermined by that being.

    I'm not sure quite what your point here is. However, the problem of simply defining contra-causal free will doesn't really have anything to do with God. It seems very hard to explain how it differs from both determinism and randomness, and that's hard even before you drag God into the picture.

    Not at all! Of course a smilie has no free will. But why would that necessarily be the same for a person? Look at it this way: you choose which smilies you want to appear in your post, but you didn't design those smilies in the first place (I assume). You just choose them from a selection that the forum presents you with. Similarly, God chooses which beings he wants to exist in actuality, but he doesn't choose what their natures are to start with, because they exist as possibilities in his understanding even when they are not actual.

    Put it like this: God creates Caesar because Caesar chooses to cross the Rubicon. It's not that Caesar crosses the Rubicon because God creates him. Of course, he only crosses the Rubicon in actuality because God creates him, but he would have crossed it as a possibility even if God hadn't created him (or if God had created an alternative Caesar who made a different decision).

    Imagine I am an employer who is deciding which of two candidates to employ. One candidate is excellent, very well qualified and has great experience. The other candidate is rubbish. Suppose I employ the first candidate, and that candidate then goes on to be very good. Did I cause that employee to be very good? Did I make him be good? Did I force him to act in a certain way, or remove his free will? Of course not: the employee himself did that. The fact that I had good reason to think that this candidate would be a good employee doesn't make me the complete cause of his good behaviour (although I am a partial cause, in that he wouldn't have been able to work well if I hadn't employed him). In God's case, of course, he has perfect knowledge of how each possible person would behave if created. In that respect he's in a better position than an employer looking at CVs. But it doesn't make him any more a cause of how each person behaves in actuality. He causes the fact that their behaviour is actual and not merely possible; he doesn't cause what that behaviour is considered as a possibility, and therefore he doesn't cause what that behaviour is when it is actual either. The only thing he causes is its actuality.

    Well, what I said before is the reason I would disagree. I know that all children like sweets. I have a child, and indeed it turns out to like sweets. Does it follow from that that I determined the child to like sweets? On the contrary, I'd prefer it if he didn't.

    I'm not convinced that the timing makes a difference. If time has a direction, that doesn't mean there's any difference between past and future except from our point of view. Say I perform an action on Friday, and someone knows about it on Saturday. That doesn't make the act any less free. Now suppose that someone knows about it on Thursday. Why does that make the act any less free? Just saying that it makes a difference doesn't make it so.

    Similarly, causing an individual's existence does indeed, in a sense, make you the cause of the individual's acts; in the child case above, if I hadn't had the child, he wouldn't have liked sweets or done anything at all. However, it is one thing to be a (partial) cause of an act, it is quite another to (fully) determine that act. My parents are causes of everything that I do, but only partial causes, because my behaviour is caused by all sorts of things, including my own decisions. If we thought that parents fully determine their children's actions then we would punish the parents of criminals. Similarly, if God creates someone, it doesn't follow from that that he determines everything they do. If God knows everything that that person will do, and still creates him, then presumably this means that God approves of all of it, or at least wants it to be done, or something like that. But it doesn't follow that he determines it or that the person in question has no free will in choosing to do it.
     
  17. kuukkeli

    kuukkeli Chieftain

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    Thanks for the replies. I won't clutter the thread with this any more as I guess both of us have given most of the arguments that we have (I may change my mind if I come up with some extra ammunition though). This just appears to be something I disagree with theology (at least part of it). No much use to repeat that disagreement :)
     
  18. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Sorry if these are answered before, I've skipped a lot of posts.

    Can christians or thelogians explain why God had to sacrifice someone to forgive our sins? What about the seemingly arbitrary precondition that we have to believe on his(/hers/it's) existence?

    Do you think malevolent God is plausible? (One solution to the problem of good could be that false hope induces more suffering than no hope at all)
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, don't blame theology, it's just my opinion!

    Christian theologians have come up with all sorts of explanations of how salvation works and why it involved Jesus' death. Not all of them agree that God "had" to sacrifice someone, and not all of them think that people "have" to believe anything at all.

    In Romans 6, Paul argues that Christ's death saves because of our union to him. Paul describes sin as an oppressive force that can only be escaped through death. Christ dies, but we are mystically united to him, and we can make his death our own. That allows us to "die to sin" without having to literally die. And because Christ was raised, we are raised to new life in him.

    The church fathers mostly thought that salvation comes through the incarnation rather than Christ's death. According to Irenaeus, the fact that divinity is joined to humanity actually divinises humanity. Athanasius agreed and said that God became man so that man might become God. On this view, Christ's entire life is what saves, not just his death. This is why there were such huge controversies over precisely how the divine and the human interrelate in Christ, because they thought it was the very heart of the faith.

    In the early Middle Ages, most people's understanding of salvation had more to do with being rescued from the devil. The idea was that, by sinning, human beings had put themselves under the devil's control, so God had tricked the devil and rescued them. Gregory of Nyssa used the famous analogy of the fish. Jesus' humanity is the bait, and the devil is the fish that seizes him (the devil wants to destroy such an obviously good man). But Jesus' divinity is the hook that is concealed within. The devil is snared and humanity is rescued. Gregory thought that Jesus' divinity actually converts the devil (he did not believe that anyone, even the devil, would ultimately be condemned). Other theologians thought that Jesus' death was a sacrifice to the devil, because the devil literally had rights over human beings; God therefore had to "buy" them back from the devil. In Mark 10:45, Jesus himself is represented as supporting this rather odd view, by talking about "redemption".

    In the eleventh century, Anselm of Canterbury argued that in fact Jesus' death is an offering to God, not to the devil; it is a gift that Jesus makes to God to buy our forgiveness, as it were. In medieval society, if you committed a crime against someone, you were considered to have robbed them of their honour; either you had to make restitution, by paying back what you had stolen and something extra to cover the loss of honour, or you were punished. But Anselm argues that because sinning against God is infinitely serious, it is impossible to give him anything of equal or greater value. Only God could pay God enough. But only man should do so, because man sinned. So there has to be someone who is both God and man, whose death is of infinite value; Christ’s death therefore makes satisfaction to God for the sins of humanity, and no-one has to be punished at all.

    That became the dominant theory of the atonement in the Middle Ages. At the same time, though, an alternative theory was put forward by Peter Abelard, according to which Christ saves by giving us an example of completely self-denying love and sacrifice. The idea is that we are so inspired by his example – both of his life and, above all, of his death – that it changes us to become better people. There also seems to be an idea of Christ’s death acting as a sort of conduit for God’s love to change people from within, but it’s not really clear how this works. Notice that in this theory, and also Paul's theory which I explained at the start, it's not an arbitrary condition that you have to believe; the fact that you believe is essential to its working. If you didn't think that Christ's death was an act of self-sacrifice then it's not going to change the way you act at all.

    Abelard also sketched out a completely different theory of the atonement, according to which Christ dies in the place of sinners. On this theory, God’s justice compels him to punish the sinful; but Christ takes their place and suffers their punishment instead, which allows God to let sinners go. This theory was worked out properly by Calvin in the sixteenth century and it became the dominant one in Protestantism. In fact, virtually all evangelicals today not only believe it but think that it is the doctrine of the atonement, which all Christians are supposed to believe. They don’t normally even know of the existence of alternative theories.

    But in fact, apart from the evangelical churches, most Christian churches have never accepted any of these theories (or any of the others, for there are plenty more) as definitive. The standard Christian position is that Christ – especially his death and resurrection – saves sinners; how he does so is another matter. C.S. Lewis put it rather nicely (for once): he said it’s like eating dinner. You know that eating dinner keeps you healthy. Nutritionists have many different theories about how that works, but that’s not really important; all that matters is that it does work.

    There’s nothing inconsistent about the notion of an all-powerful, all-knowing being who is supremely evil instead of supremely good (Descartes imagined such a being in his first Meditation). As you point out, that would raise a “problem of good” analogous to the traditional “problem of evil”: if God is all-evil, why would he allow good? I don’t think your proposed solution is very effective: I think it’s pretty clear that there’s an awful lot of happiness in the world which doesn’t lead to greater suffering. In fact if you look at the world you’ll see that there’s a lot of suffering and a lot of happiness too; if you were to infer from that alone the general attitude of God, you’d probably think him a bit good and a bit evil, rather like us.
     
  20. ironduck

    ironduck Chieftain

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    I like the example of the employer.

    This one not as much.

    Children are genetically predisposed to like sweets. If you have a child you know it's going to have its odds stacked heavily in favour of liking sweets, so in essence you're creating a child knowing (almost) that it will like sweets. You're creating a child that's (almost) predetermined to like sweets. Children rarely choose to like sweets. Of course there are exceptions, but since the potential parent is not omniscient they're less relevant for the example. You are essentially creating a being that's predetermined to like sweets.
     
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