The Faith-Crippling Doctrine of Absolute Foreknowledge

March 21, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 6:14 pm   Category: Foreknowledge,Theology

I have already discussed the idea of how absolute foreknowledge would actually be quite useless to God here, here, and here. Steve Hancock brought up the subject again recently over at Splendid Sun. Some people believe absolute foreknowledge and free agency are compatible but I don’t. In fact, I have become increasingly convinced that believing in a fixed future (which is required if God has absolute foreknowledge) is a pernicious and faith-crippling doctrine.

The problem is that absolute foreknowledge is tightly associated with immutability – the doctrine that God is unchangeable. It leads to popular fatalistic notions like “que sera, sera”, or “whatever will be, will be”. In the church such fatalism manifests itself in the form of members saying “Who am I to try to change God’s will? He already knows what will happen and I would be presumptuous to try to change that.” They make good point. If God already knows or has willed what will happen in the future, why do we pray at all? If we cannot change the future then praying to do so is futile. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope.

But this popular attitude is at odds with our scriptures. We are taught that prayer is a form of work. Satan doesn’t want us to do that kind of work. What would you do if you were him? You would figure out a way to keep people from doing enough of that work to get mighty miracles. How could you do that? By convincing them that all they can really pray for is “thy will be done”. And on top of that you’d convince them that God’s will is going to be done whether they ask for it or not. In other words you would convince them that the future is fixed so they have no influence on God’s will. And you would laugh at how such false doctrines to make them spiritually impotent while they think they are honoring God by attributing immutability and absolute foreknowledge to him.

There are plenty of counter examples in the scriptures to these doctrines of immutability and absolute foreknowledge, though. Christ repeatedly tells us “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” . The logical follow up is if we don’t ask we don’t receive. Receiving is contingent on asking appropriately — not only that but on obedience to the laws upon which that blessing is predicated.

One of my favorite examples in scripture (and there are many) of a person changing God’s will, and thus the future, is the story of Enos. As I read the account, Enos was not some sinner looking to get right with God, but rather he was a mighty man of faith looking for exaltation. He wrestled, he bartered, and he struggled with the Lord all day and all night. Why? Because he was not going to quit until He got what he was after. Perhaps he was twisting God’s arm as we have discussed before. He was not going to stop until God granted his righteous desires. He was going to change his future and ended up acquiring blessing not only for himself but for all his people and all Lamanites as well.

This illustrates the problem with the twin doctrines of absolute foreknowledge and immutability. If Enos believed “whatever will be, will be” he would have given up after 10 minutes like most of us do. Enos did not believe that. He believed that prayer was a form of work and that he could get what he wanted if he worked hard enough at prayer.

So that’s why I think the doctrine of absolute doctrine is a pernicious teaching – it hamstrings our faith in petitionary prayer and cripples our ability to seek and obtain mighty miracles here and now. Those who believe such things will always give up too soon. Their spiritual plane will never get enough speed to achieve liftoff – they will bail out too early. I believe that’s why our adversary probably loves the doctrine so much. And if it indeed has such an influential supporter, is it any wonder why it is so prevalent in the church today?

What do you think?

486 Comments »

  1. Geoff,
    I’ll keep this short, and direct people to my comments on the post at Splendid Sun. I will only say that I agree that fatalism is pernicious, but I don’t think that absolute foreknowledge on God’s part is fatalistic. It is actually our praying, acting, etc, that makes the future that God knows. If we fail to act, then the future will certianly be different whether or not God knows that. If we say, “hey God knows what will happen so why try to change that,” then part of what God will know is that we were going to let ourself fail to act because we are lazy or lack faith [I think these and others are more likely the culprits] and blame it on a belief in foreknowledge. Whatever else we believe, I think we need to believe, as you point out, that the scriptures are telling the truth when they say that our prayers and work are efficacious.

    Comment by Steve H — March 21, 2005 @ 6:52 pm

  2. I’ve never heard a rational explanation from anyone on how God could have “exhaustive foreknowledge”, and that we can be free to choose at the same time. People just speak the words and expect you to believe them that it’s the way things are. We were talking about this very subject in class today and one kid said that we need to listen to Isaiah when he say’s “God’s ways are higher than our ways”. Yeah, he pulled the “God’s Ways” card. How is that supposed to prove anything. I think he thought that was proof enough that his position was correct, but really all he’s saying is we cannot say anything about God at all. There is an obvious contradiction here, and I would love to have someone explain to me how they solve this contradiction. Also they might touch on timelessness and how a God who has a body could possibly be timeless. Yeah they pull the “God’s Ways” card on that one too.

    Comment by Craig — March 21, 2005 @ 7:45 pm

  3. First, let us not be so hyperbolic, eh? Pernicious? Faith-crippling? It seems that there have been many with great faith that have believed in the absolute foreknowledge of God.

    Clark has raised a good point that there is a difference between knowing factually and empirically. Potentially, for God to act on certain occasions, he must experience love/mercy/supplication. In such instances regardless of whether he knows that we will pray or not, he cannot act until we do. We must therefore act.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 21, 2005 @ 9:43 pm

  4. Steve,

    After my long reply over at Splendid Sun, I think I can follow up here and say that the doctrine of absolute foreknowledge by definition requires the future to be as fixed as the past. If that is the case then we are only under the illusion of being free to choose, but in reality we cannot do anything about anything. So if God sees the future and I will go to hell and he lets me, no amount of effort on my part can change that. It is fixed. That is the very essence of fatalism. That is where “que sera, sera” finds its root. And that is why I reject it as a false and pernicious doctrine — because absolute foreknowledge cannot be separated from a fixed future.

    Craig,

    I couldn’t agree more. The only response to this issue seems to be “God’s ways are not our ways”. But I think we are closer to God than those people are allowing. We are “a little less than the gods” after all. I think this is one of those cases where “that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth… because of the tradition of their fathers.” (D&C 93:39)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 21, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  5. Ha! Hey, a little hyperbole sparks conversation, J.

    Fatalism is the actual pernicious part, but fatalism is the natural child of a fixed future, and a fixed future is required for absolute foreknowledge. I think those of great faith who might nominally go for doctrine of absolute foreknowledge probably never gave it a lot of thought so they never actually follow the road to its pernicious conclusion…

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 21, 2005 @ 10:03 pm

  6. Does not the focus on the empericism negate fatalism while still embracing foreknowlege?

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 21, 2005 @ 10:11 pm

  7. Yes. But I think that is only the case because of the complete lack of focus on the doctrine of absolute foreknowledge, which I believe to be false. If it is false that it is by definition unable to support true faith. “…therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 21, 2005 @ 10:47 pm

  8. This topic is actually being discussed at some length (though not at much depth) at http://www.nauvoo.com under the evidence for macroevolution post. I hope they do not mind if I copy some of my comments here with a couple modifications, for I feel they apply:

    My question is what do we mean by omniscient? Do we mean that God knows absolutely everything, everywhere, everything that happened before He became God and everything that will happen ever? This seems to be stretching it. Do we mean that he knows everything that will ever happen to us in this life? That isn’t too bad. Do we mean that he knows everything that can be known? Then the question becomes what can or cannot be known?

    My understanding of God was always as follows.

    Let’s take the conception of God according to the traditional mono-theistic tradtion. He created everything, therefore there was a definite beginning and there will be, more or less, a definite end. Therefore, there are a finite amount of things that can be known and He knows them all.

    Our understanding is different. There was no definite beginning. There will be no definite end. Therefore there is no such thing as “everything” at all. It is impossible, even for God, to know everything because there is not such thing as absolutely everything. Thus we must define what we mean when we say omniscient by placing limitations on it.

    In the ethical monotheistic model, if there are 999 things that can be known, God knows 999 things. In our model, God can know all 999 things but there will always be more. Remember, infinity is a concept, not a number. Thus, we believe in eternal progression.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 22, 2005 @ 12:52 am

  9. Jeffrey makes a good point. And it’s not omniscience that I have a problem with, as it is defined here at least. What I have a problem with is exhaustive foreknowledge. Jeff I like your point that since we believe in eternity it is impossible for God to know all of eternity. Has anyone on here (besides me), read Clark Pinnock’s book “The Most Moved Mover”, I think he does an excellent job (though I do not completely agree with him) of explaining God’s omniscience. And he isn’t even a Mormon, he’s an evangelical. Pinnock believes that God chooses to limit his knowledge the moment he creates free individuals. Since we are free, we place limits on God’s knowledge. Now as Mormon’s we believe that we are eternal, and therefore our freedom is eternal as well. If that’s the case, then God doesn’t choose to limit his knowledge, his knowledge is just limited as a matter of fact. And as Jeff pointed out, the only omniscience God can have if this is the case is complete knowledge of all that is actual. Given the Hebrew prophets descriptions of their dealings with God, it seem’s that this would be how they thought of God’s knowledge as well. This type of omniscience is not foreign to Mormonism either. It was taught by Brigham Young, John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow, B.H. Roberts, etc. etc.

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 7:55 am

  10. Can’t we agree to disagree? The foreknowledge of God is an impossible question to resolve. If I think that God has an absolute foreknowledge of all my acts, and yet I still have faith, can it really be such a pernicious and faith-crippling doctrine? It is to you, but not to everyone. I don’t think it really matters; in the end, we’ll find out the answer, and both of us will probably be wrong.

    Comment by NFlanders — March 22, 2005 @ 8:01 am

  11. NFlanders,
    The point is, one of HAS to be right. We’re not setting up a false dichotomy here. Either God has exhaustive foreknowledge or he doesn’t. There is no middle ground on that. Now those who believe that God doesn’t have exhaustive foreknowledge believe that there is an inherent contradiction in saying that God has exhaustive foreknowledge and that we are free to choose amoung genuine alternatives. If you can demonstrate that this is not a contradiction then you might have a leg to stand on, otherwise you’ll have to keep pulling the Isiah card.

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 8:29 am

  12. Jeffrey and Craig: The issues at hand with God’s knowledge and power is — Does he have enough knowledge and power to ensure our salvation and exaltation? If so then all other knowledge and power are superfluous to us. So I agree with that discussion of yours.

    NFlanders: The problem with your sugestion that we stop thinking about this is that it only delays the inevitable. Craig is right — our God either does or doesn’t have absolute foreknowledge. Trying to ignore it is one approach (and most take it) but it is not a useful one. Joseph said:

    My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being he is;

    It seems clear to me that Joseph would have wanted us all to get to the bottom of these vital issues. The risk we run otherwise is building our spiritual houses on the sandy foundation of false doctrines (which include absolute foreknowledge as far as I can tell…)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 22, 2005 @ 9:21 am

  13. I think Blake Ostler lays out the argument very nicely with his “B” argument. It seems almost irrefutable. I think if I get some time later on I’ll post it on here in its entirety.

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 11:42 am

  14. I think one thing missing in this type of discussion is the difference between time for God and what we consider time.

    Time to us is always linear, one event happens then another, then another. Time is a function of mass, gravity and speed. Tell me what God’s mass is, what the gravity is where He’s located and what speed He is traveling at and we can understand better what time is to Him.

    I believe God is outside our time domain. Time to God is considerable different than time to us. He can see the end from the begining. If we could change God’s mind / what He will do for us, based on our what we want with our limited knowledge and perspective what does that say about God? What would be the ripple effect of all those changes from God always changing things to suit man’s wants?

    I always thought the purpose of prayer was not to beg God to give us what we want but to align our will and wants with God’s will. I believe it was Neal Maxwell who said the only thing that we can really give to God is our will.

    I think the prayer of faith is more than begging for what we want and then ending with “thy will be done”. And I think God’s foreknowledge has more to do with His perspective in relationship to time itself than we understand.

    Comment by don — March 22, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

  15. Don,
    There are several problems with your theory of God and time. First of all, if is true that God is outside of “our” time, then how does he interact with us? What difference would a prayer make? Does he really listen to our prayers, or does he just command us to pray so that we can realize his will and act accordingly? Does this force us into being Deists? Do we have to accept the fact that God created the universe and then stepped back and let it do its thing? It seems that this all goes contrary to what Joseph Smith taught. Joseph’s revelations and teachings teach us that God is immanent in the world, not transcendent to it. God here’s and answer’s prayers, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon teach that our petitionary prayers can actually change God’s mind. We can get into the theories of space, time, speed, etc. But when it comes the scriptures they make it very clear that our prayers do make a difference, and God is immanent in the world.

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

  16. I personally think that the encyclopedia of mormonism’s article on time and eternity is one of it’s best articles:

    “Whatever the subtleties of the ultimate nature of time, or of scientific postulates on the relativity of time, and of the modes of measuring time, several assurances are prominent features of LDS understanding:

    1. Time is a segment of eternity… Time itself had no beginning and will have no end.

    2. Time unfolds in one direction… Individual creative freedom modifies the outcomes.

    3. Eternity, as continuing time, is tensed: past, present, and future. God himself… is… related to time. At his own supreme and unsurpassable level, he has a past, a present, and a future. Neither he nor his creations can return to or change the past.

    4. In a cosmic sense, the reckoning of time is according to the rotations of the spheres… There is some connection between time and space, for example, “one day to a cubit” (see Book of Abraham: Facsimiles From the Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 1)…

    The thesis that God is beyond time has sometimes been introduced to account for God’s omniscience or foreknowledge… For Latter-day Saints, as for the Bible, God’s omniscience is “in time.” God anticipates the future. It is “present” before him, but it is still future. When the future occurs, it will occur for the first time to him as to his creatures.”

    I apologize for the long quote, but it makes great points. If God is in time, any time at all, he does not experientially know the future as He does the past. Instead, He predicts it, continually revising His predictions according to what happens in the present.

    I have been exploring this issue rather superficially at the Mormons and Evolution blog (www.mormonevolution.blogspot.com) and its relation to the preexistence. After all, how could each person who is born here today have had all of the physical characteristics that we inherit genetically in the preexistence? Could God have known who each and every person would marry and have children with? I believe not.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 22, 2005 @ 3:17 pm

  17. Jeffrey,

    That was excellent. Thank you for the input and for pointing us to that insightful entry in EoM.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 22, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  18. Jeffrey,
    Yes that quote was very helpful in putting this issue into perspective. Many times when one tries to defend exhaustive foreknowledge, they will use theories of relativity to defend their postition, but they never spell out how the theory of relativity gives grounds for believing in divine foreknowledge. (This is probably because they lack an understanding of relativity). I think the encyclopedia does a good job of summing up Mormonism’s view of time and reality.

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 3:40 pm

  19. Graig,
    At the risk of responding for Don,I think the answer to most of your questions is no. Just because I may believe that God does not relate to time in the same way that we do, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t relate to time.
    Geoff,
    If it helps you to ease your mind in respect to my sandy foundation ;), I am very willing to concede that God’s knowledge of the future may, and probably does, only extend as far as this world (Of course, there may be contemporaneously operating worlds, and I don’t want to go there.). This does help me to account for statements by Briham Young and others that God is still progressing in knowledge. I’ll probably cross-post this comment on Splendid Sun.

    Comment by Steve H. — March 22, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

  20. Steve,
    I’m fine with the fact that you believe that God has exhaustive foreknowledge. I may even be wrong on this subject, trust me it won’t be the first time. If you can demonstrate scripturally and intellectualy that this is the case, then I’ll give your position some thought. This has never been done adequately for me. For me the only reasonable position to take is the position that God’s knowledge is contingent upon our free acts, and this position is in harmony with scripture. But please, in all sincereity, please show me how my reasoning may be faulty.

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 4:21 pm

  21. Because God is outside our time domain doesn’t mean he doesn’t or can’t relate to us in our time domain. The space time continum shows that time is different relative to where you are at, the scriptures even point out this fact. If God is in a different sphere of time, or relates to time differently than I do certainly doesn’t mean he won’t hear my prayers, can’t answer my prayers, or can’t come and visit me.

    I just think we know so little about time – God’s time etc. What does from eterntiy to eternity mean? Or one eternal round? both those relate to time, but I don’t have a clue what they mean.

    Comment by don — March 22, 2005 @ 4:48 pm

  22. Don,
    I agree. We shouldn’t of course, imply that we can’t know anything about God, and thus use the “God’s ways card” every time we have no explanation. (I’m not sure I like that metaphor, actually, but it’ll work) But certainly there are those doctrines that we don’t (and can’t) completely understand, and what I think you point out is that our limited understanding of time and of God’s relationship to it might make this one of them.
    Craig,
    For now, I’ll direct you to my comments on the subject at Splendid Sun listed above. We went through most of my feelings on the matter for now. You can decide what you find persuasive there.

    Comment by Steve H — March 22, 2005 @ 6:59 pm

  23. Don, Steve: Blake dealt with this time issue well in his book too. It seems to me that God’s relationship to time is really moot. If he sees and knows the future already then the future is as fixed as the past. If the future (or his will) is fixed, pernicious fatalism natually follows.

    Our scriptures regarding time do say that it is measure differently on different planets/places, though. Measuring time differently is easy to understand to me — I have measured time differently in my life too. When I was young it seemed very slow. The older I get the faster it seems to get.

    Craig,

    The problem is that there is no logical way to allow for both true free agency and absolute foreknowledge. One either must pull the “God’s way card” or conclude that God’s foreknowledge necessarily has limits. You and I are obviously in the same latter on this subject.

    The thing that surprises me — and maybe someone in the absolute foreknowledge camp can help me out here — is how tenaciously many of the saints cling to the doctrine absolute foreknowledge even when it can be logically shown to not be necessary for God to exalt us… Our exaltation is God’s only concern (D&C 1:39) so it ought to be our only real concern too. If he can get us exalted without absolute foreknowledge then why cling to it?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 22, 2005 @ 9:51 pm

  24. BTW — There is a third discussion on this subject going on over at Clark’s blog.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 22, 2005 @ 9:55 pm

  25. Geoff,
    I’ve been toying with a thought. It may be a biased thought, and it may be ad hominem attack, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway. I was talking to my wife about this today, and about the purpose of prayer. Many who belong to the exhaustive foreknowledge camp, believe that our prayers are there to bring our will in subjection with God’s will. I have some tell me that the belief that our prayers change God’s mind, or somehow affect the future in a way that it changes out comes is a selfish way to pray. But as I thought about it today, it’s the other way around. If you think that praying to God does not affect God, but only affects yourself, then in all actuality that is the selfish way to pray. I think that believing that prayer is an interactive, give and take relationship, between you and God is a much better way to pray. But I don’t know, what do you think?

    Comment by Craig — March 22, 2005 @ 11:00 pm

  26. Geoff,
    I think this is how my previous post is best viewed, as an explanation of why I believe in foreknowledge based on the idea that I feel it is necessary to other doctrines, including the idea that God must have it to have the necessary knowledge to exalt us. I may be wrong, but it is on this basis that I see the doctrine as necessary, and as I do not see it as logically untennable, despite multiple readings of Blake’s Argument B–lots, I assure you–I see no reason to disbelieve in God’s foreknowledge and reasons to believe in it.
    Craig,
    I would agree that our prayers are efficacious, despite the fact that I am in the foreknowledge camp, due mostly to the fact that I do not see foreknowledge as fatalistic. I think, however, that our prayers should still seek for God’s will. That is, the scriptures do warn us ot to pray for that which is improper, and we should seek the spirit to know what we should pray for, thus making me into one of those people that would think that we shouldn’t pray for what we want, but for what God wants, but I do still believe that if we don’t pray, the blessings won’t come.

    Comment by Steve H — March 23, 2005 @ 12:15 am

  27. Craig,

    The subject you bring up is a vital one. I posted on it earlier this month. The upshot of that discussion is that neither approach — seeking desired blessing (via changing God’s mind) vs. seeking to conform to his will — is more selfish than the other. I proposed that in order to change God’s mind and get our desired blessing we must barter in God’s currency. God’s currency is our will. So in order to get our desired blessing we must conform our will to his (or in other words we repent and work toward his goals for us, aka exaltation). It becomes the ultimate win-win deal.

    If there is anything to find fault with the approach of only conforming to his will without ever seeking to change it is that we may miss out on all sorts of possible blessing. I suspect that the deists have some things right – that the world chugs along indenpently most of the time and God only intervenes upon request (or when he must for his own purposes). If we don’t bother to ask with sufficient fervor and faith for what we need and want God may not be able to give us some of the blessing that are only available only upon request. In other words, changing God’s mind might mean getting him to intervene when he otherwise would have let “nature take its course”.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 12:45 am

  28. Fair enough, Steve. I guess the problem is you don’t buy various arguments on how God could bring about our exaltation without absolute foreknowledge. I certainly don’t begrudge you that belief.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 12:50 am

  29. “Our exaltation is God’s only concern (D&C 1:39) so it ought to be our only real concern too. If he can get us exalted without absolute foreknowledge then why cling to it?” –#23 Geoff
    One could pose the exact same question back to you and Craig. Why cling to your belief in the limited knowledge of God if it isn’t necessary for exaltation? Personally, I don’t really care one way or the other. My tentative belief in foreknowledge is quite different from what you and Craig imagine it to be. I believe we can ask God for and receive things that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I believe we have absolute free agency and can do anything we want. But I also think that God already knows what choices we will make.
    Obviously, this issue is important to you and I don’t begrudge your trying to get to the bottom of it. But to label foreknowledge unilaterally as “false doctrine” seems both rash and dangerous.

    Comment by NFlanders — March 23, 2005 @ 8:38 am

  30. But to label foreknowledge unilaterally as “false doctrine” seems both rash and dangerous.

    Ha! Perhaps you are right about that, NFlanders. But as Craig mentioned, this is one of those binary things… it is either true or not. I just happen to be taking a stand on it even when most others won’t. I feel pretty confident that God won’t begrudge me trying to avoid being lukewarm on this particular doctrine, though (even in the off-chance I am wrong…)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 8:55 am

  31. Steve,
    You have read the “B” argument several times. I still haven’t had time to post it on here because I’m so busy, but since you have already read it several times, can you tell us if it is an invalid argument, and if it’s not, can you tell us which premise you disagree with?

    Comment by Craig — March 23, 2005 @ 9:14 am

  32. If God doesn’t have complete foreknowledge how can He inspire the prophets to write prophecy? Without complete foreknowledge how did he know that Joseph in Egypt would have a decendant named Joseph with a son named Joseph who would be in the right place at the right time to be the prophet of the restoration?

    Comment by don — March 23, 2005 @ 11:18 am

  33. Geoff: But as Craig mentioned, this is one of those binary things… it is either true or not.
    Is it possible that this is not necessarily so? Perhaps what I think of as foreknowledge and what you think of as not having it are equally wrong simply because language is inadequate to express the true reality. Perhaps God could say, “I have foreknowledge.” I’m not claiming he would (though I often do), just that he could. It might be true, but mean something that we can’t express. That is, it might be possible, however counterintuitive that there is actually something that such a binary might not fit.
    Even as I am writing this I don’t know if I even think it is a possibility, but you must understand that one of my principle studies as a student and scholar of romanticism is transcendence. So I’m probably more comfortable than most with the idea that there are things that defy logic, and I perhaps look for the places where my ability to logically think through an issue might be inadequate.

    Comment by Steve H — March 23, 2005 @ 11:19 am

  34. Don, your question is even more harsh than that, so much so that I’m not even sure any Mormon will want to accept it. That prophecy says that not only would a boy named Joseph be called to be prophet, but that he would not choose to turn away from it. Now we know that Joseph Smith knew about this prophecy. Can we find any better example of a prophecy, supposedly coming from an absolute foreknowledge, taking away somebodies free will. Joseph Smith had no choice but to continue with his calling. The future was set and he had no say in the matter.

    Regarding you argument however, I would bring in three things: 1) prophecies regarding what God would do in the future do not limit anybodies free will and are OK. Just like my prophecying that I will go to church this sunday isn’t all that impressive. 2) We should critically view prophecies which are related after the fact of fulfillment. The recollection of the original prophecy will be viewed and remembered in terms of its fulfillment. This also makes for really good faith promoting, though not entirely historically accurate, material. 3) Closely related to (2), it would be wise, especially in Don’s example, to consider Ostler’s “Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source” theory. Namely, that a lot of Joseph Smith can be found in both the BoM and the JST making many prophecies posthumorous and falling under #2.

    I think if we had an accurate accout of what, exactly, a prophecy was when given and then compared it with an independant, though accurate, account of its fulfillment and I fear that the two may not match up as well as we sometimes suppose.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 23, 2005 @ 11:37 am

  35. History is always written by the winners. So I agree with your look at prophecy fulfillment. But the assumption that foreknowledge takes away free will is still not something I’m in total agreement with. There are several bible prophecies that are accurate to the day/year of their fulfillment. Something to consider about many prophecies is the exact expression that the person involved has free will. Two quick examples: Cain – if thou doest well, ok, if not then….And Laman and Lemuel if then statements about them and their future. Hmmmmm, maybe that’s just an easy out for God.

    Comment by don — March 23, 2005 @ 11:57 am

  36. Jeffrey,
    Are you suggesting that God would have Joseph go back and write himself into prophecy? It doesn’t sound very god-like to me. How is this different from me going back and rewriting what I said last week to make it seem like I knew what would happen to me? Forgive me if I haven’t read that particular part of Blake’s work.
    I still tend to have trouble with this view of prophecy as something that might happen. How, then, would we explain Deuteronomy 18:22:

    When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

    Comment by Steve H — March 23, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

  37. Don: You ask an important question. For some of my reponses to it see here, here, and here (response to Steve and follow up comments).

    Steve: As we have talked about before, the problem isn’t with foreknowledge, it is with a fixed future. I do think it is impossible to have absolute foreknowledge without a fixed future. But I think it is quite possible to have a what could be called non-absolute-foreknowledge without the future being fixed. Perhaps it is small difference but I think it is important.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 1:51 pm

  38. 1) I don’t believe that Joseph went back and put his name into scripture de novo. There might have been a prophecy there to which Joseph was the fulfillment and from there Joseph filled in the rest.

    2) I don’t think that he necessarily did this consciously. I think it is just part of the very “conceptual” process of translation as JS understood it.

    3) With regards to Deuteronomy, it was not written by Moses but by priests who were very concerned about maintaining strict orthodoxy and keeping pesky prophets at bay. I think the verse contains sound advice, but I wouldn’t take it too literally. After all, many of JS’s prophecies didn’t come true, are we really sure we want to adopt this verse?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 23, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

  39. Geoff, are you saying that God can have a perfect foreknowledge when it comes to fufilling specific prophecies, like Joseph Smith exampled in my previous comment. And He can do that thru prompting and invitations by the spirit….just to make sure it comes out right?

    It appears to me that there is a fixed future when it comes to certain prophecies, if so then does He fix it?

    If it’s not a fixed future then how can He know His prophecies will come true, unless thru His influence He guarantees it?

    I have a hard time getting my limited intellegence, earthly, finite mind around this…especially when you throw in time as it relates to God and this question.

    Comment by don — March 23, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  40. Don,
    There are few passages of scripture that are specific. Comb through the Book of Mormon and you’ll notice a trend of “conditional” prophecies. As a rule of thumb, this is typical for prophecies, even if the prophecy isn’t padded with qualifications as such. For example, the Lord told Joseph that the temple would be built in Jackson County Missouri, “in this generation”, now you can go about trying to define what “generation” means, but it is obvious what it means when you read the scripture that explains why the temple was not built. Now the revelation did not say, “if you are faithful, and if the enemies of the Lord don’t interfere, you will build a temple in Jackson country missiouri in this generation”. He didn’t have to because that those types of restrictions are implied in every revelation. Many of the revelations that God gives that seem to be absolute usually have something to do with his divine action. For example Christ being born in 600 years. That is God’s action, so he can make such promises. I don’t know how to deal with the Joseph Smith scripture, but Jeffrey might have something with the “conceptual process” of translation. I mean it is obvious that the Book of Mormon is not a perfect word for word translation. Biblical passages that are repeated word for word in the Book of Mormon are later corrected in the JST.

    Well I could ramble on and on, but the point is…just because there are prophecies that seem to require specific foreknowledge, it does not follow that all foreknowledge is that specific, which is the real issue we’re dealing with here. For you to demonstrate that God has “exhaustive foreknowledge” would have to show in every instance God’s prophecies were fulfilled, and he knew fully in advance what the outcome would be. We have the easier task, all we have to show is one time where God’s prophecy was conditional and he didn’t know exhuastively what the outcome would be and we’ve demonstrated that God’s foreknowledge is not exhaustive. Now, we have several examples, not just one. So how will you deal with these examples?

    Comment by Craig — March 23, 2005 @ 3:46 pm

  41. Don: That is also a good question. A fixed future means that, for example, God knows you will blink at 10:37:14.5 tonight. It is a fact that he knows as if it already happened and there is nothing you or He could do to change that — it is fixed. This is the problem with that doctrine.

    God being able to prophesy does not require the future to be fixed. For instance, God could tell Joseph of Egypt about actions of two future Josephs and be certain it will happen. Why? First the world is already scripted out and planned ahead of time and Heisenberg gives a model of predicting group behavior very accurately. (See the former post and this one.) Second, God knows both of those “future” Josephs already and their progenitors. He knows when to send each of them to earth and he knows their character well enough to know they are the type of people who will heed promptings from the Holy Ghost. So there is wiggle room on timing and details but God has plenty of power and predictive capability to see to it that prophecies generally happen as he predicts.

    As I said, this is very different than being locked into an unchangeable or fixed script.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 4:03 pm

  42. In this specific instance, I’d say God wanted the Saints to work towards building a temple even though He knew it wouldn’t come to fruition.
    Just because He knows how the book ends doesn’t mean he’s not going to give us the full complement of choices.

    Comment by NFlanders — March 23, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

  43. Craig,
    I think that the point about prophesy for those of us that believe in what you are calling exhaustive foreknowledge, though I don’t know that I have thought through the term entirely, is that there are certain prophesies that are fulfilled so specifically that they seem to have required either coersion or foreknowledge by some other means. If by some other means, why wouldn’t he use those means in every case? If by coersion, what justifies his coersion in those cases–can it be just to coerce one person into doing good or evil so for the good of others?
    I’m not saying you believe any of these things, just outlining my reasoning.

    Comment by Steve H — March 23, 2005 @ 4:11 pm

  44. Steve, I cannot think of a more explicit example of specific prophecy as you mention than Peter denying Christ thrice. I mean Peter denied it would happen and yet within 24 hours it did. (If this isn’t the most extreme case let me know). Anyway, that is the very case I dealt with in my original foreknowledge post called “How God could figure out the future without foreknowledge”. Check it out. The point is that if I can come up with a model where God could get make accurate prophecies without seeing a fixed future surely He could!

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 4:28 pm

  45. Geoff,
    I don’t think it’s necessary to explain away such examples when the scriptures are full of contrary examples.

    Comment by Craig — March 23, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

  46. Geoff,
    The question is, did he know that Peter would fail? Yes. Did that take away Peter’s choice? No. Peter had the choice here that was the subject of the prediction, I think. You see, saying that foreknwoledge is incompatible with free-will would mean that God did not know what Peter would do, and if he did know what Peter would do, Peter had no choice but to do it. If he did not know what Peter would do, why tell him that he would do it rather than simply saying “Peter, before the cock crows, you will probably deny me,” or “you will almost surely deny me,” instaed of making the outright prediction? Saying that God’s foreknowledge simply comes from his understanding of the agents choosing seems awfully like saying he has exhaustive foreknowledge, since I know many who have made a claim to exhaustive foreknowledge on this basis-he knows us so well that he knows what we will do in any situation, and the actions of agenst would be the only things difficult to predict-though I’m not sure that’s the model of exhaustive foreknowledge I buy into, since it seems to me to make us less like autonomous agents and less like people who just act as we do because of who we are–our genetic or spiritual make-up or our training.

    Comment by Steve H — March 23, 2005 @ 4:46 pm

  47. My goodness, Craig got to that before I did. Are we all sitting and waiting for someone to post?

    Comment by Steve H — March 23, 2005 @ 4:48 pm

  48. Steve,
    First..Yes I’m sitting here waiting to see if someone posts. I’m stuck at the Wilkenson Center because I accidently kept the keys to the car, so now my wife can’t pick me up. So now I have to wait for the Bus.

    Second,
    I buy into neither model of exhuasitive foreknowledge (i.e. God see’s the absolute future, or God knows us so well he knows what we will do). I think God does know us well, and I think he does see some future events, but I do not believe that his foreknowledge is exhaustive. As far as the prophecy about Peter, I just throw my arms up and say, I don’t know how the heck Jesus knew that. What Ostler says may have some truth to it; we must bear in mind the gospels were written long after the fact, and I doubt they wanted to focus on prophecy’s that didn’t come true, I mean look at the prophecy’s that Joseph prophecied that didn’t come true, do those make it into our preisthood manuals? But like I said before, regardless of how many examples you can come up with, I only have to come up with one counter example to throw off your whole theory.

    Comment by Craig — March 23, 2005 @ 5:01 pm

  49. Steve and Craig: I think that approach I took is useful because it sits between the poles you two are at. Craig says (and is correct, I think) that some prophesies just don’t come true. Steve doesn’t believe Christ would have told Peter that if there was any chance it might not come true. I think Craig is more right in this case, only because there was a logical possibility that the prophesy to Peter may not have come true. But I like the model because it describes a way God could be right almost all the time — which I think is the way things really are.

    I think you misread my take on that case too, Steve. You seem to think I am implying some sort of causal determinism and I am not. Knowing Peter’s character was not enough. God used that knowledge in addition to prompting various players to accuse Peter, etc. It required direct intervention combined with knowledge of character to pull this off.

    As to why Christ didn’t mention there was a one in a million (or billion or whatever) chance that the prophesy might not come to pass, I think it was just not needed. God would have had a backup plan for that unlikely contingency too. As long as the overall plan is accomplished why should he sweat a minor setback?

    BTW — I came up with this model in response to Ostler’s anemic answer “maybe that scripture is wrong”. That doesn’t work for me and with the model I provided we don’t have to settle for claiming scripture was wrong. (For what it’s worth, Blake appreciated my alternate model on the subject when he read it.)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 23, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

  50. Geoff: First, I fail to see how your response differs from my view that God knows all probabilities and can intervene to assure his purposes? Our views are virtually indistinguishable, so no wonder I agree with you. However, I reject your view of what appears to me to be scriptural inerrancy. You assert that the scripture cannot be wrong and that amounts to inerrancy. That is not an LDS position — and what do you make of God predicting a temple to be built in Independence in this generation and then revoking his prophecy? What do you make of Christ’s prediction that God’s kingdom would be established on this earth even before all the 70 returned from their missions? What do you make of Jonah predicting the destruction of Ninevah and then God changes his mind? What do you make of the differences between the gospel of John and the synoptics (e.g., Christ’s mission is one year in the synoptics and three years in John)?

    Comment by Blake — March 23, 2005 @ 10:14 pm

  51. Wow. Lots of stuff and I missed it all. A few brief thoughts.

    1. We ought distinguish between God knowing everything (what I think you mean by absolute omniscience) and simple foreknowledge. I’m not convinced Mormonism is committed to the former. I personally believe it entails the second, although clearly some disagree.

    2. Recall that knowledge is typically considered as justified true belief. (There are exceptions, but that’ll do for this discussion) That means for God to know anything about the future it must be absolutely true and therefore fixed. You can’t have predictions based upon something that could be otherwise in a strong sense and have knowledge. Anyone who says a fallible prediction is knowledge is misusing the term.

    3. The reason relativity is sometimes invoked is because General Relativity entails what is called substantial spacetime. That is, spacetime as a whole is a substance-like entity. It is a whole. Now some, like Blake, might simply say General Relativity is wrong. But if you buy General Relativity as being true, then the fixity of the future is a fact. I should add that most interpretations of General Relativity would also deny backwards causality, limiting what is known about the future via some direct perception.

    4. People in this thread are conflating the fixity of the future with fatalism. Fatalism is the doctrine that what I do doesn’t matter, the future will happen no matter what. This is not believed by those advocating foreknowledge. Fatalism would be something like saying that if you turn left or turn right at the intersection, you’ll still die. Fixity of the future would entail something like if you turn left you won’t die. If you turn right you will die. You chose to turn right.

    5. Realize that a lot of the debate is a semantic game over the meaning of the word “free” and how it relates to our typical language use and our intuitions. The people who believe the term should be at least extended to a wider meaning still believe in freedom and believe most of the same practical matters. The free will debate is primarily a philosophical one regarding language. It has possible implications if one language choice is “true.” But we ought keep in mind that it is primarily a linguistic issue. As someone mentioned, whether God does or doesn’t have foreknowledge and to what that might imply is entirely an empirical matter that I don’t think the scriptures really resolve one way or the other. (Although I think it fair to say that most General Authorities and scripture figures assume foreknowledge)

    Comment by Clark — March 23, 2005 @ 11:34 pm

  52. Clark what are you still doing awake?
    I am personally under the conviction that God’s foreknowledge is not limited only by free will. This maybe making God a little too human.

    1) If information that any time at all to travel, then some information which has already happened in some places (maybe even here) might still be a prediction whereever He is. This is not just limited to the speed of light, but any speed whatsoever.

    2) Quantum mechanics suggests that though fluctuations will tend to cancel eachother out over the long run, this will not be the case in small areas over a small increment of time. Predictions, even those made by God, will involve probabilities. The uncertainty principle applies to God as well.

    3) Just because He can know something in the future, this doesn’t mean that he does know it. He simply might not have looked into the matter. I could know what temperature it is right now in DC, but I don’t look into the matter. Mostly because I don’t care enough. Such would not be the case with God and the Plan of Salvation.
    Thus, even though I am a determinist, I still believe God’s foreknowledge to be limited.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2005 @ 1:11 am

  53. I don’t understand all you compatibilist/determinist guys. How can you be a Mormon and a determinist/soft determinist at the same time? I mean I understand the Calvinist’s, and I think their TULIP doctrine is consistent with their belief in pre-destination. But for a Mormon to accept these idea’s is beyond me.
    Clark,
    You say that fatalism and “fixity of the future” are being conflated, and that they shouldn’t be. I agree that they are different. Fatalism is impersonal, and the “fixed future” is personal. I quote Clark Pinnock, “Fatalism and predestination are not the same thing–one is impersonal, the other personal–but they imply much the same thing for practical puruposes, i.e. the certainty of all future events.” How can a person be held responsible for thier actions, if their actions are determined? It seems that responsibility implies the ability to choose among genuine options. Clark is sounds like your a compatibilist. Compatibilits make less sense to me than determinists do. Actually determinists make perfect sense to me, I just can’t accept what they say. But Compatibilists on the other hand sound like thier trying to “have thier cake and eat it to”. Could you care to clear up how you reconsile responsibility with a determined world?

    Comment by Craig — March 24, 2005 @ 7:55 am

  54. Good point, Blake (#50)

    I actually didn’t mean to imply that scripture is inerrant — obviously there are errors. I only meant to say my approach is to assume scriptures are innocent until proven guilty, or in other words I assume they are accurate unless the evidence is overwhelming thatthere is an error. That is why I am more comfortable the approach I took regarding the Peter case. As I’m sure you would agree, claiming the scriptures are in error too quickly is a very slippery slope so I try to avoid that card whenever possible.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 24, 2005 @ 9:42 am

  55. Clark,

    Points 1-2: Yes. We are in some agreement here. I have been careful to focus on what I’ve called “absolute foreknowledge” as opposed to just foreknowledge. I suggested there is probably some form of “non-absolute-foreknowledge” to Steve in #37. Though since I think it is based on probabilities some may dispute calling it foreknowldege at all. But I think it is no stretch (and I think Blake has agreed with this) for God to know He can get his purposes accomplished. It is a stretch to say he knows exactly how, when, and where every detail of that will happen. (See my example to Don in #37)

    Point 4: I think I have also been careful to say that a fixed-future natually leads to fatalism (as opposed to saying they are exactly the same). Nevertheless it may be a moot clarification because as Craig points out the result is the same. If the future is fixed there is nothing we can do to change it. I think an open future is required in our doctrine.

    Jeffrey: Wow a real Mormon determinist! That is quite a stretch with our doctrines. You should write a post explaining how that works. Also, I obviously agree with your comment “The uncertainty principle applies to God as well.”

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 24, 2005 @ 11:20 am

  56. Clark: Re: 50.3 I believe that you are mistaken that GR entails a fixed future. I address this issue in my book and Adolph Grunbaum has shown that such an assertion is mistaken. (See the discussion in my book).

    Jeff: Like Geoff, I would also like to see how you square determinism with basic LDS commitments to choices among alternatives and God not being resonsible for evil, etc.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2005 @ 11:32 am

  57. Pre-destination only means something if somebody knows what that destiny is. Since I don’t believe that even God knows this, what’s the big deal? I simply believe that everything has a cause. (There is a quote by Brigham Young which says this very thing which I cannot find right now.) Thing don’t just happen. If that were true, that would be incompatible with Mormonism in my opinion. True, there are quantum fluctuations, like I said, but also like I said they tend to cancel each other out of the long haul. I should also mention that I am a soft-determinist.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2005 @ 11:39 am

  58. Here is that quote: JD 13:34
    “This is a great miracle in our estimation; but it would be no miracle at all to the Lord, because He knows precisely how to do it. There is no miracle to any being in the heavens or on the earth, only to the ignorant. To a man who understands the philosophy of all the phenomena that transpire, there is no such thing as a miracle. A great many think there are results without causes; there is no such thing in existence; there is a cause for every result that ever was or ever will be, and they are all in the providences and in the work of the Lord.”

    I am also very persuaded by L. Rex Sears paper on determinism from dialogue as well as Dennett’s Freedom Evolves.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2005 @ 11:46 am

  59. I still think this issue is more intuitive than logical. Blake, I know you will disagree with this, but really, there is no way to divide the issue logically. If there is a fixed future, and if there is still free will, we have no conception of what it means. We don’t know what it is like to know the future before it happens. We only know what we think it would be like to know the future before it happens, and it scares us because if we knew the future before it happens, we would try to change the bad things. In fact, we actually would be part of causing all of the bad thigns, so if we knew the future before it happened, then it wouldn’t be the future any more because we would do different things. In fact, if we knew the future before ithappened, I’m not sure God would have foreknowledge. Perhaps the only reason we can trust God with foreknowledge is that his actions are voluntarily restricted by the cat that everything he does will be in strict keeping with the furtherance of the salvation of his children. thus we already know what he will do, and his seeing the future before it happens will not cause him to do things differently, though it perhaps is his kowledge of the fuutre and his determination of the things he will do that cause that future that come to him simultaneously as a single intuition. Keep in mind that I don’t think that foreknwoedge is absolute even though I believe in simple foreknowledge so there is a time, perhaps even just an instant before he institues time as we know it for this to happen for him to realize what the course of his actions will be and what the resulting future will be because of it.
    Caveat–some of this is just new refining of my ideas, and it does not constitute my reasons for believing them.

    Comment by Steve H — March 24, 2005 @ 11:54 am

  60. Jeffrey, it seems to me that in your (1) in #52 is trying to interpret relativity in terms of an absolute time that it inherently denies. When you say, “some information which has already happened in some places (maybe even here) might still be a prediction whereever He is.” So I’d say that way of conceiving things is a no-no. However you make a good point when you say this applies to any speed, thus avoiding the relativity point.

    Basically your argument is that God knows causally and that takes time. Thus there might be something true but unknown.

    My complaint is that I don’t see how this is really a problem unless one requires that at a minimum God know all that is true. Thus limiting his knowledge to normal causal influence seems wrong. That’s fine, but I’m not sure it’ll convince anyone who doesn’t already buy your premises. Further, I don’t think Blake’s argument typically depends upon how God knows.

    What you say about QM is true, and with respect to chaotic systems, I think macro-effects of God’s lack of knowledge will compound.

    Your (3) simply recognizes a distinction between the possibility of foreknowledge and awareness of foreknowledge. I tend to agree with you, but would merely point out that the whole awareness issue adds a perhaps unnecessary complication into the discussion. For instance do you know 2 + 2 = 4 even when you aren’t thinking about it? I think though for the sake of Blake’s arguments the mere potential for knowledge is sufficient.

    Comment by clark — March 24, 2005 @ 12:10 pm

  61. Blake, I don’t buy your discussion of relativity in your book. Further, as I recall, you deal with SR and not GR. (I don’t have your book here at work so I can’t double check) It seems to me that all analysis of GR, as opposed to SR, recognize that there is a substantial spacetime.

    I may comment more on that point over at my blog, since any discussion will of necessity get complex.

    Craig, the reason I want to distinguish fatalism from the fixity of the future is that in one my choices matter while in the other they don’t. The problem is that you are begging the question by considering choices in a particular fashion.

    Also, for the record I’m not a determinist. A determinist is one who thinks that the current state of affairs plus the laws of physics entail a unique future state of affairs. I don’t believe that. I’m anti-determinist in that I don’t think the current state of affairs entails future states of affairs. However I do believe in the fixity of the future, up to a certain point. They are logically different positions.

    As I mentioned at my blog, I think Blake’s claim for limited foreknowledge is difficult to reconcile to his arguments. I think that they logically ential absolutely no foreknowledge.

    With regards to Blake’s question of reconciling choices between alternative to my view, I believe we can choose between alternatives. I simply don’t agree with your definition of what a choice is. As I see it the question is primarily logical. With regards to responsibility, I’m persuaded by semi-compatibilism to a point. But as I’ve said before, I think the responsibility argument is your strongest one.

    Comment by clark — March 24, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  62. Whoops. In that last paragraph it should read, “I see the question as primarily linguistical.”

    Comment by clark — March 24, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

  63. Steve,
    I think your missing the point. It seems that you are assuming that God has exhaustive foreknowledge and then appealing to ignorance or mystery to prove your point. I’ll grant that sometimes appealing to mystery (as illogical as it is) is necessary. But what I want to know is, what makes you think that this is a case where we must suspend logic in order to make room for the dichotomy? Where do you get the assumption that God has exhaustive foreknowledge? Do you find it in scripture? How do you square this with scriptures that seem to contradict your theory? Do you feel that exhaustive foreknowledge is a “great making property”? Is God not worthy of our worship if he does not have exhaustive foreknowledge? These are the kinds of questions I would like you to answer. You keep appealing to mystery, and our limited knowledge and using that as a proof substitute for your theory. Why do you think it’s important for us to believe that God has exhaustive foreknowledge? What benefit would exhastive foreknowledge be to God? If he know’s the future absolutely can he do anything about what he sees? If he can, then what does it really mean to have exhaustive foreknowledge? I’m asking a lot of questions I know, but I just want to know where your coming from.

    Comment by Craig — March 24, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  64. Yes, there is a serious linguistic problem here, Clark. For instance you said: I think that they logically entail absolutely no foreknowledge. And in the strictest sense of the word foreknowledge you are right. I have tried to create a new category of meaning by calling the strictest sense “absolute foreknowledge” but calling the version bases on probabilities non-absolute-foreknowledge. But that leaves me open to criticism because of the following:

    If God knows there is only a 1 in a billon chance that something won’t go as He wants does he have foreknowledge of the event? In the strictest sense , no. In a practical sense yes. What is he has a backup plans that also has only a one in a billion chance of not going his way. Does he have foreknowledge yet? In the strictest sense, no; in a practical sense, yes. And what if he has a billion such backup plans? Will things go his way? Yes. Can we even then say he has absolute foreknowledge or foreknowledge in the strictest sense? No.

    That is the difference to me. Whatever we want to call it, I believe God will get the job done. But if we are actually free to choose then there is always that theoretical chance that things will go off track. (Now since God is eternal perhaps this process of backup plans could also theoretically go on for ever, but only theoretically — not practically).

    So if people object to this “one in a billion” model being called a variation of foreknowledge, what can we call it?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 24, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  65. With respect to the arguments at hand, you can’t know something that is false. What you are really talking about is justified belief. That’s fine. The big question is what the probabilities mean and how many things are sufficiently probable so as to be justifiably believed. For instance, in 6000 BC, what was the probability that a bunch of Romans would choose crucifixion as their death sentence of choice?

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2005 @ 3:14 pm

  66. in 6000 BC, what was the probability that a bunch of Romans would choose crucifixion as their death sentence of choice?

    Apparently high enough for God to accurately predict it. Perhaps that is the problem… maybe people believe in absolute foreknowledge because they have trouble believing God has enough power and knowledge to manage and predict a world full of free people and an open future… If that is the case which camp really is limiting God?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 24, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

  67. Geoff,
    It seems like your approach to the Roman thing assumes that God is predicting from probability and that therefore the probability must have been high if he predicted it. I think Clark’s point is that there must have been a lot of individual choices that went into the making of this social practice. Thus there would have been innumerable chances for this prophecy to go awry, specific as it was. God predicted it accurately despite the cumulative improbability of lots of intervening choices, thus showing that he can predict low probability occurances as well as high-proability occurances.
    As relates to Craig’s questions about unfulfilled prophecy, I’m not so sure that I’ve seen specific examples that I trust as clearly something God predicted in good faith that didn’t happen. I know the Missouri temple thing keeps coming up, but I’m not sure as I read the verses that the prophecy means what it says on the surface. It does say that they should begin the building of the New Jerusalem. That is a commandment, not a prophecy. Then, in the middle of speaking of “this place,” he specifically qualifies himself saying that the place is not necessarily, at that point Missouri, but the temple, and that the temple of which he is speaking of as a gathering place would be built in that generation. In fact, in the next verse, he says that “an house of the Lord” will be raised “in this generation.” The use of an indefinite article here instead of an indicative pronoun (this temple) cwould seem to me that he is specifically being vague about what temple will be built after being specific about where they shoudl begin the work. I think the Lord knows the saints need to begin their work, even though they will fail. He knows, however, that they need the hope of better things and reveals to them that a temple will be built. Why, in fact, revela that there will be a temple built, when they are about to build a temple, unless you think there are going to be problems and the people will need hope? In fact, he later reassures his people in regards to their failure that when the wicked hinder them from obeying, he does not expect them to fulfill his commands. Seeing that there would be persecution against the church that would hinder them seems like one of those high probability events that god would foresee. I know this is only one instance, but I tend to look for ways that I might have misunderstood God rather than thinking that he was wrong.

    Comment by Steve H — March 24, 2005 @ 5:32 pm

  68. Steve,
    I get the feeling that you think I (we) think God is somehow incompetent. That is not what we are arguing at all. To demonstarte what we are trying to make clear I will use the following scripture.

    32 Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 28:32)

    The Lord makes it very clear that we will more than likely not repent, but that if we repent he will be merciful. Most scriptures and most prophecies have this sort of conditionality about them. We use the Jackson Country Temple only as a recent example of how God deals with an open future. But the scriptures are replete with these sort of examples. Granted, not all proephecy like this, there are unique occasions where the Lord makes it clear that the prophecy will be fulfilled. For example in the same chapter I just quoted from and as a contrast to the passage I just quoted Nephi prophecies what must come to pass.

    18 But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof.
    19 For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 28:18 – 19)

    Why would Nephi make it clear that this propesy must happen, if it is already implied within a prophecy that it must come to pass? Even in this passage a conditional prophecy is given in the which Nephi does not use the langauge of necessity. He say’s that those who belong to the church that must fall need to be stirred up unto repentance or we will perish. I think the reason that the Lord knows that the Church of the Devil will fall is both because God will be the cause and such an instution will fall by necessity. This sort of prophecy God has no need to doubt the fulfillment of.

    So we are not saying that God is incompetent, or that God is always getting things wrong, what we’re saying is God is inherently limited in what he can and can’t know. This is especially true when it comes to out ability to choose, our choices at times will be random, and God will not be able to predict this randomness, no matter how well he knows us. God has general knowledge of the future, given his experience and his amazing intellectual insight, but he does not have knowledge of that which cannot be known.

    Comment by Craig — March 24, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

  69. Clark: in 6000 BC, what was the probability that a bunch of Romans would choose crucifixion as their death sentence of choice?

    Geoff:Apparently high enough for God to accurately predict it.

    Now *thats* a question begging response if I ever saw one. (grin) The point is that given free will, it seems highly difficult to believe that it was high enough for God to predict it. (Which would have to be more than 50% at a minimum)

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2005 @ 7:12 pm

  70. To add to Steve’s comments about prophesy, there is also the issue that divine inspiration is rarely dictated by God. There is always a fallible receiver involved. Why assume a prophecy was erroneously predicted? Why not assume we misunderstood. I can think of many examples from my own life where I had inspiration, interpreted it one way, recorded in one way, and then a few days later realized I was wrong in how I’d interpreted it.

    Comment by Clark — March 24, 2005 @ 7:15 pm

  71. What makes anyone believe that it was predicted in 6000 B.C. that a bunch of Romans would crucify Christ? Could you point me to that prophecy? It seems to me that Jesus’s mere presence was known to be enough provocation that those who rejected his message would seek his death — and his actions (like cleansing the temple and calling the Pharisees hypocrites, etc.) were very likely to provoke such a reaction. I just don’t see a problem here since it is God’s action that (nonculpably) provoked the response.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2005 @ 7:30 pm

  72. Craig,
    I have no problem with the fact that God often offers prophecy as contingent. I believe this is necessary to ensure that we do not take a fatalistic view in many cases. He must ensure our agency by keeping the future hidden from us. In fact, as I said above, this might be necessary to his forekowlege, though I’m not married to the idea.
    I have been asked, however, to explain scriptures that claim that the future will be one thing and then something else happens. Looking back, I see that Jeffrey was the one who most directly addressed this, but the Missouri thing has come up a couple of times. If you are simply saying that God offers a lot of contingent prophecies, then I’m OK with that. I think that’s necessary. People need to be called to repentance even if they won’t listen because otherwise they haven’t been tried, and they don’t grow through that trial. If, on the other hand we are saying that god says things will happen and they don’t happen because occasionally he’s wrong, then if that is correct, I have some ‘splainin’ to do. I guess the question is who really needs to explain a phenomenon. Is it the simple foreknowledge camp that must explain unfulfilled prophecy or the limited foreknowledge camp that must explain the fullfillment of certian very specific prophecies(as in the writing fulfillment back into prophecy theory)? I tend to think the latter, since I don’t really see unfulfilled prophecies.

    Comment by Steve H — March 24, 2005 @ 7:31 pm

  73. Clark: The point is that given free will, it seems highly difficult to believe that it was high enough for God to predict it.

    Ah, but that is the very point. It may seem difficult to believe that God could do so, but it is not logically impossible. As Blake so ably pointed out in his book, it is logically impossible for absolute foreknowledge (with the fixed future it entails) and free agency to be compatible.

    Like many things God does, I don’t know how he does it. But despite Blake’s good point about the made up 6000 B.C. scenario, I’ll take a swipe at my theory of how he might do it later tonight in a follow-up comment.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 24, 2005 @ 9:34 pm

  74. Steve: Look again at your view. Let’s assume that you are right and God knows the future and we are somehow free because we don’t. It still follows that God is powerless to change what he knows will be the case and cannot use his knowledge for any purpose other than to just know it. It also follows immediately that God isn’t free precisely because he knows — and you are compelled to admit this conclusion because you have concluded that humans would not be free if they had such knowledge. Do you believe that God is not free?

    Further, if you are a determinist, could you explain for me how we are morally responsible since we literally cannot do anything other than what we do?

    As for the scriptures — no unfulfilled prophcies? What would count as an unfulfilled prophecy for you if God’s saying one thing will happen and then it doesn’t happen doesn’t count? Or if he says he intends to do X and then later says he is revoking X and will bring about Y instead? You must have a very different notion of what counts as an unfulfilled prophecy than most people.

    Just what are the specific prophecies that are incompatible with libertarian free will to which you allude? To be incompatible with free will a prophecy would have to be so precise that it specifies who will do what at a precise moment. For example, if it is predicted that Peter will deny Christ three times, that still is not precise enough since there were always alternatives open to Peter at any given moment. If he could choose when to deny Christ he is still free even if the number of times that he will do it in a 14 hour period is 3. If the prophecy is that Peter will me deny me at T1, T2 and T3, then we have a problem. So you’re going to have to give me an example of a prophecy precise enough to be incompatible with free will — and forekowledge is always incompatible with free will because it includes knowledge not merely of what will be done but precisely when it will be done as well.

    Moreover, I challenge you all to come with just one genuine instance where a prophecy is specific enough to be incompatible with free will and also to be documented to have been given before the event prophecies occurred. All of the prophecies in the NT (and for that matter the OT) were reduced to writing long after the events described — and given human nature were likely fleshed out and made more precise in light of the fulfillment of the prophecy. For example, the prophecy that the Book of Mormon plates would be given to a learned man and he would say “I cannot translate a seal book,” is recognized as a prophecy only because the events gave meaning to the earlier words — and there have been multiple fulfillments of Isaiah 29. So can anyone identify a prophecy known to have been reduced to writing before its fulfillment that is precise enough to conflict with LFW?

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2005 @ 9:49 pm

  75. Clark, with regards to my use of relativity, I was referring to the concept of a “light cone” though in this context it would be an information cone. Scientists still speak quite forcefully on their conceptual existence, so I don’t know if maybe I am missing why it is such a no-no. As to determinism being the belief in 1 set future, I say so what? There is only 1 future, namely the one we will all be sharing in the next minute or so. I don’t think anybody has claimed to have experience two futures or two pasts or two presents. I have no problem believing in 1 set future just so long as nobody 1) know EVERYTHING about it, not even God, and 2) is totally responsible for it, again, not even God. I think those conditions are met quite easily in Mormon doctrine.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

  76. I think that the most impressive prophecy given by JS was probably the civil war prophecy. It was definitely given and recorded before hand, and we all know the fulfillment very well. The two match up very, very well, but not perfectly. The war was not the commencement of a world war. The prophecy was true, but not totally true.

    This, I think, fits in well with my idea of God’s foreknowledge. By the time the prophecy was given movements had been sufficiently locked in motion, not by God but by the trends of the time, for God to make a prediction which was far more accurate than man could do on their own. But even then, it was not perfect.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 24, 2005 @ 10:13 pm

  77. Jeff: Now you must show that the civil war prophecy has any elements precise enough to conflict with LFW. The easy answer is that there is nothing there precise enough to confict with LFW. It deosn’t pedict any individual acts at all. Heck, it is possible to argue in good faith that it wasn’t even all fulfilled. With all due respect, this prophecy is rather vague and it is difficult to determine precisely what events were supposed to fulfill it. Further, as you admit, by the time the prophecy was given the war between the states and that it would commence in South Carolina were easily predictable even by humans given the existing course of events(since others mere humans in fact did so predict in JS’s own life-time). So it seems to me that God could easily predict such a war given existing probabilities. Moreover, how was war “then” poured out on all nations as a result of the civil war “beginning at this place” (i.e, beginning in Sourth Carolina)? This seems to be a part of the prophecy that didn’t occur.

    Comment by Blake — March 24, 2005 @ 10:51 pm

  78. Blake,
    Read #59 really quick if you haven’t. I think it describes one way that God could use foreknowledge. I’m not sure it’s the only possible explanation, but I’m liking it right now. Once things are in motion, I don’t really think God is all that free. God would cease to be God if he did anything that was not for the good of his children, and this obligates him in each situation to do precisely that which will tend towards the salvation of each of his children in each instance. That’s how I take D&C 82:10. That is to say our actions determine the actions God must take as God.
    As far as being a determinist, I really don’t see myself as a determinist.
    As far as prophecy being incompatible with free will, I don’t think any prophecy is. You forget that I really believe we do have free will despite precise foreknowledge.
    The peter thing, I don’t see the significance of knowing when we will do what we do. The big question, it would seem to me is if God knows who will be saved. If he knows that we will do things that will keep us from salvation, does it matter when?
    BTW, I know nothing about you, even though we write back and forth like this a lot lately here and on SS. Is there somewhere online with any info about you, or you could leave some here or my e-mail is on Splendid Sun, I think. Also, I’m glad you picked up Steve. When I’m not teaching, Brother Hancock is odd.

    Comment by Steve H — March 24, 2005 @ 10:55 pm

  79. Steve and Clark and other absolute foreknowledge fans,

    Forgive me if I throw out another riot-inciting comment here… But I have given some thought to he point I made in #73. My question is why would someone after serious thought choose a logically impossible answer over a logically possible answer? The logically possible solution seems like the only choice to me. Is the problem that you don’t believe God is intelligent or insightful enough to make predictions about an open future? It seems this idea of absolute foreknowledge could be used as a crutch — like magic or something — to avoid having to believe God could accomplish a seemingly herculean task. Do you think God resorts to logically impossible measures to do things like walk on water? That is not what Brigham taught. (See #58) Brigham just said God had logical knowledge that allowed him to do what appear to be miracles to us.

    Note that Brigham is not talking about paradoxes here but things we don’t yet have the science to figure out yet. No amount of science will answer the question of whether an omnipotent being can create a rock too heavy to pick up. I propose that the problem of absolute foreknowledge and free will is in that same paradoxical category. Why lean on a paradox when we can marvel at the intelligence and power of a God who can do things (like make shockingly accurate, though occasionally not-so-accurate, predictions of an open future) that seem extremely difficult to pull off?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 12:20 am

  80. Blake, I was trying to show how the most impressive example that we can find of prophecy coming true is still shows that foreknowledge is limited. I was agreeing with you, but I guess I didn’t make myself clear.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 25, 2005 @ 12:50 am

  81. Geoff,
    It’s not a question of leaning on a crutch. (Not that I have any problem with crutches if my leg happens ot be broken. There are actually three reasons I believe this.
    1. I see it as logically more tenable that free will and foreknowledge are compatible than that God makes predictions of what we will do with free will that, over time would have less than a 50% chance of being correct. If you base it on probability, how could God’s chance of predicting the event be more accurate than the probability that the event will take place? This would seem to be illogical.
    2. I see it as necessary for providence. New argument for this, though my main ones are those about providing big things like the atonement–you have argued that god just has contingency plans. Lets say that to provide for necessity X, God has to prepare Y now. Lets also say that whether I will be provided for by providential attempt X sub 1 is based on my exercise of freewill between now and when the providence is granted. God would have to know what I am going to do to know whether to prepare to give me X through attempt X sub 1.
    3. As I read the scriptures they seem to teach foreknowledge. In the long run, I know this is an exegetical nightmare. It involves so many interpretations of so many different scriptures that it’s tough to come to agreement on them.
    Part of the problem is almost certainly sematic as well. What do we mean by logic. If we mean the methods of analytic philosophy in the western tradition, I think some things may be illogical about the way god works. If we mean that something follows the rules of the universe, were we to understand them, then nothing is.

    Comment by Steve H — March 25, 2005 @ 12:54 am

  82. Jeffrey,

    It sounds like you are not a real determinist. If you are you believe that all of our actions and choices are really reactions to causes that are outside of us. This means that the first cause (presumably God) is really the one who is morally responsible for all human acts. This is obviously a doctrine that is completely at odds with Mormon doctrine.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 1:00 am

  83. The latest addition to my theory of God’s method to predict an open future:
    OK, so determinists say all of our actions are really reactions. As a businessman by trade I’ve read more business books than philosophy books and the action vs reaction thing reminds me of the “be proactive” habit in Covey’s Seven Habits book. In that book Covey tells of a great “Ah-Ha” moment he had when he realized that there is always a space between stimulus and response in which humans can choose. He goes into great detail of how this is vital to our power as humans. It mirrors our scriptures that talk about our power to act and the fact that we would be acted upon in our lives. These scriptures recommend we do more acting and get acted upon less and Covey recommend the same thing. In fact his habit #1 is called “be proactive” as opposed to reactive. It focuses our attention on our unique, god-given ability to act rather than be acted upon.

    It would not be necessary for him to teach this habit if it were a natural thing that everyone already did. The fact is most people are almost purely reactive. For the most part we are predictable. The determinists almost have it right. The difference in my opinion is that when we are “proactive” we exercise our god-like freedom to choose and become a mini “first cause” ourselves. So like Jeffrey mentions, everything has a cause, but unlike determinist doctrines I believe some things are caused directly by our own proactive wills.

    So how does this help God predict the future? Because when people always react causal determinism is true. When they act naturally then they are totally predictable. And unfortunately we are very rarely godlike in our natural reactions. This is the very reason why the natural man is an enemy to God. God doesn’t want us to react to everything naturally. He wants us to proactively be like him. When we get cut off on the freeway he wants us to choose our response to that stimulus and proactively not flip the bozo off.

    Because most of humankind does not ever shed the natural man, general predictions of the future seem pretty straight forward — much like the determinists believe. But because some people act rather than react, exact foreknowledge based on determinism is not possible. (This sounds very much like the uncertainty principle to me too. The group is always predictable but the individual is not.)

    Anyway, that partial usage of determinism seems to make long term predictions not too difficult to me. As I said, I don’t know how God does it, but this theory sounds like a pretty feasible one to me.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 1:09 am

  84. Steve,
    Excuse me for saying, but those sound like poor reasons for believing in exhuastive foreknowledge. And I think that is the way we should be saying it…”exhuastive foreknowledge”. We’re not arguing here whether god has foreknowledge or not, so to say that the scriptures teach foreknowledge is not a reason in your favor. You are arguing “exhaustive foreknowledge”.

    You say,
    1. I see it as logically more tenable that free will and foreknowledge are compatible than that God makes predictions of what we will do with free will that, over time would have less than a 50% chance of being correct. If you base it on probability, how could God’s chance of predicting the event be more accurate than the probability that the event will take place? This would seem to be illogical.

    We are not saying the chances are less than 50%. What we’re saying is, most of the time God’s prophecy’s are so vague that they can be fulfilled in a number of ways. Other’s are very probable, but given the actions of free agents, they don’t come to complete fruition. And I’m not following how you argument as to how you think our position is illogical. It seem’s you’ve set up a “straw man” at best.

    You say,
    2. I see it as necessary for providence. New argument for this, though my main ones are those about providing big things like the atonement-you have argued that god just has contingency plans. Lets say that to provide for necessity X, God has to prepare Y now. Lets also say that whether I will be provided for by providential attempt X sub 1 is based on my exercise of freewill between now and when the providence is granted. God would have to know what I am going to do to know whether to prepare to give me X through attempt X sub 1.

    Your assuming that God can only succeed with his plans if you as a free agent cooperate. This is simply is not true. Yes God may give you second chances and try to get you to see things his way, but he is not going to lay an infinite amount of back up plans to save you. Your salvation is to yourself. God’s so called “back up plans” as argued on here are plans that God has layed out for future contingencies that we halt his larger work, not the work that depends on a single individual. For example his work at bringing the book of mormon, in it’s fulness to fruition. God’s providence does not include all of his plans being brought to fruition. As William James says, he is the great chess player, and we as free agents are the novices. Even though he cannot predict our movements, he knows how to counter each of these movements and win the game in the end. This does not require exhuastive foreknowledge of future events.

    You say,
    3. As I read the scriptures they seem to teach foreknowledge. In the long run, I know this is an exegetical nightmare. It involves so many interpretations of so many different scriptures that it’s tough to come to agreement on them.
    Part of the problem is almost certainly sematic as well. What do we mean by logic. If we mean the methods of analytic philosophy in the western tradition, I think some things may be illogical about the way god works. If we mean that something follows the rules of the universe, were we to understand them, then nothing is.

    Yes when I read the scriputures I read about foreknowledge as well, but nowhere do I read about exhaustive foreknowledge. I read completely the opposite. An impressively insightful God who knows a great deal about the future, but is a temporal God, with a body, who can only anticipate the future that is still open for free agents to act in. I don’t think we’re talking about the rules of the universe, unless you include logic in the rules of the universe. If you want to throw logic out, then what are you doing arguing? Anytime we debate one another, we do so with the presupposition that we will be speaking the same language…logic. If you have a better way to communicate let us know.

    Comment by Craig — March 25, 2005 @ 5:35 am

  85. Geoff: “It is difficult to believe that God could do so, but it is not logically impossible. As Blake so ably pointed out in his book, it is logically impossible for absolute foreknowledge (with the fixed future it entails) and free agency to be compatible.”

    Fair enough, although turn about is fair play. It is likewise not logically impossible that Blake’s definition of free will isn’t correct or is applied to phenomena inappropriately. Just as scientific terms and common vernacular terms that are the same have different meanings and different areas they are appropriate, I think the same applies to many of the terms in the free will debate. Thus my long held assertion that all of this is really a linguistic dispute and not really the ontological dispute it appears to be.

    Jeffrey: “Clark, with regards to my use of relativity, I was referring to the concept of a “light cone” though in this context it would be an information cone. Scientists still speak quite forcefully on their conceptual existence, so I don’t know if maybe I am missing why it is such a no-no.”

    That’s a good question and if I have time I’ll respond tonight. I was going to go down to Moab, but the weather doesn’t appear to be cooperating. So I’ll put something together later.

    Geoff: “Steve and Clark and other absolute foreknowledge fans”

    I think I’ve been very clear that I don’t espouse absolute foreknowledge. Indeed I think the appeal to absolute foreknowledge is a bit of a red herring that tends to be misleading. The issue ought be whether any real foreknowledge is available. (Recognizing that Blake uses the term knowledge with respect to future events, but it isn’t really knowledge in the usual sense of the term)

    Geofff: “My question is why would someone after serious thought choose a logically impossible answer over a logically possible answer?”

    Obviously they wouldn’t. Which ought be a clue that perhaps you’re misunderstanding the alternative perspective. (grin)

    Comment by Clark — March 25, 2005 @ 10:33 am

  86. Whoops, too many double negatives in that first response to Geoff. Put simply, Blake is asserting a meaning and range for “free” that might be wrong. You are all assuming his use is correct. (Yet everyone simultaneously seems quite willing to let him redefine knowledge)

    Comment by Clark — March 25, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  87. Geoff, I disagree with your assessment of determinism.

    “You believe that all of our actions and choices are really reactions to causes that are outside of us. This means that the first cause (presumably God) is really the one who is morally responsible for all human acts.”

    This critique only applies when we frame determinism in the context of ethical monotheism, a context which Mormonism regects. As I said in #8, there is beginning to elements, intelligences or laws and I would add causes. It also depends on how you define “us.” Of course we can say that the ultimate causes are outside “us”, but there is no such thing as an ultimate cause. Causes for my actions come from both outside of “me” and inside, and these causes are caused by other things and so on. The real issue, I believe, surrounds responsibility.

    Since this is a fairly complex theme, and there doesn’t seem to have been to much written about it in the bloggernacle, I think I will dedicate a number of posts at my site to the subject.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 25, 2005 @ 10:53 am

  88. Clark,

    Sorry about lumping you in with others on this. I forgot you have nuanced belief on this subject. With regard to Blake redefining knowledge, I asked in #64 if there is a new or better way of describing this predictive version of “foreknowledge”, which as you have continually pointed out isn’t really knowledge at all. You aren’t letting me get away with calling it “foreknowledge” as opposed to “absolute foreknowledge”, so do you (or does anyone else) have an idea of what we should call it?

    And maybe this whole debate really is a linguistic problem as you state, but I’ve yet to really understand what you mean with that argument. Perhaps it is something like my middle ground explanation in #83 where I opine that neither pole (the free will camp or the determinism camp) is completely right but maybe we live in a world where most things are caused/determined by outside forces and a few things are caused/determined by human free will?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 11:15 am

  89. Response to Clark re: #85 – Clark, mermaids are logically possible, so suggesting that it is logically possible that I am wrong (which of course is true) is not asserting much. What you must show is that the notion of free will which I adopt is either incoherent or not necessary for the kinds of things we want: like moral responsibility, self-determination, the ability to freely choose to love and accept love, and God’s not being responsible for sin and evil. I believe that LFW is immediately implicated in the ability to choose — and specifically the ability to choose among alternatives specified in the scripture of good and evil, life and death.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2005 @ 11:15 am

  90. Jeffrey,

    I think we agree on how this works. See my #83 where I describe a world very similar to what you just said. My only point in #82 is that our shared belief put us at odds with the determinist camp because we also believe our free will can be a cause. Traditional determinism seems to reject the allowance of free will as such. As I understand it, even compatibilists reject our notion of determinism and actual free choices co-existing. They tend to focus on hypothetical free-will, which means even though our choices are determined we had the hypothetical option to choose otherwise (even though we never would).

    So it seems that you and I don’t currently fit in with the free-will crowds, the determinists, or the compatibilists.

    (Note: For those reading along who are up on all these terms check out the links I provided. They have been very educational to me as someone who never studied philosophy in college)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 11:34 am

  91. Geoff, the reason I bring up the issue of the term ‘knowledge’ is because the issue really is reconciling terms with scriptural use. My point is if we allow God’s knowledge to really be this other kind of ‘knowledge’ then why can’t we do the same to the use of the term free?

    Do you see the issue?

    What is going on is the privileging of one term, in its modern intuitive view, over an other term.

    As to what to call this other sense Blake is calling knowledge, I’d prefer predictive power and assurance.

    Blake, I don’t consider mermaids logically possible in a fashion compatible with our world.

    Comment by Clark — March 25, 2005 @ 12:48 pm

  92. Clark, Yes I see that double standard you point out. I can buy using something like “predictive power and assurance” in place of “foreknowledge”.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 1:09 pm

  93. I believe that LFW is immediately implicated in the ability to choose-and specifically the ability to choose among alternatives specified in the scripture of good and evil, life and death.
    I do as well.
    If you want to throw logic out, then what are you doing arguing?
    I am not throwing logic out. I am simply saying that we must understand when we encounter situations that limit the effectiveness of logical analysis, much as we might when you point out the old “rock too big” argument. I am simply saying that all Blake’s arguemnt proves, if it proves anything, is that we cannot understand how God could know something that, from our perspective is not happened yet. Because of our perspective only those things that have happened are actual. Therefore to say that foreknowledge is impossible because we can’t understand how God could know things that are not yet actual is like saying there can be no foreknowledge because it is foreknwoledge, which, certainly, leaves us trying to defend a position like your amazing predictive power. That is, there would be, as Clark points out, no real foreknowledge at all. When I say that I see the scriptures teaching foreknowledge, and I know I interpret scriptures like D&C 130 differently than Blake does, so I’ll not go through that again, I see them as teaching actual foreknowledge. I see quite a few times when God seems to have been anticipating very specific events well before-hand, and as I read, I am persuaded as I read, and as I live my life, that there is some sort of actual foreknowledge, so I am willing to admit that I do not know how God could know the things I will do, though they are not yet actual from my perspective. I don’t think this implies getting rid of logic. In fact it is my inability to comprehend the subject from any particular angle through logic that convinces me that there are things involved that logic cannot cover. So you might say that I feel I have logically come to the conclusion that foreknowledge is not entirely knowable through what we might call logic.

    Comment by Steve H — March 25, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  94. Steve, I don’t think “all that Blake’s argument shows is that we cannot understand how God could know something that from our perspective [has] not happened yet.” Blake’s argument doesn’t in the least depend upon the how at all.

    Comment by Clark — March 25, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  95. Clark: Logical possiblity has nothing to do with what is pragmatically or physically possible in our world — it is a matter of internal coherence alone. I don’t believe that mermaids are physically possible either — but that is quite beside the point that I was making.

    I don’t buy your suggestion that we cannot say that God has “foreknowledge.” He has certain knowledge of a great many things that are future. He knows that the details of his plan will occur. He knows whatever is now physically determined (and that could be a great many things like all of the earth’s physical events that don’t involve free will). He knows the present probability of any particular event’s occurring including our free acts given our character and propensities to act. That is a much vaster knowledge than we have and it fully accounts for what we find in scripture in my view. He also knows that he is omni-resourceful.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

  96. It seems to me that it is time to address the issue with which Geoff really started — that prayer is pointless if God foreknows the future. If he foreknows the future exhaustively and absolutely, then nothing we ask can possibly change what God has already seen will be the case. As I show in my book, the view that a part of what God sees are his own free acts involves a vicious circularity that renders that explanation incoherent. The point is that such practices as petitionary prayer are crippled if we come to God believing that he already knows every word we will utter and his course is already set for him in response to the prayer before he can decide anything. Further, there is no chance for genuine dialolgue since it amounts to a contrived “going through the motions” to do what is already fated (and I used the word fated advisedly). There is no possibility of genuine dialogue and relationship if God has absolute and exhaustive foreknowledge — and that entails that what we value most is destroyed by such a belief.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  97. Thanks for bringing the original point back up Blake. Some readers may wonder why this foreknowledge subject even matters… This issue about petitionary prayer is the reason. J. Stapley pointed out in a post today that people can believe false things and still have faith in Christ. That is fine, but the point is that they only have faith in spite of false beliefs. (I firmly believe that God in his grace covers for those who haven’t had opportunity to learn better yet.) This false (IMO) doctrine of absolute or exhaustive foreknowledge won’t help anyone’s faith, though they may be able to continue to ignore the issue and have faith in Christ in spite of it.

    I wrote this post because I have seen in my own life (recently in fact) examples of otherwise faithful saints who could not generate miracle-working faith in their own lives because they had this nagging/overwhelming feeling in the back of their minds that God’s will is fixed and so is the future so praying to change that was futile. Why wouldn’t they think that is the case with so many people in and out of the church teaching this false doctrine and talking about how we can’t change God’s plans/will but can only ask to align our desires with his already determined plans and will? Despite what some have said here, for many saints this doctrine is faith-crippling. For that reason I am unapologetic for calling it pernicious.

    That’s not to say Steve and Clark and others have not made some good points though. I will write a follow up post fleshing out my ideas of how God might accurately predict the distant future without actually seeing it as a fixed reality.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 7:00 pm

  98. Geoff,
    Your right when you say that the belief in exhaustive foreknowledge can be faith crippling. When I was in Seminary I had a teacher teach exhaustive foreknowledge to me. Being as simple minded as I was, (and mind you, I still am)I had never thought of God’s foreknowledge in this way. I knew he told of future events, but it never had crossed my mind that God knew the future absolutely. I remember the way my teacher taught it. He said that nothing we could do could ever “freak God out”. He said “Imagine that you wake in the morning and go to put your socks on, now you normally put your right sock on before your left sock, but lets imagine today you want to freak God out, so put your right sock on first. Well you didn’t freak God out because God knew you were going to do that.” The existential implications of this doctrine reaked heck on my faith and my physchological well being. I remember how depressed I was because there was nothing I could do that God didn’t already know I was going to do. I kept wondering what the point was in trying to be good. The “exhaustive foreknowledge defenders” on this blog have thought through this in a way I had never dreamed of thinking through it. Like I said, I’m simple minded. But the point is, so are most members of the church, and they cannot intellectualize the way you guys can, and cannot wrap their minds around the fact that God both knows the future absolutely, and we as human free agents have free will. It just doesn’t make sense to them or me. I think this absolute concept of God is just another product of mixing neo-platonism with Christianity.

    Comment by Craig — March 25, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

  99. Regardless of what you believe or disbelieve, I think it safe to say that most OT, NT, and BoM figures assumed (rightly or wrongly) that God foreknows the future. One can think they had limited knowledge on this point. But I think the narratives take for granted a foreknowing God. Blaming that on the apostasy seems difficult to accept. I also suspect that more people would have an “existential freak out” if God doesn’t know the future than if he does. My own suspicions of course.

    Blake, when I talk about logical, I’m assuming what is logical given a certain state of affairs and not just what is logical in and of itself. (A notion of logical which often isn’t that useful, in my opinion)

    Comment by Clark — March 25, 2005 @ 8:01 pm

  100. Clark: A point of logic is not a point about how the world is – it is a formal point. If it were a point about the how the world is, then it is a matter of empirical and a posteriori judgments and not of logic.

    Some writers of scripture assumed God had free will; others definitely did not (e.g., the writers of the P and D traditions of the Pentateuch, writers of Jonah, Jeremiah, and Malachi). Just like the modern leaders of the church, it was not a settled issue for them. Second Isaiah may have assumed absolute forekowledge; it is doubtful that first Isaiah did (given the conditonal prophecies that are given without absolutes). That is why the issue is scripturally and doctrinally open and a matter of persuasive argument and scriptural exegesis.

    Comment by Blake — March 25, 2005 @ 8:52 pm

  101. Blake, if we were discussing pure logic I’d agree. However most logical arguments include premises, so if we are discussing what is or isn’t logical, such as a mermaid, then one assumes that the premises are the mermaid in this world and its laws since presumably we are talking about a mermaid we might encounter. If we are talking pure logic then talk of mermaids is irrelevant since mermaid is not a logical operator. I don’t see how talk of mermaids could conceivably be a prior in nature. (Although for the record I disagree with the a priori/a posteriori divide)

    Comment by Clark — March 25, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

  102. Clark: I think it safe to say that most OT, NT, and BoM figures assumed (rightly or wrongly) that God foreknows the future.

    I suspect it is only “safe” because none of us has enough energy or motivation to check on it. But when it comes to real prophets in those books, I’d be highly surprised if there was much convincing evidence that they believed in any form of foreknowledge that conflicted with free agency.

    Having said that I think Blake makes a very good point as well. Although I have been wary of the slippery slope of assuming scriptures are inaccurate, there is no denying that some just are.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 9:53 pm

  103. Geoff,
    I don’t think that they believed in any sort of foreknowledge that conflicted wiht agency either. Not that that says anything new.
    Mostly, I just wanted to be comment number 100.

    Comment by Steve H — March 25, 2005 @ 10:02 pm

  104. I’ll write that post this weekend describing how God predicts the future without foreknowledge. Clark insists that there is no difference between exhaustive foreknowledge and just foreknowldege (because he says to call it “knowledge” means there must be zero chance of it not happening exactly the way he knows it will… Of course Blake disagrees…) so I will show a model of predictive assurance that I feel confident the prophets of old would agree with (at least the results they would agree with if not the exact method).

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 25, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

  105. I don’t recall asserting that there is no difference between exhaustive foreknowledge and just foreknowledge. But I’m not sure what you mean by “just foreknowledge.” If you mean limited foreknowledge, then it depends upon how it is limited. If you allow for real universals then God could know universals about the future without knowing particulars. So, for instance, God might know he won’t ever sin without knowing what he’ll do in any particular instance (beyond it not being sin).

    Now, whether that is incompatible with Libertarian foreknowledge isn’t clear to me. I’d say it isn’t since having ones choices limited still means one has choices. However if you denies universals then it isn’t a possibility. Further one can always object to how such universals could possibly be knowable. But there doesn’t seem any inherent logical problem.

    Comment by Clark — March 26, 2005 @ 12:12 am

  106. Blake (#95) I understand your point, but I think you took me as saying more than I was. Merely that I don’t think most people really consider there to be a conflict between foreknowledge and free will. Thus believing in free will does not entail disbelieving in foreknowledge and vice versa. As I think many studies have shown, people assume compatibilism even if in a strict fashion according to our modern linguistic usage applied over the entire discourse that is an incorrect belief. (Note my hedging due to the semantic issues involved) That’s fine, I think most General Authorities have assumed compatibilism as well. Even if it is a cultural assumption that doesn’t make it correct anymore than erroneous scientific beliefs mean much. It just tells us about how they view the world.

    My personal opinion is that God doesn’t much care about telling us enough to resolve the issue one way or an other. What he cares about is that if he says something we believe it. (Ignoring for the moment the problems of figuring out exactly what he said versus what is an interpretation of what he said) In that setting the incompatibilist debate is pointless. It doesn’t matter on a pragmatic level. If he says something about the future we trust him, whether he says it because he’ll bring it about or because he foreknows it.

    Having said that though, I think that the scriptural figures have the naive kind of view most people do. That God, being God, knows the future in some extensive sense. It may be that some did think about the issues we’re discussing and the subtle distinctions we’re making. I don’t see any indication they did though. And, probably as prophets, they had better things to worry about. (grin)

    Comment by Clark — March 26, 2005 @ 12:26 am

  107. Clark,
    You say general authorities generally teach a compabilist type freedom. Can you demonstrate this with some quotes or something. From what I’ve read, as a church, and in general conferences the general authorities always a teach a libertarian freedom. Compatibilism is as far (I think) as one can go and still rightly think their a mormon. But it seem’s to be an extreme view that is hard to justify. William James in his essay “Dilemma of Determinism” writes it off right at the beginning of his paper as just quibbling over terminology. He seem’s to think that the only real are, we are either free to choose among genuine alternatives, or we are not. And it seem’s to me that he’s right. I don’t see how one could teach that we are determined to do what we are going to do, but we are still responsible for the actions which we choose, just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Comment by Craig — March 26, 2005 @ 8:19 am

  108. Craig, what I’m saying is that most people, general authorities included, never even think about the compatibility issue. Thus someone like Elder Maxwell will talk about God knowing the future and also talk about us being free. Further historically until recently even most philosophers were compatibilists.

    For them to have an opinion on Libertarian free will which has its meaning in opposition to determinism and a fixed future they’d have to have an opinion on the debate. Outside of McConkie and Maxwell I’m not aware many GAs making positive statements on the debate one way or the other. Most simply talk about knowledge and freedom in lax vague ways.

    Comment by Clark — March 26, 2005 @ 9:07 am

  109. Clark: Go back to the Garden of Forking paths and read the conversation there under “Is Incompatibilism Intuitive?” The first article to be published (a psycho-philosophical article by Nichols and Knobe) says that most people find incompatibilism and libertarian free will to be intuitive. The second article (from Nahmias, Morris, Nadelhoffer and Turner) finds that most people find compatibilism intuitive. The criticism of the latter article is that it parses the issues incorrectly and loads the discussion with assumptions that evoke a particular response. I don’t put much weight on either of them.

    I don’t think that many GAs or others have a view either way — and those that do are muddled at best. However, what is certain is that they all affirm that we are free agents and that we are morally responsible.

    We all feel that we choose among alternatives and have various future possibilities open to us from which we can choose because we deliberate. As William James and David Ray Griffin have persuasively argued, pragmatically we all operate with a view of free will that is open to possibilities among which we choose that we believe are genuinely open to us — and we operate with a view of the world that is deterministic because we assume that everything is caused to be the way that it is by some prior state. The base problem is this clash of views.

    However, it isn’t until one is informed of the terminology and issues involved that a view can even be fashioned — and I don’t believe that any of the recent GAs have that level of awareness of the discussion. I believe that the Book of Mormon rather clearly uses (in translation) the terms that Arminians employed against Calvinists. It says that we are not merely acted upon and that we are free to act for ourselves (2 Ne. 2), which was the term of art among libertarian Arminians from the 17th to the 19th centuries to express the fact that we act in a libertarian sense and without being caused to act. The further specification that there must be opposition in all things to provide alternatives among which to choose also uses an Arminian take on things since they insisted that to be free we must be able to choose among good and evil to be morally accountable and free (in a libertarian sense). Augustine believed that we could only choose evil in accordance with our evil nature prior to regeneration — and that was the view they were countering. So the Book of Mormon seems to me to rather clearly adopt an Arminian/libertarian view of things. As for me and my house, we will choose …. and it will be a genuine choice and not something fixed before we chose.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2005 @ 9:28 am

  110. Clark and Blake,
    I’m not following how a General Authority could be considered a compatibilist, that is if I’ve understood compatibilism correctly. From what I’ve studied about compatibilism we are deterined in every way, but we are still morally responsible for what we are determined to do because it is part of our charachter. I don’t know of any General Authority who would teach this. The closest they would get is to say that we are free (in a libertarian sense) and yet God know’s what we will choose freely. This would still be considered libertarain freedom wouldn’t it? Regardless of the logical implications.

    Comment by Craig — March 26, 2005 @ 9:45 am

  111. Craig: I think you are right. It seems that the assumed position is straightforward Arminianism — God knows the future (in an undefined way and amount) and we are free (in an undefined sense) but in a way that is necessary for moral accountability and to makes choices among opposing good and evil, life and death. Since no GA except Talmage has taken a more explicit position (with the exception of B.H. Roberts who took more or less the view I adopt) it seems to me that no others have really addressed the issues related to compatibilism.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  112. Blake, I think McConkie clearly adopts an absolutist view of foreknowledge yet accepts free will as well.

    I think we’re saying the same thing with regards to GAs. With regards to the Book of Mormon as we’ve discussed before we just agree to disagree.

    Comment by Clark — March 26, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  113. Technical Note: Three of my comments apparently ended up in moderation so I could see them but no one else could. I’ve added them back (#83 and two others before #100 though I can’t tell which ones…) I’ll try to go back and fix the post references that shifted as a result.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 26, 2005 @ 12:34 pm

  114. Blake,
    When you say Talmage took an “explicit position” on this issue, are you referring to when Talmage said that God knows us so well, he knows what we will do? If so, does it necessarily contradict what we’re saying? Just because God knows us better than we know ourselves (if that’s possible), it doesn’t follow that he can know with 100% certainty all of our actions. Or did Talmage spell this out in a way that contradicts what I’m saying?

    Comment by Craig — March 26, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

  115. Craig: It seems to me that Talmage is saying that God has foreknowledge that doesn’t cause us to do what we do; but he knows exactly what we will do because he knows us so well. He doesn’t adopt causal determinism, but it seems to me that implicit in his view is the commitment that we are so determined by our past fixed character that we cannot act out of character or differently than the way our past dictates — and that is a form of character determinism that is incompatible with libertarian free will.

    Clark: You are right about McConkie — I should have noted that. His father-in-law, Joseph Feilding Smith, also, as an apostle, held the same view of absolutist foreknowledge. I’m so glad that McConkie admitted that he could be in error when the priesthood was given to our bretheren of African origin. Of course, Joseph Fielding Smith also held that man would never be allowed by God to land on the moon — and it happened in his lifetime. So I guess I just don’t worry much about what GAs think — I base my views on my best grasp of the scriptures and the best reasoning of which I am capable.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2005 @ 4:13 pm

  116. Blake, I’d point out Nichols and Knobe found incompatibilism intuitive only with respect to fairly abstract questions. But that’s not the sort of thing most people are discussing. Certainly not in the scriptures. Rather the concern is on a more practical level about God knowing the future. Likewise with free will. As I mentioned earlier and you seemed to agree with, few GAs and no scriptural figures seem to engage the issue in the abstract philosophical way we are. As the GoFP discussion points out, the Nichols and Knobe study seems to support my view that free will “takes on different definitions in different contexts.” There are some new papers reportedly coming out. We’ll see how those go.

    Comment by Clark — March 26, 2005 @ 7:33 pm

  117. Geoff,
    Could you start a new thread that continues this discussion? I have dial-up, and it takes a long time to load the page.

    Comment by Craig — March 26, 2005 @ 7:57 pm

  118. Blake while Talmage certainly endorsed a “predictive model” I’m not convinced he did so thinking through the issue in depth. i.e. I’m not convinced he was really making a philosophical point, more endorsing a position akin to what I think George endorses without thinking through the implications of predictive power the way you have.

    Comment by Clark — March 26, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

  119. Clark: You are probably right about the naive take most (including GAs) have had on the compatibility of free will and absolute foreknowledge. If your point is that this issue won’t keep anyone from taking advantage of the atonement you are right. If you are saying it doesn’t matter at all I’d disagree. The point I made in the first paragraph of #97 is still true regardless of what position we hold in the church. I think that for many it is a doctrine that erodes faith whether they recognize it or not. The problem may only become apparent when they need a miracle badly and they stop praying too quickly when the voice in the back of their head says “maybe this is just the way things are supposed to be…” or “maybe I should just ask for help to be at peace with God’s decision”…(as if He had already made a firm decision) or “maybe I should just pray for comfort instead of the miracle I desire so desparately because everything happens for a reason“. If it is a false doctrine, as I firmly believe it is, then the adversary has a fabulous tool at his disposal to keep the saints from getting the miracles they might otherwise get. That’s why I think it is useful to actively discuss this subject.

    BTW — Check out my follow-up post on the subject where I float a theory on God’s predictive method. Perhaps we can move this discussion over there so Craig and his dial-up don’t have to wait so long to load… ;-)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 27, 2005 @ 1:52 am

  120. Geoff, I think we have to be careful. By the opposite side of the coin we could say that open theology can errode faith. Afterall some might say what the point of praying about answers is if we can’t trust that God knows the answer. This is actually one of the traditional attacks on Open Theism. If I pray who to marry, think I receive a strong answer, only to find out my spouse is a spouse abuser, I have some strong reason to never trust prayer again. I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer to that from the Open Theist perspective. It seems that is a much bigger problem than what you outline.

    Comment by clark — March 28, 2005 @ 10:42 am

  121. Clark,
    I disagree, I think your example is a perfect example that the future is open, and that there are no “for sures”. God has a better perspective than we have, but not an exhaustive perspective. Just because a man may be a good man now, and a good man to marry, he may choose in the future to not be a good many anymore, that is a choice he always has, and each of us has that some choice open to us always.

    Comment by Craig — March 28, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

  122. Technical note:
    Steve, I moved you last comment over to the new thread so we can keep the conversation cohesive.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — March 28, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  123. I think a big problem with the discussion of agency and foreknowledge comes from our unintentionally “borrowing” a non-Mormon understanding of foreknowledge. In Mormonism, God is in time. He does not “know” the future, He predicts it. For instance, I predict that this coming sunday and 10:00 in the morning I will be at church. Does this take away any free agency? Of course not. But I coud be wrong, many will protest. That’s true, but I would much rather be wrong about a prediction than in knowledge. This is after all the big difference between prediction and knowledge. So God can be wrong in His predictions, so what? This isn’t the same as being wrong in His plan, or in His execution of His plan, or in the plan’s potency.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 4, 2005 @ 11:17 am

  124. Jeffrey,

    This illustrates the inconsistency with your stated positions. You claim to be a determinist and then you also claim God only predicts but doesn’t know the future. If causal determinism is an accurate doctrine then “predicting” the future is not what God does. He knows the future because it is fixed based the existing state of things that will inevitably cause this future. There is no uncertainty in the future of a fixed, causally determined world so in such a world God would know the future with no chance of error. How do you reconcile this discrepancy?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 4, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

  125. Jeff: There does seem to be an inconsistency here. If everything is causally determined, then God can know what is certain given causal existing factors and predict it with 100% accuracy. Moreover, we can now explain precisely why we aren’t free: we don’t have sufficent control over the causes that issue in our actions. Moreover, if God annot accurately predict with 100% accuracy, then your view isn’t any different from mine. I believe that God can predict some matters with 100% accuracy (e.g., that his plan will be fulfilled, causally determined matters); but necessarily he cannot predict with 100% accuracy future contingents based upon LFW.

    BTW, I plan to respond to your musings about determinism. Yet most of what I would say I have already said in response to Sears. Further, your statements about chaos theory being deterministic are mistaken (and I don’t believe that the reference to the Wikipedia to support this assertion is very convincing). In chaos theory, the matters involved are not predictable because the matters to be predicted are so senstive to initial conditions that we would need to have an infinite amount of information to accurately predict them. However, we cannot have access to such information. You may respond — well, God could have access to the infinite amount of information necessary. That is not accurate. The infinities involved are potential infinites and it is pretty well agreed that potential infinites cannot, in principle, become actual infinites (which is what would have to happen to have an accurate prediction). Thus, the limitation on ability to predict is not merely an epistemological limitation, it is an ontological limitation.

    Comment by Blake — April 4, 2005 @ 1:12 pm

  126. When I predict the future does this mean that I really know it after all? Of course not. God is just a really smart me after all. You seem to be assuming a Laplacian demon, but such an idea only makes sense in a closed system, with the demon lying outside of it. This whole idea is wrong in a Mormon setting. God, being Himself subject to determinism, can only know so much as I commented above. He too is subject to “information cones” “uncertainty principles” and chaos. Thus, I do agree with Blake’s notions of foreknowledge. I just don’t think that free will is the only thing, or even the main things which limits God foreknowledge.

    There is no uncertainty as to what will actually happen, but there is subjective uncertainty for God and us. God does not have access to an infinite amount of information, just as Blake says, thus leaving the future subjectively open for all of us here in time.

    God predicts the future, and He, like us, can be wrong quite often. Thus He is continually learning more, and revising His predictions. I can understand if this isn’t “faith promoting” enough but the belief in a radically anthropomorphic God who exists in time combined with a disbelief in objective miracles seems to commit us to such. We are now starting to understand why other Christians don’t like our notion of God because things like this seem inherent in our doctrine of Deity.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 4, 2005 @ 3:08 pm

  127. Jeff: If determinism is true then it is in principle fully predictable (as you admit). Moreover, a very smart person could deduce the causes and preduct the future. As I understand you, you are suggesting that there is an infinite amount of information that leads to the inablity for anyone within the system to obtain the information to make the prediction. However, it is also impossible for the information to be actually infinite! No amount of potentially infinite information can become an actually infinite amount. That is what is required for your view to make sense — and it doesn’t because your assumption about the possibility of a potentially infinite being reduced to an actual infinite is in principle impossible. Thus, the system must be open and indeterministic after all.

    Comment by Blake — April 4, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  128. What I am saying is that while it is logically possible for the universe to be absolutely predictable (by a Laplacian demon similar to that posited by ethical monotheism) it is physically impossible for somebody who is in time to do so whether there is an actual infinity or not. Even if the system were only the size of our solar system and God lived in it, He could still not be a Laplacian demon for the reasons listed above.

    Luckily, God is not stupid and doesn’t sit at home with His calculator adding up all of the trajectories of the atoms in my body. Instead He studies “me” as a whole, as a person who obeys biological laws and has certain tendencies and patterns in my behavior.

    Could you briefly explain why actual infinite cannot exist.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 4, 2005 @ 10:55 pm

  129. Jeffrey,

    Are you saying there is no such thing as Free Will/Agency? How do you explain away the clear scriptural and modern prophetic statements about its existence? I can understand non-Mormons being determinists but it is quite a stretch to not believe in free agency as a Mormon. Such a position seems completely at odds with Mormon doctrine.

    Clark and others like the idea of a sort of temporal determinism in this world but I believe even he doesn’t deny the existence of free agency — rather he seems to doubt the existence of Libertarian Free Will in this life. Am I reading you wrong or is that your position?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  130. Jeff: I don’t believe that an actual ifinite is impossible; only that it is impossible that that a potential infinite become an actual infinite. The easiest way to approach this issue is to take counting. There are an infinite number of natural numbers. If you start counting them, you can count forever — and that is why it is a potential infinite merely. No matter how many numbers you have counted there will always only be a finite number of numbers that you have actually counted. You cannot arrive at an actual infinite by commencing a process that merely adds more to what you have.

    Moreover, I secdon Geoff’s questions. It seems that your determinism is an implicit denial that there are any open options to us and that when we choose between good and evil, the particular act was already determined by what went before and in such a manner that we cannot possibly be held accountable for it. If so, then how do we repent? Why would we hold anyone accountable for doing what is unavoidable by them? Why buy into an essentially godless universe? Dennett is a very strange patron saint for a Mormon in my view.

    Comment by Blake — April 5, 2005 @ 7:41 am

  131. Now we are getting somewhere. I keep reading rebutals that betray an obvious concern for something unsaid, namely whether I believe in Free agency and responsibility.

    Answers: Yes to both. I don’t believe that free agency as we should be using it is the same as free will as the rest of the Christian world is using it. Determinists don’t deny that we are agents, and that we can make choices. What else to we need? Somepeople what to hold out for a absolutely open future with mulitple forks in its road, but since nobody will ever see these forks and the future is subjectively open to both us and God, I don’t see any gain in such a prospect. The criticism amounts to saying that we can’t avoid what will happen, but this is true of determinism and indeterminism. Of course we can’t avoid what will happen, and as long as there isn’t anybody that knows rather than predicts what will happen, there isn’t much of an issue. See my “Are there forks in a Mormons future?” post:
    http://mormondoctrine.blogspot.com/2005/04/are-there-forks-in-mormons-future.html

    I know that these are real issues for applying determinism to Mormonism so I’ll save a real response to the questions of agency and responsibility for later posts. They must be addressed and they will be.

    Thanks for the explanation Blake, I figured it was something along those lines. God can never add up, one by one or even 1,000,000 by 1,000,000 an infinite number of trajectories or causes or anything at all. I just had to make sure that you still believed in actual infinities since I use such in my saying that some causes are always “in” us. See “Rebels without Causes” post:
    http://mormondoctrine.blogspot.com/2005/04/are-we-rebels-without-causes.html

    I really need to learn how to make a link instead of posting the entire URL.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 10:20 am

  132. Jeffrey,

    Obviously something will happen in the future. The problem is that in determinism there is no such thing as might happen, there is only will happen. In your “forks” post (linked above) you lean on that old chestnut of compatibilists — Hypothetical free will. But that is not real free will. The plan you are proposing seems to embrace the worst scenario of all — namely that not only are we causally determined and therefore powerless to do otherwise but that God is in the same boat! And not only that, but you are proposing a God that can’t even calculate the info fast enough know the future. Honestly, I can hardly imagine a worse scenario than that. Am I misunderstanding you on this?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 10:51 am

  133. Jeff said: “Determinists don’t deny that we are agents, and that we can make choices. What else do we need?” First off, Jeff, it is easy to give examples of choices for which we are not responsible and where we need more, so merely making choices is not enough. Say that my little boy decides to pee his pants. Do I hold him accountable? No — because he doesn’t have the bladder control that allows him to do otherwise. Or take a person with Turret’s syndrome that causes them to swear whenever they speak. They are accountable for what they had an alterantive to — they are accountable for speaking — but they are not accountable for what they had no alteratives to — swearing if they speak.

    Moreover, the source argument against responsibility is a strong one. If I hit you in the face because I am caused to do so by a neuron firing in my brain, and that neuron is caused to fire by the status of my body at the time of my birth, and the status of my body is caused by the big bang, then I am not responsible for hitting you because the causes that issued in my hitting you were causes over which I have not control.

    The reason that alternatives make a difference is: (1) we have immediate experience of choosing between alternatives; (2) being able to choose among alternatives is essential to rational thought and deliberation; (3) we can be morally responsible only for what we should have done, but that I should have done X implies that I could have done X given the same circumstances; and (4) such freedom is essential to genuine loving relationships where the beloved is genuinely free to say no to the relationship.

    I’ve outlined these ponts before, and yet you persist in ignoring them and assert that all we need is the ability to “choose,” even though what you mean by a “choice” is no choice at all but merely the acting out of the determinants that cause my action.

    Comment by Blake — April 5, 2005 @ 10:59 am

  134. I guess you aren’t misunderstanding me, but you are saying in the most negative way possible. There is a such thing as might happen to me and to God. Isn’t this what your original post said after all? There is no might happen to the universe but who cares? So the universe doesn’t have free will. I consider “hypothetical free will” to be very real, and I see no need or benefits for holding out for what you call “real free will.” It’s true, we are powerless to do other than what we actually do and so is God, but so what? Indeterminism says the same thing doesn’t it?

    For some reason which I do not fully understand, indeterminists think that they must hold out for all kinds of “what if’s.” Couldn’t I have done differently? Yes if thing had gone differently, but they didn’t so what’s the point? We made an informed decision based on what we knew, expected, felt and so forth. Why is this only a psuedo decision? It seems real enough to me.

    With regards to my ideas concerning God’s knowledge of the future, I have intentionally left the issue quite wide open. Can He “know” the future exactly? No. Can He predict it very, very accurately? Yes. This is the same conclusion Blake reaches in his book though with a different approach. If anything, determinism allows God to predict the future better, though still not perfectly. This is not due to a defect in Him, it is simply physically impossible. It is determinism that allows God and us that allows us to make predictions. It is our predictions that allow us to avoid unpleasant experiences by deciding to do otherwise. To the extent that we reject determinism, we make the universe less predictable and diminish both God’s and our ability to make accurate prediction, thus limiting out freedom to make good decisions.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 11:05 am

  135. Blake, I can see that I am not going to be able avoiding the issue of responsibility for much longer so today or tomorrow I will put up a post on it at my site. You are right, responsibility is a difficult issue, and I would first like to see (I’m not trying to be a jerk here) what an account of LFW responsiblity is. If I understand correctly, they believe that causes are basically determined by causes and so on until there is some kind of indeterminacy. You said it yourself, that even indeterminists don’t believe in absolute full responsibility if I understand your examples of peeing the pants and Turrets.

    Suppose we have “Spit Wad Todd” (my equivalent to your Kid Rock the 7-11 robber). He is 16 years old and obviously knows better, but is having very difficult time at home and has attention issues. Could you give me an account of his responsibility.

    But to very briefly address your points:
    1) determinism allow for decisions, real decisions. I know that you think they are only hypothetical, but hypothetical to who? They seem like choices to me and to you and to rats in a maze and the God. What else should I be holding out for?
    2) rational thought and deliberation are also fully compatible with determinism. I would probably put it the other way around though, rational thought is essential to making morally significant decisions.
    3) this is the toughy. For one, I think somebody should have to argue for that assertion as opposed to stating it as a fact which determinism must measure up to. Our actions have consequences, whether determined or not. Being held accoutable before God, is somewhat easy to reconcile, especially in a Mormon context where, in my opinion, it is repentance, not obedience that counts. (I’ll have to explain that better a bit later.) To be held accountable socially is a bit difficult, for surely we aren’t send people to death row to make them better or because that is where bad people belong. We are doing it because we feel that is what they deserve. This, however, could be a problem with society, not determinism. To be honest, my opinions regarding social policy in light of determinism are not that firm.
    4) since deterministic choices are real enough, I’m not sure what the objection is here. It is not difficult to believe in a deterministic form of love where either participant is able to decide whether to engage in or not.

    With regards to the idea that the big bang caused everything, this doesn’t really work for Mormons who should be determinists but not naturalists. We do have spiritual identities which have always existed and which have always had some internal causes. This is an actual infinity. The sum of the causes which influence us is never entirely outside of us. Also, applying your logic of potential infinities, we can never actually entirely blame other causes.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 11:28 am

  136. Ok Jeffrey, I can see another approach needs to be taken here.

    Let’s go with predestination… A causally determined person is a predestined person. There is no difference. That person make no real free choices, he only thinks he freely choosing. But in reality he is reacting to forces and situations that were in play long before his casually determined birth. If those forces have him slated to murder then he must murder. If they have him slated to act saintly then he must act saintly. He is not responsible for either, though, because all of his actions were caused outside of him and he had no power to do otherwise (even though he thought he did.)

    To make thing worse, a causally determined God is predestined too. Such a God is powerless to do otherwise. Then you want to take is even a step further and say we have a God that is not even smart enough to figure out the predestined future. Don’t you see the problem?

    If nothing else, you ought to agree that we have been clearly taught that predestination is a false doctrine. I saw you wrote at your blog that predestination is not the same as causal determinism. Could explain how a causally determined person is not predestined?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 11:46 am

  137. Jeffrey: We do have spiritual identities which have always existed and which have always had some internal causes. This is an actual infinity. The sum of the causes which influence us is never entirely outside of us. Also, applying your logic of potential infinities, we can never actually entirely blame other causes.

    This illustrates the problem with your stated position as a determinist. If there are internal self-causes isn’t that what we call free will? Perhaps you are a firm believer in LFW after all?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 11:52 am

  138. I’m not comfortable equating predestination with determinism. Predestination seems to involve some sort of agent, which Mormons do not believe exists, namely one that is doing the “predestining” or is a Laplacian demon or sets things up in the beginning. For Mormons the was no beginning neither to causes nor us. God does not exist outside of the deterministic system, He is in it and is Himself determined. His future is fixed, just like ours. But since He only predicts the future instead of knowing it, He can change was “would have” (according to Him) been the future. Also, since he can make predictions very well, far better than us, He is far better at avoiding dire consequences of certain actions.

    Its true, some people have things happen to them which make them more “mean” than other people who do not experience such things. That is just the Universe we live in and it is not God’s fault or theirs. (this is the blame the victim logic)

    Let’s talk about this murderer. For starters, the causes are never fully external to him. Like Blake says, potential infinities cannot become actual infinities. There are always more causes which reside within “him.” Now when that moment of passion comes for him, he is not only determined to do what he does. He is also determined to recongize that what he is doing is wrong. He is determined to predict the consequences. He is determined to ignore the promptings to stop. What determines these things? It could have to do with the method of execution, the reason for his doing this, his upbringing, a psychological disorder or whatever. But his spiritual intelligence is always there as well which can never externalize all of the causes. To say that he was determined to kill a guy is a bit of an oversimpification and a straw man.

    Yes, predestination is false, and this follows not so much from our ideas of freedom as our ideas of God and His nature and the nature of the Universe. The only form of predestination which I would be will to accept is one where the Laplacian demon is completely ignorant, and we have a name for this demon, the Universe. It is in “control” to inappropriately adopt the intentional stance. But since the Universe doesn’t believe, think or “do” anything, I tend to ignore this version of predestination.

    God is very, very smart, but not infinitely smart by Blake’s potential infinity rule.

    I can see that much of our conversation has been a lot of wasted “virtual breath” for we seem to be talking right past one another. Geoff doesn’t seem to be understanding me. I don’t seem to be understanding Blake and around and around we go. I’m not sure I can explain myself better, but if you will be patient with me, I’ll do my best. After all, I’m a math geek, not an author.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

  139. My understanding of self causes is quite different, though you bring up a good point. Perhaps my understanding could almost be cause Libertarian determinism. Those causes inside our spiritual intelligences are always determined by prior causes, some internal and some external to the intelligence. There is never an uncaused moment, but there is an infinite regress.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 12:09 pm

  140. Actually I think I am understanding your view now Jeffrey. It is clear to me that you are not really a determinist (which means something very specific). A traditional determinist would not believe any of these things you believe:

    There are always more causes which reside within “him.”… But his spiritual intelligence is always there as well which can never externalize all of the causes… Those causes inside our spiritual intelligences are always determined by prior causes, some internal and some external to the intelligence.

    If you believe that some event are self caused then by definition you belive in free will. This also means you and I are actually in great agreement. Call it Libertarian determinism if you want, but it is the same concept I posted about last week. See “The Natural Man = Causally Determined Man”. The idea is that while we have real free will always available, the practical effects of determinism are at play in the universe and our lives as well. This approach allows for great but not perfect predictive power for God while still allowing us all to be responsible for our actions.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 12:47 pm

  141. I don’t believe events are self caused. I believe that a spiritual intelligence is much like a brain. Each action an intelligence performs is caused by prior events some of which happened inside the intelligence (such as our deliberation) and others came from outside of the intelligence (such as context or communications). There never is a single uncaused, or self caused event. Sorry.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 2:13 pm

  142. No need to be sorry. It just seems to me that you are a closet believer in Libertarian Free Will after all. Welcome to the club! As evidence I submit your own words: “Each action an intelligence performs is caused by prior events some of which happened inside the intelligence…”

    If this isn’t a definition of free will then what is it?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 2:25 pm

  143. Yes, it is a definition of free will, but a deterministic free will worth wanting. Nothing is self caused, nothing. Nothing is uncaused. There always has been only one future open to the Universe and we are currently moving into it right now.

    The fact is, that I used to be a LFW, but perhaps I merely went back into the closet, though I certainly don’t see it that way. When I first read Blake’s book, I was convinced by it and at the time would have been saying almost the same things you guys have been saying. My main argument was that If God knows that Todd will shoot the spit wad, can Todd do otherwise? If not, how free is he really? But as I mentioned, the whole point has to do with “know” vs. “predict” and the rest is determinism. I also had to get over the idea of being, on one understanding, a “causal filter” of sorts with no intentionality. With regards to this I had do more fully develop what intentionality is.

    I can understand the distaste of adopting such a pessimistic (according to some) and even fatalistic view of life, especially from a Mormon context which values agency so much. We think that since we value agency more that other traditions, our versions must be like theirs and then some. I don’t buy it. Ours is so valuable because it is real. We don’t talk too much about free will. Instead we speak of free agency, being free agents. So, what is it to be an agent? What is it to be free? Perhaps this is a distinction which we Mormons should made more clear.

    I don’t know if you have been following this thread over at Mormon Metaphysics, but I mentioned the two assumptions I am working with. If either one could be shown to be fatally flawed, I would be left with nothing.

    1)I believe that “spirit matter” interacts, at least with itself, in ways very similar to our physical matter. Our intelligences, in my opinion, are made up of moving, smaller parts of matter. We talk of software and hardware. Well, spiritual matter is just more hardware, the organization of which becomes software.

    2)If something is totally uncaused (not requested or anything of the sort) then it seems to be utterly random and thus takes away from our responsibilites and our ability to make predictions, thus making us less free. We can talk of self-causation, but quite frankily I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. Causation does not go backwards through time so as to cause itself. I river cannot be its own source. That just not the way it works.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 3:25 pm

  144. Language has been a difficult barrier in this ongoing conversation. Even your last comment had some aspects that sound like word salad to me. I’ll give some examples:

    deterministic free will

    Determinism and free will as normally defined cannot coexist. Therefore this is either a paradox or something you’ll need to rename.

    Nothing is self caused, nothing.

    Yet you say some things are agent-caused… So when I freely choose did I not cause the choice myself? I guess when you use the word “self” here you mean nothing causes itself?

    There always has been only one future open to the Universe

    Huh? Of course there is one “open” future. By definition there cannot be more than one open future. The question is whether there is more than one potential future. Determinism say no. LFW says yes.

    We don’t talk too much about free will. Instead we speak of free agency, being free agents.

    I believe this is a fabricated difference. They are two words for the same thing.

    2)If something is totally uncaused then it seems to be utterly random

    You’ll find little argument here. The crux of the matter is what is free will/agency? Where does it come from? How does it allow us to cause things in our own lives? This is what Blake and Clark have been talking about at MM and SS — the ideas of this emergent thing we call free will; whether it radically emerges or not, etc. I am interested in learning more about this. I am convinced there is such a thing as free will that is capable of causing our thought and actions but I still don’t have a theory nailed down about what it really is. (I’m sure this gets to all sorts of identity theories as well…)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 3:58 pm

  145. 1) Instead of deterministic free will (which is what compatibilists claim does exist) how about deterministic free agency. I don’t accept the normal definition of free will.

    2) Yes “you” (depending on what “you” are) caused a decision. I was saying that A cannot cause B which in turn causes A or however many letters you want to put in between the two A’s. (the letters are events and can be considered as causes and effects)

    3) There is only one potential future for the Universe as well as anything in it. But “we” get to decide what it will be as part of making this only potential future. Since nobody knows exactly what future this is, there the future is very open to any given agent.

    4) I think the difference is very real. Free will is a philosophical puzzle, and issue which the scriptures leave silent. Free agency is a practical issue which is addressed many times. It means that God will allow us to decide without forcing us to do things. “To act rather than being acted upon” is talking about interpersonal relations, not metaphysics. The first one I don’t accept, the second I do.

    5) Free agency can emerge, but free will cannot in my opinion.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 5, 2005 @ 4:12 pm

  146. Jeffrey,

    How is your view not a compatibilist one? Aren’t you really defending a deterministic future with a hypothetical free will?

    Incidentally, as a believer in free will I think that rewinding the tape on your Spitwad Todd enough times would lead to a choice of no spitwad. It may seem random to an observer if measured that way but it really would be the result utilizing free will/agency and just choosing differently because we can just do that.

    If you believe that the would never be different even though it hypothetically might be then it seems you are really a compatibilist with your own twist on a few things.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 5, 2005 @ 5:21 pm

  147. Jeff: The problem with your view (among others) is that God is no longer all-knowing or omniscient. It is no longer the case that God’s knowledge is limited only by what it is logically possible to know; rather, there are matters that it is possible to be known but he lacks the resources to know them. Thus, now God’s worshipworthiness is seriously in question.

    I agree with Geoff that you seem to vascillate between views that imply LFW and compatibilist soft-determinism.

    Let’s go back to my points.

    1. Determinism is inconsistent with our immediate experience of chossong among genuine options. Jeff responded: “determinism allow for decisions, real decisions. I know that you think they are only hypothetical, but hypothetical to who? They seem like choices to me and to you and to rats in a maze and the God. What else should I be holding out for?” A decision implies that in deciding we are in fact choosing among genuinely open options. There are no geunine options if determinism is true — rather, we appear to be deciding what has already been decided long before we thought about it. So there are no decisions given your view, only the appearance of decisions.

    2. Determinsim is incompatible with rational thought and deliberation. Jeff said: “rational thought and deliberation are also fully compatible with determinism. I would probably put it the other way around though, rational thought is essential to making morally significant decisions.” Of course, merely asserting that rational thought is compatible with determinism (which is all that you do) doesn’t make it so. Consider the argument showing that they are not compatible. Think about the nature of deliberation and rational thought. If I act based upon rational thought and deliberation, then I act because I recognize that the action is a rational conclusion of my thinking and deliberation. I act for the reasons that I have considered. However, if determinism is true then I never act based solely on the reasons I have considered.

    Let us suppose that human thinking is determined in the sense that every thought or belief accepted by a person is a necessary result of the prior causal events whether internal or external to the person. Is it not evident that on such a view that rational thought is impossible? It cannot be true that anyone’s thinking is guided by rational processes; rather, it is guided entirely by laws of cause and effect which proceed with no regard to whether the thought processes they generate correspond to the principles of sound reasoning. If I have a thought, it is not because it was a rational conclusion but because it was determined by prior causes. Thus, the thought I now have is the result of prior causes, and I can never trace any act or thought to one that is not merely the result of prior causes, whether internal or external to me. If I have a thought and determinism is true, it is not because it is the result of rational process but because it is the upshot of the prior states of the universe. It follows that if determinism is true, no one ever thinks rationally but merely has thoughts caused by prior circumstances.

    3. Determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility. Jeff said: “this is the toughy. For one, I think somebody should have to argue for that assertion as opposed to stating it as a fact which determinism must measure up to. Our actions have consequences, whether determined or not. Being held accoutable before God, is somewhat easy to reconcile, especially in a Mormon context where, in my opinion, it is repentance, not obedience that counts. (I’ll have to explain that better a bit later.) To be held accountable socially is a bit difficult, for surely we aren’t send people to death row to make them better or because that is where bad people belong. We are doing it because we feel that is what they deserve. This, however, could be a problem with society, not determinism. To be honest, my opinions regarding social policy in light of determinism are not that firm.”

    Well, how’s this for an argument? Suppose that a person, I’ll call him Rock), desires to steal a Mars bar from a 7-Eleven. Rock has these desires, he mistakenly thinks, because he likes Mars bars and doesn’t like to part with his money. However, if determinism is true, then Rock’s desire to steal is the causal result of his brain chemistry and environment, and these in turn are the result of antecedent causal events which can be traced back, ultimately, to causal events and circumstances over which Rock had no control, for they existed long before he was born. Is Rock morally responsible for stealing the Mars bar? How could he be? The act of stealing is fully explained by events over which he had no control. It follows that he had no control over whether he desired to steal the Mars bar. Rock is no more responsible for stealing than he would be for having a congenital birth defect.

    4. Determinism is inconsistent with genuine relationship. Jeff responded: since deterministic choices are real enough, I’m not sure what the objection is here. It is not difficult to believe in a deterministic form of love where either participant is able to decide whether to engage in or not.

    Blake responds: First, deterministic choices are not genuine. If I love you because of the way the world was the day before I was born, then I don’t really love you, I merely act out the causes that make it inevitable that I will have the feelings that I do and love is reduced to mere feelings that are not really mine because I didn’t choose them. Rather, if I “love” you in a deterministic world, you were chosen for me by causes outside of my control.

    That is why determinism is a heinous view.

    Comment by Blake — April 5, 2005 @ 6:32 pm

  148. Sorry, but this is going to be very brief and unfulfilling. First of all, my views are definitely that of a compatibilist. The difference between the compatibilist and the Libertarian are indeed sometimes very small. My beliefs are very similar to those of Libertarians but without the indeterminacy, for I don’t think such claims are rational, necessary or desirable.

    Atoms do not not thoughts, rational or otherwise. They don’t choose. They don’t love. These things are true for both determinism and indeterminism. So let’s get beyond the physical stance. We are intentional agents. We are designed to make informed decisions which will have effect an unknown future for good or bad.

    If by genuine you mean absolute choices seen from outside of time and space, then yes, there aren’t options. But nobody exists outside of time and space. We have no clue what the future holds, it is to us completely open and decisions can be made. I do not endorse fatalism. We, not our atoms, decide what we will do and make the future. We do so based on our reasons which we have considered, not because of particular arrangements of atoms at T-1. I can love a person and be loyal to them for reason of my own. All of this without any indeterministic hocus pocus. Rock stole the candy bar, not the atoms that compose him nor those same atoms and “causes” which existed before he was born.

    If we adopt such an atomistic stance for LFW it too, will look rediculous, actually, even more so in my opinion. Just because I believe that every effect has a fully deterministic explanation doesn’t mean that I just consider us to be atoms. But let’s be honest, we are just atoms, both spiritual and physical atoms. This is a big part of my argument for determinism.

    The question regarding God’s meriting worship is a good one as I intimated before. Our belief in a limited anthropomorphic God takes all the real omni’s out of the picture except perhaps omnibenevolent. This is why Mormons think they have solved the problem of evil, by positing God limited in power. Yet we can worship Him because He is Vastly more Powerful and Knowledgable than we are, not to mention His unmatched love for us.

    Like I said, this has to be short, but I will continue posting more thoughts over at my site tomorrow, including some on responsibility.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 6, 2005 @ 12:51 am

  149. Jeff: I AM NOT AN INDETERMINIST! LFW DOES NOT ADOPT INDETERMINISM!

    Comment by Blake — April 6, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

  150. Ok, now we are getting somewhere, and it only took capital letters screaming at me to get it. Sorry about taxing your patience so.

    I just assumed that anybody who is not a determinist is by definition an indeterminist. Is this wrong?

    I imagine who are talking about probability instead of indeterminism. (This is a guess, which may not be pertain to the discussion.)

    “The major objection to libertarianism is that it remains a mystery why an agent makes the choice she does – any explanation of the choice (beyond a probabilistic one) would seem to make it determined. However, according to David Hume, if a choice is not determined then it is simply a random event, which is problematic since such a choice would lack purpose. Although quantum mechanics provides some reason for thinking that determinism may indeed be false, Roy C. Weatherford (in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy) echoes Hume on randomness:
    The random behaviour of atoms certainly does not by itself make for the freedom and moral responsibility asserted by libertarians.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 6, 2005 @ 2:42 pm

  151. Jeff: I go to some length in my book to explain a third option between determinism and indeterminism — the view of freedom as “creative synthesis” in which our freedom is emergent from the complexity (causal data) of the prior moment. I don’t claim that we are uncaused, only that the notion of causation does not entail that but one possibility is necessitiated by prior causes. What must be added to the nexus or causal data of the prior moment is the creative ability of the agent to fashion something novel from that data. In this context what I mean by “novel” is that it is not simply entailed by the prior moment, not already included as the sole possible outcome of the complete data of the prior moment. It is the nexus + 1, or all of the data of the prior moment together with the creativity of an organizing agent that makes something genuinely new possible.

    Here is where Clark’s point about not having an adequate theory of causality comes into play. There is no adequate theory of causation it seems to me and we have all kinds of experience of circumstances in which the totality of prior causes are sufficient for more than one outcome. Our theory of causation is best if it considers this fact about our experience. I hasten to add that scientific reasoning is often misleading because there has never been a “totality of prior causes” experiment. What usually happens is that we set it up so that we attempt to control for all but one cause of which we are aware and believe to be relevant. But it never happens that we control for all prior causes in the history of the world. So we focus on one cause and assume that the outcome was somehow regularly necessitated as the sole possible outcome given the causes we controlled and considered. Yet in the human sciences we cannot even being to set up the experiment. No one has come close to anything like a successful model of predicting human behavior for even a single normal functioning individual.

    Comment by Blake — April 6, 2005 @ 3:03 pm

  152. What are your thoughts on general relativity and the idea of mulitple worlds. I don’t like the latter at all, it seems to be an entirely faith based belief which proponents of free will clutch at to save face in view of GR.

    Also, what do you think of Libet’s experiment with the mind, wherein our brains seems to decide things before our conscious minds do?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 6, 2005 @ 3:11 pm

  153. Jeff: I am agnostic on all of these issues — as interesting as they are. I believe that agnosticism is the most reasonable approach given our epistemic status. In fact, let me say that even if you don’t buy any particular view of LFW, it makes the most sense to be agnostic about how we have LFW but to assert that we do. It may well be that due to our epistemic limitations we cannot describe fully and accurately how we have LFW, but that we know that we do because otherwise we don’t have the things we know we have and so value (e.g., 1-4 in #148 above). This is the view of Al Mele and Manuel Vargas — and that seems much more reasonable to me than LDS determinism.

    Comment by Blake — April 6, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  154. and that seems much more reasonable to me than LDS determinism.

    Amen, Blake. The original point of the post was that exhaustive foreknowledge naturally leads to forms of determinism/compatibilism, and that any form of determinism cannot be adequately separated from pernicious fatalism and predestination doctrines. Most believers in exhaustive foreknowledge try to figure our ways to believe in it without determinism being true. As I mentioned earlier, your (Jeffrey) current take on things leaves us with fatalism/predestination and a God unable to know the future. Now that is what I call a bleak doctrine! Not to mention the fact that it is totally at odds with LDS teachings.

    Obviously it is tough for scientific types to resort to a response like “we have libertarian free will, though we don’t know yet exactly how to describe how or what exactly it is”. I believe the answer probably will end up being something close to what Blake mentions — that somehow LFW synergistically emerges within our spirit/intelligences.

    I’d like to continue to delve into this idea that all intelligences has some form of LFW potential in it though… Perhaps atoms do have the ability to “choose” within their own spheres based on the “intelligence” they have? Sounds silly but I think it is worth mulling at least.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 6, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  155. Over on his post, Jeff as resonded to point 3 above. Here it is: The act of stealing is fully explained by events over which he had no control.” We already saw that this isn’t really true in a Mormon context. Rock always existed as an intelligence, an intelligence that always had at least some control over environment his reaction to it which produces his nature. He has always had a part in his own development. He has always had some control.

    However, this response worn’t work because it is mistaken about the priorities. If my act is causally determined, then it is caused by events that are logically and chronologically prior to my acts. Thus, I was not around to control the prior causes at the time the causes occurred that issue in my action. The events are always causally prior to the time I can think about any act and my thoughts are also caused. So I lack the kind of control necessary for moral agency. By the time I get around to considering anything, my act is already always causally controlled by prior causes before I could think about it. Thus, I lack the control of choice and deliberation.

    Comment by Blake — April 6, 2005 @ 4:38 pm

  156. Blake,
    This is the first thing you’ve said on this topic that has actually really interested me.
    Rock always existed as an intelligence, an intelligence that always had at least some control over environment his reaction to it which produces his nature. He has always had a part in his own development. He has always had some control.
    I know that you might use this as an in to attack my posiiton on simple foreknwoledge, though as I do not believe in exhaustive foreknowledge, only foreknowledge of the events of this world, it’s relaly not so realtive. It does sort of shut down those that would claim that anything we are god made us. That is, perhaps he didn’t have to make us radically free agents (the position to which I have until now subscribed, and which I am not entirely willing to say yet that I am rejecting in favor of this), only enable our ability to use our agency by giving us birth, first as spirits and then as physical beings. Interesting. I’ll put it in the back of my mind and see if it attaches to anything or gets forgotten or discounted.

    Comment by Steve H. — April 6, 2005 @ 7:04 pm

  157. Steve,

    You are actually agreeing with a quote from Jeffrey’s post on determinism and responsibility from today. Blake is correctly showing a flaw in it as presented.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 6, 2005 @ 11:00 pm

  158. Geoff, I should respond to some of what you just said.

    While your post said that absolute foreknowledge implied determinism, determinism does not imply absolute foreknowledge.

    Fatalism can be separated from determinism to a degree which makes determinism compatible with Mormonism. Fatalism is basically determinism with people giving up. It comes from a misunderstanding of the idea that the future is fixed. It’s true that we can’t do anything other than what we will do, but this is true of determinism and indeterminism. Fatalists are just stupid or lazy determinists.

    I’m also not sure what is so unpleasant about a deterministic version of predestination. After all, it isn’t God thats predestining anything. Deteriminism doesn’t mean that some things are “meant to happen” in some kind of special way. It simply says that some things will happen. The Universe doesn’t mean anything.

    Determinism with exhaustive foreknowledge would be an unpleasant doctrine. Luckily it isn’t physically possible since nobody who is in a deterministic system can perfectly predict any future state of that same system, not even God. But yes, such a doctrine would be ugly.

    I think that determinism is a perfect fit for Mormonism with its version of God, its materialism and its disbelief in objective miracles. Our version of God is what makes us different from those who accept predestination. Our materialism keeps us from being dualist indeterminists. Our disbelief in objective miracles rules out most notions of free will and leave only the good ones.

    Do I think that LFW makes the mark? No, but I could be wrong. Do I think that compatibilism makes the mark? Absolutely.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 6, 2005 @ 11:13 pm

  159. Geoff, sorry I just saw your comment after I posted mine. Thanks for the credit by the way because I totally stand by what I said. I don’t think Blake showed the flaws very well at all.

    If my act is causally determined, then it is caused by events that are logically and chronologically prior to my acts. This is true and I have no problem.

    Thus, I was not around to control the prior causes at the time the causes occurred that issue in my action. Yes, I was there. Our actions are not just caused by vague “events.” These events refer to something, many of them refer to me and my psychological make up (not just physically speaking mind you). I was more around for my eternal upbring than anybody else was. I always had something to do with the events that shaped both me and my decisions.

    The events are always causally prior to the time I can think about any act and my thoughts are also caused. This is true.

    So I lack the kind of control necessary for moral agency. Wrong. I have always had some control over my actions. I have always been able to choose. I know Blake doesn’t consider deterministic choices real choices, or deterministic thoughts real thoughts or that deterministic desires are not real desires, but I will never agree with him on this point. (Maybe I am determined to reject it. ;-) )

    By the time I get around to considering anything, my act is already always causally controlled by prior causes before I could think about it. This is kind of true, but not phrased very fairly. My considering is a big part of the cause for my actions. It’s true there were prior events which caused me to consider, but this doesn’t make such consideration fake in any way.

    Thus, I lack the control of choice and deliberation. Again, not phrased very fairly. I can choose or deliberate about whatever I want, but this doesn’t prove indeterminism true. It only show that I am a free agent. Can I want whatever I want? To a certain, but lesser extent yes. Can I want to want whater I want? (You should probably read that a few times first, I sure need to.) To an even lesser degree and so on ad infinitum.

    That is what I meant in my statement which I will modify very slightly, though not it’s intent. “Rock always existed as an intelligence, an intelligence that always had at least some control over his environment and his reactions to it. These things shape his nature over time, but not entirely for he has always played a signigicant role in the process. He has always had a part in his own development. He has always had some control.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 6, 2005 @ 11:34 pm

  160. Jeffrey,

    I’m surprised you are still not seeing the flaw in you logic regarding determinism. Here is a prime example from your post today:

    Rock always existed as an intelligence, an intelligence that always had at least some control over environment his reaction to it, which produces his nature. He has always had a part in his own development. He has always had some control.

    You use this to show that determinism still allows for responsibility. The obvious question regarding this statement of your is how did Rock “always have at least some control over (his) environment (and) his reaction to it, which produces his nature”? Did Rock have LFW or were his actions eternally causally determined? How did he ever have any control if his actions were always determined? If he never had LFW then the answer is he never had any control and thus never had any responsibility.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 6, 2005 @ 11:43 pm

  161. How is it that computers, which are completely deterministic, are able to redesign their own software? The computer is in control (keep in mind this is a rather simplistic analogy) of what is going on, and the computer is the one who did it. If the computer can effect its own software in a way which will inturn create a different “nature” for it, why can’t we? There are computer Chess playing programs which “learn” and constantly redesign themselves so as to get better at making future decisions. We too, learn and remember and consider alternatives, and make predictions and eventually make decisions. These things highly effect what our natures will be in the futures. Our natures are not fixed at all under determinism.

    BTW, it isn’t necessarily the only argument for responsibility in a deterministic system, it is just one unique to Mormonism.

    I know that you think that I am being stubborn, but I kind of think the same about you guys to a certain extent. (Don’t take this as a breath of anger, its just my assessment of the situation.) You really don’t see how I can’t see my error, while I really don’t see how you can not see the beauty in my idea. Since I am not understanding Blake all that well, and Blake doesn’t seem to understand me all that well, and neither do you the obvious question is “what is the common denominator?” Duh. I’m kind of at a loss. Perhaps you need to spell out the logical objection in the most determinist friendly language you can muster since that seems to be a big problem. You have noticed that I occasionally use Libertarian language which seemed to confuse you guts a bit, but I hope that I made clear that I did this to emphasize our similarities, not to sneak one past you.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 7, 2005 @ 12:09 am

  162. Jeffrey,

    I’d say a computer — even one that “redesigns” its own software — has no control at all. It certainly has no choices. It must do what it does without other options open to it. It certainly is not responsible for its functioning and no one would dream of rewarding or punishing the computer for its processes! If anyone is responsible it is the programmer/designer.

    There is an inseparable chasm between life and machines. Simply because machines can imitate life in some rudimentary way does not make it possible that machines we will make will ever bridge that gap. I’m fairly safe asserting that there is no Star Trekkian “Mr. Data” in our future, despite a few baby steps our computers appear to be making in that direction.

    I think yor biggest problem remains showing how an agent is in any way responsible if it is causally determined. The computer analogy does not seem remotely adequate to accomplish that.

    BTW — I don’t mind you trying to defend your position in the least. The process illuminates the strengths and false assumptions of both sides.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 7, 2005 @ 8:44 am

  163. Jeff: I think I see a way that we can make some headway on this. Do you think that we should hold computers morally responsible if they screw up the data and cause harm? If not, please distinguish your view of how a computer redesigns its software from your view of how our thoughts and actions are causally determined by the prior states of the world. If you do hold computers morally responsible, then you’ll be the first!

    Comment by Blake — April 7, 2005 @ 9:29 am

  164. Geoff, I think the chess computer program does have a certain amount of control. Again, I don’t think that humans are mere computers or that the two are even close to eachother. I am merely trying to show what a deterministic system is capable of. The program certainly responds to my moves and makes decisions on where to move its own pieces. It processes information. Thus we can see that thinking and deciding are absolutely consistent in a deterministic system.

    I think that we do reward good computer programs by giving them more difficult and important tasks and even granting awards. I know that the awards actually go to the designers, but what if such a program where mostly self made using evolutionary algorithms or something along those lines where human intervention is kept to a minimum. This is similar to our eternal natures which are mostly self made.

    Do I think that we should hold computer programs responsible? To a certain extent. If a program is bad we do what we can to correct it by sending it to a professional correction facility. This is on par with my view of God’s punishment of us, so as to help us. Our punishments (again, I am only speaking theologically, not socially) should be for our own good, our future good, as well as for the good of those around us who we might continue to harm. We wouldn’t let computer screw up more and more data without doing something.

    The main distinction here, is that it is very difficult to imagine an intentional computer program in the same way that we are intentional. Did the computer mean to screw up the data? I doubt the programs that we have in mind don’t “mean” anything becaue they aren’t conscious in any significant way. Thus the responsibility which I attribute to computers will not be exactly the same as I hold for humans, but you can probably see that what I mean by responsibility is not what you mean. I don’t believe that we will be punished as if God were exacting revenge for our actions.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 7, 2005 @ 10:04 am

  165. Doh!
    I thought I was agreeing with Blake. I must say that I don’t side with Jeffrey on this one. I thought what was good here was the thought about eternally existing and having choice, which would seem like something Blake would buy into–eternal LFW. I’m not sure if I believe that our mode of being allowed for LFW as intelligences, but it’s an interesting option, since it means God never entirely made us who we are so we can’t blame our bad choices on him. That would have to imply that the choices were real choices and not determined.
    As far as the computer thing–whatever the computer may learn, it never has choice. Are you claiming that the computer is an actual agent? Does this imply that the computer is sentient? I’m not willing to buy into the idea that we have the power in this sphere to create things that have choice, and which thus would have accountablility.

    Comment by Steve H — April 7, 2005 @ 12:15 pm

  166. Jeffrey,

    Your response (#165) really doesn’t help your case much. The question you still must answer is the one Blake asked: Do you think that we should hold computers morally responsible if they screw up the data and cause harm?

    Of course a computer will never be morally responsible (I, Robot and Mr. Data notwithstanding). It is only able to react to input it receives. It cannot do anything proactively. In your proposed deterministic scheme we are nothing more than super-advanced computers. Even worse, you propose God to be an even more advanced computer. (By the way who or what was the first programmer in your scheme?) The problem is that computers can only react. That cannot just act on their own volition. They will never be morally responsible for their computations and “choices”. The same applies any totally causally determined entity. You can have no responsibility if there is no free agency in the libertarian sense.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 7, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  167. Jeffrey,
    Part of the problem with your example, only part of the problem,I think, is that computers are digital phenomenon, and this implies the impostion of artificial measures that allow digitality. The universe is not digital. Our minds are not digital. Choice is certainly not digital. Consciousness is not digital.
    This is part, and I repeat only part, of what makes a computer incapable of existing without outside intelligence. It must recieve input that has been digitalized by an agent capable of imposing artifical standards of measurement on the world.
    While this doesn’t mean that digital phenomenon may not be useful as metaphors for non-digital phenomenon, it does mean that we must be very careful of extending those metaphors to the level of issues like agency that are ontological and/or perceptual at their base.

    Comment by Steve H — April 7, 2005 @ 7:57 pm

  168. Doh! I thought I had somebody at least somewhat on my side with Steve. Oh well, so I’m a lone ranger of sorts.

    Computer programs to make choices. They may not be morally significant ones (yet) but they are choices. Consider the chess program. It is designed to consider, again in a very crude sense, different alternatives of where it could move. It makes predictions into the future as to where its opponent where go based on its opponents moves in the past as well as what move the computer itself would take. It then decides which move is best and takes it. If that’s not a choice, you must be working with a rather esoteric definition which I will leave for you to describe.

    AGAIN, don’t misunderstand me as attributing anything even close to what we experience. I am merely trying to show that information processing (thinking) and deciding (making choices) is possible in an undistubably deterministic system. That’s it.

    If my dog pees in the house after being thoroughly trained not to and having ample access to the outside, should I hold it accountable? Yes in a certain sense. I do punish the dog (especially if I can him in the act) and I do keep a close eye on him for some time after that. The dog knew it had done wrong when I caught it, it was obvious in his eyes. But should I hold the dog “morally” accountable? Definitely not in the way that I would if a person peed on my floor.

    Am I claiming that the computer is actually an agent? A proto-agent of sorts yes. But certainly not near on par with us humans. Is the dog an agent? Again, maybe a proto-agent, but nowhere near what we are (though the dog does have a spirit, right?). The dog and the computer are simply not as intelligent as us. They are not designed the same way we are. They have formed no kinds of contracts, whether social or religious (covenants). Without these contracts in place, and I believe that contractual ethics (see the comments as well)is what theory Mormonism should place it’s hope, we can’t really attribute morals to anything.

    We raise our children into a social contract. We proselyte people into a religious contract, not only with us, but more importantly with God. We probably established contracts before coming to earth. But the dog, and the computer have done no such things so they never were responsible for holding up their end of the bargain.

    Geoff, your definitions of react and being proactive should be clearly defined as well. What is being pro-active if not recognizing a certain situation for what it is and reacting to this recongnition by taking initiative?

    Do I consider our brains to be computers? Kind of but we need qualifications. Ours brains (and intelligences) are made from vastly different hardware than are our silicone based computers. This means that our software will be very different as well. So while I consider us to be information processors and therefore computers of sorts, we are not like computers as we know them. God is one too. And feeling disgust for no apparent reason is hardly and argument against it. There never was a first computer, you should know that from Mormon doctrine.

    Back to Steve, I know that computers are digital. This is part of the vast difference between us and computers as we know them. Our world is much “less clean” than the artificial world of computers. It is important that YOU do not take my analogy too far. I’m using computers as a example of a deterministic world, not a digital one. A non-digital world need not be indeterministic by a long shot. It is due to the non-digitality of the universe which allows for evolution. The evolution of life, brains, minds, consciousness and moral choices as we now have.

    Of course I should mention that some scientists now think that our universe might actually be digital in that time and space is not infinity divisible. There are definite discrete units.

    I personally think that adversion for determinism comes mostly from the arguments used in non-Mormon contexts. I keep hearing predestination and calvinism and the like. But the Mormon doctrine of ultimate reality is so different from theirs that even using those words makes me very uncomfortable.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 8, 2005 @ 1:34 pm

  169. Oh,oh. I think that link I posted maybe wrong.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 8, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

  170. Nevermind, it was right, just be sure to read the comments.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 8, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

  171. Momronism without morals. Moral obligation reduced to agreements. Is that really LDS? What happened to irrevocable laws decreed in the heavens before the world was? Is my obligation not to kill you merely a matter of contract? And of those too young to contract, are you saying that they have no moral obligations? What of the law of love — could we contract that harming you is OK so that I can act in an unloving manner and we can agree to call it love? If LDS thought is reduced to this view, we are better off without it. Thank goodness LDS thought isn’t stuck with such a view. However, I agree that such a contractual view may be really the only way in which determinism could be made consistent with moral obligation — so much the worse for determinism.

    Comment by Blake — April 8, 2005 @ 9:56 pm

  172. I’m just curious if you actually read the link Blake. What is moral as opposed to immoral? In Mormonism we can’t just say that God decides, because who decided for Him when He was going through mortality? This is in addition to the typical “arbitrariness” of divine command ethics.

    But we do want to say that God has some say in it don’t we? The best way to do this in my opinion is by invoking a form of “cosmic contract ethics.” This seems to fit in very well with our notions of the premortal counsel, and our emphasis on covenants.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 9, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

  173. Jeff: If ethics are contractual, then there is no absolute right or wrong, good or evil, but merely social constructs. That is not what I believe the gospel entails at all. See my take on ethical theories and Mormonism here: http://www.fairlds.org/apol/TNMC/TNMC06.html

    Comment by Blake — April 9, 2005 @ 8:44 pm

  174. Jeffrey: your definitions of react and being proactive should be clearly defined as well

    This is the classic complaint against the Libertarian position as far as I can tell. We (libertarians) believe there is something within us that allows us to choose without any external causes. It is something that is unpredictable — so much so that it appears random to observers. Yet it is not random but rather generated as a result of this power in us we call free will. It makes causal determinism fall on its face when applied to God and Man. I’ll post some theories on it later (I’m still formulating them), but for now we may just have to fall back on the answer that how it all works remains a mystery until further light and knowledge are given to us…

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 10, 2005 @ 12:47 am

  175. Geoff,
    Your last comment is a prime example of why I do not accept libertarianism.

    “there is something within us”
    “it appears random to observers” and to the individual as well, I might add.
    “this power we call free will”

    All these statements can be summed up quite nicely. “How it all works remains a mystery.” In other words there is a moment when we write on the chalk board, “and then a miracle occurs…”

    If thing seem random to all observers and to the person themself, what’s wrong with it really being random? Nobody can tell the difference. And when noboby can tell the difference, the difference probably doesn’t matter to anybody.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 10:05 am

  176. Well, first my choices aren’t at all random to me. They are deliberate. But to any outside viewer they would seem random. That is because I am the one with the free will and therefore only I make the choice — not deterministic factors that precede me. I am convinced that I have the power to act in spite of any and all outside causal factors leading up to my choice.

    As for your objection to mysteries, let me ask you a few questions then: How did Jesus walk on water? How is it that men are raised from the dead days after their death? How is water turned to wine? How is healing accomplished (leprosy, blindness, deafness, maimed limbs, etc.) on command? How does one part the Red Sea on command? The list goes on. Not believing there are some things that are still mysteries to us is quite an arrogant and foolish position to take isn’t it?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 10:35 am

  177. Blake,
    I read your article on the topic, though rather briefly. I should clarify that I don’t exclusively adopt social contract ethics for Mormonism, but I do feel that it would be incomplete without it. Just how much of which theory I feel is best is not entirely resolved in my mind.

    What I was trying to show above is that we can’t hold “agents” (if they can even be called such) too responsible if they have not entered into anything even remotely resembling a social contract. The fact that we make promises at baptism and at the temple, that we made promises in the preexistence, and that we all “agree” to the laws of the land has a lot to do with what makes us so responsible for our actions as opposed to a computer or a dog.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 10:38 am

  178. Well, yes your decisions certainly seem deliberate to you. That’s about all that any of us can really claim. We don’t see people “randomly” doing to many things without intention. But we should be careful not a adopt the idea that there is in the brain a “cartesian theater” where it all comes together. There is no central headquarters. There is no place that makes the decisions. Instead our decisions are spread out, both in space and time, throughout our brains. This is one of the main reasons why I believe that our “intelligences” must also be made up of moving parts, just like our brain.

    I mentioned Libet’s experiment. Here is a summary:

    It has also become possible to study the living brain and researchers can now watch the decision-making “machinery” at work. A seminal experiment in this field was conducted by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s, wherein he asked subjects to choose a random moment to flick their wrist while he watched the associated activity in their brains. Libet found that the brain activity leading up to the subject flicking their wrist began approximately one-third of a second before the subject consciously decided to move, suggesting that the decision was actually first being made on a subconscious level and only afterward being translated into a “conscious decision”, and that the subject’s belief that it occured randomly was only due to their perception.

    A related experiment performed later by Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone involved asking subjects to choose at random which of their hands to move. He found that by stimulating different hemispheres of the brain using magnetic fields it was possible to strongly influence which hand the subject picked. Normally right-handed people would choose to move their right hand 60% of the time, for example, but when the right hemisphere was stimulated they would instead choose their left hand 80% of the time (recall that the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere for the right). Despite the external influence on their decision-making, the subjects continued to report that they believed their choice of hand had been made freely. Libet himself (e.g. Libet, 2003: ‘Can Conscious Experience affect brain Activity? ‘, Journal of Consciousness Studies 10, nr. 12, pp 24 – 28), however, does not interpret his experiment as evidence of the inefficacy of conscious free will – he points out that although the tendency to press a button may be building up for 500 milliseconds, the conscious will retains a right to veto that action in the last few milliseconds. A good comparison made is with a golfer, who may swing the club several times before striking the ball. In this view, the action simply gets, as it were, a rubber stamp of approval at the last millisecond. Also, for planning tomorrow’s activities or those in an hour millisecond offsets are insignificant.

    I guess that my issue is that just because something “seems” deliberate, or to be “in spite of” causal influences, doesn’t mean it is. It would be very difficult indeed to come up with an example of an act which determinists would have an even difficult time accounting for.

    As to my belief in miracle, you are probably right. That just because we don’t have an explanation doesn’t mean we should reject it. But there are differences.

    1) Each of those miracle did have a completely non-miraculous cause.
    2) In our discussion, it seems that you would reject any account that gave a sufficient explanation of the causes for our decisions. There are no ultimate mechanisms, you seem to argue. It is ultimately up to “me”, you insist while making “yourself” smaller and smaller.

    This is what it seems to me that you maintain:

    There are a lot of causal networks going on in the brain, maybe even in our spirit. But all of these mechanisms are ultimately controlled by “me” an intelligence which is outside of these otherwise deterministic mechanisms.

    I, however, disagree. The smaller we look for that “me” the further away from “me” we get. The mechanisms are what “I” am made of. Do I find it appalling to be made up of such lifeless, unintelligent “stuff?” No, because “I”, the collective whole, am intelligent.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 11:03 am

  179. I actually think we are closer to agreeing than it seems, Jeffrey. I saw over at Clarks’s blog that you believe this Heber C. model I have been talking about. While I am hesitant to admit I think that model is right, it is probably obvious that I am sympathetic to that idea.

    My question is how does that concept do anything to support complete determinism? It does nothing as far as I can tell except push the required “first cause” farther back.

    This is what we need to figure out. What is the first cause in your mind? Clark believes that our current world is deterministic but only because our choices were made in a libertarian sense at the creation of this universe and we are now playing them out in a causally determined world. That, in his theory allows for actual responsibility plus real foreknowledge.

    In order to have real responsibility there must be some first cause at some point in our existence. At some point we must make choices that are not causally determined or there is no responsibility. When and where is that in your model? If you simply say that we have no beginning then what started this infinite chain of causal events? We can get to problems of infinity very quickly here but there remains that fact that without some libertatrian style choices at some point we are all (including “God” in your proposed model) simply reacting in an unfathomoably large chain reaction we call the Universe…

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

  180. It’s true that Multiple mortal probabtions does nothing to support indetermincay. I was not using it this way. BTW, I’m not sure that I see it exactly like HCK, but it’s pretty close.

    I was saying that if this is the only probation which we will ever have and we will be judged forever on what we do, then the idea of giving so much causal responsibility to external forces would be scary. But since this is not what I believe, I have no problems with it.

    While our future is fixed to a Laplacian demon, our natures are not and they can improve over MMP as opposed to one. Of course this is true regardless of determinism, right?

    There never was a first cause to anything, ever.

    I don’t buy into your ideas of responsibility. I do accept your account of the Universe, but I think that you might be trivializing things a bit which I believe has a lot to do with your objections.

    From the way I see things, you seem to be holding out for an objective miracle. Blake, on the other hand, seems to believe in almost the same things as me but has a real hesitance in fully embracing the logical implications of determinism.

    I think that inasmuch as you give real mechanisms to your idea of an “agent” we will be very similar indeed. When Blake can get over his ideas of having an absolutely metaphysically “open future” we will very similar as well.

    I admit that there may be problems with infinite (what are they by the way?) but these are problems for Mormon Doctrine, not determinism.

    I’m still not done posting over at my site, I have just been a little slow lately.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

  181. I think you read me wrong on the miracle thing. I’m not holding out for an objective miracle — I’m only holding out for an explanation of how free will works. I suspect with Blake that it is an emergent property but we still lack some details on how this works just like we do on how Red Seas get parted. I have no doubt the details are forthcoming on both of those things, though.

    You still have given no expanation of how we could be responsible in any way if we are caually determined though. While it may seem like we are deliberating as fully causally-determined we are not. We are simply reacting to stimuli that preceded us. That remains true no matter how many mortal probations we have.

    How can our natures not be predestined if all of our thoughts and actions are? Have you ever answerd this question? If so I must have missed it. I know you have aserted the idea several times but I don’t recall ever seeing an answer of how it is logically possible.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

  182. I have no clue why reacting to stimuli cannot be deliberation. It is easy to imagine a machine, call it living or not, that simply says if A happens then do B. This is not what I am claiming for us. What we do is more along the lines of: If A happens doing B1 would result in C1 with probability of D1. Doing B2 would result in C2 with probability D2, and so on. Until time constraints or other factors, such as finding a salient B, makes us decide. This can all be completely deterministic. If this is not deliberation, I have no clue what is.

    (Some times do you feel that we are saying almost the same thing over and over with minute changes? Hopefully the minute changes help trigger something in us that bring about an Ah Hah! moment.)

    Can you please stop saying “predestined.” I don’t believe in any kind of theologically important predestination. Instead, please use determined. This will help you not only better understand what I believe, but you will be able to better anticipate my responses.

    Ours thoughts are determined. So are our actions. So are our natures. But they are not fixed. No determinist claims that we are stuck thinking about the same thing forever and ever. We don’t claim that we will do the same thing forever and ever. Nor do we believe that we will be the same thing forever and ever.

    The future is fixed to a non-existent Laplacian demon, but since such a being doesn’t exist, who cares whether it is fixed or not? The future is very much open to every agent within the deterministic system, leaving them free to do, and to a lesser extent want, and to a lesser extent be whatever they want.

    It is impossible for any information processing system to have a complete description of itself. Therefore every single agent in the Universe will be ignorant of the future to a certain extent. It is due to this ignorance that we speak of “possible worlds” with any kind of profit whatsoever. Out of all the infinitely many “possible Universes” nobody, not even God, knows which one we are in, because no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much we learn about the Universe, we have only limited our choices to a smaller, yet still infinite, subset of all possible Universes. Thus, the future is subjectively open to everybody, even God since He too is in the system.

    We need to stop trying to mix our perspective and God’s perspective (which is not different in kind, only in degree) with the perspective of a non-existent Laplacian demon who lives outside of the system. No single agent has the path’s of possible futures laid out before them. We are all in time and in the Universe together, meaning that the future is open to all of us.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 3:03 pm

  183. …with probability of…

    What do you neam when you say probablility? There is no probablility in a causally determined world. All things must occur exactly as they do with no chance of variation. That is why I use predestined here as well. How are there “probablilities” in your system?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  184. What do you mean there is no probability? If nobody knows the future, of course there is probability. THERE IS NO LAPLACIAN DEMON FOR WHICH THERE IS NO PROBABILITY. If anybody is making a prediction then there are probabilities.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 11, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

  185. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. So people now say Mssr. LaPlace was wrong and it is not possible to be smart enough to know the future in a deterministic world… Big deal. Almost no Mormons believe we live in a deterministic world anyway.

    The point seems moot to me though. There are no probabilities in a wholly deterministic universe still. The only thing the Laplacian demon would do is know the fixed future. Are you saying there are “probablilities” because we aren’t smart enough to figure out the fixed future? That is a little silly isn’t it? If all time is fixed then we aren’t dealing with any real probabilities, just bad guesses about things that could be figured out if we or God were just a little smarter. That does not change the fact that no one is ever responsible for anything in a deterministic system or that there is never any possibility that we could desire, think, or do otherwise.

    This is much of what I said over at your blog. I’ll keep my eyes on it for your response when blogger starts working again.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 11, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  186. Jeff: There are no probabilities except those due to our ignorance if determinism is true. In reality, everything occurs with a certainty of 1 if the universe is deterministic because given the state of the world at T there is only a single possible world and the “probability” that that world will occur is 1 and there is no potentiality for any other possible world to occur any time (no matter how far before) prior to T. The probability was 1 that I would type these exact words at the exact time that I did already in 1,000,000 B.C. — and there as no potentiality that any other world could occur given the causes that then existed. It is a rather rediculous view — isn’t it?

    Comment by Blake — April 11, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

  187. Geoff,
    There are no probabilities to who? To the Universe? Of course not. Probabilities only applies to predictions, to calculations. If there is no agent doing the predicting or doing the calculations then there are no probabilities. Once we start talking about intelligent agents, however, it is a different matter. I am saying that there are probabilities due to our ignorance. No ignorance = no probabilities, only sureties. Once the probability approaches %100, we say that we that we know it. I see nothing silly about this.

    Consider two lotteries in two neighboring cities. Town A has a normal lottery as we know it. Everybody chooses a number, the time for guessing is declared over and then the winning number is drawn, revealing the winner.

    Town B does things a little differently. They have a machine that chooses the number in the beginning, but the number is kept from everybody. Nobody knows what the number is. Then people guess the number, the time for guessing is declared over and then the number which was already choosen is revealed.

    Is there any difference at all between the two lotteries? If one more ‘true’ than the other? Is one more rigged? No, they amount to the exact same thing. The probability of winning for any given person is the exact same in both. The predictability is the exact same. The chances of winning are exactly the same. What is wrong with doing it like town B does? After all, the is no cheating Laplacian demon that gets to peak at the numbers.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 9:44 am

  188. Blake, a rather ridiculous view? Intuitively, yes, but I don’t see any logical problem with it.

    Jeff, you’re not a completely lone ranger. I’ve been lurking on the free will threads for a few days, trying to understand the lfw point of view. I empathize fully with post 175. For me, the mystery of lfw is not how it works, but rather what it is. It’s very ill-defined in my mind, which probably means that I need to read Blake’s book. Next time you get a royalty check, Blake, treat yourself to a banana split, on me.

    Comment by will — April 12, 2005 @ 9:48 am

  189. Blake,
    It’s true, the possibility that what happens in the future will happen is 1, but that is true regardless of determinism. There is no possibility of an alternate future.

    The probability to the Universe was exactly 1 that I would respond to your comment right now. So I guess the Universe is never surprised by anthing this It know everything. So what? Nobody else knows everything, so they are still held in a certain amount of suspense, including God.

    You objection only has any content if we can say something about the future other than “what will happen.” Otherwise it doesn’t really mean much.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 9:49 am

  190. Jeffrey: It’s true, the possibility that what happens in the future will happen is 1, but that is true regardless of determinism.

    No, it is not. In determinism there is only one possible future. We are arguing for an actual open future with real uncertainties and real probabilities.

    You are conflating hypothetical probablilities with real, actual probablities. In a deterministic system there are no real probablities — only probablities on how likely someone is to guess the fixed future. This is the same hypothetical free will issue Blake covered in his book.

    In any case, in a deterministic system you are still stuck with predestination regardless of who can guess what is predestined or not. Hypothetical free will does not cut it.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

  191. Will Re: 188: I’ll go buy my banana split right now — and I’ll do so freely!

    Jeff: The ontological probability of any given future depends on the nature of whether the future is fixed or open. How do you know it is fixed and a probability of 1? (That last question is especially biting since you seem to believe that you know what even God cannot know on your view — so even God cannot know if the statement you now assert is true because of his epistemological limitations on your view). You continue to conflate the fact that there can only be one actual future with the possible futures now open — in other words, you confuse possibility with actuality. To assert that the fact that there will only be one actual future means that there is only one possible future entails fatalism in its strongest form. You deny that you are a fatalist, but your view of the future implicity entails it.

    Will: As for the intricacies of LFW, what the believer in LFW claims is precisely that there is no complete explanation without resort to the causal powers of the agent and that these causal powers are not explainable by reference to something else and so that is where explanation stops. However, LFW is not alone on this view, virtually every chain of causal explanation has its terminus in the causal powers of substances or basic realities. For example, when we explain why electrons join in molecular relations just the way that they do we don’t give some futher property of electrons that explains why this happens, we merely posit a force or power that is inherent in electrons that explains it — that is just what electrons always do. So this kind of explanation is not altogether different from scientific explanation. Except with free agents there is no “that is just what free agents always do” because what free agents always do is novel and inherently unpredictable with certainty — and that is what distinguishes personal explanation from deterministic explanation of the kind we have in a mathematics problem (which I believe is why Jeff tends to think in deterministic terms — he sees reality as one large math equation –well, if it is it is one with multiple solutions!).

    What agents free in a libertarian sense have is a power of choice among alternatives and it is just a power that we have and we know that we have it because we do it all the time and we couldn’t frunction as rational individuals without the belief that we in fact choose among these alternatives. Thus, LFW is a pragmatic necessity for human functioning. We ought not believe in anything that we have to deny by the very fact of what we are doing when we do it — like choosing to write just these words and not others. These words weren’t in the cards, the universe in 4,000 B.C. didn’t already include them because they are a result of a creative power that I have as an agent to create them. Until I exercise this creative power they just don’t exist and what they shall be is open and not fixed. Now that they are written I cannot change that they were written — but that hardly means I couldn’t have written other words consistently with the entire state of the world in 4,000 B.C.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

  192. I don’t see any advantages to having “real free will” as you call it. My version of free agency has all the necessary components. It accurately describes what we see around us. It allow us to make decisions. It allows us to hold people responsible just as much as LFW. Another advantage that my version holds over LFW is that there is no fear whatsoever of the gaps filling in. If General Relativity is correct, great! Everything that we do has mechanisms, good! “We” are made up of smaller parts, fine!

    My system, I predict, will embrace future findings of neuroscience better than yours, if only because determinism is the basis on all scientific predictions. Whereas you keep insisting that the agent in us is smaller and smaller (after all, it can only be as big as the gaps in our knowledge), I insist that we should make our selves as big as we can. “I” am not some mysterious spiritual agent which is somehow unilaterally disconnected from the causal reality we observe around us. “I” am a complex spiritual and physical organism composed of myriad very well designed components.

    You can insist that margarine is not butter, and I will agree. But I expect you to have a good reason for holding out for butter when margarine tastes just as good.

    In response to you response: “It’s true, the possibility that what happens in the future will happen is 1, but that is true regardless of determinism.” Yes, it is, by very definition. I’m not talking about hypothetical futures which were never going to happen anyways. I’m talking about the real future.

    You insist that we must be able to change the details of this future. I think that our actions and choices reveal the details of this future. Again, there is no such about real uncertainties for an agent that is incapable of being certain or uncertain, such as the Universe. Probability and certainty is inherently subjective, therefore if you are going to claim that I believe there are no “real” uncertainties, I ask, “to who?”

    What is the difference between a hypothetical probability and a real probability? I imagine your answer will be “the future has be actually be open, not just seem that way.” I ask, “to who?” The future is very open to every individual agent inside the Universe. They can do whatever they want within physical possibility. More more could we possibly want? Is holding out for hypothetical possible futures worth the absurdities and/or mysteries we must embrace?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 2:30 pm

  193. That last post was written in response to 190.

    Blake,
    I see nothing “hypothetical” about my decisions. I’ll tell you what does seem very hypothetical, those mysterious alternate futures that you insist must be “open” but never have and never will exist in any real form. The only thing that my position really holds out for is that we cannot change the future, whatever it may be. This is a very uninformative statement, but accurately describes what a determinist must believe.

    I guess in that sense I am a fatalist, but this is only the case if I make a huge deal over free will in my everyday life. If I am constantly running around saying that whatever I do doesn’t matter, then I am quite unmotivated and rather stupid. But this is not what determinism forces me to do, for whatever it is that I do matters a great deal in shaping the future. Thus, while I guess that I am a fatalist of sorts, it is a sort which I so meaningless as to not matter at all.

    I should clarify what I mean when I mention “making a big deal out of free will.” It is the believers of free will that over-correct the fatalists. They think that merely believing that our actions matter in shaping the one possible future is not good enough. Therefore they have exaggerated what it is that we human are and can do. Can we make decisions? Of course, we do it every day. Can we make decisions free from causal determinism? Why would we ever think that we could? Why do we insist on embracing a miracle? Anybody who goes around thinking “free will doesn’t exist” will likely lose their motivation in life. That is why I call may ability to choose and make decisions free agency and instead focus on that. I know that the future is fixed, but I have no clue what it is so I stop at that and move on.

    How do I know that what happens is fixed and a probability of 1? Notice I substituted “what happens” for “future.” This is because when we say that the future is fixed it implies that there are details, even if unmentioned ones, which we simply cannot change no matter what, even if we knew about them. If I only say “what happens” two things happen: 1) it becomes true by very definiton. 2) We embrace the non-implications of such a belief.

    Of course, this is not the answer you were looking for, was it? I believe in determinism for a few reasons, some of which were mentioned in the comment above. I believe it to be the safest context in which to frame our agency. In my opinion it adheres to the principle of parsimony. It seems to be being confirmed by numerous angles, such as Libet and Einstein. But mostly because I simply cannot accept the magical free will as described by indeterminists and LFW’s. I can’t shake the feeling that there are uncaused causes, self-caused causes or something else which would amount to a miracle as well.

    Of course my writing this comment did not exist in 4,000 B.C. The necessary tools had to be organized first. Computers. Books. Me. You. and all of the tools necessary to build those tools as well, and so on. I know that you think that this isn’t good enough, but I see no reason for holding out for “better” if it means inventing not only unsolved, but unsolvable (even by a Laplacian demon) mysteries.

    People used to believe that a man and woman fell in romantic love when an invisible God shot them with “love arrows.” Does my not believing in this God or its love arrows mean that I can’t accept the notion of love? But it isn’t real love, the Cupidists will insist. It is only hypothetical love. Well, by their definition they are right, but that doesn’t mean that I should believe in they version of real love over my “hypothetical” version.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  194. I don’t know if it will help, but I’m wondering if by laying out Blake’s “B” argument that it will help clear up any confusion. I hope you don’t mind Blake, but I think this is the simplest way of showing the inconsistency of holding the two beliefs of exhaustive foreknowledge and LFW. I’ve challenged others to refute this argument and I haven’t heard a good refutation yet. I think it has standed against all attacks.

    (B1) It has always been true that Rock will sin tomorrow and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    (B3) God has always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B1 and B2);

    (B4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    (B5) It is not in Rock’s power to act in a way that entails that God has not always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B3 and B4);

    (B6) That Rock refrains from sinning tomorrow entails that God has not always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B2-semantically necessary truth);

    (B7) Therefore, it is not in Rock’s power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (from B5 and B6);

    (B8) If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will);

    (B9) Therefore, Rock does not act freely when he sins tomorrow (from B7 and B8).

    Anyone willing to take up the challenge of refuting this argument?

    Comment by Craig — April 12, 2005 @ 3:20 pm

  195. Craig,
    I should mention that I believe exhaustive foreknowledge to be physically impossible for any agent within the Universe. So it kind of misses the point this Blake and I hold similar opinion on this matter, though for very different reasons. But hey, I’ll give it a look.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  196. B1 is not true because it is physically impossible to know it now. It can be predicted with very great accuracy, but not known in the strictest sense. This is due to God’s being in time and space. The future has not happened yet, not even for Him. Since it is physically impossible for a information-processing agents to ever come to a completely perfect knowlege of its own states, this means that it is impossible for any agent here in this Universe to be an ominous Laplacian demon.

    B2 is false for the reasons I mentioned above. It is possible, though very unlikely, for God to misbelieve the future. It is not possible to know the future.

    B3 is wrong again. God is continually learning new things as He receives more information from sources which were previously outside His “information cone” among other sources. Additionally, just because He can know anything about the past or the present, doesn’t mean that He does. I can, in the next 5 minutes, know what the weather is like in Taiwan, but I won’t.

    B4 Since God’s beliefs about the future are only predictions, not knowledge, then it is possible to prove Him wrong, though again, it is unlikely.

    B5 It is very much in Rock’s power, and this derives from the uncertainty which even God lives with.

    B6 Again, wrong for reasons already mentioned.

    B7 Wrong.

    B8 True.

    B9 Wrong.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 3:40 pm

  197. Jeffrey: I don’t see any advantages to having “real free will” as you call it.

    Well, how about the fact that the only way to avoid false and pernicious doctrines of predestination and fatalism requires an open future and some form of free will? As we have repeatly pointed out, there is no avoiding predestination in a deterministic system. Hypothetical free will does not solve this predestination problem. At least now you are seeing that you must be a fatalist if you are going to stick with your determinist postition. That just means all of our eternal destinations are predestined.

    I admit you make a valiant plea for why hypothetical free will might not have many practical differences with real free will. The problem is that you must answer for the uncaused problem of our universe as much as any LFW believer does. How do you account for the “magical” uncaused existence of this whole causally determined universe?

    If you can come up with an answer to that one then why not use it to explain LFW inside of us? If you cannot come up with an answer for that one why accept that “magical” gap and yet reject the same thing in LFW?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 4:21 pm

  198. Jeff: Amazingly, we agree to give up the very same premises, we both deny that there is absolute foreknowledge — and now we even agree that there is LFW! Am I missing anything here? It seems that you must see B8 as false. Also, are you disagreeing with the logic? For example, that B9 follows logically from B7 and B8? Further, do you really mean to assert that it is in Rock’s power to change a past fact? Not even the most ardent libertarian asserts that kind of free will power! Are you sure you thought this through? It looks like a knee jerk reaction to me.

    Further, are the bonding powers of electrons as described in modern science just magic? Or do they explain what occurs without explaining how? That is what LFW does, it explains what happens and there is no explanation as to “how” outside of our wills because our wills are the explanation. Our wills are not arbitrary or random (remember I AM NOT AN INDETERMINIST) because we act for reasons of our own, reasons that we create and decide how much to give.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 4:24 pm

  199. I agree with Jeff that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge, but my rejection of LFW doesn’t hinge on that. Even if I accepted B1 – B3 (which I don’t), I would raise a flag at B4. Here LFW proponents assert without explanation that agents are disempowered by an external being’s foreknowledge. Regardless of what God knows, agents can do what they want. If their choices always match God’s predictions, one can attribute this to either (a) their lack of power, or (b) God’s amazing foreknowledge. Are both (a) and (b) necessary to explain God’s accuracy? No, because (b) already assumes God’s accuracy. (Which leaves his accuracy unexplained, but so what?)

    I suspect there’s a sleight of hand occurring with the word “power,” but I’ll need to explore that some other time.

    Comment by will — April 12, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  200. Will: Regardless of what God knows, agents can do what they want.

    This is an argument against foreknowledge not against free will. If God knows something will happen then there are no open alternatives for the agents. Predicting is another thing entirely and the primary difference is that predictions might be wrong.

    If you already reject exhaustive forknowledge then what is your complaint here?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 5:28 pm

  201. Geoff,
    What is so pernicious about predestination and fatalism other than it supposedly precludes free will? If free agency is fully compatible with them, it seems we are rejecting them by the ideas which are commonly associated with such but do not apply in a Mormon setting. This is why I am so uncomfortable with such words as predestination and fatalism. The versions which I do accept are so different from the negative implications which we all rightly reject that I simply cannot bring myself to accepting such labels. Fatalism, predestination and determinism are not all synonyms for each other. There are differences as I have tried to point out. If free agency is fully compatible with determinism, as I feel that I have shown (though my definition of free agency may not be the same as yours, I call your free will), what is wrong with fatalism? What is wrong with predeterminism? I would really like to hear an answer to my lottery question above, for I feel that our difficulties in understanding each other will be cleared up in such an answer.

    With regards to the “uncaused universe” I think you misunderstand. The Universe is beginningless. It has causes going infinitely back into the past, but there never was an uncaused or self-caused moment, ever. What LFW claims that causes appeared out of nowhere. I claim that this never happened anywhere in the Universe at any time. There never was a gap, ever.

    I do use this as an answer inside of an agent. The agent has no beginning, no first cause, ever. Every event was caused completely by previous circumstances. But this is clearly not LFW, though it is a kind of half-way mark perhaps. But I must insist, that there is only one future that is really open.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  202. Will: We don’t have power to change the past and being able at T2 to change what God knows at T1 is the power to change the past — and that is what B4 says. We don’t have that power — it is not a sleight of hand. Are you suggesting that we have power to alter the past from what it was?

    What the argument shows is that foreknowledge is not compatible with foreknowledge — it doesn’t say why that is, it just shows that it is. To know “why” LFW is incompatible with foreknoweldge we need an explanation as to “how” God knows the future — and once we have that explanation we then know “why” LFW is incompatible with foreknowledge. But there are a lot of differing explanations as to how God could supposedly know the future. I think that we are all in agreement here that even in the absence of LFW, God doesn’t have foreknowledge because the future doesn’t yet exist to be known and thus B1 is false.

    If you and Jeff reject LFW because it is not fully explained by a causal explanation, then you’ll have to reject things like the explanation as to why atoms bond in molecules also. My point is that explanations of LFW are on par with law-like explanations in modern science. There must be a terminus of explanation somewhere — and for free will that terminus is the will. So rejecting LFW on that ground is requiring too much of an explanation because it is asking for something that in principle cannot and should not be given — i.e., a causal explanation of a choice not fully explained by the prior causes. It is like asking, “who caused God to exist”? Children ask it all the time, and when we say that he just exists (and so do intelligences) they may seem incredulous because they think that nothing can exist without being caused to exist (in accordance with intuitions about causation that underlie determinism as well) — and then they will turn around and make God the exception to their demand because they realize that some things may exist and just be without being caused.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 5:48 pm

  203. Jeff: to see what is so pernicious go back to read #147.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 5:51 pm

  204. Jeffrey: I would really like to hear an answer to my lottery question above(#187)

    The missing component there is that in a deterministic setting the numbers everyone will pick are already set as well so the winner is predestined.

    I don’t know why you are objecting to the term predestination. It is a perfectly fitting description of the model you propose. How are we not predestined in your system? Hypothetical free choices don’t change our preset destiny in the least.

    With regards to the “uncaused universe” I think you misunderstand. The Universe is beginningless.

    Fine. So then I say our LFW is beginningless too. How is believing in a beginningless universe any less absurd than beginningless intelligences/spirits with beginningless LFW properties/capabilities?

    But where is your explanation for how something can even be beginningless? Where is your refusal to accept such explanatory gaps here? Why not call that “magic” too?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 6:00 pm

  205. Blake,
    I don’t know about that! Saying that God does not have absolute foreknowledge hardly means that I accept LFW. I think that there is a difference between our two understandings of God’s foreknowledge and how it is limited.

    You seem to limit God’s foreknowledge only in asmuch, if not, because of our free will can change the future. It is due to logical possibility that you restrict His foreknowledge in order to save our free will.

    I limit God’s foreknowledge due to the physical impossibilities. God’s foreknowledge is limited for a number of reasons, none of them being “because we have free will.” God cannot know things which are in the Universe which are outside of His information cone. God cannot completely describe Himself. God is also subject to an uncertainty principle. These reasons are enough to ensure that God does not KNOW the future.

    Perhaps I did not read B8 carefully enough. “If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will)” At the moment of decision, he will not be able to both decide to do it and decide to not do it. It will be one or the other, though he will play a large part in it. He is free to refrain or not refrain according to whatever he wants to do, but this leads us into very complex causal relationships. I guess I do deny B8. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Of course Rock can’t change the past. He doesn’t change God’s foreknowledge. He just shows that the belief which God had today ended up being wrong. He didn’t make it wrong, it always was wrong. This is possible because it was a prediction, not knowledge and His prediction was wrong, though He probably later revised it as the moment of truth approached.

    Since upon further investigation I reject B8, I guess I reject every part of the logic. Not that it is bad logic, just that the premises (all of them) were wrong.

    Blake, I understand that you are not an indetermiist, though I must say that I am confused on this. There are determinists, indeterminists and what? I though indeterminist was a vague title which covered anybody who was not a determinist, regardless of what their view really are.

    With regards to the electrons, I think that you do not give us credit. We describe what electron do according to strict laws of cause and effect. Now what causes these laws is indeed a rather open question (subjective magic/miracle). But it is possible that these causes will be yet revealed. We have no reason whatsoever to think that these laws just come out of absolutely nowhere.

    Am I willing to grant that these laws may contain certain amounts of indetrerminacy? Yes, I am, but these events of indeterminacy do not give us what you are seeking. This is the reason for Blake’s rejection of indeterminacy. Inasmuch as random indeterminacy, and I cannot fathom any other kind, is true, we lose control and responsibility, not gain it. Therefore, I hope that it is all determistic, all the way down. And I think this is where Blake gets off the bus. He feels that describing things even further will always leave unanswered questions and therefore stops and calls whatever has not been fully explained “free will.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 6:21 pm

  206. Blake, you know I don’t agree with those reasons (in #147) and have shown that they are mostly based on your refusal to consider deterministic feelings, thoughts and decisions real. These thing are all very possible in a deterministic system.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 6:25 pm

  207. Geoff,
    In the lottery example, I’m not talking about determinism, though there are obvious applications. I’m not talking about the people being free to choose the numbers they want. Suppose, if you want, the both town A and B live in a LFW universe. How are the lotteries different? Would the time of drawing change anything at all? If not (now come the implications which should be ignored until after we have analysed the story) then what does it matter if we are determined to do things which we do not find out about until the moment of truth? Nobody could ever tell the difference.

    If you say that our LFW is beginningless, meaning that a chain of unbroken causes can be traced back through infinity, then you too are a determinist who simply does not want to face up to the consequences. But that’s not LFW. LFW maintains that the chain of causation does have breaks in it a the point of every “moral” decision.

    I will leave the question for how something can be beginningless to the prophets since they (JS in particular) are the ones that claim it, not me. (Remember JS’s use of the ring?) If we can imagine the future without and end, why can’t we imagine a past without beginning? I see nothing absurd about it. If, on the otherhand, we DID have a beginning, this would destroy so much of the novelty about Mormon doctrine that I really don’t consider it.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 6:36 pm

  208. Blake,
    To further clarify #206. I ask what is wrong with fatalism and predestination if they still allow for a variety of free agency worth wanting. You answer in 147. I say that those thing are real in a deterministic system. You say that they are not real because they are deterministic. We are now back at square 1. Are there any reasons for rejecting my (severely distorted) versions of fatalism and predestination?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 12, 2005 @ 6:44 pm

  209. Will: We don’t have power to change the past and being able at T2 to change what God knows at T1 is the power to change the past — and that is what B4 says. We don’t have that power — it is not a sleight of hand. Are you suggesting that we have power to alter the past from what it was?

    What the argument shows is that foreknowledge is not compatible with foreknowledge — it doesn’t say why that is, it just shows that it is. To know “why” LFW is incompatible with foreknoweldge we need an explanation as to “how” God knows the future — and once we have that explanation we then know “why” LFW is incompatible with foreknowledge. But there are a lot of differing explanations as to how God could supposedly know the future. I think that we are all in agreement here that even in the absence of LFW, God doesn’t have foreknowledge because the future doesn’t yet exist to be known and thus B1 is false.

    If you and Jeff reject LFW because it is not fully explained by a causal explanation, then you’ll have to reject things like the explanation as to why atoms bond in molecules also. My point is that explanations of LFW are on par with law-like explanations in modern science. There must be a terminus of explanation somewhere — and for free will that terminus is the will. So rejecting LFW on that ground is requiring too much of an explanation because it is asking for something that in principle cannot and should not be given — i.e., a causal explanation of a choice not fully explained by the prior causes. It is like asking, “who caused God to exist”? Children ask it all the time, and when we say that he just exists (and so do intelligences) they may seem incredulous because they think that nothing can exist without being caused to exist (in accordance with intuitions about causation that underlie determinism as well) — and then they will turn around and make God the exception to their demand because they realize that some things may exist and just be without being caused.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

  210. I agree Blake. You bring up the inherent inconsistency in the arguments Jeffrey makes.

    Jeffrey,
    You reject LFW because you can’t figure out how to explain it. And because you can’t explain it you deride it as “magic”. And yet when we bring up other things we can’t explain like how a universe is beginningless you say:

    I will leave the question for how something can be beginningless to the prophets

    And yet you won’t leave the idea that there really is such a thing as free will to the prophets? You believe in one unexplainable Mormon doctrine (beginningless nature) and yet you refuse to believe another fundamental yet difficult to fully explain Mormon doctrine (free will — which is the same as free agency to most everyone but you). You are allowed to believe whatever you want but I point this inconsistency out out because I believe it severely undermines your criticism of free will/agency.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 10:07 pm

  211. Further, are the bonding powers of electrons as described in modern science just magic? Or do they explain what occurs without explaining how?

    Just to be the local physicist nit and pick, but hydrogen bonds have been fully modeled on computers and thus quantum mechanics do explain the how of bonds via electrons. Further while we certainly haven’t modeled every molecule or molecular structure starting with quantum mechanics, inductively it appears that we can claim to be able to explain it all reductively. I can certainly understand why some dislike reductionism. But I do think physicists has explained a lot more than some suggest.

    Now one can ask the “why” about quantum mechanics. But it seems to me that is a different issue.

    BTW – how do you define indeterminism? It seems to me that indeterminism just means that one doesn’t accept determinism. I don’t think it entails that one accept pure randomness. It seems to me that libertarian free will logical entails a kind of indeterminism. I certainly consider myself an indeterminist, even though I don’t think I buy quantum randomness as an ontological state of affairs – at least not with respect to all matter.

    Comment by Clark — April 12, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

  212. I should add, while I’m not necessarily convinced by the arguments, I also think there are plenty of good explanations for how a universe could be beginningless. I think it apparent our universe isn’t beginningless though.

    Geoff, if we are allowing unexplainable things, why not just say free will and foreknowledge are compatible and that we just can’t explain how? I mean if we are favoring the unexplainable and rejecting explanations I don’t quite see why we should stick with just the things you like. It seems to me that following the line you are taking I can adopt a form of compatibilism and simply reply to the arguments that maybe foreknowledge is incompatible with libertarian free will, but for reasons we don’t have a good explanation for free will can’t be explained the way libertarians do. (Some might even call it reductionist. (grin)))

    Comment by Clark — April 12, 2005 @ 10:56 pm

  213. Clark: Modelling a hydrogen bond based upon a posteriori knowledge of how they in fact act and explaining the charges and bonds in terms of more fundamental causes or forces are two different things — so I don’t see what you are getting at Clark. Are you saying that there is a more fundamental explanation than the basic forces that explain how things bond and interact based on something more fundamental than how we know these basic forces in fact interact? Modelling is not explaining.

    Indeterminism has been taken as a synomym of random or pointless behavior in this discussion. I don’t believe that human choices are unexplained or just indeterminate; rather, they are explained in terms of the purposive choices and reasons for which we act in terms of personal explanation. Of course, if indeterminism just means anything that isn’t deterministic, then a fortiori any non-deterministic view is indeterministic.

    Clark, I think that Geoff’s position is much more reasonable than you allow. We can very well say that it is most reasonable to believe that we have LFW because it is pragmatically necessary to function as rational agents, necessary for moral agency etc. and yet we cannot fully explain how a free choice is made and given our epistemic status it shouldn’t bother us that we cannot do so. I would that by its very nature there is no full explanation of a free choice that doesn’t include the power of the agent to choose as a basic and fundamental power. Asking for a causal explanation of choices for one who believes in LFW is like asking how one remains a bachelor while being married. Either one accepts that we have a power of choice that is fundamental to the kinds of beings that we are or one does not — and what is the alternative? It seems to me that the alternative is that we are automata that express the past as mathematical output.

    As for Jeff’s claim that everything that ever occurs is fully explained by prior causes the response is simple — it is a matter of sheer unsupported faith on his part. No one has ever, in the entire history of the world, ever given a complete causal explanation of anything. His view isn’t scientific or based on evidence or sound reasoning, it is simply a faith commitment — one that conflicts with basic things that LDS are committed to like free will and moral agency.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 11:13 pm

  214. That is a fair question, Clark. My response has been that there is a difference between unexplained things and paradoxical things. I believe the details of free will are unexplained, but that the coexistence of free will and exhaustive foreknowledge as usually explained is a paradox. Your explanation of foreknowledge is not a paradox because it assumes some free will at the beginning of our universe — I just have too many reservations about your proposal to accept it.

    My complaint with Jeffrey is not that he believes a paradox but that he, as you said, accepts some unexplanable things (beginninglesness) but uses the unexplanability of others (free will) as a firm reason to reject them. My biggest gripe is his deriding free will as magic while believing another things that could just as easily be called magic.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 11:16 pm

  215. Clark: I add tht Geoff’s pointing out the inconsistenty in Jeff’s demand for a full explanation of free choices while accepting many unexplained phenomena is not a shortcoming of his view of things. Since Geoff doesn’t make the same demand of explanation, he can consistently hold that there are unexplained phenomena and that it is most reasonable to believe they obtain despite the fact that they are unexplained. Jeff rejects LFW because it is unexplained (in his view, I obviously disagree) and yet he doesn’t reject other beliefs that have a similar epistemic status. The inconsistency exists only in Jeff’s view, not in Geoff’s view. (Aren’t we glad Geoff’s parents decided on a non-standard spelling for his name?)

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 11:18 pm

  216. Blake: Jeff’s claim… is a matter of sheer unsupported faith on his part

    Excellent point Blake. It seems Jeffrey is placing great faith in causal determinism here. This is a major problem because it is a doctrine that is in direct conflict with modern and ancient prophetic teaching. He justifies this by claiming free agency and free will are different things. The problem is that he seems to be the only one who make makes a distinction between the two terms.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 12, 2005 @ 11:25 pm

  217. Clark: In post 212 I take it you mean our local pocket universe and not the multiverse? In addition, maybe we should remain open to the possibility that there is a lot we are missing even about our local universe that could easily change our view as to its eternity.

    Comment by Blake — April 12, 2005 @ 11:32 pm

  218. I would like to recommend a reading for those interested in the debate between determinism, and libertarian free will. William James gave a lecture called the Dilemma of Determinism. It was later published in his book, The Will to Believe, at least I think it was. Anyways, it doesn’t matter because I’m going to give you a link to where you can read it online. It’s not terribly long, and is very readable.
    http://csunx2.bsc.edu/bmyers/WJ1.htm

    Comment by Craig — April 13, 2005 @ 8:16 am

  219. Wow! You guys have been busy without me.

    Geoff,
    Just because something in incomprehensible (such as infinity, whether applied to the future, the past or quantities) does not mean that it is inexplicable. My belief is a self-existent Universe (not universe, Clark) is very different than your belief in LFW. The prophets, not determinists like myself, have taught that the Universe in self-existent. This defines the context in which we are having this discussion. It is taken for granted, to be defended by the prophets who made the assertion, not me. Your belief in indeterminacy, however, has never been taught by the prophets. They have taught that we are free to choose for ourself, but to claim that this is a rejection of determinism is a whopper to say the least. Whereas I do not have to defend a belief in a self-existent Universe, you do have to defend a belief in indeterminism in this Mormon context. With regards to events being fully determined by prior causes, I feel that this is exactly what Brigham had in mind in all of those quotes I gave earlier. I don’t see any other way of interpreting his meaning, therefore it almost seems odd that I should have to defend my determinism at all. I have, however, done so for the sake of good conversation (which we have had) and perhaps mutual understanding (I’m not sure we have had too much of this, though we have had some) and maybe even so good old fashioned learning (I have definitely had this).

    Something that Geoff says bother me. He seems to maintain, correct me if I am wrong, that apart from all of the deterministic mechanisms which exist in the Brain (both physical and spiritual) we we all agree exist, there is still some sort of indeterministic “will” which can override such otherwise deterministic mechanisms. Thus, as we discover more of these mechanisms, and learn more about them, this “will” seems to get smaller and smaller, shrinking into the physical levels. But the term “will” is a description from the intentional stance, not the physical or even the design stance. Under you view, our “will” controls a bunch of machines. Under my view, our “will” is made up of lots of machines.

    With regards to Blake’s views. I feel that he is trying to eat his cake and have it too. He wants the benefits of indeterminism, without buying into the absurdities which even he sees in it. He insists that he is not an indeterminist, and yet not a determinist, claiming that a false dichotomy has been created. But the dichotomy is very real and exists by very definition. Now he may not be the kind of indeterminist which makes for an easy target (with uncaused causes and self-caused causes), but as far as I can tell he doesn’t make for a target at all. I have no clue what kind of indeterminism he buys into. If he can show how something can be indeterministic without being purely random or probabilistic then we would be in business. By probablistic I mean statements like the following:

    “There was a %60 change that A would happen, and a %40 that B would happen. What really happens is just the luck of the draw, after all, something had to happen.”

    This doesnot give us any more freedom or responsibility that determinism.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 13, 2005 @ 9:37 am

  220. Geoff,
    I reject LFW because I don’t believe that it can be explained, even by a Super-natural Laplacian demon. With regards to the electron bonding (a terrible comparison in my opinion) I believe that a hypothetical Laplacian demon could explain such phenomena, probably in terms of ultimate tautologies (such as F=ma, or survival of the fittest) or basic unprovable, yet true axioms. I don’t see LFW like this at all. It seems to be saying that whatever we can’t explian at any given time, is therefore indeterministic.

    Is my belief based ultimately of faith? Well, to a certain extent. After all, if I turned out to be wrong, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to me. I wouldn’t have to change very much about my life and I would still be very curious as to how LFW could address the questions which all determinists have for them. Determinism seems much more reasonable to me. It seems to accord very well with everyday experience and Mormon doctrine. Things don’t just happen, they are caused to happen. That is determinism, and to me it “tastes good.”

    “But it goes against our notions of having an open future.” I respond that it goes along very well with our notions that the future doesn’t exist yet. We can’t avoid what will happen, by very definition. We couldn’t have done other than what we did, by very definition. These are very non-commital, uninformative statements which are the real implications of determinism. This isn’t all that unpleasant in my opinion.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 13, 2005 @ 9:47 am

  221. Blake, I have lots to write but little time to write it. Since this particular set of comments is probably so long, I’ll probably try to write something up on my blog that’ll touch on the points you made here as well as in a few other threads. I’ll confess that I’m confused over what you consider to be an explanation. It almost sounds like you want something a priori which frankly I have a very, very hard time buying as an explanation. So there may be a such a fundamental gap between how we think about the question that resolution or even a basis for communication is impossible. To me starting with the basic laws of quantum mechanics and being able to explain all the features of a hydrogen bond via computer simulations that line up with experiment is an amazing feat and exactly what I mean by explanation.

    With regards to our use of “universe” I think we may have a terminology problem. When I use the term universe I mean what Blake calls a pocket universe. It may turn out there is but one pocket, but that’s basically what I mean. I’m not sure I like multiverse since the multiple worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics tends to use that term for the idea that every choice results in a new universe for every possibility. While I’m sympathetic to the claim that multiple pocket universes entais a de facto Everette like multiverse, I think it leads to confusion. I’m not entirely sure what Jeffrey means by Universe with a capital U. I suspect he means the “all.”

    Comment by Clark — April 13, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

  222. Clark,
    That is exactly what I mean. I mean all of reality, both physical and spiritual. All the universe(s) is contained in the Universe.

    I also don’t like the idea of new universes for every decision. Claiming that you both did it and didn’t do it at the same time hardly saves any kind of free will worth wanting.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 13, 2005 @ 2:21 pm

  223. Jeffrey,

    It looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this particular doctrinal point. I know you think this LaPlacian Demon concept is important but I think it is moot. In a deterministic system that only matters when it comes to predicting/knowing the predestined future. Whether God or anyone else knows the predestined future really doesn’t matter — the problem is that you believe the future is predestined (Yes I know you like the term pre-determined but it is the same thing.)

    You actually wrote the biggest whopper of all in #219 when you said:

    Your belief in indeterminacy, however, has never been taught by the prophets. They have taught that we are free to choose for ourselves, but to claim that this is a rejection of determinism is a whopper to say the least.

    I believe the scriptures and prophets teach free will. They may use the term free agency but free will and free agency are the same thing to everyone but you as far as I can tell. Do you have any evidence to indicate differently? Do you have any evidence that any prophets were determinists? The few quotes you base this prophetic support for determinism on are from BY like this one:

    The providences of God are all a miracle to the human family until they understand them. There are no miracles only to those who are ignorant. A miracle is supposed to he a result without a cause, but there is no such thing. There is a cause for every result we see; and if we see a result without understanding the cause we call it a miracle. JD 14:79

    Just because BY says that God works within the laws of our universe is no indication that he thought libertarian free will was not among those laws. I believe BY did believe in free will/agency in the libertarian sense as well.

    Having said all that, I completely agree that determinism is a real phenomenon in our universe. But you are denying the existence of free agency as the prophets understand it. Creating your own definitions will not solve that problem. You are replacing it with hypothetical free agency where we feel like we are making real choices but we are actually predestined to succeed or fail.

    You are allowed to believe that… I just don’t.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 13, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

  224. Jeff said: “the deterministic mechanisms which exist in the Brain (both physical and spiritual) we we all agree exist.” I don’t agree Jeff. As I show in my book, the best science we have demonstrates that the brain systems and subsystems act as self-organizing chaotic systems that reach out for data in the act of perception and changes its fundamental chaotic status by organizing it. You believe that chaotic systems are essentially deterministic (no one has ever fully modelled a chaotic system in a deterministic way, and it is impossible to do so, so it is merely an article of faith) and I believe that chaotic systems must be essentially incomplete because otherwise it requires reducing a potential infinite to an actual infinity of information — which is in principle impossible. Moreover, there are a number of philosphers of neuroscience that see the brain not as a deterministic system but as a system based upon feedback loops and creative ability to mold otherwise chaotic data.

    Jeff, if what you mean by “indeterminism” is anything that isn’t completely deterministic, then I am an indeterminist — but so what? You object to indeterminism because you believe it means “random” and utlimately unexplained. I agree that if our acts are random, or pointless, or beyond our control, then they don’t contribute to our freedom (a branch flapping at random in the wind isn’t free or morally accountable in the sense of LFW). I reject your view that something’s not being causally determined entails any of these. However, I am a universal cause agent causation libertarian and I adopt a broadly process view of causation. Have you studied process thought? Within this metaphysic, every event synthesizes the manifold of the causal data of the previous data but creativity is the essential element of such synthesis so that we have something more than the mere sum of the parts. The properties of mind emerge when a certain type of complexity is biologically achieved (as evolution suggests). With the type of complexity present in humans the properties of a human mind emerge that are not reducible to its parts (and if you disagree then you have to explain why a dead or unconscious mind has different powers and properties than a conscious mind). So there is a complete explanation — personal explanation explains our choices as the act of organizing the data of the prior moment (what is called a nexus in process thought) and its inherent ability to engage in feedback loops and to imagine many possible futures that are not yet in any way real. This power is a property that emerges only at this level of complexity and evolution.

    So what you mean by indeterminism I deny. I am not that kind of indeterminist. We fully explain our acts by referring to the reasons and purposes for which we act as agents. Such personal explanation (as opposed to “event causation explanation” which you and Clark seem to insist is the only type of explanation) doesn’t explain matters based upon the parts of the brain but upon what the person actually considers and does at the conscious level of existence. But to really grasp what my view is a background in process metaphysics is essential. I would suggest starting with Charles Hartshorne’s wonderful article “Freedom Requires Indeterminism and Universal Causality.” The article on process thought found here is also a good place to start: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-philosophy/

    and also here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-theism/

    I agree with Craig that William James is also great reading and everyone ought to read him and especially the article listed by Craig.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2005 @ 5:24 pm

  225. Clark: Modelling doesn’t explain; it describes. For example, I can model the behavior of falling objects just knowing the laws of gravity. However, I have not explained what gravity is or why objects fall merely by modelling — allowing of course that I’m speaking colloquially and what really happens is the object travels in a straight line and objects bend space-time. Yet it seems that there is also anti-gravity (or negative gravity) and merely describing what objects do (or how they act) doesn’t explain why they act as they do (is it a graviton or some other force?) or how they do it.

    Comment by Blake — April 13, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  226. Blake, I think we fundamentally disagree over what is an explanation and what is a description. But I suspect it is not a matter we’ll reach agreement on. But you didn’t address the fundamental question, about the a priori.

    If, in your mind, explanations are always appeals to some ground, and thus an appeal to a final ground, then I think there are no explanations, since at some point things become ungrounded. We find at best the play of Being. If that’s all you mean, that’s fine, but I think it rather avoids the issues I was getting at. To use Heideggarian language, since that’s how I understand grounds, one can always speak to facticity even if one is looking at things ready-at-hand or (to use Levinas’ language) what is behind the face.

    Comment by Clark — April 13, 2005 @ 9:50 pm

  227. Geoff,
    I accept that the prophets teach that we are free to make our own decisions free from any compulsion which might be imposed by another agent, such as God, Satan or somebody else. But as I have shown, these things are perfectly compatible in a deterministic setting. Therefore the prophets have said nothing about determinism. I leave it up to you to show how they have commited us to anything more than that.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 14, 2005 @ 12:58 am

  228. Clark: Explanations are not an appeal to grounds (only a determinist thinks that way) but to events or reasons that are sufficient to account for what we are asking. In the case of free choices there is no sufficient explanation in terms of grounds or prior causes — but there is an adequate explanation in terms of the nexus of causes and the active powers of the free agents to organize that nexus from a chaotic causal stimulus to an ordered experience and choice to act for reasons and purposes. Here is how personal explanation works: If I ask why you went to the store and you say that you needed milk so you went to get some you have given an adequate explanation. If I then ask what caused you to go to the particular store you went to you could say that you just happened to choose that one though you could have gone (and sometimes do go) to others. If you then asked, what caused you to choose to go to that store, it is an adquate explanation:”well that is just the one that I chose since it had milk and sometimes I go there.” If you then ask, “well what made you choose that particular store?,” all that the person could say was to repeat themselves: “well, that was just my choice.” To ask for further causes is to assume there is some further cause — and to ask for a complete causal history that is sufficient to entail that the person went to the store assumes causal determinism. But no one has ever given such a complete explanation nor could they ever do so — and given the chaotic nature of the underlying nexus and the organizing power of the agent it is in principle impossible to do so. If we have learned anything from the study of psychology, the behavior of given individuals is not fully predictable no matter how completely we model their past or know about their past.

    Jeff: What the prophets say about free will and choice is not consistent with causal determinism since: (1) we are held accountable for our moral choices and we cannot be morally accountable if determinism is true; (2) they expressly state that we are free agents in a sense that we can act without merely being acted upon (2 Ne. 2) and if determinism is true we merely act as we are acted upon; (3) we can repent and act in ways that are new and contrary to our entire past; (4) we are free to say yes or no to God and we (both God and us) are here to find out what that choice will be. None of these are consistent with determinism. Of course no prophet has said: “the doctrine of necessetarian causal determinism is false” — but that isn’t required to show that what the prophets say is inconsistent with determinism.

    In addition, the prophets repeatedly affirm that God knows all things and has power to bring about his plans and word. However, on your view God doesn’t know all things; rather, he knows only what is physically accessible to him. He is limited in his ability to deduce the future based upon the present causes; but an all knowing God who knew all things presently true or in existence in a deterministic world would have complete foreknowledge based upon his ability to deduce what is entailed in the present causes that dictate the entire future. On your view it is quite possible for there to be future results of present causes that God does not know about that could make it so that his plan is defeated or frustrated. Of course, if that is true, there is nothing he can do about it since his entire future is also causally determined. We cannot really have faith in such a deity. Such a demi-god is not worthy of worship.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2005 @ 7:50 am

  229. Blake, the issue of grounds certainly isn’t only “something a determinist would ask.” I’d note that such a concern makes up most of Heidegger’s work. And he’s anything but a determinist. (Since determinism pretty much entails a view of things and causality that never gets past present-at-hand analysis)

    As I said, I think in terms of how we view explanation, there’s simply too large a gap to really be able to reach common ground. (Forgive the pun)

    Comment by Clarkl — April 14, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  230. Blake,
    One thing that I notice about your explanantion of how decisions are made is that whenever determinists are not defending themselves from (sometimes childish, sometimes not) attacks, they say almost the exact same thing. You can say that I am accepting determinism in chaotic systems on faith, but I can say that you accept indeterminacy in chaotic systems on faith as well.

    1) Under determinism we can be responsible in the only ways worth wanting.
    2) The scriptures state that we are free to act without being acted upon by thing that act, in other words, other agents. In the same context it speaks of things which act and things which are acted upon. We are things which act, made up of things which are acted upon. I don’t think Lehi was getting any more philosophical than that.
    3) Determinism allows for all the kinds of novelties worth wanting.
    4) We can do whatever we want. We are hear to see what that is. The differences between this and what you say above are simply not worth wanting.

    You can continue to claim that these thing that I have claimed aren’t good enough, but I have yet to hear a reason why your versions are any better than mine.

    It’s true. God doesn’t know all things, because there is no such thing as ALL things. It is, however, quite easy to maintain that He knows are that is physically possible for Him to know. This isn’t that different from what you believe.

    You also simply cannot accept, for some reason, that determinism does not imply inevitability in any meaningful way. In deterministic world which we can create, there can exist “agents” (very crude ones) which can avoid harm. Therefore, things are avoided in a deterministic system, or things are evitable. Thus, determinism does not imply inevitability in any meaningful sense. God can, indeed, avoid harm should it present itself.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 14, 2005 @ 11:07 am

  231. Under determinism we can be responsible in the only ways worth wanting.

    You’ve said this several times but I think you are the only one here that believes it, Jeffrey. Not even Clark believes this. As Blake just repeated “if determinism is true we merely act as we are acted upon”. That means we don’t really choose anything, we just think we are choosing things.

    As I said, even Clark rejects determinism as you are presenting it. There is no way to reconcile it with any form of real responsibility. True, Clark pushes the free choices we make back to the foundations of the world, but there are still free choices in his model. (Feel free to chime in here Clark). Without a free choice there can be no responsibility. You push the causal pattern to beginninglessness. Therefore there is never a free choice. Therefore there is never any real responsibility.

    Clark,
    In your model as explained to me you believe we freely made choices at some point in the past. How do you explain the mechanism behind those free choices? Why can’t the model you use to explain those be equally used to explain free choices here?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 14, 2005 @ 11:20 am

  232. Jeff: For someone who has admitted that his view of determinism entails fatalism to then turn around and assert that “determinism allows for all the kinds of novelties worth wanting,” or that “determinism does not imply inevitability in any meaningful way,” I am just befuddled. I know that you love Dennett and you believe that he provides some basis for these assertions, but his world view is so different from yours, where there literally is no moral responsibilty on his view, I conclude that what is worth wanting not only cannot be provided by determinism, but that you have admitted as much many times in this post. Dennett denies moral responsibility precisely because he is a determinist — and that is fine for a moral emotivist who believes that there are no moral truths and only social constructs, but that won’t work for LDS. I second Geoff’s statements. I also reiterate that a god who cannot be trusted to carry out his purposes and who is as much a part of the causally determined order as we are cannot be trusted with our salvation because the causes just may entail his ultimate defeat and there is nothing he can do to change it that is consistent with the causal data — and worse he doesn’t even know it!

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

  233. Here is what I am asking for I guess.

    I have shown how responsibility can exist in a deterministic system. You claim that my version is not good enough. I claim that the differences between my version and your version are not worth wanting.

    The reason why they are not worth wanting is that while differences may exist (I think you still need to articulate what they are exactly) nobody will even notice them except from a perpective which does not exist. If nobody will ever be able to tell the difference, how important can such a difference be to anybody?

    Thus I am asking three things:

    1) What are the differences? (You must do better than calling one real and the other hypothetical.)
    2) Will anybody ever be able to notice such differences? (Consider the lottery example.)
    3) Why should such differences be considered important or worth wanting to anybody who actually exists? (In other words, no appealling to the demon’s eye view.)

    I think that I have thoroughly responded to the “being acted upon” rejection and will say no more. It seems that you are trying to make the verse say something which Lehi plainly did not intend.

    I think we have all realized by now that we aren’t going to convert anybody else, but I would still like answers to these questions, for here is where our real differences lie in my opinion.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 14, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

  234. Blake,
    I know that Dennett’s world view is very different than ours, but I really think that the differences pale in comparison to the similarities. I know that you probably don’t agree. I certainly don’t agree with everything Dennett says, but his reasons and logic, when applied to a Mormon context, seem to answer more questions for me than others have done. Will I eventually change my opinon in regards to determinism? Possibly, but I will need a good reason for it, and I don’t think that I have been given one.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 14, 2005 @ 1:29 pm

  235. I have shown how responsibility can exist in a deterministic system.

    See my #231. If there is no free choice there is no responsibility.

    1) What are the differences?

    Remember that thought experiment Blake brought up in his book? The one about mind control by scientists looking on. The person being controlled in that scenario really did desire to to the things he did. He really thought he chose them. But those desires were not within his power to resist. They were forced upon him without his knowledge. He may have even felt responsible but he wasn’t because he had no power to do otherwise. He was a puppet.

    So it is with a causally determined being. They cannot choose so they cannot be resposible ever. Dennett is right.

    2) Will anybody ever be able to notice such differences?

    Nope. But that is rather moot.

    3) Why should such differences be considered important or worth wanting to anybody who actually exists?

    See Blake’s #228, 232. I might add that the reason why is because your model leaves us with predestination and a God unworthy of our worship.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 14, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

  236. Jeff: It seems that Geoff and I are at the point of simply re-iterating what we have already said and if that hasn’t been sufficient, together with my book, then I’m satisfied that you are beyond being converted to libertarian heaven and we’ll just have to agree to leave you in determinist hell [grin]. Yet look at what 2 Ne. 2:26 says again: “And because they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good and evil; TO ACT FOR THEMSELVES AND NOT TO BE ACTED UPON save it be by the punishment of the law….” This scripture says that we are free because we are free to act for ourselves and we are not free when we are merely acted upon. That is about as clear as it gets — if we are deterministically acted upon then we are not free; if we are agent causes free to act for ourselves then we are free. There is a causal consequence of our acts — judgment and punishment. We cannot avoid that. But we are free and justly judged only because our acts are our own and are not merely the upshot of the causes that act upon us.

    I think that the thought experiment from my book that Geoff cites is a good example of what is wrong is determinism. Assume that a group of scientists can implant an electrode in your brain to control your wants and desires, though you are unaware f it. You are free to do as you desire, but you cannot control your desires. Since you will always act in accordance with your strongest desire on this view the scientists can completely control you. Now assume that the scientists program you to want to love a certain girl, we’ll call her Objectiva. Do you truly love Objectiva? If Objectiva finds out you love her because the scientists caused you to desire to do so, don’t you think that she would have every reason to conclude that your love is not genuine because it was not your decision based on your choices but based upon the decision of the scientitists? If you found out about the electrode, wouldn’t you have good reason to doubt that everything you have done was really something you freely chose and in fact not an expression of your choices at all? Everything you desire is caused by causes outside of your control even though you existed at all relevant times and were around to influence them. The fact that you are ignorant of the fact that scientists casually controlled your desires and through them your choices doesn’t mean that your choices were genuine or free — it merely means that you were ignorant of the fact that you had no genuine choice in the matter.

    Now note that this example meets the criteria of “hypothetical free will” that you accept. You were free to act as you desired to. If you had had a different desire then you would have done differently. There is harmony between your desires and your acts. Yet I don’t believe anyone would conclude that you in fact act freely or morally responsibly if the scientists cause your desires in this way. There really is no difference between what obtains if causal determinism were true and this scenario of causal manipulation by scientists. Isn’t that quite enough to show that determinism is just not adequate? So Will and Jeff, it is time to come over to the bright side of the force.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2005 @ 6:21 pm

  237. Geoff, the simplest way to explain my view is that our choices are always already made. The other model I proposed was one in which our primordial freedom is temporality itself which happens when we fall into this world. i.e. we help create the four-dimensional universe which we then experience within a flow of time. The two models are technically different although I conflated them in my original discussions.

    Comment by Clark — April 14, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  238. Clark: Isn’t there a viscious circle implied in your statement that “our choices are always already made”? For if my choice is always already made for any time that I can choose then there is no time at which I choose — it follow that there is no choice. Just what it could mean to say that freedom is temporality itself is so vague that only a person who has spent a lot of time reading Heidegger could possibly believe that it could mean anything at all (and even Heidegger would be left in the dark). I’m just saying it is so vague as to not express any content whatsoever to me. If I create everything at time tn and then my choices flow from it, doesn’t it follow that at tn+1 God know what my choice will be at tn+2 (and so do I at some level) but neither of us can do anything about it? Moreover, it means that our experience is vastly mistaken — so mistaken that it is mere appearance. Did I make my choice to respond to you also “after” you made your choice to write your post — so that it is impossible for both us to choose at the same time? How do our responsive choices (those that presuppose another prior choice by someone else) mesh on this view? It seems that there is no room for such temporally ordered responsiveness so that what you propose ust won’t work in real human relationships. It just seems so metaphysically extravagant that it is just literally unbelievable and, unlike quantum mechanics which is also strange beyond belief, there are no data or concrete instances that it can explain. I just don’t see any reasons to believe other than it solves an ad hoc problem of foreknowledge after tn but admits that God didn’t know at tn-1 what we would choose before we chose it at tn — so what it gives with one hand it takes away with another and just puts the temporal order of God’s ignorance in a different relation to the actual present.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2005 @ 7:36 pm

  239. I started up a thread on the issue of explanation over at my site. I think it actually is important as I think it underlays a lot of discussion. It’s a complex topic, so the first post is mainly a summary of what went on here, with respect to explanations.

    With regards to a “viscous circle,” I don’t see how it is a circle. And endless deferment or regress, perhaps. But it certainly doesn’t logically follow that there is no choice. That implies that Aristotle’s unmoved mover is the only logical way to deal with causation. However if one doesn’t mind ungroundedness of a sort, then I don’t think there is a problem. Indeed it is the claim that there must be a transcendental sign or a point of absolute origin that I find problematic.

    I’ll get to your other points later.

    Comment by Clark — April 14, 2005 @ 8:26 pm

  240. Clark: In fact we agree that there doesn’t need to be some ultimate ground of explanation — LFW can be ungrounded in prior events and yet be adequately explained. That is the only point I’m making. It seems that you agree with that.

    Comment by Blake — April 14, 2005 @ 10:01 pm

  241. It’s time that I really took issue with this predestination thing. There is a difference between determinism and predestination, the latter implies “destiny” while the former does not. To say that all determinists believe in destiny is a stretch. To say that all religious determinists must believe in destiny is incorrect as well.

    Destiny basically mean that something was “meant to be.” This brings up two questions.

    1) Meant by who?
    2) Meant to be what?

    With regards to (1) the answer for most religious people would be, “meant by God.” But this doesn’t work in a Mormon context. It only works if we believe that the Universe was created ex nihilo by God. Therefore the answer becomes meant by nobody.

    As to (2) we have seen that the answer is “whatever happens.” If the answer to (1) was God, this might actually mean something, but since the answer isn’t God, the statement is basically meaningless.

    What does destiny mean, then? Whatever happens is exactly what was meant to happen by nobody. This is what non-religious determinists claim and they have a name for it, determinism, not predestination. I do not accept any strong form of destiny. The only things that are meant to happen in any meaningful sense is what is intended to happen by the agents we see around us.

    So Geoff, please stop calling what I believe predestination.

    “Whatever happens” carries no meaning.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 15, 2005 @ 10:49 am

  242. Jeff: I agree with you that determinism is not predestination in the sense that there is a personal agent who determines what shall happen — instead it is an impersonal universe that determines it. But how does that make matters better for the determinist? The same untoward effects result. The fact that the same untoward effects result is shown by the thought experiement given in post # 236. I really think that you have to show how determinism could differ from this scenario given in #236 if you believe determinism leave us free in any sense worth wanting.

    Comment by Blake — April 15, 2005 @ 11:03 am

  243. I must also address the story from Blake’s book, for it is a very good example of what I must explain. Thanks for bringing it up.

    The issue in your example is not the difference between LFW and determinists as much as a difference between educating and brain washing. Suppose that we have two twins, Bill and Will. Bill is completely in control of himself and free to do whatever he and only he wants. Will, however, is brain washed and forced to become, through secret psychological engineering, exactly like Bill in every way. This is basically on par with what your scientists have done to me in your example.

    Now suppose the day comes when the scientists decide to let Will in on the secret and tell him that he has been engineered to be the way he is. What does this change, after all, he is the way he is whether he likes it or not. The main difference, I suggest, would be an overwhelming sense of suspicion of himself. There may be other things, but such things are beside the point.

    Now suppose that on the same day these devious scientists decide to let Bill in on another “secret” of their own contriving. They convince Bill that He has also been psychologically engineered to be the way he is. What will this change in him? How would he be any different from Will? I suggest that there would be not substantial difference between the two cases.

    The real problem here, involves the deception, the deliberate misinformation. What was wrong in Will’s case was the psychological engineering. What was wrong in Bill’s case was the lying about there having been such engineering.

    If the wrong lies in the decepition, then the fault lies in the agents who perpetrated such deception. This is what Lehi was preaching against, being controled by other agents, other things that can act so as to act on us.

    Now let’s address your example. Do I feel responsible for loving Objectiva? Yes. Am I responsible? No, the scientists are, for they, as well as everybody else in on the secret (which eventually includes Objectiva) can tell the difference. Once I am let in on the secret, do I feel responsible? No, I recognize that I was not making those decisions. Somebody else was. The issue lies in the deception, not the feelings or the way things seem.

    “Ahhh, but you have just pulled back from what you believe,” you may claim. No, I haven’t. If another agent is in control of my actions, then they are responsible. If no other agent is in control, other than me, than I am responsible for my actions, for I do have control. Under determinism, there is nobody at the controls except for me, therefore I make “myself” as big as I can by assuming as much responsibility as I can. (This is actually what Dennett claims. He is a compatibilist.)

    I am not totally controlled by things outside of me. I am designed to control what happens to me. All this can happen deterministically. In addition, as I have also shown we can never externalize everything. I can control much, even, to a certain extent, what I desire. I can choose to repent and change my heart. I can choose to go through therapy. I can choose to pray for help. I can choose to be in good company which will influence me.

    I am not claiming that since nobody is in on the secret, that determinism is OK. I am claiming that since nobody except me is at the controls, determinism is OK. If I do something bad due to my bad desires, I should be subjected to “correction.” We are told that if we do something bad, there will also be penalties in proportion to the crime. This is done so as to encourage me to take corrective measures ahead of time, and it works in most cases. But when I don’t take these measures, the penalties must be inflicted so as to maintain the motivation. Thus we praise people for doing good and punish them for doing evil. What part of responsibility am I missing?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 15, 2005 @ 11:20 am

  244. Blake,

    I should also mention that I’m not sure that I endorse necessetarian causal determinism. I think it would be better to call it sufficientarian causal determinism for we can all see that thing happen without any necessary cause. Suppose Bill and Will are throwing rocks at a bottle. They both throw rocks that hit the bottle and break it at the same time. Was it necessary for Bill to have thrown a rock for the bottle to break at that time? Was it necessary for Will to have done so? No. (I hope that I am not betraying my philosophical ignorance here.)

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 15, 2005 @ 11:26 am

  245. Blake I don’t think we agree yet. I recognize that libertarians have ungrounded libertarian events or libertarian agents, depending upon the type of libertarianism they adhere to. But I do think explanation is still necessary, which is what I think Heidegger is getting at. One only finds the groundlessness when one turns to an analysis of Being. However the two schools of libertarianism don’t do this. They define something in terms of present-at-handedness and then say the rest isn’t necessary.

    Comment by Clarkl — April 15, 2005 @ 11:51 am

  246. BTW – there’s an excellent debate regarding the usefulness of intuitions in the debate that I think all ought read over at the Garden.

    Comment by Clarkl — April 15, 2005 @ 11:52 am

  247. Clark: The point is that an agent free in the sense of LFW would meet the requirments of Heidegger’s Being in LDS thought — BTW in the second volume I argue that there cannot be agents free in either the sense of LFW or compatibilistic freedom if agents are created ex nihilo.

    Comment by Blake — April 15, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

  248. I don’t even know how to make sense of that Blake. What on earth do you mean that an agent in LFW “meets the requirements of Heidegger’s Being?” Being has requirements?

    Comment by Clark — April 15, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

  249. I’m really glad that Clark is handling this issue of explanation. I knew that I didn’t agree with Blake’s argument against me, but I also knew that I didn’t have the tools to even address the issue. What’s funny is I knew that Clark would have something to say on the matter, so I basically ignored it. Sorry Blake, and Thanks Clark.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 15, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

  250. That’s just it Clark, Being doesn’t have the requirments of explanation that Jeff (and you apparently) demand for Being.

    Comment by Blake — April 15, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  251. Clark: Could you explain to me what you mean by “they (libertarians) define something in terms of present-at-handedness and then say the rest isn’t necessary.” I’m just not aware of anyone who does that, so maybe you could give me some examples.

    Comment by Blake — April 15, 2005 @ 3:25 pm

  252. Jeff: It seems fairly clear that you must take the position that in reality we are not free and that our sense of being free arises only out of our ignorance that we aren’t free. Yet it seems fairly transparent that mere ignorance doesn’t solve the problem — we are in fact unfree and given that you believe we are deterministically caused you must also admit that you believe we are not free. Yet what will you do with God? Does he know that determinism is true so that he knows that he is not free and thus in the position of the unfree persons who knows how things really are as opposed to mere appearances?

    The real problem is when you want to jump out of the deterministic world to make sense of change and choices — for example when you say: “I am not totally controlled by things outside of me. I am designed to control what happens to me. All this can happen deterministically. In addition, as I have also shown we can never externalize everything. I can control much, even, to a certain extent, what I desire. I can choose to repent and change my heart. I can choose to go through therapy. I can choose to pray for help. I can choose to be in good company which will influence me.”

    If the scientists implant causes in a way that is perfectly compatible with your belief in the way causes actually act upon us (to explain our acts in terms of our desires that are completely explained in the data of the prior moment) then we don’t have this kind of control — only the scientists do. You don’t have control over your desires since they are induced in you by the scientists who control the prior causes. You can’t choose to go through therapy unless the scientists or prior causes induce that desire in you. You can’t choose to pray unless the scientists or prior causes induce that desire in you. You can’t “choose to be in good company which will influence me” unless the scientists or prior causes induce that desire in you. It follows that these are not your choices — they are explained by the choices of the scientists or the causes in the prior moment and not by your choice. Your choice is not your own.

    If you cannot see this entailment by now, then I am convinced that further attempts to convince you will not be fruitful. You will just have to conclude that I am causally determined to believe in LFW and that I was before I even ever thought about it. Further, you will have to conclude that I am just causally determined to the view that if desires were causally induced in me by scientists who control my desires, then I cannot have genuine relationships, choice, moral accountablity and so forth — that, coupled with a fairly otiose view of god, isn’t a very inviting view for me.

    Comment by Blake — April 15, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

  253. Before I address your question, I would like to ask two questions. 1) what if instead of scientists being at the control, there was nobody? 2) What if I were at the control? Since these are the only two things a determinist would ever even consider worth addressing, I’m curious as to how your intuition pump works under these conditions.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 15, 2005 @ 4:00 pm


  254. 1) what if instead of scientists being at the control, there was nobody?

    Whether it is someone, or something, or no one that controls us makes no difference at all. The problem in your model is that it is not us that controls us so there is no responsibility.

    2) What if I were at the control?
    That is our position. The bad news for your position is that this requires LFW. Without LFW you only think you are in control. It is as if the scientists are controlling you, but in your model it is beginningless causes that are doing it instead.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 15, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

  255. Jeff: My view of determinism is precisely that in a completely naturalistic, deterministic universe, no one is in control — instead of the scientists as in my example, the impersonal universe is in control. In your paradigm, since God is subject to these causal forces, he also is not in control; rather, the impersonal universe is. In the theistic universe where determinism obtains (the Calvinist view), God is in complete control and he alone brings about everything that occurs.
    There are no free agents in any of these scenarios.

    I’m not clear what you mean by option (2). Do you mean what if you were in control in a sense required to be really free, or in a sense that you were the scientist controlling others? I’ll assume that you mean the latter. If you were in “control” and determinism were true then you really wouldn’t be in control since you would be in the same position as a scientist being cotnrolled by another scientist who is controlled by another scientist etc.. If determinism is true, then the scientists’ desires to control you are also caused by causes and so these causes are the real determiner of what happens all the way down line with everyone.

    Comment by Blake — April 15, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  256. Blake I’ll get into the Heideggarian critique this weekend. I’ve already got two half-finished posts. I also put up an extended quotation (~6 pages) from Heideggger’s The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. That’s quite interesting and relevant as it is a deconstructive reading of Leibniz’ monodology and the second half is about reason and reasons that of course were so crucial to Leibniz’ thought.

    Comment by Clark — April 15, 2005 @ 9:59 pm

  257. Clark: I have asked on your blog how you believe Heidegger’s views problematize our discussion in such a way that it responds to or makes irrelevant the issues regarding agent causation and moral responsibility we have discussed here.

    Jeff: So are you ready to respond now?

    Comment by Blake — April 17, 2005 @ 5:39 pm

  258. Blake, I’ll answer this morning when I get back from the office and am working on the server. (That’ll involve various degrees of waiting – so I can write a bit I hope)

    Comment by Clark — April 18, 2005 @ 9:01 am

  259. Blake, sorry about the wait. I have been really busy as of late. I’ll respond in the next hour or two.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 18, 2005 @ 10:23 am

  260. First of all, I find it interesting that Geoff and Blake gave such different answers to my questions. It seems to show me two things: 1) I think it has been abundantly clear through out this thread that Geoff and Blake do not believe in the same kind of free will. 2) Blake’s intuition pump is not very good. Let me explain myself better.

    In the scenario, it isn’t very clear what “I” am and what these “controls” are. For if we take out the controls, I am the only thing left, leaving us with the real scenario we are trying to deal with. It isn’t very helpful in our quest to figure out what “I” am like if we take me and add some kind of altering device.

    As to the device which is controlled by the scientists it’s tough to figure out what it is supposed to represent, especially it we consider it to be an add-on to an otherwise normal (deterministic under my view) person.

    What if nobody has the control to the device? Can I still act by myself? Can I act at all? Geoff says that it makes no difference. But this is saying that the hypothical scenario is worthless.

    What if the controller of the device (Blake assumed correctly) fell into my hands? Geoff thinks that this is his and Blake’s position, but I don’t think Blake or I agree with that. Let us suppose, as Geoff seems to, that other than whatever imput comes through the controller, I am not only deterministic, but robotic. If the controller falls into my hands, then where, exactly is the indeterminacy? If outside of the input I am deterministic, and now the input is deterministic as well, how can we say that this is LFW? What Geoff is really suggesting is that I am not really the person that I along with everybody else thinks I am. Instead, I am a little “personality” which is controlling this outer “me” that everybody has grown to love and hate.

    He is endorsing what Dennett calls a Cartesian theater where it all comes together so to speak. I believes there to be a “presidente” which is ultimately in charge of the brain, but this is not what current neurological studies are showing. Studies are showing not rather than being el presidente, our conscious selves are more like press secrataries which are only somewhat “in the loop” and deal more with the outside world. It is doctrines like this that make me nervous about indeterminism in general.

    Continued in next comment…

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 18, 2005 @ 11:16 am

  261. Now Blake’s answers to my two questions seemed much more honest and worth addressing.

    What happens if nobody has the controller? Like Geoff, Blake maintains that, other than the controller input, in this experiment I am fully deterministic. That means, that when nobody is doing anything with the controller, we are back to square one, having accomplished nothing in the thought experiment. Blake seems to admit this himself, though not explicitly.

    What if the controller fell into my hands? This is an interesting scenario worth giving more thought to. I’m sure that in his answer Blake must have noticed the similarities between what he said and my position already stated. This, I assume, is why he is quick to mention that there still isn’t any control in this scenario, thus destroying his analogy altogether. For some reason when the controller is in the hands of scientists, this is control, but when it falls into my hands, it’s not real control. Am I the only one confused by this?

    Let’s be honest. The real issue here, as far as I can tell, is one of control. What is it? What is this “I” that could control “me”? How could an impersonal Universe be in control? And on and on. This intuition pump only works when we destroy “me.” When we turn me into a robot with no desires of my own. I am not the Universe. The Universe is not me. The Universe is not at the controls, I am. The Universe feeds imput into me and I, depending on my nature and dispostions, react to the input in a certain way. I can be good. I can be bad. It is my nature and dispositions that are really in control, and these are not set. They have a certain degree of placticity, especially when I intentionally involve other people, which consequently brings in notions of punishment and social contracts.

    Maybe I haven’t addressed the scenario the way in which Blake and Geoff would like, but I don’t think the scenario addresses the issue at hand the way I like.

    (Sorry about the impersonal tone. I just reread the comment, it sounds like a post. Oh well, you get the point.)

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 18, 2005 @ 11:33 am

  262. Jeffrey,

    I gotta, hand it to you. If nothing else, you’re persistent.

    First, whether Blake and I agree on all the details of how LFW works is also moot here. What matters for now is that we agree it exists. Perhaps another time we can work through details of how it works, but I doubt we have the proper knowledge available to sufficiently answer that question anyway. So the task at hand is simply to argue that free will exists — a position you oppose.

    I think your attempt to put the “controller” in to the hands of the controlled is a valiant one. The flaw is that the hypothetical scenario with the scientists takes place in a world with LFW. So in that scenario the scientists are responsible as the controllers because they are not being externally controlled themselves, but rather have LFW. The person being controlled loses his LFW because of the experiment. Therefore the only way the controlled person could ever get the “controller” would be because either he was forced to by the scientists, or more likely we could assume his natural LFW kicked in when they weren’t actively controlling him. So if the controlled person managed to get the controller into his own hands what would be the result? He would be back to normal by once again having LFW I suppose. (He would probably destroy the controlling mechanisms first off is my guess).

    The analogy is used to show that if we have no LFW we have no responsibility. I see no evidence that refutes that claim yet.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 18, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

  263. Persistant? Sounds like a euphemism for “stubborn” if you ask me. ;^)

    “Whether Blake and I agree on all the details of how LFW works is also moot here. What matters for now is that we agree it exists.”

    I don’t know about that. After all, I believe that a certain variety of free will exists too. Your differences run a bit deeper than mere “how it works.” Blake, if I am not mistaken, doesn’t believe that your type of free will exists either. He doesn’t accept the notion of self-caused causes. In fact, when it comes to “how it works,” me and Blake are very similar to one another if I understand him correctly. This has made my part in this string very difficult for whenever I criticize your ideas, Blake either says nothing since it doesn’t apply to him, or has to reemphasize that he doesn’t believe that. I criticize your ideas of how free will happens on one front while I have to defend the consequences of determinism from Blake on the other front. I have tried to separate the issues into distict topics, but as we saw in the beginning, both of you were unwilling to say very much with out bringing in ideas of responsibility and the like. This has lead me to believe that your rejections of determinism are emotionally motivated which is cerainly not unusual.

    I have issues with your suggestion that this takes place in a LFW world. 1) The analogy is supposed to be addressing the absudities of a deterministic world, not a robot in a LFW world. 2) We must grant LFW for me as well and the scientists if we are to consider me a person, and this destroys the point of the analogy as well. 3) LFW is fully unpredictable, even by a demon. This destroys the idea of the scientists being able to control anything in the scenario.

    Putting the scenario in a LFW world only makes things worse.

    You take issue with my giving myself the controller saying that it is not possible. Why? You seem to want the deception and ignorance to do more work for you than it should. I’m trying to throw out the deception and see what happens, determinism doesn’t depend on it so why should the model?

    It just seems that you are trying to manipulate the story by adding details to suit your purpose.

    If you see no account for responsibility in my mulitple posts on the subject, then you must be working with some kind of secret definition. I will leave it up to you to lay out what it is about responsibility that is lacking in my model.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 18, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

  264. Blake, if I am not mistaken, doesn’t believe that your type of free will exists either.

    I’m not sure what you are referring to here. My type of free will is called Libertarian Free Will. I freely admit that I don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind LFW yet, but that I believe someday we will. You seem to think I have a type in mind and I just don’t. Blake’s explanations of how it might emerge sound feasible to me (organization out of chaos, etc.). I don’t disagree with any of that. What exactly is it that you think I believe differently in “my type” of free will?

    I don’t know that there is some emotionalattachment that is driving my questions to you on this. I have repeatedly pointed out the fundamental issue that where there is no free choice ther can be no responsibility. I don’t think you’ve come up with an answer to this problem yet. If you think you have please help me out because I don’t see it yet.

    As for the hypothetical story, I think I am beginning to see why you are having such trouble with is now. Of course the hypothetical world in question has LFW. What good is it the scientists are automatons too? Then they are not responsible for their controlling actions either. The model used is to show that without free choice there is no responsibility. I couldn’t understand how that was not obvious to you but I suppose if you pictured causally determined automotons controlling the automoton it wouldn’t make any sense. Now you can complain that the analogy is unfair because LFW exists in the hypothetical world and you don’t think that it does here, but at least in that story somebody is responsible for the actions of the controlled one.

    If we are all causally determined how are any of us different than that poor controlled fool in the story?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 18, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

  265. If you see no account for responsibility in my mulitple posts on the subject, then you must be working with some kind of secret definition. I will leave it up to you to lay out what it is about responsibility that is lacking in my model.

    It’s obvious that we’re sort of talking past each other right now. I don’t like doing that so here’s another tact…

    You might be on to something with this “I” thing. Perhaps if there is never a free choice there never is an “I”. Maybe aguing for the existence of free will is really just arguing for self identity. Perhaps all things that are solely causally determined are in essence robots and there will never be an “I” to them — they forever remain an “it”.

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 18, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

  266. Geoff,
    If you accept that we have free will and are just not sure how it happens, why not accept my account?

    At first you thought that there was a self-causing agent which controlled us. You seemed to think that though our physical bodies may be deterministic, our spiritual intelligences are not. (If this is true, you must admit that the idea of determinism does agree with how we observe physical phenomona acting in the world. Why would we expect spiritual matter to be different.) Blake doesn’t believe either of these things. Blake, if I am not mistaken, is a materialist in the sense that I am. Geoff claimed not to be.

    I’m not saying that it not ok to change your mind. I’m not saying that its not ok to agree with the more intelligent defender of two positions. I’m simply saying that if you are so willing to completely change your mind to agree with another person who is attacking my position while refusing to grant me anything, we should all admit that your motivation arises from something more than bad logic. You say that since there can be no responsibility, this is why you reject determinism.

    NO RESPONSIBILITY” These are charged words intended to get your emotions going. The brain enters the melee only to defend the emotions not control them.

    I have showed how we can asign blame, hold people accountable and punish people. If this isn’t responsibility I don’t know what is. Please tell me what I am missing.

    I still think that the story is a terrible one but I shall do my best to address it on your grounds.

    As I said, the issue surrounds control.

    So we have a normal LFW person, me. An surgical procedure is performed which somehow gives whoever has the remote control over what I want. Now, my desires are control and somehow, a really big somehow, LFW no longer exists in me. Now, who is responsible for my desires? The scientists it would seem. Thus we can see that people who are controlled by remote control are not responsible for what they want. Determinists don’t claim this.

    Let’s say that I find out about the experiment again somehow, but a smaller somehow than the one above. Now what changes? I know that my desires are being controlled, and I want to control them myself. But wait! They can control me to not want to control myself. Therefore I completely give up control and seek no responsibility at all. This is not determinism either.

    Well what if the controller gets lost and the scientists can’t find it? Am I stuck with whatever desires the last scientists left me with? Can I want to change my desires? If I can then what is stopping me? If I can, then do I magically have LFW again? What if I can’t? Then the story is no longer talking about a person at all.

    Now let’s talk about real life. What if I am engineered to think that sweet things taste good? What if I am programed to think females are attractive and that sex feels good? What if scientists caused me to not like getting my arm cut off? But wait a minute, these things are all true! Therefore, by your logic, I am not responsible for having visited a prostitute eaten lot’s of cake to the point of obesity and gave information to enemy after hours of torture.

    Clearly we are missing something. That something is me. I have been erased in both stories.

    I am probably not that responsible for giving information after hours of torture with LFW or Determinism. This is the kind of “acting upon” that Lehi says we should avoid.

    With regards to my unsatiable sweet tooth and libido, there really are some people who seem to have an addiction of sorts. We are not responsible for liking sweet things, it is in our genetics (I am definitely not a genetic determinist). But that doesn’t change the fact that I also KNOW about the negative influences of too many sweets and sexual promiscuity. I can responsibly remove the sweets or the scantily clad females from my house , not enter bakeries or strip clubs, go to therapy or pray really hard for help.

    This is not only possible in LFW, for I am also designed to not like being fat or objectify females, to enjoy being heathy (no cholesterol or STD’s) and living long, and to listen to what those around me have to say. I am programmed to want to be good. All these designs are put in place by that same scientist. Thus, I have the ability to change what I want even under determinism.

    Moreover, we are all born a certain way (whether physically or spiritually) regardless of what our will might have been in the matter. Therefore even under LFW there are still scientists with a remote to our desires whether we like it or not. We can try to overcome these desires placed in us by the scientists, buy wait! the scientist can control what we want to “try” as well. Since we can only will what we want, and the scientists control what we want, how does LFW give us any advantage. The LFWist can talk about how our spirits are uncreated and always have a say in what we want, but this is what I say as well.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 18, 2005 @ 3:07 pm

  267. Wow! That was a humdinger of a long comment. Good thoughts there.

    First, I think you might have read too far into one offhand comment I made at you blog several weeks ago about materialism. I just looked it up:

    You are right that I am not wholly committed to materialism. While our spirits are material I am not convinced our thoughts are.

    I was not expressing some well thought out opinion on materialism there. I was simply implying that I had not studied subject enough to be certain where I stand. Further, I admit I still have difficulty understanding how thoughts themselves are “material”. I will just say I remain agnostic on the subject pending further study and thought.

    Perhaps your assumptions on my postion there has tainted your reaction to my comments? Maybe I’m not the one reacting emotionally? ;-)

    Second, you are right that the given analogy (like all analogies) falls apart when taken to an extreme. The other problem with it is that it assumes there is native LFW always simmering under the surface waiting get out. That person with the LFW is the real person in the story and the controlled one is only an automoton. In a casual determinism model that real person underneath with LFW does not exist.

    You said: Clearly we are missing something. That something is me.

    I think that my comment #265 might get to the crux of the problem. If I never make a free choice ever — throughout all eternity — I seriously doubt there can ever be an “I”. I suspect there is only an “it”. I don’t think we could ever be anything more than swiss watches that naturally evolved. They are precise instruments, but there is no “I, swiss watch”.

    I am begging the question, of course. I assume we couldn’t be having this conversation without some free will some time, somewhere. As I said, Clark recognizes this basic problem (at least when it comes to responsibility) and accounts for it in his models.

    So since we can’t really verify my newly germinating theory, we are left trying to discern how a causally determined anything has any responsibility. Even if I do grant a “me” to a causally determined you all of your thoughts, desires, faith, repentance, wickedness, etc. are caused by something other than free choices. That still seems to not help your cause. Even if we have “choices” how do they help if they are not free?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 18, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  268. Jeff: I’ll follow up further later. But it bears noting that what struck me about my response to you and Geoff’s response isn’t how we differ; but how much we agree. In fact, I was surprise that we gave essentially the same answer (and I had taken the first assumption like Geoff did, I would have answered it in substantially the same way). If determinism is true, then there was never anyone in control. There was no initial person with LFW who then became controlled if determinism is true. Moreover, you have already admitted that the scientists are the ones in control and it is merely ignorance of how things really are that allows for the illusion of freedom if determinism is true. The way that the scientists cause your desires and how the prior causes issue in your desires if determinism is true are not really relevantly different. I thus take your concession that there is no free will if the scientists are in charge of your desires to be an implicit admission that there is no free will or moral responsibility if determinism is true.

    Comment by Blake — April 18, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  269. BTW, I am not a thoroughgoing materialist. I am an emergentist which is probably closer to being a form of epiphenomenalism than materialism — though strictly speaking it is neither. However, I believe that mental properties and states necessarily supervene on material states (but not in a deterministic way — precisely because I don’t believe that materialism is deterministic since I adopt a process view of materialism).

    Comment by Blake — April 18, 2005 @ 6:52 pm

  270. Blake, exactly how is supervenience not materialism? Further, what does it mean that they don’t supervene determinately on material states. Are you saying that material states underdetermine the current state of the mind? Or are you merely pointing out that mind is a process? If so, why not simply acknowledge material processes rather than material states?

    Comment by Clark — April 19, 2005 @ 12:23 am

  271. Clark: Mental properties are not material in my view. A thought is as real as the brain or material processes on which it supervenes, but it is not material. Thoughts don’t weigh anything, they don’t take up space and they are not extended. So my ontology allows for non-material states. In process thought there is a mental pole to the material reality of each event — but it is not mere matter. In fact, I doubt that mere matter exists. Mental properties arise out of creativity which is the ultimate metaphysical category in process thought. Creativity is not just a material process. To be is to be creative — which is to say that nothing is merely matter. Because you are a physicist, I would like to know just what you mean by “matter.”

    Comment by Blake — April 19, 2005 @ 7:29 am

  272. Blake,
    I am not admitting “that there is no free will or moral responsibility if determinism is true.” For if our hypothetical world was deterministic I would consider the scientists completely responsible. What I am saying is that the scenario is so different from what I believe that it doesn’t really address the issue.

    Like I said in my way too long comment (sorry about that), we are all programed by scientists, even under LFW. You can’t just say that since I have LFW I can overcome the programming, because the programming determins what we will. Therefore our LFW is programmed as well by the scientists as well. Of course you can come up with some way out of it, but why can’t I use that same way out of it myself?

    Now our differences with regard to materialism are bigger than I thought. I don’t believe that thoughts exist in the same way as brains at all, though I doubt your really believe that. Just like I don’t believe that life exists in the same way as molecules, there is a difference. Thoughts and mind are the software while our brains are the hardware. Thoughts are information deriving from certain combinations of hardware. They are but symbolic representations of what is going on at the molecular level. Thus, thoughts don’t accomplish anything physical, though it seems that way from our conscious symbolic standpoint. It is the molecules that do all the work.

    Now you can probably see why I am a determinist. Molecules don’t just do things. They are caused to do things in a VERY orderly manner which makes perfect sense from a symbolic standpoint.

    To say that the Universe in merely pressing buttons marked ‘thrist’ ‘hunger’ ‘love’ in the most rediculous trivialization I can imagine. We have been designed by a combination of many things for a combination of many purposes. We are designed by our genes, our social environment, ourselves (this is very similar to me having the remote), and God, for the purposes of surviving (which entails and awful lot), socializing, loving, growing, learning, etc.

    Who is at the controls? Well, there are no controls other than the ones which I have. This lead to an infinite regress, but that is what I have been claiming all along. A long, long, long time ago, back when I was a primordial intelligence, hardly worthy of the name, I had little if any control. I really was at the hands of the Universe and/or any other agent which cared to do anything with me. But I continued to gain intelligence, and in the process aquired more and more control, giving the Universe less and less. I now have so much control, and the Universe has so little in comparison, that we simply say that the control is in my hands, even in the sense that Geoff claims to have it. I am able to both remember and anticipate what control the Universe might try to usurp over me, and I am able to control myself to avoid falling into its hands. An since the Universe is not an intelligent agent, I am able to keep it at bay quite easily.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 19, 2005 @ 10:58 am

  273. Jeff, I’m curious as to how you interpret quantum mechanics. While not opposed to determinism, it certainly removes the “de facto” basis for believing in determinism.

    Comment by Clark — April 19, 2005 @ 12:54 pm

  274. What I mean by matter? Anything that interacts in a way that is dependent on space-time relations. So I keep it fairly broad. But I also tend to see a kind of consciousness inherent in matter. So I’d not separate matter and mind the way you seem to be, with one radically emergent out of the other.

    Comment by Clark — April 19, 2005 @ 12:56 pm

  275. Clark,
    For starters, it is still possible that QM is fully deterministic in which case I obviously would have no worries. If QM is indeterministic, however, I’m still not too concerned since the random fluctuations of QM take away rather than give us more freedom, control and responsibility. Additionally, QM effects are so small that it seems to contribute essentially nothing to the Free Will debate. I do not claim that the Universe is absolutely deterministic (though I have a hunch that it is). I do maintain that the only Free Will which we can place any hope in, is a deterministic version of it.

    Thus while I suppose that I do not accept the official definition of determinism as applied to the Universe, I hope that it is true, especially as applied to our choices.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — April 19, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

  276. Blake,
    I’m discussing your B argument with an evangelical graduate student. He says that your premise that assumes the “principle of alternative possibilities” is false, and that Libertarian freedom does not necessarily imply the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. I always thought that any theory of freedom that did this would be a compatibilist theory, but he says no. What would you say?

    Comment by Craig — April 19, 2005 @ 5:49 pm

  277. Craig: There are two types of libertarian theories (I am both). There are “leeway incompatibilists” who require alternatives. There are “source incompatibilists” who require that our choices have a certain relation to the causes or reasons for the choice. A good discussion of these issues is found here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/

    However, those source incompatibilists who adopt the view that God can know our choices (thus not requring genuine alternatives) so long as they are not caused (source incompatiblists) are more generally known as “semi-compatibilists”.

    However, let your graduate student know that Alvin Plantinga’s argument showing that God is not responsible for evil requires a full blooded leeway incompatibilism where there are genuine alternatives. I haven’t seen anything like a plausible argument against the logical argument from evil that doesn’t requires such leeway incompatibilism. If he is a Calvinist, then he won’t care — he’ll adopt mystery hook, line and sinker, regarding the problem of evil.

    Comment by Blake — April 19, 2005 @ 6:48 pm

  278. Blake,
    He is not a Calvinist, he’s a Molinist. I’m not up on Molinism, so I’m a little lost in his reasoning. From what he says, it sounds like he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. He claims that he is a libertarian, but that he also believes that God knows exactly what we will do. He say’s that we do not need alternate possibilities in order to be free. I’m having a hard time figuring out how these ideas are consistent with one another. I’ll check out the stanford encyclopdia link you left.

    Comment by Craig — April 19, 2005 @ 8:13 pm

  279. I have noticed Blake that a lot of Calvinists say Plantinga solved the problem of evil and then reject that the proof requires Libertarian freedom. I’ve never quite figured out why that is so. Many of them are quite intelligent philosophy students. But it is odd.

    Molinism is interesting. I know a few Evangelicals who adopt it. I fully admit that I don’t buy it, for probably the same reasons Blake doesn’t.

    Comment by Clark — April 19, 2005 @ 10:13 pm

  280. Craig: I treat Molinism in my book ch. 5, pp. 163-181. I don’t believe that Molinism is tenable — no one brings about the truth of propositions about our acts according to Molinists, not even us! That isn’t consistent even with source incompatibilism. Moreover, the notion that there are true counterfactuals regarding the acts of persons who never in fact exist is just not logically or pragmatically viable. Further, even if we grant the Molinist everything they say they want, their view is not consistent with LFW of any stripe.

    Comment by Blake — April 19, 2005 @ 10:20 pm

  281. I didn’t have time to read all 280 posts, sorry, but I hope my explaination addresses some of the comments above.

    First, I read in the scriptures that god knows the past, present, and future and that God knows all things. The scriptures also indicate God is a being of light and as we know when mass reaches the speed of light time stops (and a bunch of other things happen we don’t understand dealing with different sizes of infinity that aren’t relevant here). My therom is that God exists outside our understanding of time and beyond our simple existence and one of the consequences is the ability to see all of time at once.

    While we are like a blind man feeling an elephant one place/time at a time, God can see the past present and future at once. We are the blind man feeling the elephants leg and assuming we’ve found a tree. God can stand back and see the whole elephant; how things were, are, and will be.

    The fact that God can see what we will do/be/pray for/achieve does not in any way remove from us the responsibility to pray or strive. His knowledge that I will achieve the Celestial Kingdom is based on my past, present, and future actions, all of which I chose. That God gave me the cards to play based on strenghts and weaknesses determined in the pre-existence does not in any way limit my ability to play those cards. I know I’m holding some Kings and a couple twos but I evaluate my situation and play the cards the best way I know how. My knowledge of God’s knowledge should not affect my play except to give me confidence that he knows I can succeed. He has put in a lot of effort to let me have this experience.

    The comment about prayer above is doctrinally misleading. Enos did not change God’s mind, rather God knew Enos would pray all day and all night and that this was necessary for Enos to attain the level of spirituality he needed.

    Whenever prayers are answered by something set in motion in the past I re-confirm that God knew I would pray in the present (the past’s future). The scriptures are repleat with examples where present prayers bring present blessings that come from past efforts.

    Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon is dependant on God’s knowledge that Joseph Smith would be born to a parent who would live so close to the plates and would be raised in an atmosphere perfect for a budding prophet and later a budding church.

    Mormon said, “I’ve seen your day and I know your doing.” How much more evidence can you ask for? Many prophets saw the begining to the end, unless you intend to argue that they saw a dramitization of the end, you have to believe that God has seen and can share that knowledge with his servants, the prophets.

    Do not despair, you are still in control of everything you do. If you change it should be for the better because you know God is on the winning side, He has already seen it.

    Just as God’s knowledge of the past does not remove your agency from those actions, so God’s knowledge of the future does not exempt you from agency and responsibility.

    Comment by Heli — October 3, 2005 @ 1:46 am

  282. Thanks Heli.

    We did cover several of your positions in the (too long) 280 previous comments.

    First, I don’t believe God lives outside of time, nor do I believe that it is logically possible that he could and still interact with those of us in time. (Blake put several chapters into this subject in his book too). I don’t begrudge you for believeing it though.

    Second, I’m afraid I simply disagree with you on the subject of Enos. I think he did change God’s mind — or rather that God was reacting to the prayers of his child in a way he would not have reacted had Enos not frely chosen to offer that prayer. I firmly believe that our free actions do indeed change God’s reactions — he is not immutable.

    Third, I think that Mormon seeing our day is a general statement of his knowing the sins and iniquities that people would engage in in the last days — mostly because they are the same that he saw in his day.

    I believe that the general script of this and every other inhabitted planet were in place from the beginning, but the actors are unique and we are all improvising along the way. Were it not so, then men would not truly be “free to choose” but rather we only have what compatiblists (which you apparently are) call “hypothetical free will”.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2005 @ 10:34 am

  283. I’ve never heard a compelling reason why perfect foreknowledge makes men unable to be “truly” free to chose. I am not talking about hypothetical free will, I’m talking about the future existing just as the present exists. Based on some of what we know about quantum physics the future exists already, we just can’t understand or see it.

    Please answer this question: How does God’s knowledge of our future action keep us from making the choice? We will make whatever choice we will make and that doesn’t mean we didn’t make the choice. If the future does already exhist, as I believe it does in a sense, how does that in any way affect your freedom?

    For example, if I was omniscient and knew what you would say on this board, that would not mean you didn’t chose to respond and that you weren’t in control of your words. You wouldn’t be hypothetically free to write what you want, you would be exercising your freedom to chose.

    Do you understand what I’m saying I don’t understand? lol

    Comment by Heli — October 3, 2005 @ 1:01 pm

  284. You also did not address the strongest argument on my side. The fact that God knows what we did in the past does not mean we were not free to do what we did. How does knowledge of an event control that event?

    Comment by Heli — October 3, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

  285. Thanks for the follow up Heli,

    If the future exists and is fixed, and you are destined to murder someone in 2007, there is nothing you or God can do to stop that. That is a problem for us free-will believing Mormons. If the future is open then you may or may not murder in 2007 — it is entirely up to you. Foreknowledge is in fact useless if nothing can be done to change the future.

    Therefore, in that scenario even if we think we are freely choosing, we are actually simply acting out the fixed future. We could not choose otherwise and neither could God.

    The past is in fact fixed. Even God cannot change the past. But he can change the future (just like we can) because it is open and unfixed. If the future were as fixed as the past then God would be completely incapable of changing anything — he would simply be a spectator of the predestined future. This is what Calvinists believe but not what most Mormons believe…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

  286. “Based on some of what we know about quantum physics the future exists already, we just can’t understand or see it.”

    Technically that’s not true. There are interpretations of both QM and GR that entail a fixed future. But one need not accept them, even if they do to me appear the most natural way of reading the physics.

    Comment by Clark — October 3, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  287. Geoff,

    You state the problem:

    “you are destined to murder someone in 2007, there is nothing you or God can do to stop that. That is a problem for us free-will believing Mormons.”

    You are stating your conclusion as if it was a premis. Certainly the future cannot be stopped, but when and where did you lose your ability to chose? The same argument works on the past, you can’t change the past, but you had free-agency and made the choices that exist in stone in the past. Just because the choices you make in the past and future can’t be changed DOES NOT MEAN THEY AREN’T CHOICES. You are chosing what to do in the present, you are never chosing what to do in the past or future. You may plan for the future but you only have the power to act in the present.

    The problem may be how you phrase your dilemna. You state that “you are destined” as if you are not chosing your future. You chose your future by how you act in the present. I could chose to go to Paris and I could be there in as little as a day, but I would have to act now to make that happen. I am free to move myself to the airport and buy a ticket, the fact that I won’t doesn’t mean I can’t. The fact that God knows I will be here doesn’t mean I didn’t have the freedom to chose. It just means God already knew what I would chose. I still make the choice. That is the key, I still make the choice, God’s knowledge doesn’t limit or coerce my choice. I’m chosing to have this discussion with you now. In reality my choice is not affected by whether God did or didn’t know I was going to write these exact words. I still chose to write them.

    If the future is open then you may or may not murder in 2007-it is entirely up to you. Foreknowledge is in fact useless if nothing can be done to change the future.

    You can’t change the future because you create the future, you can’t change what you chose because you are chosing it.

    I’m saying that perfect foreknowledge (PFK) does not affect agency and your post doesn’t in any way say how PFK does affect choice. When did free-will leave? You never explain how you’re choice to kill someone in 2007 was not made by you?

    Furthermore, God is not a spectator, he is an active participant. The fact that he knows the future allows him to answer our prayers, to give revelation that is accurate, and to understand what experiences we need to become like HIM. If he were merely making best guesses then we would never know if this all will work until it was over. Again, you state:

    If the future were as fixed as the past then God would be completely incapable of changing anything

    No where do you explain how God loses his power because the future is fixed. God is still the creator, he is still chosing the future through his choices. Again I must ask, when did God lose his power to chose because of a fixed future? The fixed future is a result of his choices between now and whatever reference point you pick in the future. In each “Presesnt” God makes choices that affect us all and his perfect foreknowledge of his choices does not limit him any more than his perfection and holiness limit him. He is doing what He wants to do, bringing to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of man (by choice).

    Comment by Heli — October 3, 2005 @ 10:38 pm

  288. No where do you explain how God loses his power because the future is fixed.

    Alright, let me do that now.

    Let’s imagine God knows that you (Heli) will murder an innocent person in cold blood at 10:37 PM, October 10, 2007. God knows this just like he knows the past (since we will assume the future is fixed like the past is). Now let’s say he decided to tell you about it (either through a prophet or direct revelation). What good would it do you? Absolutely none. No matter how much you don’t want to murder someone in cold blood today, God knows it will happen because the future is fixed. He doesn’t want you to do it, you don’t want to do it, but since the future is fixed as the past neither of you can do anything about it.

    So sure enough, events transpire as God knows they must and you murder an innocent person in cold blood at 10:37 PM, October 10, 2007. All of your attempts to prevent this are completely futile because the future is fixed. God would have liked to have helped you prevent it but he couldn’t because the future is fixed. Knowing the fixed future was worse than worthless to both of you — it in fact made your lives much more miserable because you were as powerless to change or affect it as you are powerless to change or affect the past.

    And while you thought you freely chose to commit that murder — the truth is that there was no alternative for you. It had to be as God said because the future is as fixed as the past. So if there truly were no alternatives then you only thought you were freely choosing.

    Now, can you explain to me how this is not an accurate description of what a fixed future entails? Further, can you explain to me how knowing the fixed future in advance would be of any use to God or man?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 3, 2005 @ 11:06 pm

  289. The innaccurate portin of this is in two parts. First, God would never tell you you were going to do something for which you wouldn’t later be forgiven. It does get complex because God knows what you will do in the future and tells you things based on that. He might tell you something about the future to help you avoid something, because he also knows potential futures if He didn’t act. Maybe thats why he seems to act sometimes and not others.

    Second, your paragraph exposes the fallacy:

    And while you thought you freely chose to commit that murder-the truth is that there was no alternative for you. It had to be as God said because the future is as fixed as the past. So if there truly were no alternatives then you only thought you were freely choosing.

    Everyone I’ve discussed this with does the same thing, they state their conclusion as a premis. “There was no alternative for you.” That is you’re premis and conclusion. Certainly there was an alternative, just as there is an alternative to reading this post, but you are chosing to read it. You always give up alternatives when you chose in the present. Sealing your action with the permanence of the past. Why are there no alternatives? Was your anger so great that you murdered in revenge? Were you in such despair that you no longer cared about your actions? Its no as if God tells you at 10:37 PM, October 10, 2007 you will be in Austraila dancing and at 10:36 you just poof over there. God would only tell you what will happen because he knows you will make all the choices leading up to the moment.

    You make it sound like you become a robot, when really you are constantly chosing what you do, creating the past and future at the same time.

    Let me try to explain it this way, you only have real freedom in the present, the future and the past cannot be changed (as far as we know). You said you only think you are freely chosing, are you freely chosing now? Can you look away from the computer for a second? Or are you an automaton. I just looked away because one of my children cried out, I don’t really know if I chose that because it seemed to be a reflexive response, but we won’t go into whether responding instinctively is a choice.

    Does this making sense or are we going around in circles? Did you imagine that God knew a million years ago what you are doing now and test if you still could chose what you are doing?

    Comment by Heli — October 4, 2005 @ 6:50 am

  290. because he also knows potential futures if He didn’t act.

    Ummm, what are you talking about “potential futures”? If the future is as fixed as the past then there are no more “potential futures” than there are “potential pasts”. The future already exists as present and past to God in the scheme you present. You cannot have it both ways.

    And my point remains valid whether God told you about your pending murder or not. Your murder at that time and that date have “already happened” to him. If that is not fatalism and predestination I don’t know what is.

    You are taking the classic compatibilist position here and I am taking the classic libtertarian free will position. The problem is you want to have compatibilism where there are actual alternative actions — but if there are real alternatives then the future cannot be fixed. The term for what you are promoting is “hypothetical free will”. That means in theory you could have chosen otherwise but in practice you could not have because that murder of yours already happened for God (who has seen your fixed future).

    The problems with this fixed future are so many I can’t see why anyone would even find such a doctrine remotely desirable. I believe it is not only false, but also faith-crippling and thus dangerous.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 4, 2005 @ 8:14 am

  291. Certaily there are potential futures just as there are different things that could have happened in the past, those potentials events didn’t and won’t ever occur, but they could have. The fact that God and you and I can imagine different events happening in the future or past doesn’t change what did and will happen. Sure the word potential should be replaced with possible (i.e. possible futures, possible pasts).

    I could have chosen not to serve a mission and that would have changed my past and future immensely, but I did chose of my own free will to serve AND I can’t change that decision now, I have no power to control what I did in my past at this moment. I can’t change that choice now, but at that time I made the choice.

    God knows what would happen if he didn’t save Nephi’s life from his brothers, he knows what would have happened if he had simply ended Laman’s life.

    You are still equating a fixed future with a lack of agency without any evidence to prove it.

    Its also not fatalism because you are in control of your future. Fatalism implies that you are destined for something which you have no CONTROL over. But nowhere have you explained why, when, how, or where you lost that control. Try my experiment, imagine that your future is know and then explain how you lost control; you can’t do it because you are still in control.

    Comment by Heli — October 4, 2005 @ 10:23 am

  292. Ok, now you seem to be arguing for some form of middle knowledge. You want some of the benefits of an open future while still holding to the idea that the future is fixed — again you cannot logically have it both ways.

    Again, if God knows that you will murder an innocent person in cold blood at 10:37 PM, October 10, 2007, then it cannot be changed no matter what you do leading up to that. If God knows that then there are no other potential futures for you. If God knows that then there are no other possible futures for you. It has already happened from God’s perspective.

    If there are other possibilties then God doesn’t know what you will do, He simply knows what would happen if you make certain choices. I am fine with that idea because there remains an open future in that scenario. A fixed future simply is not compatible with libertarian free will and libertarian free will is what Lehi teaches in 2 Nephi 2 in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 4, 2005 @ 11:37 am

  293. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, because I believe a fixed future is compatible with free will, libertarian or otherwise.

    I am not arguing for “middle knowledge,” possibilities exist for the past and future. It was possible for Hitler not to attempt to eliminate Jews, that’s why I can say, I wonder what the world would be like if Hitler had died in WWI? I am pondering a possibility about the past that has already happened. This is not “middle knowledge” nor does it compromise Hitler’s decisions which he made of his own free will and choice.

    You say I cannot logically have it both ways, but you have never explained how a fixed future has any causal effect on free will.

    Your example about God knowing my fixed future does not eliminate His knowledge of other possibilities any more than my knowledge of the past eliminates my whatifs about the past.

    Comment by Heli — October 4, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  294. possibilities exist for the past and future.

    There are no more possibilities or potentials for the past. The past is fixed and unchangeable even by God. All any of us can do now is learn from the past and utilize that knowledge in the free and open (read non-fixed) future.

    It was possible for Hitler not to attempt to eliminate Jews

    Yes, it was possible then. It is not possible now. It was possible then because the future is not fixed.

    you have never explained how a fixed future has any causal effect on free will.

    If there is a fixed future then there is no such thing as free will. Free will cannot exist in the same universe as a fixed future. Free will requires an open future. (As I have repeatedly demonstrated in this conversation).

    Your example about God knowing my fixed future does not eliminate His knowledge of other possibilities any more than my knowledge of the past eliminates my whatifs about the past.

    The whole concept of “whatifs” only works if there is an open future. If the beginning to the end is already fixed then this whole planet is the equivalent of an already-finished film that God is simply watching. The problem you are having in this discussion is that you keep borrowing language from the idea of an open future when it does not apply to a fixed future.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 4, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

  295. You sound far too intelligent to have any belief in the typical way that religion depicts god.It seems like the concept of god is holding back your thoughts and if you just let it go you would learn alot more about the questions you already have.

    Comment by satan — January 4, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  296. Cute…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 4, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

  297. [...] this year. The biggest of them in terms of debate (nearly 300 comments so far) was called The faith-crippling doctrine of absolute foreknowledge. Others? ? [...]

    Pingback by Times & Seasons » God's Foreknowledge or Lack Thereof — January 11, 2006 @ 6:04 pm

  298. Geoff, I found the thread and realized I had already read through this a while back. But your comment about Hitler is a perfect example of your position. You asset that Hitler could not have made any other decision if the future was fixed without ever explaining why or making a direct connection between his decision making ability and the fixed future. In effect I believe you are choosing to believe the two are incompatible maybe due to some inner cause, but without any reasons connceting the two.

    You say that you have repeatedly demonstrated that free will and fixed future cannont exist in the same universe (repeatedly). But your only explaination is restating your hypothesis.

    In the middle paragraph of post 294 you restate the same thing 4 times, but not once do you explain how a fixed future has a direct influence on any decision you or I or anyone makes. You say that if the future is fixed then you can’t make other decisions, but this is only restating your hypothesis. You are free to make decisions in the present, yes, but the future and past are fixed and we can see the past but God can see both without taking from you your agency.

    Whatifs from the past are the same as the future, maybe your inner cause is struggling with the concept that many of us struggle with, that you can only make one decision in the present and then that decision is made and you can never go back and change it so that puts a lot of pressure on us every moment we have to make big decisions.

    I can consider possibilities in the past and future, but I can only make a decision once in the present and I can only choose one thing from the multitude of possibilities.

    Thanks for talking about this again, I hope I can either see your connection or that you can understand why I don’t see the connection you imply exists.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 5:57 am

  299. Heli: Look at the argument in #194. It shows that foreknowledge and free will of a leeway libertarian (LFW) are not logically compatible. If you don’t accept LFW, then you appear to be denying a very central commitment of LDS thought. the problem is that if God knew something in the past infallibly, then what is foreknown is logically just as fixed as the past. Since we cannot change the past, we do not have it within our power to bring about any future than the one entailed in God’s foreknowledge — and neither does God.

    Comment by Blake — March 27, 2006 @ 7:40 am

  300. Blake, you make it sound like the fact you can’t change the future or the past means you didn’t make those choices. No one can change the future or past, you can only decide in the present and you are still not addressing how the fact that we can’t change the future or past means we didn’t make the choices that the past and future are made up of.

    You are saying correctly that you can’t change the future, but you aren’t addressing the fact that when that moment in the future comes you will make the choice that creates that future of your own free will. Your agency only exists in the present, you can’t change the future any more than you can change the past, but you are making decisions every moment in the present.

    How can you say we don’t have the power to bring about any other future when we are the ones bringing about that very future that God knows of? You create the future, God has foreknowlege of it; there is not causal connection between the two.

    Every incompatibalist makes the same assertion without ever making the connection. You simply state your basic assumption again and again in different forms. Take a second to look over your conclusions and assumptions and you will see the restate the same argument.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

  301. Heli,

    You appear to be claiming Blake uses circular reasoning when showing that a fixed future obliterates all meaningful free will. His argument is laid out clearly in comment #194. Now is your chance to punch holes in it if you can.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  302. I don’t know if it will help, but I’m wondering if by laying out Blake’s “B” argument that it will help clear up any confusion. I hope you don’t mind Blake, but I think this is the simplest way of showing the inconsistency of holding the two beliefs of exhaustive foreknowledge and LFW. I’ve challenged others to refute this argument and I haven’t heard a good refutation yet. I think it has standed against all attacks.

    (B1) It has always been true that Rock will sin tomorrow and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    (B3) God has always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B1 and B2);

    (B4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    (B5) It is not in Rock’s power to act in a way that entails that God has not always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B3 and B4);

    (B6) That Rock refrains from sinning tomorrow entails that God has not always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B2-semantically necessary truth);

    (B7) Therefore, it is not in Rock’s power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (from B5 and B6);

    (B8) If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will);

    (B9) Therefore, Rock does not act freely when he sins tomorrow (from B7 and B8).

    Anyone willing to take up the challenge of refuting this argument?

    Ok, if you read carefully B4 through B9 are all restatements of your initial argument. Each assertion states the same thing in a different way, even B8 is a restatement of your argument. Its like you say the same thing several times in a row in different ways and expect the reader to give up.

    Shall I go through each statement?

    I guess the crux of the problem is that you view the decision as unchangeable and therefore not a decision. I perceive the decision as made by the individual, but known to God beforehand. I see the person with agency making the decision that God knows, not God’s knowing eliminating the ability of the person to change the decision in the future.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  303. Let me put it this way, the unchangeability or permanence of a decision made outside the present does not in any way limit the agency or ability to make the instant decision.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 5:51 pm

  304. I mean the permanence that exists outside the present either in the past or future does not remove the decision making process or the agency and responsibility related to that decision.

    Comment by Heli — March 27, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

  305. Heli: I guess the crux of the problem is that you view the decision as unchangeable and therefore not a decision.

    Is there another way to view a “decision” if the future is fixed? How is it anything other than unchangeable?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2006 @ 7:30 pm

  306. If you are making the decision, whether it is hypothetically unchangeable doesn’t matter. You still go through the decision making process and utilize your agency.

    I think maybe the difference I’m seeing between how I view my paradigm is that the instant person makes the decision even though they can’t change what they will decide.

    To contrast, I see the instant person making a decision even though they can’t change what they will decide, they are still deciding. No one is deciding for them and they are making the decision based on their values, preferences, knowlege and circumstances.

    You focus on the unchangability of the decision and forget that the individual is still making that unchangable decision. They are choosing between options A, B, and C and the fact that they will choose C does not mean they were unable to choose A or B, but rather that they weren’t going to choose A or B.

    Comment by Heli — March 28, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

  307. So in your proposed mode, Heli, Lehi should have actually said “men are hypothetically free to choose”. The problem with your model is that at the moment of choice between “liberty and eternal life” or “captivity and death”… at that moment (just assuming it is a moment for our purposes here — whether is is one or many moments is moot for this discussion after all) we are all only hypothetically free to choose. Those who God knew would get captivity and death had no real power to choose otherwise — only the hypothetical power to do so. Those who God knew would get liberty and eternal life had no power to choose otherwise — only the hypothetical power to do so. As such there is no merit real merit in chosing right since there was no real risk of choosing otherwise and there is no real responsibility for choosing wrong because there is no reall power to choose otherwise.

    Is that really a position you want to defend as a Mormon?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 28, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

  308. No Geoff, men are free to chose, there is no hypothetical, why are you making a connection between knowing what will be chosen and freedom? Imagine that you know one choice I will make, how does that knowlege in any way affect my ability or my thought process? How does your knowlege have any direct influence, any effect or affect on my decision? You are making a connection where no evidence of a connection exists.

    You say those “had no real power to choose.” Where does this specific, erroneous, statement come from? What force removed from them thier ability to choose? You can’t say what took their choice away because nothing did take away their choice. You say they were hypothetically free but that is a meaningless term because they made the choice. Look specifically at what you’re saying.

    Those who God knew would get liberty and eternal life had no power to choose otherwise.

    What in the world are you talking about, who made the choice if they didn’t??? The only reason God knew what they would choose is because they personally and individually made the choice. God is only an observer with respect to His knowlege. If I watch a car go down the road I don’t change its course, ignoring the de minimus effect of gravity I have on the car.

    Please try and explain, assuming God is knows all knowable things, how choosing “liberty and eternal life” or “captivity and death” is not in your power. When did you lose the ability to choose, please try and focus on the actual choice you are making and not an outside observer. Just tell me how your choice changes from what you were going to pick because God knew it. You were could pick A or B, but based on the myriad of factors that influence your choice you are going to chose A. Please try to explain how God’s foreknowlege forces you to choose A, instead of your free will choosing A. (A being liberty and eternal life).

    Comment by Heli — March 28, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

  309. Sorry for getting a little excited, but I am free to do so. In your response in 307 you equate my hypothetically unchangable with hypothetically free to choose. You have stated this numerous times and constantly equate the two but never explain the connection between two clearly different ideas.

    Its like you’re saying if I know how the movie ends then the actors are wearing handcuffs. You are declaring a connection without ever showing where the connection comes from and saying it has to be that way.

    Comment by Heli — March 28, 2006 @ 8:54 pm

  310. Heli: No Geoff, men are free to chose, there is no hypothetical, why are you making a connection between knowing what will be chosen and freedom?

    Alright, here is a simple question. If you can answer this for me I’m sure we will be able to see eye to eye: If God knows I will murder, can I choose not to?

    If no, then I only have hypothetical free will and am a predestined and fated creature. If yes then God doesn’t know I will murder.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 28, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

  311. Heli: You’re not getting the import of the argument in #302. You assert: “the fact that they will choose C does not mean they were unable to choose A or B, but rather that they weren’t going to choose A or B.” It isn’t just that it isn’t true that you in fact don’t choose A, but that it is not within your power to do so. The reason it isn’t in your power is that in order to exercise this power, you would have to be able to change the past fact that God knew you wouldn’t choose A, and no one has power to alter the past. So the power you say we have is illusory. A power that is mere illusion is no power at all.

    Now the argument in #302 doesn’t show what it is about foreknowledge that makes it so that you don’t have this power to choose; it merely shows that you don’t. However, if you’ll explain how God foreknows with certaintly what we will do before we do it and even though we might not, then I will explain to you what it is about God’s foreknowledge that precludes you from having the power to do otherwise.

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 10:19 pm

  312. Geoff your question exposes the whole point, God only knows what you are going to choose. It is within your power to make any choice in the present that you are able to and you are able to choose anything you have the ability to choose. I could get up from my chair and jump up and down three times. The fact that I’m not going to isn’t because God knew I wasn’t going to, its because I’m deciding not to do it right now.

    God knows only that which you will choose yourself. So if God knows you will murder, its only because you will choose to murder. He doesn’t ‘know’ you into committing murder. You can’t know something and make it happen only by knowing it. God’s knowlege that the sun will rise doesn’t cause it to rise, it rises because the earth is spinning and we orbit the sun because of Gravity. Foreknowlege is completely unrelated to the movement of the sun and planets. You are litterally saying that if I know the sun will rise in the morning that my knowlege makes the sun rise, not gravity and momentum.

    Blake you say its not within “my power” to do so, please explain who is making the decision. Who is doing? Am I not doing? Am I not acting, deciding? Neither of you and no one I’ve ever discussed this with has ever explained the connection, how am I not doing something because someone has foreknowlege.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 5:33 am

  313. Heli: It is within your power to make any choice in the present that you are able to and you are able to choose anything you have the ability to choose.

    If God knows what I will choose (ie it is fated) then how is it within my power to choose anything else? I’ve said it before, but the problem you face is that you are mistaking unchangeable destiny with potential. In a universe with a fixed future there is no such thing as potential — there is only destiny. “Potential” is a word that assumes an open future.

    The fact that I’m not going to isn’t because God knew I wasn’t going to, its because I’m deciding not to do it right now.

    If you were really “deciding” in the present you could change you mind on the spot. But that is not possible with a fixed future.

    So it is clear that your round-about answer to my question is “no, if God knows you will murder you cannot choose otherwise”. That means you are a compatibilist. You aren’t alone in that — I just think you are wrong.

    God’s knowlege that the sun will rise doesn’t cause it to rise, it rises because the earth is spinning and we orbit the sun because of Gravity.

    God can foreknow that because he can cause it to happen if nothing else. Unlike humans, the sun has no free will to violate through compulsion. Because of that your comparison fails. You and I don’t know the sun will rise tomorrow morning — we are just predicting it will. I should also note that God presumably has power to cause the sun not to rise tomorrow so what he knows specifically is what his plans are.

    you say its not within “my power” to do so, please explain who is making the decision

    Most of your fellow compatibilists would say that the great causal chain of the universe created circumstances in your life that will cause you to make that “choice” and because of all those causes the choice is completely knowable and predictable in advance.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 8:31 am

  314. No I believe that God knows what our eventual choice will be, but we are making that choice as free as any libertarian free will can be.

    Not once do you address how I’m not deciding, you simply restate your initial assertion that if God knows then I’m not deciding.

    If you were really “deciding” in the present you could change you mind on the spot. But that is not possible with a fixed future.

    HOW? You can change your mind on the spot, you can change your mind every second for ten minutes, you are free to do that. God’s knowlege that you will change your mind every second isn’t making you change your mind, you are choosing to change your mind. You continue to refuse to address how God’s knowlege has any effect on your choice. Maybe your are just trying to get a rise out of me.

    There is no causal chain, you may be the sum of all your experience, but there is still something inside that is innately you and that inner part that is only your internal self has the ability to float down the river or to swim upstream. You can go with the flow in life or you can fight every obstacle. Most chose their fights and sometimes win and sometimes fail, but God wants us to learn to get up again and continue in the direction He is guiding you, but NOT forcing you. He is certainly not KNOWING you into a certain path, you choose the path, but because He knows what you will choose he can help you by preparing events, people, and circumstance to perfectly come together.

    How many co-incidences have you experienced? How many of those had to be prepared before hand?

    My entire point about the sun was that your assertion leads one to believe that God’s knowlege makes the sun rise. I’m not suggesting that the sun has free will, I’m trying to help you see the difference between the causal relationship our free will has with choices we make and the associative relationship God’s foreknowlege has with our choices.

    Similarly God’s foreknowlege has an associative relationship with the rising of the sun, not a causal relationship.

    Most of your fellow compatibilists would say that the great causal chain of the universe created circumstances in your life that will cause you to make that “choice” and because of all those causes the choice is completely knowable and predictable in advance.

    Then they are wrong, I’m not suggesting that God predicts our behavior, I assert that he has seen and knows of our future actions as if He had watched a movie of everything that ever happened. The past, present, and future are before Him. In His capacity as an omniscient God he is an observer that has granted us free agency, I’m certain he could exert force on us, but for reasons I assume relate to personal spiritual growth he lets us fail and try again until we succeed.

    In a universe with a fixed future there is no such thing as potential-there is only destiny. “Potential” is a word that assumes an open future.

    There is always potential, as I stated yesterday you have a million choices you can make. At one moment you may have a thousand things you can choose to do, but you will only do one of those. Flaven, there is a strange word that would be difficult to predict and yet I was able to type it and a thousand years ago God knew I was going to type it. It was only potential to me but known to God and yet I choose to type it.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 11:45 am

  315. Oh and my answer to your question is that if God knows you will murder its because God knows you will not choose otherwise. Or, if God knows you will murder its because God knows that will be your choice.

    You always have the ability to make the decision and you have not once explained at any point how you loose that ability or how God’s knowlege effects a change from what is your will.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  316. Not once do you address how I’m not deciding, you simply restate your initial assertion that if God knows then I’m not deciding.

    Alright, I forgot this. If the future is fixed and if all of our future “choices” are predestined and fated (and thus can be known before hand) then we are simply under the illusion that we are freely choosing between options. If the future is fixed then we cannot trust our intuition about our choices. If the future is fixed then we cannot change it in any real sense — we must simply act it out like characters in an already-completed movie.

    That is how “God’s knowledge has any effect on your choice.” It is not the fact that God or any other being knows it that causes the problem — it is the fact that the future must already exist in some real and fixed way to be known. In this way the future would be no different than the past (except from our perspective we know what things we can’t change in the past).

    There is always potential

    No, you are wrong here — there is no such thing as real “potential” if the future already exists just like the present and past exist. There might be “a million” hypothetical choices to be made but if the future exists already there are no real choices — only destiny. If God knew you would type the word “Flaven” at the very instant you did then you could not do otherwise. Your intuitions about being truly free to do otherwise fooled you if that is the case.

    Of course the pernicious problem this leads to is that in your scheme God also already knows if you will be ultimately damned or exalted. Because he knows that what can he or you do about it? Answer: nothing.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 12:09 pm

  317. You always have the ability to make the decision and you have not once explained at any point how you loose that ability or how God’s knowlege effects a change from what is your will.

    If it is a real ability to choose otherwise then we can prove God wrong. Is that possible in your view? (Of course I already know the answer to this — that is why I think your view is best described as hypothetical free will)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  318. Why does a real ability require that the future is not hypothetically fixed. How is a decision not free just because it is the decision you will make.

    After you explain this, please show how your explaination does not apply to the past (i.e. decisions in the past are fixed, but when we made those decisions in the present we were still free to make them). The fixity of a decision outside the present does not change that decision.

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

  319. I am assuming that we are not computer programs, but rather self-aware intelligent beings that do not simply run a sub-routine to make a decision. How does a fixed future interfere with our decision making process.

    You’ve said that if the futer is fixed then I have no power to change the decision I will make. But if I’m the one making the decision then I’m still making that decision. Does that last part make sense?

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

  320. After you explain this…

    Heli, I have explained it over and over and over again here. We are clearly going around in circles now. I must conclude that you are unwilling understand the answers which I have clearly given several times. (I’m going to assume it is not because you are unable to understand them.) Again I point you to the logic in the 8 points you reprinted in #302. The logic is a pretty airtight explanation why a fixed future is incompatible with free will as far as I can tell. If you disagree then please address each specific points in that argument and show us where the holes are.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 7:28 pm

  321. Maybe you missed my earlier post or simpley disagreed and didn’t reply, but I indicated that statements 4-9 were restatements of the same assertion. There is nothing to argue against if your logical connections are merely restatements but here goes for your pleasure.

    (B1) It has always been true that Rock will sin tomorrow and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    For purposes of this argument this is basically correct. My assertion is that God knows what Rock will do and it seems to follow that the future exists in some form of permanence if it is knowable now, but I’m not certain of that. I also don’t assert that the future has been permanent always.

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    Not how I would word it. A more accurate statement would be that all knowlege is before God past, present, and future. (I would even stipulate that God knows that Rock will sin tomorrow and skip 1-4).

    (B3) God has always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B1 and B2);

    Get rid of the always (God was once like us) and change God has always “believed” to God “knows” that Rock will sin tomorrow). What is the writers faciniation with absolutes where they are not needed?

    (B4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    Here is your basic assertion and conclusion, this means the same thing as your conclusion stated in a different way. Essentially you are stating that if A (God knows Rock will sin tomorrow) then B (Rock can’t change that he will sin tomorrow). How convenient to state your conclusion as an assertion without even addressing the crux of the matter which is who is choosing to sin?

    You are diverting attention by talking about apples when I’m talking about oranges. You are saying that Rock can’t change the fact that he will sin without wanting to admit that Rock is the one choosing to sin. No one can change what they will do any more than they can change what they did. The point is they did it.

    More specifically, how is Rock not making that choice? Please explain how Rock isn’t making the choice just because God knows he will. I know you’re not saying that God is making the choice, but that somehow unexplainably Rock isn’t the one making the choice.

    This is where we disagree, if God knows and Rock will sin then you assert Rock is not free to not sin, but I assert that it is Rock choosing to sin still. What you don’t address and never have is how Rock is suddenly not making that choice. Maybe it is all about spin or semantics because you frame the question about what Rock can do as if his choices are limited, but his choices are not limited, nor hypotheical. Rock can chose between thousands of options, but will chose only one. You say Rock can’t not sin, I say he will sin. Loosely meaning the same thing, but a very important difference considering Mormon theology. The reason you are wrong is Rock is not forced to sin, but he will choose to sin. If we have free will and we both agree that we do, you have the burden of showing how, when and/or where he lost that free will.

    More significantly why use the word entails, why not use a more descriptive words. When you say no one can do anything that entails God didn’t believe it that is a very evasive way of stating your assertion and conclusion.

    Furthermore, the assertion deals with God’s belief, not mans agency. It states in a circular way that if God believes something no one can change God’s belief. Again why not use the word knowlege? If its just a belief then its possible to change. Restated: If God knows something will happen, then it will happen and no one can change it from happening.

    (B5) It is not in Rock’s power to act in a way that entails that God has not always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B3 and B4);

    Here is an obfuscation of the point as well as a restatement of B4. Again stating that Rock cannot act in a way inconsistant with God’s foreknowlege, a much more accurate statement is Rock will not act in a way that is inconsistent with God’s knowlege that Rock will sin tomorrow. If not -B then not -A. The truth is Rock will make choices consistent with God’s foreknowlege.

    (B6) That Rock refrains from sinning tomorrow entails that God has not always believed that Rock will sin tomorrow (from B2-semantically necessary truth);

    More dancing around the truth with another restatement in reverse, that -A entails -B. A redundant restatement that serves no purpose.

    (B7) Therefore, it is not in Rock’s power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (from B5 and B6);

    Another restatment that Rock cannot refrain from sinning (same as 4-9). And again diverting attention from who is choosing by focusing on a non-sequitor, who is sinning, Rock. Who is making the choice? Rock. Does he have the power to make a choice other than the choice he is going to make, No. (based on the omnitemporality of truth)

    (B8) If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will);

    Disagree again, Rock will freely choose to sin tomorrow. Of his own free will Rock will make that choice, no one, no causal chain will make the choice. Rock will make the choice based on his personal values, strengths, and weaknesses.

    (B9) Therefore, Rock does not act freely when he sins tomorrow (from B7 and B8).

    No where in the above argument do you ever specifically address Rock’s decision making. You believe your conclusion because you believe the assertion which is a restatement of the conclusion.

    When I say someone can’t do something there is an obstacle that prevents them from doing it. If I said Rock can’t climb Everest today, its because he snowed in at the Salt Lake Airport. Its not because God knew he wasn’t going to climb Everest (and God did know, you must admit that God knew for certain that Rock wouldn’t climb Everest because he knew about the snow storm and that planes wouldn’t fly and even that a flight takes 30 hours).

    Comment by Heli — March 29, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

  322. Heli: I also don’t assert that the future has been permanent always.

    If not always, then when did the future become permanently fixed? Further, if the future has not always been fixed then God has not always had foreknowledge. Is that something you can live with?

    Not how I would word it.

    So can God believe false things or not? Just saying you would word B2 differently does not engage what it says.

    Get rid of the always (God was once like us)

    God is admittedly an equivocal term in Mormonism. But was there ever a time without a God? If not, was there ever a time when God did not foreknow the future. Did that God foreknow all of the future?

    I’ll wait until I better understand you answers to my questions before addressing 4-9 a bit.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 29, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

  323. Heli: FYI this argument has been the focus of intense study by the best logicians in the world. Your assessment is simply uninformed. Your focus on B4 as somehow confusing who is sinning is just off the mark. It merely states that to do something other than we do, and if God has foreknowledge, then we must be able to change what God always knew that we would do. Further, FYI, the argument need not state “always”; it works just as well for any given past time at which God infallibly believed what Rock would do at some future time (which is essential for foreknowledge of any type).

    What you call a “restatment” is actually a logical entailment — it is a way of showing that one proposition logically follows from another set of propositions. You seem to miss this point of deductive logic. It isn’t a defect but a strength of an argument that it has valid entailments. So when you say that you “disagree” with B8, you must show that it somehow doesn’t follow from the premises that you have already accepted. In fact, that is the entire point of the argument since it is a reductio ad absurdum. It takes premises you accept (e.g., God has foreknowledge and we also have free will) and it derives a contradiction from these premises.

    So you assertion that B7 is a non-sequitur is just wrong — flatly. It is a valid entailment. Further, the argument need not assert that Rock is somehow coerced to do what he does to be valid; it only needs to show that we cannot consistently believe that Rock has any power to act otherwise if God has foreknowledge.

    So here is the critical point that I made earlier that you (once again) missed. The argument doesn’t need to show why Rock lacks free will if God has foreknowledge; it only needs to show that foreknowledge and free will are incompatible. Now for the challenge that I issued earlier and you (once again) ignored: if you will explain to me how God foreknows with certainty free actions in the future that might or might not occur, I will explain to you why your view of foreknowledge precludes free will.

    Comment by Blake — March 29, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

  324. Geoff, first it doesn’t matter of course for purposes of this discussion how far into the past or future God’s knowlege extends. Theoretically I am arguing that God knows all knowable aspects of the past, present, and future. To be safe in this assertion I would limit it to this universe and for this eternal round. It may extand and as you say God may know all things forever everywhere without end.

    Why use the word believe? And to say God cannot believe things which are not true instead of saying God knows all truth is a pretentiously absurd wording. Keep it simple and its less likely that mistakes will be made and people will better understand.

    As for God’s belief, I don’t pretend to know what God believes or even what that would mean. I assert that God knows Rock will sin tomorrow and has seen it as an observer. As I said before I will stipulate that the future is fixed in the sense that God can see the future. How that works I clearly don’t understand.

    So Rock will not do anything tomorrow that God doesn’t already KNOW he will do.

    Blake, I’m so sorry for disagreeing with the best logicians in the world. I now know that I’m wrong, thank you for your appeal to their great authority and thanks for informing me, since I was uninformed. I’m glad that everyone believes the same thing now. I’m sure there are no logicians that would disagree with any point in the argument and that everyone was on your side except me, uninformed and alone. Thank you for bringing me into the fold of yes men.

    Sorry about that. Sometimes I am rocked by a bout of sarcasm. What you appear to fail to see is you start with assumptions that man can’t change what God knows, so if God knows then man can’t change. All the entailments and propositions that ignore who makes the decision are merely misdirection. Sure what Rock will eventually decide cannot be changed, but who is making the decision is never addressed. The process of decision making by Rock is ignored. That technically Rock will decide something is restated to entail that Rock didn’t have the ability or simply didn’t make the choice. Never is there any reference to the choice Rock makes except to say it can’t be changed.

    The argument fails because it doesn’t ever connect free will with an open future. The argument fixates on the fixed nature and assumes that free will cannot exist.

    Ok, God knows Rock is considering A, B, and C. He knows that eventually Rock will pick C. God isn’t making Rock pick C, God can watch a video of Rock picking C in the future or the past. He can look back and see what Rock picked and he can look in the future and see what he will pick. But Rock is doing the picking.

    All of your arguments can be directed at the past and also fail because the past is fixed, but the decisions made in the present are still free even though those decisions can’t be changed. You can’t change a decision made in the past and yet LFW still exists.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 9:56 am

  325. (B1) It has always been true that Rock sinned yesterday and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    (B3) God has always believed that Rock sinned yesterday (from B1 and B2);

    (B4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    (B5) It is not in Rock’s power to act in a way that entails that God has not always believed that Rock sinned yesterday (from B3 and B4);

    (B6) That Rock refrained from sinning yesterday entails that God has not always believed that Rock sinned yesterday (from B2-semantically necessary truth);

    (B7) Therefore, it is not in Rock’s power to refrain from having sinned yesterday(from B5 and B6);

    (B8) If Rock acted freely when he sinned yesterday, then he also has it within his power to refrain from having sinned yesterday (assumption libertarian free will);

    (B9) Therefore, Rock did not act freely when he sinned yesterday (from B7 and B8).

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  326. Heli said: Ok, God knows Rock is considering A, B, and C. He knows that eventually Rock will pick C. God isn’t making Rock pick C, God can watch a video of Rock picking C in the future or the past. He can look back and see what Rock picked and he can look in the future and see what he will pick. But Rock is doing the picking.

    Re: arguments misses who “chooses.” No it doesn’t. Rock chooses if he is free. If God has foreknowledge then there is no choice because there is only one possiblity and there is no choice at all. Like I said, the argument is a reductio. It shows that if you accept both free will and foreknowledge then we can generate a contradiction. So one of the premises must be given up. You refuse to give up any — so you hold an incoherent position. It really is that simple.

    Second response: We now know that Heli believes that God knows what Rock will do because he sees it like it is in a video-tape. There are numerous problems with this view. It is simple foreknowledge. If God knows because he sees the future, then God cannot use his knowledge to guide his actions because he is stuck with what he sees his actions will be before he can do anything about them. Second, we cannot change the past nor can we change the future that God sees. To suppose that is incoherent. So now God is powerless to change what he sees will be as if it already has been and so are we.

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 10:13 am

  327. The process of decision making by Rock is ignored.

    This appears to be what you are hung up on, so let me add to the comments from Blake. The specific question has nothing to do with God compelling Rock to choose. There is no question that even in your view Rock is making the “decision” (and I use that term here in the loosest sense). The question is whether it can be a free decision if the future is fixed. The logic Blake has provided proves emphatically that it cannot be a free decision.

    Look, Lehi says all of us are free to choose eternal life or captivity/death. If God knows Rock will choose captivity/death long before the decision arrives then in the moment of decision (the present) can Rock actually freely choose eternal life or not? In your view he cannot. But you will complain that it doesn’t matter because Rock chooses captivity and death. That may be true, but it makes a liar out of Lehi. Lehi said Rock really could choose either. But according to your view there was never a time when he actually had both options viably open to him because the future is fixed.

    I sincerely hope you can see the paradox this creates. As Blake mentioned, trying to cling to the idea of truly free choices and a fixed future is a logically incoherent position. Sure, if the future is fixed we make “choices” — but those choices are never between legitimate options unless the future is open (and thus unknowable).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 30, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  328. Blake, this is where you and I will have to disagree, because I see endless possibilities that Rock can chose from. He could pick A or start singing the Star Spangled Banner or say any word he knows from the dictionary or make one of a million different sounds. All these possibilities exist, you may say they are hypothetical and to a degree you are right, Rock can’t say two words at the same time. Rock can choose between a million hypothetical choices, BUT his choice is not hypothetical. Rock is choosing. Before we get to the moment, there is not one possibility, there is only one outcome.

    if you accept both free will and foreknowledge then we can generate a contradiction. So one of the premises must be given up. You refuse to give up any-so you hold an incoherent position. It really is that simple.

    No you state premi that are equivalent to your conclusion. You equat one possible outcome with only one truely available choice. You hold an unsubstantiated position that is supported by a logical falicy that fails to model the future just as if fails to model decisions made in the past. (see post 325)

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 11:40 am

  329. Did you look at post 325 and see that your logic applies to the past as well?

    Geoff, I can see the seeming paradox, but I also see through the parodox to a reality that you CHOOSE of your own free will to ignore. God can only see what we will choose to do, you imply that because we will eventually make a choice that we never really had the ability to chose, this doesn’t make any sense. I don’t see it the way you do.

    You think there was never a time when he actually had both options viably open to him because the future is fixed.

    But I see that he had options before he made the choice and I see God’s knowlege completely independant of Rock’s choice. That is what is so frustrating to me is that there is no connection, but you see that Rock will choose A so therefore he could have never chosen B, but I see that he could have choosen A or B, but would ultimately choose A.

    It isn’t a logically incoherent position, sometimes two seemingly inconsistent ideas are compatible even though they don’t appear to be.

    What makes an option legitimately open to me is if before hand both options were available, to you what makes two options legitimate is if no one knew what you would choose. Both options were available, but only one option could be choosen.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  330. Heli,
    I’ve come into this conversation a little late, but from what I’ve read it seems that your not catching the contradiction. You say that Blake states premises that are equivalent to his conclusion. That clearly is not true. If his premises were equivalent to his conclusion then you would disagree with his premises, but you clearly do not disagree with the premises, you are only disagreeing with the conclusion which is evidence that you are in the wrong. Your only possible way out of Blake’s reductio ad absurdum argument is to deny one of the premises or show a fallacy is reasoning, but I have yet to see you adequately prove the falsity of any of the premises, or the fallacy of Blake’s reasoning. Your dancing around the argument with several different analogies and explanations, but not engaging the argument directly.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — March 30, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

  331. Heli,

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that your example in 325 helps your case. It doesn’t. It is just another way of showing how foreknowledge and free will are incompatible. Even with an open fixed the past is fixed — none of us here dispute that. But in your example God always knew Rock would sin yesterday. All you are doing then is attacking your own position because the problem is that God knew Rock would sin prior to the sin. Therefore you have simply reiterated the fact that foreknowldedge is logically incompatible with foreknowledge. (Thanks.)

    But I see that he had options before he made the choice

    I am wondering why I am even bothering here…

    You are free to believe whatever you want.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 30, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

  332. Craig, did you check post 325 where I apply Geoff’s argument to the past? It appears to work just as well as to the future, then just maybe there is a flaw in the argument. I’m at work so I haven’t had much time to recheck it. But if Geoff’s argument produces a contradiction with knowlege about the past then I assert that the millions of logicians I disagree with may all be wrong.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  333. Geoff, yes, always knew applies to the present and past. Can’t you understand that if your argument (or whoever first came up with it) applies also to a fixed past then the arguement is flawed and wrong?

    If God knows perfectly the past, and you can’t change your decision in the past then you really didn’t have any options because you made the decision. Hypothetically you could have choosen something else, but you choose A and so you weren’t really free to choose.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

  334. Ummm aren’t we talking about foreknowledge here? Knowing what happened in the past is not in question. We all agree that the past is fixed.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 30, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

  335. And Geoff please don’t pick at straws, my example was clearly meant to show that the logical argument from 195 could apply to the past, I merely used the words, not to show God new ahead of time in the past, but just as they were used in the initial post. Pretty clearly wrong if the argument proves the past can’t be fixed.

    And don’t get so frustrated, we both believe we are right and if you can’t talk to someone who disagrees and still believes they are right you need to stop posting online. On any given subject you will find people who will not be convinced by the same argument you find compelling. This is a good example. I’m sure we agree on more than we disagree if we were to compare on other topics.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  336. Sorry, I thought it was clear that my post was meant to show that the 9 point argument could be applied to the past and would show that the past could not be fixed if we have free will.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  337. Heli,
    I agree with Geoff’s comments in 331. You haven’t really done anything to counter the argument. You’ve only proven our case. You didn’t change the premise that God always knew what Rock would do, there really isn’t a way of changing that to apply only to the past. Instead of dancing around the argument your only option is to address it head on. The argument is valid. You agree with all of the premises, you therefore must conclude that the conclusion is true. I see no other way around it.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — March 30, 2006 @ 1:03 pm

  338. Heli,
    The argument is Blake’s argument, Geoff is just using it. It’s called the “B” Argument.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — March 30, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

  339. If I wasn’t clear by changing the premis, please forgive and change it for me. My point is, and was that Blake’s argument applies to the past and proves that the past cannot be fixed if we have free will. Sorry Blake, but there is no distinction because your argument basically is if the future is fixed, then you only have one choice. Conversely if the past if fixed, then you only had one choice.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

  340. And don’t get so frustrated, we both believe we are right and if you can’t talk to someone who disagrees

    Disagreements don’t frustrate me — it is incoherent arguments that frustrate me. Here is an example of one of your inchoherent arguments:

    Blake’s argument applies to the past and proves that the past cannot be fixed if we have free will

    What on earth are you talking about? The past is fixed. Once we freely choose there is no unchoosing.

    please forgive and change it [B3] for me

    Maybe you should do that, just to be clear. Because the premise in question is that God always knew what Rock would do. If God did not know what God would do then we are in agreement after all. Are you sure you want to change that premise?

    PS – I’m sure that you are right that you and I agree on more things than we disagree upon.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 30, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

  341. This is the B argument applied to the past. This shows that under Blake’s reasoning that a fixed past and free will are not compatible. Since we all believe that the past is fixed and that we enjoy free will this argument is fallacious.

    B1) Rock sinned yesterday and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    (B3) God believes that Rock sinned yesterday (from B1 and B2);

    (B4) If God believes a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God does not believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    (B5) It is not in Rock’s power to act in a way that entails that God does not believed that Rock sinned yesterday (from B3 and B4);

    (B6) That Rock refrained from sinning yesterday entails that God does not believe that Rock sinned yesterday (from B2-semantically necessary truth);

    (B7) Therefore, it is not in Rock’s power to refrain from having sinned yesterday(from B5 and B6);

    (B8) If Rock acted freely when he sinned yesterday, then he also had it within his power to refrain from having sinned yesterday (assumption libertarian free will);

    (B9) Therefore, Rock did not act freely when he sinned yesterday (from B7 and B8).

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  342. Heli: It doesn’t follow merely from the fact that the past is fixed that we don’t free will. It only follows if the future follows from or is entailed by the past. The future would follow from or be entailed by the past if: (a) causal determinism is true; or (b) God has infallible foreknowledge. Geoff and I reject (B2) — we believe that God doesn’t have such infallible foreknowledge. We believe that God is omniscient in the sense that God knows all that it is logically possible to know; but it isn’t possible to know future acts of persons if they are free.

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

  343. Heli: Now the argument B as you have changed has nothing to do with God’s foreknowledge; it only has to do with God’s knowledge of the past. So it is now irrelevant to a discussion of foreknowledge which is what the argument is about. Surely you’re missing something here.

    Comment by Blake — March 30, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  344. I’m applying your argument to the past, thank you for pointing out the flaws though. Change B2 to say that it is impossible for God to believe something about the past that isn’t true. Would you still disagree, can God not even know the past? Is God just like us only observing what is in front of him, or only knows the present?

    I’m not actually trying to prove that the perfect knowlege of the past is incompatible, I’m trying to show that the set of arguments is flawed because you can apply it to the past and it still works which is clearly wrong.

    Comment by Heli — March 30, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  345. Heli,

    The basic position is that God knows everything about the past and the present but that he does not perfectly know the future because the future does not exist for him to know it. The good news about this position is that it leaves us truly free to choose in the present without predestined futures. The idea is that God is intelligent and powerful enough to be the ultimate predictor and to see to it that all of his purposes and promises are fulfilled.

    As Blake mentioned, since argument B is only designed to show that exhaustively knowing the future is in conflict with free will, arguing that God knows the past exhaustively is beside the point. None of us disagrees with that. But knowing the past is very different than knowing the future.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 30, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  346. Geoff, I fully understand your position, I simply disagree and that is fine.

    Do you actually think I was trying to argue God doesn’t know the past? I was simply showing that argument B is faulty because it also applies to the past. I assumed that you believe the past is fixed. If you don’t understand what I was trying to do with argument B then I don’t know that I can convey my understanding.

    I will try to find another explaination for my theory/belief. In essence I don’t believe that decisions that are fixed in the past or the future affect free will in the present. I only use the past as an example of fixed decisions that I assume we all agree on.

    Comment by Heli — March 31, 2006 @ 8:14 am

  347. Heli: I was simply showing that argument B is faulty because it also applies to the past.

    Right, but your attempt failed because all you showed was that foreknowledge is incompatible with free will (the opposite of your intention). Or in other words, if the events of yesterday were exhaustively known by God before yesterday then the choices made were not truly free.

    I assumed that you believe the past is fixed.

    The past is fixed — but the events of yesterday only became fixed after they happened. Before they happened they did not exist and the future was open. Again, this is why your attempts to tinker with arument B failed.

    I certainly agree with you that we can’t change past decisions now so we at least have that common ground.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 31, 2006 @ 8:29 am

  348. But you don’t believe that because past decisions are now fixed that you weren’t free at the time to make those decisions.

    I believe there is an open present and a fixed past and future. Only fixed on a quantum or spiritual level that God can see. I don’t necessarily believe in a multiverse where all moments in time exist simultaneously, thought that may exist also.

    Comment by Heli — March 31, 2006 @ 10:06 am

  349. I believe there is an open present and a fixed past and future.

    Yeah, I know. Lots of people believe as you do and I’m fine with that fact. If you come up with any defenses against Blake’s argument B (which shows the incompatibility of foreknowledge and free choices) let us know.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 31, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  350. Geoff, actually I showed that perfect knowlege of the past is incompatible with free will if argument B is valid. Therefore argument B is not valid. When I have some more free time I will redress this error again.

    Comment by Heli — April 2, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

  351. Heli: Once again please pay attention. The fixity of the past only impies the fixity of actions about the future if the past implies the future. The past implies the future only if causal determinism and/or perfect foreknowledge are accepted. The mere fact that the past is fixed by itself implies nothing about the future — it only implies that we cannot change the past and on that we are all agreed. You keep wanting to change the argument so that it makes your point; but you have the address the argument I gave, not the one you wish I had given so that you could avoid its implications.

    Comment by Blake — April 2, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

  352. Perhaps a simpler restatement of the argument might be helpful? It may be that avoiding more technical logical terminology (“entails”, etc.) can help clarify.

    1. (Assumption) Yesterday, God knew that I will sin at 5:00 this evening.

    2. (Assumption) God’s foreknowledge is infallible.

    3. (Assumption & definition of Libertarian Free Will) To be able to choose freely, I must have the power either to sin or to refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening.
        3a. (Corollary) To be able to choose freely, I must have the power to sin at 5:00 this evening.
        3b. (Corollary) To be able to choose freely, I must have the power to refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening.

    4. (Assumption) I do not have the power to change the past (fixed past).
        4a. (Corollary) I do not have the power to change what God knew yesterday.

    5. (Assumption) If I refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening, then God knew yesterday that I refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening (infallible foreknowledge).

    6. (Law of non-contradiction) However, since (per assumption 1) God knew yesterday that I sin at 5:00 this evening, it is impossible that God knew yesterday that I refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening (infallible foreknowledge).

    7. (Consequence) Therefore, it is impossible that I refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening (because either God’s knowledge would be wrong (contradicts #2) or I would have the power to change today what God knew yesterday: change the past (contradicts #4)).

    8. (Consequence) Therefore, I do not have the power to refrain from sinning at 5:00 this evening.

    9. (Consequence) Therefore, when I sin at 5:00 this evening, I am not doing so freely, since (per 3b) in order to do so freely, I would need to have the power to refrain from sinning.

    The crux of the argument is something like this: If God’s past foreknowledge is infallible (and the past is fixed), then the future is fixed, so we do not have the power to act other than we actually do in the moment of action. Therefore, our actions are not truly free, even if we feel like we are acting freely. The fact that the past is fixed is not a problem because in the moment of action, the action was not fixed. A fixed past only implies that we cannot now act otherwise than we already freely did. A fixed future, which means a fixed present, assuming God had infallible foreknowledge yesterday, implies that we cannot now act otherwise than we do and therefore are not free.

    If anyone thinks this argument is incorrect, it would be good to indicate, for each assumption, whether you agree or disagree with the assumption. If you disagree with other points that are not assumptions, please show why they do not follow from the assumptions, on an individual basis.

    It seems to me that the argument holds. It doesn’t address the issue of “choice” in the sense of how I feel about my actions or deliberate beforehand; it deals only with the actions themselves and what it means to say that those actions are free. It assumes that feeling like I am free is not sufficient for actual freedom (that would be “hypothetical free will”). It also doesn’t deal with anyone or anything “forcing” me to choose, only with the fact that the logical consequence of my inability to change the past is that I do not have an option open to me that is necessary for freedom. (It seems kind of odd to say that somebody “forces” me not to change the past — it’s just an impossibility, with no force involved.)

    Finally, if one attempts to apply this argument to the past to imply that our past actions were not free if we know them today, as has been done above, the issue one runs into is with assumption 1. It would have to be restated something like this: Tomorrow, God knows that yesterday I sinned at 5:00 p.m. Notice the tense of “knows” already implies the assumption of a fixed future. If the future is fixed as a consequence of the past, then the rest of the argument applies just as well to the past: our past actions were not free in the past, either. However, if we lose the assumption of a fixed future, then assumption 1 does not hold anymore: God does not know anything tomorrow, because the future is not fixed yet. Without that crucial assumption, the argument falls apart and cannot be applied to past actions.

    Comment by Grasshopper — April 4, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

  353. Grasshopper,

    As ever, thanks for your excellent contribution. I may end up using much of your comment in a follow up post on Blake’s argument B — too many people will never make all the way to comment #352 in this thread!

    Comment by Geoff J — April 5, 2006 @ 8:51 am

  354. Grasshopper, good to talk to you again, long time no see. I think I had this debate with you once before and I don’t think we resolved it either. The problem isn’t the complex logical terms, I do know what entails means I just disagree that the one entails the other.

    Your restatement does clairify what you may mean by those logical terms and I think the difference entirely between your, and Geoff’s, view and mine is what constitutes “the power to sin” or “refrain.” Your view is essentially that if the future is fixed then I didn’t have the power to choose because what I was going to do was already what I was going to do. I disagree because what you describe is not a choice but rather a movie or an automaton that moves along a script. If someone must follow a script they cannot be free, hence your conclusion and assumption that if someone is free then their actions cannot be know ahead of time.

    I on the other hand view future actions as choosen by the individual and God, completely outside and without interaction with the actor, simply knows what will be done. Like if I see someone with 3 choices and I predict they will pick A instead of B and they pick A then my prediction has no impact on their choice.

    I know, I know, if I had perfect knowlege then they wouldn’t really be free because they wouldn’t have a choice. I simply belive you are wrong because they have a choice and I simply know what it will be ahead of time. The had the “power” to choose between A and B and God knew they would choose A only because He can see what they will choose.

    As for your restatement were you trying to restate my past argument or Blake’s argument? Because my past argument showed that if the past is fixed then we aren’t free to make decisions because those decisions are fixed. I don’t know how you guys could misunderstand, but you both say my argument shows future past knowlege. Yet I’ve been clear that I was only showing that argument B could be re-written to address the past and therefore the argument isn’t valid because we both agree the past is fixed and we have free will.

    Comment by Heli — April 5, 2006 @ 8:48 pm

  355. Heli,
    Yes we all agree that the past is fixed, and we are also all in agreeance that we are not free to change that fixed past. What we are arguing over here is whether the future is open and whether we are free to affect outcomes of the future. All your argument has shown is that it is inconsistent to say that the past is fixed and yet are free to change the past, and that is ridiculously obvious. It is also inconsistent to say that the future is fixed and that we are free to change that future. You’ve only shown how clear the argument really is.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 5, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

  356. Alright Heli — I must confess that I am getting frustrated with your persistence now. I am becoming convinced that you do not actually understand the arguments at all here. I have concluded that I need to be more clear and direct in my comments or this could go on forever. I hope you will forgive my pointed comments and questions to follow.

    I do know what entails means I just disagree that the one entails the other.

    Please show us exactly where you disagree with the assumptions and their entailments in argument B. This general statement of yours is useless unless you do that.

    I on the other hand view future actions as choosen by the individual and God, completely outside and without interaction with the actor, simply knows what will be done.

    Stay with me here Heli… Blake’s argument B shows that what you believe here is logically impossible. Your belief is a paradox. I understand that you believe it, but it ain’t so. You can attempt to prove me wrong by showing us which assumptions or conclusions are incorrect in argument B. You have not done that in the least so far.

    Like if I see someone with 3 choices and I predict they will pick A instead of B and they pick A then my prediction has no impact on their choice.

    I believe God is the ultimate predictor. But predicting is something those who don’t know the future do. You believe that God knows the future because it has already happened from his perspective. If it has already happened then we are jsut actors in a movie after all.

    I simply belive you are wrong because they have a choice and I simply know what it will be ahead of time.

    When did they have a choice? Did they choose some eons ago before God already saw it happen? You can’t say they choose between legitimate options in the present because our present has forever been fixed and completed already in God’s perspective in your view.

    As for your restatement were you trying to restate my past argument or Blake’s argument?

    Ummmm… He’s trying to help you understand Blake’ argument. I think it didn’t work.

    Because my past argument showed that if the past is fixed then we aren’t free to make decisions because those decisions are fixed.

    No, no it didn’t. It supported Blake’s argument and revealed that you didn’t comprehend Blake’s argument in the first place.

    Yet I’ve been clear that I was only showing that argument B could be re-written to address the past and therefore the argument isn’t valid because we both agree the past is fixed and we have free will.

    Yeah, you said that but you were wrong. Your minor tweaks only showed that God didn’t know the free choices made yesterday before yesterday. That means God does not have foreknowledge.

    Again, I hope I am not offending you here but I am getting the feeling that being blunt may be the only useful communication tactic at this point.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 6, 2006 @ 9:40 pm

  357. Geoff, first you are not offending me, I am a bit frustrated just as you are. I used to think that God could not have perfect foreknowledge if we have meaningful or true free will. It didn’t make sense that God could know our future and yet we still be free to choose it. On the other hand, I was also concerned with the numerous scriptures that imply and even explicitly state that God does have such knowledge. One day while studying quantum physics I had one of those moments where I felt enlightened and I understood how these seemingly inconsistent concepts are compatible. Althought clearly the ability to describe or share my understanding is currently beyond my ability thought I really appreciate this dialogue because I think maybe I will discover how to describe and maybe more importantly understand more fully how such a dynamic is able to exist.

    I must admit I’m frustrated with my inability to explain myself. I know you and some others think I’m simply wrong and don’t understand and I think I’m right because I had that epiphany. Maybe I don’t understand how its possible as much as I know it is possible.

    Comment by Heli — April 8, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

  358. I’ll try to simplify my argument, not that you need it in simple terms but maybe it will help me understand and explain.

    Argument B is basically:

    If God has perfect foreknowlege then fixed future,
    If fixed future then you can’t change what will happen in the future
    For someone to choose you must be able to change the future.
    Real choices don’t exist if you can’t change the future.
    If the future is fixed then you don’t have real choices.

    Is the above accurate or are there errors?

    Comment by Heli — April 8, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

  359. Argument “B” is as simplified as it gets. By “simplifing” it you are simply changing the argument.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 9, 2006 @ 4:34 pm

  360. Craig, can you not see that several statements in Argument B are restatements of each other using different words.

    If I argue A = B, then I say if -A then -B. I’m really just restating. Can you say redundant? Sure you can, I knew you could.

    In my next post, when I have time, I will show the restated terms in Argument B.

    Comment by Heli — April 10, 2006 @ 10:50 am

  361. Heli,

    While some points in Argument B are similar, there are crucial nuances. I think Craig is right that there is no need to restate the argument — it is short and to the point as is. Why not simply engage it as is?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 10, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  362. Heli,
    It seems that the problem that you have with the argument is the same problem that everyone has with it that I’ve engaged. They don’t know what to do with the argument. It proves that the long held belief that God is both exhaustively omniscient and that we have free will is a contradictory belief. It is a valid argument, the premesies are true, and so the conclusion is a sound. The argument is a valid argument, I’m sure blake could put it into symbolic logic for you in order to show you the validity of it if you doubt that. You must reject one of the assumptions of the argument since the rest of premesies follow logically from those assumptions. The assumptions are…

    (B1) It has always been true that Rock will sin tomorrow and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    (B4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    (B8) If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will);

    That may simplify our task. You must respond to one of those 4 assumptions. Which one do you find to be false?

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 10, 2006 @ 11:58 am

  363. Thanks Craig, I guess I have to disagree with the wording of assumption B8. And by implication the entire argument. I believe that Rock has it in his power to choose to sin or not, BUT THAT HE WILL CHOOSE TO SIN. I can’t put it any simpler than that.

    I also have to disagree with the phrasing of B4 because it confuses the ability to choose with the outcome. Everyone has power to choose to sin or not. No one has the power to remove from God the knowledge of the outcome. B4 makes a connection between these separate ideas without any support except to restate the contested portion of the entire argument. I’ve stipulated that the future is fixed and all the other portions of the argument.

    You have the power to respond to my email or not. You can decide its not worth your effort or you can try to understand my view to either learn the truth or gain a better ability to teach my what you believe. Your mind may be open or closed based on all the experiences you’ve ever had, but directed by your own intelligence. Either way your choice in the future will be what it is. If you will start writing your response in 5 minutes then 5 minutes from now you will of your own volition start writing your response. The fact that this is what you will do in 5 minutes doesn’t detract or remove your ability to decide to do something else, its just that writing is what you will be doing. You didn’t lose the ability to sing or dance, but you will be writing because that is what you will decide to do in 5 minutes (well, now down to 4 minutes).

    Can you understand what I’m saying or are you completely and utterly wedded to Argument B? 100% certain that Argument B is flawless and untill I convert Argument B into a mathmatical equation and disprove it you will not vary?

    Sorry I said I would go through Argument B as I did many posts earlier, again, but its too late and I must go to bed.

    Comment by Heli — April 10, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

  364. Heli,
    If you disagree with (B8) then you do not believe in Libertarian Free Will, and if you do not believe in Libertarian Free Will, then I have no qualms with your reasoning, and I don’t think anyone else does either. The argument has been that Libertarian Free Will is inconsistent with God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, and it is, but you have denied that premise, so your reasoning works I guess.
    And I don’t think you can consistently reject B4 given the rest of the argument. You already rejected B8, so there is no reason for you to reject B4. B4 is intuitively true.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 11, 2006 @ 6:20 am

  365. I have to disagree, and maybe we will have to leave it at that. Libertarian Free Will requires that you make the choices you are faced with and that something innate within you, some inner cause, analyses your experience and the situation and makes an informed but potentially unique decision. Your additional assertion that LFW requires that the future be open is defining away the important aspect of free will.

    What is important is that you are making the decision and that you are more than simply a computer or an assembly of experiences that control how you react to any given circumstances. I’m arguing that your ability to make the decision is not compromised or affected or effected by God’s foreknowledge.

    Your argument is that if God knows, then you don’t really have a choice. But never is it explained how that knowledge impinges or affects your decision. Using the phrase of Argument B, “Rock doesn’t have the power” implies that he has lost the power or lacks the power to make a decision, but all he has lost are the alternate hypothetical outcomes.

    I have to reject B4 because its spin. Its framing the issue in a manner that ensures the outcome you seek. Its not accurate because it does conflate the power to make a decision with the outcome. If B4 is true, forget about every other assertion or point in the argument, if B4 was accurate then LFW doesn’t exist. You don’t need any other explaination.

    I think your powers of intuition inhibit your ability to consider other options or to reason how the grand scheme could work. I’m speaking about your comment, “B4 is intuitively true”.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the discussion, if I find a better way to explain my position I will address it again. I apologize for any frustration I have caused, but it is in earnest, I do believe Argument B does not accurately portray the dynamic, but obviously all my explainations are insufficient to sway your belief.

    Comment by Heli — April 11, 2006 @ 10:37 am

  366. Heli,
    Forget for a minute the argument. Do you believe that God is eternal and that we are too? Do you believe that we’ll live for an endless amount of time? If so, how can God know all the actual outcomes of our infinite amount of potentials? Also, if God knew before we came to earth that some of us were going to become sons of perdition and that “it were better that we not be born,” then why would he send us here? If it were better to never be born, then God (always wanting what is better) would never have sent us to earth. It seems inconceivable to think of God knowing all the future actions of eternal beings. It’s impossible to know an infinite amount of knowledge.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 11, 2006 @ 10:43 am

  367. I don’t believe necessarily that God can see all eternities, but I do believe he can see this one. The reason he sends sons of perdition to earth knowing what they would become is because they chose to keep their first estate.

    You say God always wants what is better as if that trumps agency. Clearly God respects the agency even of His children who chose not to respect Him. God gave everyone who wanted to come to this earth the choice regardless of what we’d experience.

    I suggest that you and I can’t know or even understand what is knowable. We don’t have a quantum computer for a brain (not that God does) but how could God preside over countless worlds without capacity we can only theorize about. Personally I can conceive how God may be able to understand the infinite if He is infinite. Just studying quantum computers the little that I have and combining that knowledge with a little organic computing and you could calculate whatever you wanted, especially if God is outside time as we know it.

    My theory is that God is litterally a being of light and as you may know if you could accelerate something with mass to the speed of light time comes to a stop (or at least thats a simple version of what our current understanding of relativity leads us to believe). I believe God is outside our time, “our eternity,” and can see “our eternity” in its entirety. In fact I believe some or all of us saw “our eternity” in the pre-existence and agree to come have all the experiences we would have in this life. I’ve known people who had dreams of the pre-existence and saw something that can be interpreted as what I’ve just described (I’m not saying this is doctrine of course, just theory).

    Comment by Heli — April 12, 2006 @ 8:09 am

  368. Personally I can conceive how God may be able to understand the infinite if He is infinite.

    What do you mean God is infinite? This is a meaningless term for me. You’ll have to explain.

    My theory is that God is litterally a being of light and as you may know if you could accelerate something with mass to the speed of light time comes to a stop (or at least thats a simple version of what our current understanding of relativity leads us to believe).

    I was under the impression that you were LDS, but this doesn’t sound anything like Mormonism to me. Last time I checked we believed that God was an embodied person. Not some “being of light”.

    I believe God is outside our time, “our eternity,” and can see “our eternity” in its entirety.

    This idea brings a lot of theological baggage with it that I don’t think your prepared to accept. If God is outside of our time and looking at it in it’s entirety then how does he make any changes in it? How can a God that is transcendent to our time have any sort of active influence with our time? It seems that a God who see’s what has happened is helpless to change what he has seen.

    In fact I believe some or all of us saw “our eternity” in the pre-existence and agree to come have all the experiences we would have in this life.

    So your saying that the sons of perdition saw that they would become the sons of perdition and choose to be born anyway with the knowledge that in the end they would be sent to outer darkness to suffer for eternity? Sorry, I can’t buy that.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — April 12, 2006 @ 8:46 am

  369. Yes God is an embodied person, please refer me to where in the scritpures it discusses the nature of a ressurected being. What is a body of flesh and spirit? Do you understand what that means? What exactly is spirit made of? Energy? Matter? A mix? Or something we don’t even understand.

    Again this is my attempt at a unification theory and in it God does have a body of mass. The scritpures indicates God is a being of light. Consider the First Vision. I’m just trying to put all these things in context.

    With respect to God being outside “our time” the scriptures indicate that time is different to God and the explaination compares 1000 years to a day. I don’t think God is outside our time/eternity in the sense He cannot interact but only in the sense that He can see all of it and enter at any point He deems necessary. Your assumption of the “theological baggage” is your own. I didn’t say that He can’t make changes or that He couldn’t have influence, why do you attribute ideas to me that I never suggested. When I said God is outside our time I thought it was obvious I was referring to the fact that we don’t understand currently, His state of existence. Apparantly you deal alot in absolutes so you read “God is” to mean “God always is” when the scriptures usually use the word “is” in a more limited sense (i.e. God is spirit, God is love). But if you want to creat straw arguments to disagree thats fine.

    sons of perdition and choose to be born anyway with the knowledge that in the end they would be sent to outer darkness to suffer for eternity? Sorry, I can’t buy that.

    What does suffer mean to God? Be separate from Him, what does outer darkness mean to a son of perdition? I don’t know. I hope I never know. But you seem very certain of ideas that you don’t seem to have given much thought to. I may be wrong about my “theory” but I wouldn’t knock it until you consider the ideas in the context of what we know. If you find my theory to be inconsistent with the gospel in concrete ways please let me know.

    Sorry if I was abrasive in my response. I appreciate your comments.

    Comment by Heli — April 12, 2006 @ 11:31 am

  370. Craig, I apologize for taking offense at your accusation that I’m not LDS. LDS beliefs are fairly unique and can be explained in a number of ways (I’ve heard LDS our religion attacked for believing God is an extraterestrial, if you belive in Kolob or Kokobeam then you can see how that description may fit LDS theology).

    I guess I’d have to write a short treatise to fully delineate my theory instead of trying to give sound bites on a blog. Maybe I will.

    Comment by Heli — April 12, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

  371. I have recently been thinking about Blake’s argument against exhaustive foreknowledge as presented in #194.

    Before I go on, let me be clear about my position. First of all, I am an atheist, however this does not mean I cannot have a position regarding what Mormon doctrine does and does not entail, so please don’t bring it up any more.

    Second, I agree that Mormon doctrine, the idea that God, like everything and everyone else is a material being to be specific, does entail that God cannot have exhaustive foreknowledge. Accordingly, it is not the conclusion of the argument which I disagree with, but rather the argument itself so any proof texts which attempt to show that God does or does not have exhaustive foreknowledge will largely be beside the point.

    Third, I think that the materialism inherent in Mormon doctrine argues against any kind of freewill which requires indeterminism to play a functional roll. I suspect that just such a kind of freewill is necessary for Blake’s argument to go through, but this is not the issue which I wish to raise. Thus, I wish to avoid the Determinism vs. LFW debate, just as I wish to avoid proof texts and questions regarding my own personal beliefs.

    With these things out of the way, let me, in the next comment move on to Blake’s argument.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 24, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

  372. (Functional) Rolls. Yummy.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 24, 2007 @ 6:30 pm

  373. Sorry for the false start. I should have my comment up before I go to bed. I’m sure you will all be waiting on the edge of your seats. ;-)

    Comment by Jeff G — October 24, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

  374. Jeff G, while I’m waiting on the edge of my seat, I just want to say I am sorry your atheism comes up so frequently when you contribute in the bloggernacle.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 24, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

  375. Blake’s argument is basically the old argument that if God always knew what you would do, then you couldn’t have done otherwise, and therefore would not be free to do otherwise. The natural response given by most everybody when first exposed to this argument is that God’s knowing what you would do does not mean that this makes Him somehow responsible for what you would do. The appropriate counter-reply to this would be to point out that this response only changes the subject at hand: we are not really talking about responsibility, only the power to do otherwise. I think this counter-reply short changes the power of the objection at hand. What the objection is trying to capture has little to do with responsibility, per se, but rather the counter-factual possibilities which are seen as a precondition for responsibility. If I choose A, God knew I would choose A. If I had chosen B instead, God would have known this as well. It was still be choice which could have gone either way, and God’s foreknowledge does not constrain my choice in any morally significant way.

    That is basically the jist of what is to follow. Let us start again from scratch by looking at Blake’s argument. It requires the following premises in order for his conclusion to logically follow:

    (B1) It has always been true that Rock will sin tomorrow and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth);

    (B2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience);

    (B4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);

    (B8) If Rock acts freely when he sins tomorrow, then he also has it within his power to refrain from sinning tomorrow (assumption libertarian free will);

    All four of these premises involve claims regarding what is and is not possible. In other words, they are modal claims about possibility and necessity. This would not, it itself, be such an issue, where it not for the fact that modal claims are notorious for producing scope ambiguity. Consider, for example, B4 which basically says that since God knows what you will actually do, you do not have the power to do other than what you actually do. This claim can be read in two ways:

    Suppose the following: A is some action performed by some person, W is some possible world, and W0, W1, W2, W3, etc. are particular possible worlds:

    B4a: For all A, there is no possible world, W, in which the following is true [God believes that A obtains in W and A does not obtain].
    B4b: For all A, such that God, in W0, believes that A obtains in W0, there is no possible world, W1, W2, W3, etc, in which A does not obtain.

    It is important that the difference between the two readings is understood and appreciated, for it is my contention that in the end B4a, the most natural way of cashing out exhaustive foreknowledge, does not support Blake’s conclusion. B4a holds that whatever happens in this world, God already believed it would happen, and if different things had happened instead, God would have believed them instead. B4b says something very different and is a far stronger claim, namely that whatever happens in this world, God already believed it would happen, and things could not have been otherwise. Exhaustive foreknowledge entails B4a but B4b is something else entirely.

    In terms of Blake’s argument the phrase “having the power to do otherwise” has two very different meanings. In one sense, that of B4a, it is not in our power to do other than what God knows we will do in the same way that it is not in our power to do other than what we actually do; such a thing is logically impossible, given exhaustive foreknowledge. In another sense, that of B4b, it is not in our power to do other than what God knows we will do because our future and us are, somehow, constrained by God’s foreknowledge in a way which impedes on our freedom.

    Let us restructure Blake’s argument by making some substitutions which are sensitive to these modal ambiguities:
    ‘Rock sins’ = ‘A obtains’
    ‘Rock will actually sin tomorrow’ = ‘A obtains in W0’ (W0 corresponds to the actual world)
    ‘Rock has the power to A’ = ‘It is possible that A obtains’
    ‘It is possible that A obtains’ = ‘A does obtain in some W’

    B1a: It has always been true that A will obtain in W0 and it is possible to know this truth now.

    B2a: It is impossible that God, in any W, should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth which will obtain in W.

    B3a: God, in W0, has always believed that A will obtain in W0. (B1a, B2a)

    B4a: For all A, there is no W in which God believes that A obtains in W and A does not obtain in W.

    B5a: A does not obtain in W0, but A does obtain in some other W.(!) (B3a, B4a)

    B6a: That A does not obtain in W0 entails that God, in W0, has always believed that A does not obtain in W0. (B2a)

    B7a: Therefore, it is possible that A does not obtain. (B5a)

    B8a: If Rock acts freely when A obtains, then it is possible that A does not obtain.

    B9a: Therefore, Rock acts freely when A obtains. (B7a, B8a)

    For those of you not familiar with modal logic, and I am barely competent myself, let me paraphrase what the above argument shows. According to modal logic, to say that something is possible is to say that there is some possible world in which that something obtains. To say that something is impossible is to say that there is no possible world in which that something obtains. What exhaustive foreknowledge amounts to, basically, is the claim that there is no possible world in which A obtains, but God, in that same world, believes that A does not obtain.

    The revised argument shows that because A obtains in W0, God, in W0, must also believe that A obtains in W0. But this says absolutely nothing about whether God, in W0, believes that A obtains in other W’s (i.e. W1, W2, W3, etc.). More importantly, it says absolutely nothing about whether God, in some other W, believes that A obtains in that same W. In other words, just because Rock does not have the power to sin tomorrow in a world where God knows that he will does not mean that Rock does not have the power to sin tomorrow at all. If Rock sins tomorrow in some possible worlds, then it is possible that Rock sins tomorrow, and therefore Rock has the power to sin tomorrow.

    The most promising response for Blake to take at this moment would be for him to show how exhaustive foreknowledge and/or Mormon doctrine are somehow incompatible with talk of possible worlds. This seems problematic for a number of reasons. First, ‘possible worlds’ are merely ways of cashing out what possibility and necessity amount to. They are not meant to be taken literally, as Blake well knows. Second, any move to place God outside of all possible worlds is firmly blocked by the Mormon insistence that God exists in space and time, just like the rest of us. Third, and closely related to the first issue, is that the problems with Blake’s argument derive not from the use of possible worlds, but rather from an ambiguity of scope inherent in modal claims. At the very least, if Blake were to restructure his argument in terms of modal logic he would be doing a great service to us all.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 24, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  376. As a sort of post-script:

    I should repeat, I still think that Mormon doctrine entails the impossibility of exhaustive foreknowledge. I think that the materialism inherent in Mormonism requires such, but this is a whole different issue. I’m also open to the possibility that other arguments along different lines can be brought against exhaustive foreknowledge. I just think that Blake’s argument is bogus, and really who, upon hearing his argument for the first time, didn’t think that something fishy was going on?

    Since many here do not see the Mormon materialism entailing the same things I do regarding the nature of the mind, many can freely interpret my rebuttal to Blake as a defense of exhaustive foreknowledge while still holding to a belief in a freewill.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 24, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

  377. Jeff: The problem with possible worlds is that such a construct is not very useful with respect to power attribution. Consider: Even though I am chained to the furnace downstairs, there is a possible world in which I rip the furnace out of the building and I am free to leave the basement. However, no one in their right mind would assert that I could actually have such power. Further, possible worlds are not “modal logic” in their nature, but merely heuristic devices. The actual modal operators or “necessarily,” “possibly” and “impossible.” However, the kind of possibility at issue, as everyone in the discussion has recognized, involves what is physically and temporally possible — not whether it is imaginable. The biggest problems with possible worl s semantics is that it has a hard time distinguishing between what is actual and what is actually possible (this is the problem of actualism which you can get a very brief introduction to here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/possible-objects/). The other problem is that possible worlds semantics has a hard time distinguishing what is imaginable from what is possible. The two are not the same. I can imagine a world without Lincoln. Such a world just isn’t possible now.

    Take an example. There is now an actual world where Lincoln was never born. However, that world is not possible given the temporal status of world after Lincoln has been born. So what kind of necessity are we now talking about? Merely using possible worlds logic, it is now possible for God to create that world where Lincoln was never born — and if God is somehow timeless, that world remains just as open and possible as the world where Lincoln is born. However, for those who accept the A-theory of time, it is not the case now that the world where Lincoln was never born is now possible. That is because it is impossible both for Lincoln to be born and for Lincoln to never be born. Given that fact, it is now temporally impossible that Lincoln have never existed. Thus, there are kinds of necessity and possibility beyond merely logical modal claims. One could say that there is a type of temporal necessity — as I do. Further, Mormon materialism actually entails this type of temporal necessity. Given that God has a body, God is limited by the temporal nature of the laws that define having a body of the kind God has — which may be very different than the kind of matter we know.

    These reasons explain why Alvin Plantinga and Stephen Davis, who both gave a similar argument to yours based upon possible worlds logic, later admitted that possible worlds logic wasn’t well suited for discussing issues of what is within our power to do. They both gave arguments that are a form of the Ockhamist argument that propositions about the past are soft and not hard facts. However, they both later acknowledged that possible worlds semantics is not an adequate vehicle for discussions of temporal necessity, possibility and impossibility.

    So I suggest that the “fishiness” you attribute to the argument is actually a fishiness about possible worlds and your argument. BTW I discussed the problems with possible worlds semantics in an appendix to vol. 1 that Greg Kofford thought was just too pedantic for any audience. If need be, I’ll find it on an old drive and resurrect it. But it is pedantic.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 6:58 am

  378. Jeff: to show the mess of possible worlds issues, let’s look at your argument in nutshell: “The revised argument shows that because A obtains in W0, God, in W0, must also believe that A obtains in W0. But this says absolutely nothing about whether God, in W0, believes that A obtains in other W’s (i.e. W1, W2, W3, etc.). More importantly, it says absolutely nothing about whether God, in some other W, believes that A obtains in that same W. In other words, just because Rock does not have the power to sin tomorrow in a world where God knows that he will does not mean that Rock does not have the power to sin tomorrow at all. If Rock sins tomorrow in some possible worlds, then it is possible that Rock sins tomorrow, and therefore Rock has the power to sin tomorrow.”

    Look, what the God who actually exists in W1 believes in the actual world is all that is relevant. What a possible god believes in some other possible world, W0, is irrelevant, logically, to what is possible for God to know or within my power to do in W1. Indeed, is the god in W0 even the same being as the God in W1? If a being in WO had power to rip the furnace out of the basement, how is that person identifiable with me in W1? I don’t believe that identity statements translate well across possible worlds and thus I doubt that such comparisons can be made at all. As I state in the first chapter of vol. 1, I adopt possible worlds semantics only as heuristic devices and not as reliable modal logic statements. Since I am a conceptualist, I don’t see possible worlds as accurate semantics about modal claims.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  379. Blake,

    I am more than willing to admit that there might be something fishy about my argument as presented. However, my contention was that people think your argument is fishy before they hear any reply to it at all. I still feel this way.

    That said, the meat of my argument is that your argument relies upon an ambiguity in scope. One reading of B4 is entailed by exhaustive foreknowledge but is quite benign. The other reading is not at all benign, but is not entailed by exhaustive foreknowledge.

    Regarding my use of the word “possible” you can interpret it any way you want. My argument does not rely upon an interpretation of logical or physical possibility.

    Your final paragraph, I suggest, is completely wrong. What God believes in other possible world is entirely relevant, for this is what captures the idea that God would have believed differently if we had chosen differently. Again, possible worlds semantics is not essential to this argument, but I don’t see what is wrong with adopting ‘God’ and ‘Rock’ as rigid designators which pick out, respectively, the same individual across many possible worlds. Indeed, I can’t think of any safer implementation of this idea than in the case which we are now considering. Is it really that hard to say that the individual in W1 who believes that A obtains and the individual in W2 who is exactly the same as the first individual in every respect save that he believes that A does not obtain is actually the same person? That seems really far fetched.

    Here is what I think would make this debate move forward a little better. I think that your argument equivocates on the word “power.” I think that the word in B4 means something very different from the word as used in B8.

    While I’m sure you object to me placing the burden of proof so squarely on your shoulders in this particular debate, I think it would really help you argument out if you could show that not only are the two uses the same, but that exhaustive foreknowledge is actually committed to this single meaning.

    Again, just to be clear, the two uses are captured in the scope ambiguity which I detect in B4. Let me give a very similar example:

    “I could not do other than what I did yesterday.”

    In one sense, this is trivially true assuming we accept the law of non-contradiction. In another sense it is a strong claim indeed which is true only if we accept a rather fatalist view of ourselves (A view which you actually attribute to me). I see a very similar confusion in your B4, and if you could simply clear this up it would make your argument a lot better, IMO.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 25, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  380. Jeff: Just where is your study of people showing that they feel fishy about it before presented? My experience is that people feel it is fishy that God can know the future and yet the future is open in a sense that we could be free.

    I know that your argument doesn’t rely upon logical or physical possibility — that is precisely the problem. The issue is precisely what is temporally and physically feasible given a world in which God has foreknowledge. All of those possible worlds in which God doesn’t have foreknowledge aren’t relevant — and neither are those that aren’t physically, metaphysically and temporally feasible. So you just misconstrue what possible worlds semantics can show regarding power entailment.

    So your assertion that other possible worlds may be relevant is in part true — but only those possible worlds that are temporally feasible at the time in question. You haven’t limited your discussion to those temporally feasible possible worlds — i.e., possible worlds that are compossible with what has already obtained in the actual world up to the time in question. That is your mistake. That is also the nub of the entire issue.

    And the person who believes at t that A obtains and the one who believes at t that A doesn’t obtain could be the same person, but they couldn’t exist in the same possible world! Moreover, there is a world of difference between a person who infallibly believes that A obtains and one that doesn’t. So the issue is precisely what is compossible with the actual world that has obtained up to the moment in question. You simply miss that and as a result the scope of the modal operator in possible world semantics is much too broad because it includes temporally non-feasible worlds or worlds not compossible with the actual world.

    If you believe there is an equivocation in the word “power” in premises B4 and B8 then you need to show it rather than assert it. I discuss this notion of power at length when I discuss power to bring about or change the past in chapter 9 — so it isn’t a possible ambiguity that I leave ambiguous. Indeed, the very mistake you accuse of me of making I clarify at length when discussing the distinction between fatalism and power entailment of temporally necessary facts. I distinguished precisely between the fatalist use of the word and the temporally necessary use of the word for power entailment. So I guess I’m at a loss to figure out what you think needs to be clarified.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

  381. Jeff,

    I agree with Blake as to the fishyness. My experience is that even pretty young kids (10-12) at some point stumble on the question of how they can really be free if God already knows what they will do before they do it. All the explanations I was given as a child always seemed fishy to me (which I later decided was because all of those explanations were bunk).

    Comment by Jacob J — October 25, 2007 @ 1:19 pm

  382. As to fishiness, I definitely understand when you guys are coming from. My “study” (do I really have to back everything up with a study?) is simply the fact that every time I present Blake’s argument to somebody, without fail they simply respond by saying “I could have done differently, and God would have known that as well. I simply don’t see the contradiction.” That said, every person I have talked to is also unable to say where Blake’s argument goes wrong. In other words, they get kind of lost in the argument and never really resolve it to their satisfaction either way. While this could be due to the fact that people desperately want, but are unable to have exhaustive foreknowledge and freewill, I think that such a view of these people is rather cynical at best.

    It is due to this uncertainty which I think most all people have on the issue that I claim the burden of proof to lie squarely on Blake’s shoulders. This is not even to fact that he has written a book in which is attempts to resolve the issue, an action by which he tacitly assumes the burden of proof. For him to simply say that the reader is not clear enough to refute his argument, and should therefore be convinced by it until they can is simply unacceptable. The burden is on him to make the issue clear, not the reader.

    “You haven’t limited your discussion to those temporally feasible possible worlds — i.e., possible worlds that are compossible with what has already obtained in the actual world up to the time in question. That is your mistake. That is also the nub of the entire issue.”

    This is an important point indeed. I apologize if you actually addressed this in your book. It was a long time ago that I read it, and the ex-wife has it now, so all I have to go on was the argument as presented above.

    I think that if one incorporates this into the argument you may have something, but I’m still not entirely convinced. Forgive me if what I’m about to say was also addressed in your book.

    I worry that exhaustive foreknowledge does not entail B2 as you suggest. In what sense is it impossible for God to be wrong about the future? It is certainly logically possible, for I see absolutely no reason to believe that God’s knowledge has anything to do with logical necessity. Furthermore, Mormon doctrine entails that there are no actual miracles, that God must operate in accordance with natural law in some sense.

    This seems to leave us with two options. Some kind of backwards causation, which while admittedly weird, does seem to allow for freewill. Or the idea that God just knows that much about us and our environment to make reliable predictions about us without fail. As Talmage has pointed out, this seems to allow for freewill as well.

    Of course, your response at this point will be to ask how it can possibly be that God can predict our actions without fail? But it remains unclear to me why the believer in exhaustive foreknowledge cannot simply say “I don’t know.” After all, the burden of proof is on you, Blake, not the reader. You have to show why this option of not actually open to the reader.

    Again, sorry if you already addressed this in your book.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 25, 2007 @ 2:21 pm

  383. Jeff G. says: For him to simply say that the reader is not clear enough to refute his argument, and should therefore be convinced by it until they can is simply unacceptable. The burden is on him to make the issue clear, not the reader.

    I am simply confused by this kind of an assertion. I readily admit that I have the burden of proof — and I have carried it off by giving an argument with intuitively true premises that logically entails that infallible foreknowledge and libertarian free will are not compatible. That not merely meets and provides any burden of proof, it now shifts the burden to those who would reject the argument to either accept it or show where it goes wrong. So observations about burden of proof are simply misdirections. I think I’ve made the issues crystal clear by giving an argument that lays bare all of its premises and assumptions — nothing more can be asked. The argument is clearly logically valid.

    While you may be correct that mere foreknowledge by a fallible human does not entail premise B2 (precisely because a human can be mistaken and therefore really doesn’t have knowledge of type under consideration), it is fairly clear that infallible foreknowledge does. If you admit that God just could be wrong about the future, then you admit in the same breath that there is nothing that grounds God’s knowledge of the future (there is no explanation as to how or on what basis God knows the future), then his so-called “knowledge” has the same logical status as mere luck or conjecture. But that surely is not the kind of knowledge the believer in God claims that God has.

    Further, I’ve already dealt with the two options you say remain. Backward causation when speaking of divine foreknowledge involves a vicious circularity and thus is incoherent. The notion that God just knows that much about us as Talmage argues, assumes that knowing all there is to know about us is a basis for sure knowledge of what we will do in the future and thus assumes a type of determinism that is at least as otiose to free will as foreknowledge is.

    Jeff. No need to be sorry, since I enjoy the discussion and the issues you raise are thoughtful and intelligent. I’m grateful for your willingness to dialog on this issue. I encourage folks to try to find some flaw in the argument — tho as you say, there are also other reasons for maintaining that God doesn’t have foreknowledge.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  384. BTW Jeff, if your ex has my book, maybe you could find out whether she has read it. If she hasn’t you ought to seek custody of it or at least week-end visitation {grin}.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  385. “If you admit that God just could be wrong about the future, then you admit in the same breath that there is nothing that grounds God’s knowledge of the future (there is no explanation as to how or on what basis God knows the future), then his so-called “knowledge” has the same logical status as mere luck or conjecture. But that surely is not the kind of knowledge the believer in God claims that God has.”

    1. See, here is where people probably will get uneasy. There is a difference between God being unable to be wrong and God simply never being wrong. Why can’t we say that God can be wrong, but never is?

    2. Furthermore, there is a difference between my not being able to provide an explanation for God’s abilities and there not, in fact, being an explanation. Given this, I see no reason to believe that God’s abilities are based in luck or something of the sort.

    3. I also worry that infallible foreknowledge may not be the same as exhaustive foreknowledge. I think that this is what (1) is trying to capture. Infallible means that God can’t be wrong, whereas exhaustive simply means that He never is wrong.

    4. I think you need to be a little more explicit in why God’s ability to be wrong, an ability which is never manifest, entails that there cannot be anything which grounds God’s foreknowledge. This step is not at all clear to me.

    5. I don’t think that the Talmage example entails determinism. At minimum, I think it needs to be spelled out in more detail why this is so. Why cannot God simply know what kind of free choices we are prone to make with an unparalleled accuracy?

    Comment by Jeff G — October 25, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  386. Jeff,

    Thank you for resurrecting this thread. A few years ago when Blake’s book first appeared, a friend of mine recommended it and I read it. My friend was a stanch believer in libertarian free-will and I was a compatibilist. We went through Blake’s argument over and over. I probably denied about half of the premises at one time or another. I’ll outline my current take a little later.

    What caught my eye, however, was your claim: “I agree that Mormon doctrine, the idea that God, like everything and everyone else is a material being to be specific, does entail that God cannot have exhaustive foreknowledge.” Interestingly enough, this was the biggest problem I had with Blake’s book. Now let me be clear. From what I know of Blake he is a great guy, a faithful member of the church, and very intelligent. He is clear in his thinking and writing. He doesn’t hold heretical beliefs, nor does he preach against God’s anointed. That said, my impression upon my first reading of his book was that he made it sound like foreknowledge is contrary to Mormon thought/doctrine. This simply is not the case. Yes, it is possible to make our canon compatible with the notion that God doesn’t know what will happen. Yes, it isn’t revealed doctrine that God’s foreknowledge is infallible. Yes to every other qualifier. That said, many Mormons believe in foreknowledge, it is taught in our manuals, and the prophets of our church have said quite a bit on the topic. Again I should probably add that our prophets were not addressing the philosophical notions of “infallibility” or “timelessness” or things of that sort. But that being said, the plain meaning of their words is that God knows what will happen. If you’d like a few of the quotations in question, I can post them. On the flip side, it is difficult to find any of them claiming that God does not know something in the future. (I think there was once an article in the New Era–a magazine for young adults–in which Pres. Faust said something that could be construed as God does not know the future. But that is about the extent of what I could find. Maybe others here know of other statements.)
    I felt this was probably the biggest weakness in Blake’s book. He tackles the philosophical ramifications of different forms of foreknowledge, and addresses some of the scriptures used to support foreknowledge, but he never addressed the numerous statements from our prophets on the matter–except some of the statements that Elder Talmage made concerning the modal fallacy, and some conversations he had with Elder Maxwell. It troubles me when anyone asserts that exhaustive foreknowledge is incompatible with Mormon doctrine. That is simply incorrect (currently).

    That said, let’s go ahead and delve into Blake’s argument. I’ll go ahead and simplify the argument slightly, to an actual situation, to demonstrate how I (as a Mormon) view his argument.

    (1) It is true, today (Nephi’s time), that sometime in the future (at least 600 years) Christ will freely atone for our sins. (Weak form of omnitemporality of truth)
    (2) God knows that Christ will atone for our sins in the future. (Foreknowledge)
    (3) God tells Nephi the truth, that Christ will freely atone for our sins. (Assumption)
    (4) It is not within anyone’s power to affect the past. (Assumption: Fixed Past)
    (5) It will not be within Christ’s power to do anything that will change what God told Nephi. (By 5)
    (6) Therefore, Christ will not have the power to not atone for our sins (From 3 and 5)
    (7) Free will entails that I have the power to sin and to refrain from sinning. (Assumption: libertarian free will)
    (8) Christ didn’t have free will in His choice to atone. (from 6 and 7)
    (9) Contradiction. (1 and 8)

    This form of the argument removes the assumption that everything is in “God’s mind”, and could be different in some other possible world. In any possible world which Nephi inhabits where God tells Him about Christ, and into which Christ is born, God will either have to be a liar (which He isn’t), Christ has no power to refraim from atoning (which He did), one of the premises is wrong, or the argument is flawed. I have no need to deny point (1), although I understand that Blake personally denies omnitemporality of truth. Blake deals with what it means to “know” fairly well in his book, so we’ll skip over point (2). Point (3) is a given. I’m fairly sure that this argument is cogent, so if we want to hold to God’s foreknowledge we must deny either point (4) or point (7).

    On point (7) I’m not sure I’ve actually accurately captured libertarian free will. I think it involves a little more: namely the power to sin AND the power to refrain from sinning. But arguments about libertarianism and compatibilism will continue to go on, and I have no desire to delve into them. Except I wish to say that if I can choose to sin in a possible world which matches this one in every manner, but not sin in this world, that seems really weird to me.

    So either you take issue with one of the earlier hypotheses (I think you were going towards #2, and what it means to “know”) or you look at #4. Blake said earlier in the thread: “Backward causation when speaking of divine foreknowledge involves a vicious circularity and thus is incoherent.” Strangely, the point of foreknowledge is EXACTLY backwards causation! Why else would we care whether or not God knows what will happen? Because the future affects God, who then can affect the past. God doesn’t just secretly hold what will happen in His mind. He shares it with others, to give them hope and knowledge. Yes, this might seem a bit strange. But stop for just a minute and consider the following. It is no more counter-intuitive than the idea that God can travel faster than the speed of light, or hears our prayers when we pray them and can answer them instantaneously. According to modern physics, such a process would contradict linearity of causality.

    I suppose one could postulate that God only runs one world at a time in the universe, and stays close by so that relativistic problems do not arise. Or He delegates prayer answering to local beings; and it will only be millions of years before we can return to where He is in space (and our prayers actually finally reach His ears). But, intuitively, most people believe God hears their prayers instantly and (sometimes) answers instantly. Many Mormons believe that He can travel across the universe immediately from Kolob to Earth. That He has created worlds without number, and all of them are inhabited (many by mortals currently). So, my feeling is that time is not linear, and that when the “perfect day” bursts forth, we become one with all time, simultaneously being affected by and affecting all time.

    Anyway, I think that if we accept point (4), there is really no purpose for foreknowledge, and no need to defend it. Foreknowledge is intrinsically opposed to the idea that we cannot affect the past via God.

    I believe it was Blake who said that his argument was designed to take into account any manner whereby God obtained His foreknowledge (including Urim and Thummim’s, etc…). My solution is that the method of coming to this foreknowledge directly contradicts an unaffectable past. The universe becomes omnitemporally-entangled with God, as the brightness of the perfect day breaks forth upon Him. But these are only my own personal musings. For a more solid foundation I would refer you to what our prophets and scriptures have said.

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — October 25, 2007 @ 6:59 pm

  387. I must confess, I would be very interested to hear Blake’s take on Christ decision to go through with the atonement. If it can be said that God knew anything beforehand, it was this. Does this mean that Christ did not use his freewill in performing the atonement?

    Comment by Jeff G — October 25, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

  388. Jeff: It means that the Father trusted Christ — that is why he sent the best there was. Such trust approaches infallible knowledge. It is like the knowledge that Mother Teresa was unlikely to run off an join a brothel. It could happen. It is logically and temporally possible that Christ could fail. But he is so trustworthy that doubting his commitment to the Father is like doubting that Bush will remain Republican.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 8:42 pm

  389. Now THAT sounds like something many members will probably be uncomfortable with. I know reducing such things to numerical probabilities is a little crass, but what, exactly, where the chances that Christ would choose not to do it? What were the chances that we would all be completely screwed? Most, I suggest, would say that even though Christ could have failed, that there was the possibility, he was never going to and God 100% sure of it. Your model, however, doesn’t seem to allow for this, and this seems problematic.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 25, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

  390. Jeff: That is the whole point of interpersonal trust. So many want absolute guarantees. They won’t worship God unless it is logically impossible for God to change, logically necessary that God is good, logically guaranteed that God will accomplish it all regardless of free will. Well, divine risk is just what Mormonism embraces. None were guaranteed exaltation. None were guaranteed to remain faithful throughout life (as you well know). None were guaranteed that they would be saved. Guarantees are what Satan wants.

    It is also the point about honoring God as a person in interpersonal relationships rather than treating God as some equation. It isn’t faith at all, and certainly not trust, when everything must be guaranteed by logical necessity or the certainty of foreknowledge. It is a shallow faith at best and a pale comparison to genuine interpersonal relationship when one demands such guarantees as the condition of their allegiance. Let the Calvinists have their logical guarantees and eternal decrees; I’ll take the living God who interacts in interpersonal intimacy in the here and now.

    Comment by Blake — October 25, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

  391. Amen Blake.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

  392. Nobody said anything about logical necessity of any kind.

    Rather, the idea that for all God knew, it was possible that each and every single soul sent to earth would not have any chance for salvation seems more than a little horrifying, does it not?

    We are all screwed if Jesus failed.
    For all God knew, Jesus might have failed.
    For all God knew, we might have all been screwed.

    I would love to find a single passage where prior to Christ’s advent, God hedged his bets in any way when prophesying about what would happen.

    Furthermore, I think you have gone way too far in suggesting that a faith in a God who knew that His plan wouldn’t fail is shallow in comparison to the alternative. This is a highly uncharitable reading of those who disagree with you. Of course, I should also point out that the faith in logical certainty which you criticize isn’t the faith that I’m defending either. Maybe you aren’t being that uncharitable after all. ;-)

    Comment by Jeff G — October 25, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

  393. Jeff,

    If you want your arguments based on the atonement to hold any weight at all here you will first need to explain what you believe about the atonement. We have discussed all kinds of atonement theories at length here in the past and there is anything but consensus on the subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2007 @ 1:02 am

  394. Jeff: If you want examples of prophecies where God hedged his bets, you might want to look at my book pp. 299-312, where I give numerous examples of God saying “perhaps” and “if” in prophecies. In fact, if you’ll look at the post on the Openness of God on this blog, you’ll see that Jeremiah says that there is an “if” in everything that God says!

    Jeff, I am not being uncharitable, just poignant and ironic. There is a difference. If a person demanded a guarantee of success before they married, they would never marry. If they demanded that their spouse were logically guaranteed never to fail them before risking in the relationship, there would be no relationships at all. Most importantly, if they refused to trust unless everything were certain, we would have followed Satan’s plan rather than the Father’s plan for Christ’s atonement. The fact is that Christ could have failed in the sense that he was free to refuse to love us, free to choose not to drink that bitter cup. In another sense, why couldn’t there have been a plan B, C and D? I suggest that Christ is so trustworthy and worthy of our devotion and faith that we could trust him completely — the way I trust some of my friends and my wife. I also argue that in the absence of the possibility of such failure, we cannot trust. The possibility of failing to do what we trust a person to do is essential to the act of trusting. If there were no possibility of failure, there would be no need for trust. This is the essence of faith and faithfulness. Every interpersonal relationship is based on trust as its starting point and its crowning glory.

    I would add that God didn’t send just any schlock to carry out atonement. He sent his Son, an exalted God whom he trusted in the most complete respect. There is a reason God chose the most trustworthy person in the universe.

    Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty since this is largely the same argument as the demand that God must be morally perfect in the sense it is impossible for God to do anything wrong. What praise is due to Christ if before he did anything, it was already somehow guaranteed by whatever that he succeed? What is it that guaranteed that he would succeed? You are well aware of the problems of simple foreknowledge – God cannot do anything about what he sees will be the case and he cannot influence or change it and it doesn’t occur that way because God brings it about. It follows that atonement isn’t due to Jesus’s act but to something that made it inevitable before it occurred. No praise is due to Jesus for atoning in such a case.

    I add that your view of atonement assumes that it is an act accomplished once and for all in a short period of time in Gethsemane. In my view, however, atonement is the very way that God chooses to relate to us in every moment. He chooses to be at-one with us. Whether we will accept this gracious offer of relationship is up to us.

    The notion of backward causation suggested by P. Nielsen in #386, where X occurs at t1 before I do anything because of an action that occurs later at t2 because of my act is incoherent. It is incoherent because a necessary causal condition for the occurrence of X hasn’t yet occurred, does not yet exist and yet X occurs. However, the occurrence of X without the occurrence of a necessary causal condition to the obtaining of X just contradicts the notion of a necessary causal condition. Then we could add in the problem of vicious circularity of causal loops to the past where the occurrence of X explains the occurrence of Y, but Y is a necessary causal condition for the obtaining of Y. If is an incoherent causal loop.

    Comment by Blake — October 26, 2007 @ 6:48 am

  395. Blake,

    You said:

    The notion of backward causation suggested by P. Nielsen in #386, where X occurs at t1 before I do anything because of an action that occurs later at t2 because of my act is incoherent. It is incoherent because a necessary causal condition for the occurrence of X hasn’t yet occurred, does not yet exist and yet X occurs. However, the occurrence of X without the occurrence of a necessary causal condition to the obtaining of X just contradicts the notion of a necessary causal condition. Then we could add in the problem of vicious circularity of causal loops to the past where the occurrence of X explains the occurrence of Y, but Y is a necessary causal condition for the obtaining of Y. If is an incoherent causal loop.

    You seem to be assuming some sort of space-time continuum in which the future does not yet “exist”. Certainly in such a system backwards causation is incoherent. But I laid all my cards on the table. I explicitly told you how I believe God comes to His knowledge of the future. And it isn’t in a universe where the past, present, and future are decidedly “different” (in the sense you seem to be using). I gave a simple example of such time-paradoxes, involving prayer.

    You also talked a lot about conditional prophecy, and interpersonal trust. Now let me ask you two simple questions. 1. Have any of our prophets taught that this is what the prophets have meant by foreknowledge? Or given the impression that God’s knowledge of the future is based completely in trust and conditionals and probabilities? That all prophecies are conditional? 2. Are you aware of the statements from our scriptures and prophets whose plain meaning would seem to contradict your position? (Such as “there is no other way, nor means, whereby salvation could come…” and “God cannot lie…” [which He would have done if Christ had chosen differently], or “I believe God foreknew all things”, etc…).

    It is one thing to trust and hope in someone enough to begin to develop a relationship with them, such as in marriage. It is quite another to place your eternal soul into the hands of such a person. If Christ had a real possibility of not performing the atonement then, at least how I understand it, what you seem to be saying is that somewhere, on some world in our universe [or the multi-verse/cosmos], the Christ chosen for that world actually failed to fulfil his calling. Is this an accurate entailment of your theory? If so (or even if not), can you begin to recognize some of hang-ups I have with the idea?

    By the way, I like the idea of interpersonal trust. And I believe that is one component of faith. I just don’t find that it, alone, leads to the type of faith referenced in the “Lectures on Faith” or described by our modern prophets.

    Best wishes,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — October 26, 2007 @ 7:29 am

  396. Jeff,

    I think it is incoherent to believe that God is impotent with regard to contingencies. So that doesn’t seem like a particularly valid argument to me.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 26, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  397. Pace: Merely saying that you accept a view of time where there is no real distinction between past, present and future doesn’t answer the argument that I gave. My argument didn’t assume a distinction in temporal moments, but in causal explanation. I take it that time is primarily the ordering of causal explanation. What my argument shows is that if there are causes and effects, your view of time is incoherent. An effect cannot occur without the causal explanation for its occurrence also having occurred. So unless you are willing to say that there is no causal ordering, your view is incoherent.

    I’m not aware of explicit statements by GAs regarding foreknowledge and prophecies except by B. H. Boberts who argued that God doesn’t know the future and that prophecies are most often conditional. I’m not aware of any scriptures whose plain meaning contradict my view. I believe that they can all be explained within the context of my view though there are some that at first blush seem to conflict with my view. However, I believe that there are numerous scriptures that cannot be explained on the view that God has infallible foreknowledge.

    I find it ironic that you like my views on trust but you would not trust Christ to atone if there were even a possibility that he may not have freely chosen to atone. I suggest that you really don’t trust Christ in the relevant sense. You wouldn’t trust him to freely choose to express his love for us by atoning in the presence of the possibility that he could freely choose otherwise. What kind of trust is that?

    Comment by Blake — October 26, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

  398. Dear Blake,

    Merely saying that you accept a view of time where there is no real distinction between past, present and future doesn’t answer the argument that I gave. My argument didn’t assume a distinction in temporal moments, but in causal explanation. I take it that time is primarily the ordering of causal explanation. What my argument shows is that if there are causes and effects, your view of time is incoherent. An effect cannot occur without the causal explanation for its occurrence also having occurred. So unless you are willing to say that there is no causal ordering, your view is incoherent.

    I thought I was pretty clear that I am saying that I believe there is ultimately no causal ordering among all causes. Second, I think it odd to define time in terms of causal orderings, when it isn’t entirely clear (a priori) that time-travel (into the past) isn’t impossible (according to some theories in physics). Third, you didn’t address any of the issues I brought up, such as God answering prayers immediately, or God’s ability to travel across space quickly.

    I’m not aware of explicit statements by GAs regarding foreknowledge and prophecies except by B. H. Boberts who argued that God doesn’t know the future and that prophecies are most often conditional.

    That surprises me. I’ve found that GospeLink is an excellent resource, well worth the money. Searching for the term “foreknowledge” will bring up many of the relevant quotations. (By the way, I was thinking of comments restricted to the First Presidency or Quorum of the 12, who have the authority to interpret scripture and/or reveal new doctrine. Not members of the quorum of the 70. You don’t want to bring “Mormon Doctrine” into the fray do you?) For starters you might search the teachings of Joseph Smith. I quoted him above when I said “I believe God forknew all things.”

    I’m not aware of any scriptures whose plain meaning contradict my view. I believe that they can all be explained within the context of my view though there are some that at first blush seem to conflict with my view. However, I believe that there are numerous scriptures that cannot be explained on the view that God has infallible foreknowledge.

    Oh, I imagine that all scriptures can be explained within the context of your view. (And I’d assert, contrary to your assertion, that they can all be explained in my view too.) But I am surprised that you are not aware of any whose plain meaning (and not just a “first blush” meaning at that) speak of God knowing what will happen. (Note: I didn’t bring up the term “infallible” nor any of the connotations associated to it. If God “knowing all things which are to come” doesn’t contradict your view, I apologize.) See, for example, Words of Mormon 1:7.

    I find it ironic that you like my views on trust but you would not trust Christ to atone if there were even a possibility that he may not have freely chosen to atone. I suggest that you really don’t trust Christ in the relevant sense. You wouldn’t trust him to freely choose to express his love for us by atoning in the presence of the possibility that he could freely choose otherwise. What kind of trust is that?

    Can you see how your words could be construed as a judgement upon me, that my faith in Christ is not unto salvation?

    I trust my wife to love me for eternity. I don’t know that she will, but I trust and hope that she will continue to do so. However, I would never have married her (or any woman I know) if it were the case that I would be damned to an eternity of hell if my wife were to stop loving me at some point in time. The difference here is that God has made a promise, and God does not lie. My faith in God allows me to put my trust in Christ (even with the real possibility that He could have failed) because I believe that God has seen all time, has been affected by it, and affects it.

    Now, if you truly believe that my trust is not in the relevant sense, instead of just telling me so, try to answer the specific issues I spoke of in my previous post. Are there worlds where the Christs of those world failed? (Brigham Young already answered this question, by the way.) What does “real possibility” mean when something never happens?

    Best wishes,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 1, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  399. Pace: “there is ultimately no causal ordering among all causes.”

    So let me see if I have this straight. You don’t believe that when the target shatters there is a priority of the gun’s firing being the explanatory cause? Such a view simply misunderstands how we explain one thing based upon the occurrence of another. A person dies from being shot, so the occurrence of the gun shot is the prior explanation of the occurrence of death. On your view, there cannot be any such explanations. I believe such a view is absurd. I don’t believe that anyone will find giving up on causal explanation and causal ordering to be at all acceptable. Even those who adopt a B view of time still accept that there are causal orderings and priority. So I believe that you have misunderstood even the view you claim to base your view on (and that too is a causal explanation!).

    But there is something more. Mormonism entails the necessity of change and of cause. When I repent it is because I previously did something that requires change. So do you reject repentance? When God progresses it is from one state to another more advanced state. Do you reject God’s progression in all respects? When we pray for something to happen, it is because it could still be otherwise. If there is no causal ordering then there is no change and with that you adopt a static world-view that I don’t believe is remotely plausible.

    I agree that there are GAs who believe that God has absolute foreknowledge. So what? There are those who don’t believe that too. I now realize I may have misinterpreted your question. There are of course lots of GAs who believe in God’s absolute foreknowledge. Do you believe that somehow every GA has some revelation on that issue?

    You also say: “because I believe that God has seen all time, has been affected by it, and affects it.” You see, you really don’t believe what you claim about time. You believe that God knows the future because the future is already there to be seen. Thus, the reality of the future is what causes God’s knowledge. The real existence of the future is explanatorily prior to God’s knowledge of it. You say that you can put faith in Christ because he has seen all time. What if he has seen that you will be damned? He can’t change that. What could he do about what he has seen? Your view entails all of the problems of simple foreknowledge that make God impotent to bring about anything except what he has already seen will be the case before he can act.

    So your claim that God knows the future because he sees it and also that God affects the future is incoherent. If God sees that X, God cannot change the fact that X no matter what.

    Finally, if you can have faith in Christ only because he has seen what will be and cannot fail to be because it already is, then you really don’t have trust even though you say that you do. No one can have trust that the past will occur the way it did. On your view, the future has the same properties as the past in every respect because it has already been seen and thus is as certain and closed to causal influence as the past. That is not a plausible view as I see it.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  400. Pace: Are there worlds where the Christs of those world failed?

    No, in the actual world, the only real world, Christ succeeded. I suppose that what you are really asking is: “Are there logically possible worlds in Christ fails?” Yes, there are. But there aren’t worlds where God fails. He has contingency plans to insure the realization of his purposes. Again I reiterate: In this actual world the Father didn’t send just anyone to fulfill his plan. He sent his Son, the one most trustworthy.

    Now let ask: If it was impossible for Christ to fail, what praise is due to him for succeeding? Isn’t it rather like praising the gravity for holding things on the earth’s surface?

    What does “real possibility” mean when something never happens?

    It means that it is logically possible. It is logically possible that Lincoln never existed. It just isn’t temporally feasible and there is no possible world that is temporally compossible with this actual world in which Lincoln never existed.

    Comment by Blake — November 1, 2007 @ 7:48 pm

  401. Blake,

    So let me see if I have this straight. You don’t believe that when the target shatters there is a priority of the gun’s firing being the explanatory cause?

    No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that the entire set (taken as a whole) of causal relations is not ordered. That doesn’t mean that two specific events are not orderable (ignoring other causes involved, etc…).

    Let me give a few examples just to clarify further. Let R be the relation where we say c is related to d (written cRd) if and only if “c caused d”. In your example, we could take c=gun fires, d=target shatters.

    Example 1: Many libertarian free-willers refer to human agency as an “uncaused cause.” I take this to mean that humans cause things to happen without this having been caused by anything previously (or from the future). So, it will never be the case that “d=Human freely chooses to sin” occurs in the relation cRd, but it can occur that “c=Human freely chooses to sin”.

    Example 2: Suppose, for the sake of argument, scientists discover a way to travel into the past, and even view the past. While viewing the past, they notice that I appear in the past, I develop a cure to a disease which nobody knew about at the time (since I cured it among all humans secretly) and then was run over by a bus. So the scientists send me back in time (to cure the disease of course!). I do develop the cure, and then am run over by the bus. We have a loop of causalities. We can have “c=Cure disease” and “d=Sent back in time” and both cRd and dRc seem to hold. (I’m sure there are lots of other time-travel scenarios we can come up with, in the vein of 12 Monkeys–which I hated by the way.)

    Example 3: I pray to God, and He answers it quickly, from very far away. According to relativity, in some frame of reference, God’s action was done before I prayed. In another frame, I prayed first. If we put “c=I pray for help” and “d=God answers” do we say cRd, or dRc, or both, or neither? Is the relation R well-defined? What was the medium by which God knew what I’d pray for? etc…

    So, to sum up, from our point of view, of course certain happenings can be causally related in a natural ordering (via time). I just do not believe that all causes/affects/changes in the universe are “ordered” as such.

    But there is something more. Mormonism entails the necessity of change and of cause. When I repent it is because I previously did something that requires change. So do you reject repentance? When God progresses it is from one state to another more advanced state. Do you reject God’s progression in all respects? When we pray for something to happen, it is because it could still be otherwise. If there is no causal ordering then there is no change and with that you adopt a static world-view that I don’t believe is remotely plausible.

    Who is to say that there are not multiple dimensions of time? God could be progressing along different axes for all I know, and yet be maximally God along the axis we are limited to. And this is just “shooting from the hip” as it were. I don’t have a clue how God is progressing, although I do believe He is doing so, somehow, which is literally incomprehensible to us (currently).

    There is a difference between how God exists, and how we exist. There are similarities of course. But the difference lies at the heart of the issue. And I don’t pretend to know what it is like to be God.

    I agree that there are GAs who believe that God has absolute foreknowledge. So what? There are those who don’t believe that too. I now realize I may have misinterpreted your question. There are of course lots of GAs who believe in God’s absolute foreknowledge. Do you believe that somehow every GA has some revelation on that issue?

    I think you now understand half of my question. The other half deals not with their own personal beliefs, but what the prophets have authoritatively taught. What have they taught the saints about foreknowledge? What have they claimed that God has revealed to them (for the church) concerning knowledge of the future?

    I am in absolute agreement with your implied point that just because a lot of them believe something then that doesn’t mean it is correct. I am not talking about who is absolutely correct (we believe in continuing revelation, after all), but rather about what the prophets have (up to this point) authoritatively pronounced. What have they said the scriptures mean? etc… And you are even welcome to limit my question to refer to statements from the Presidents of the Church (who, really, are the only mortals authorized to pronounce new doctrine for the church).

    You also say: “because I believe that God has seen all time, has been affected by it, and affects it.” You see, you really don’t believe what you claim about time. You believe that God knows the future because the future is already there to be seen. Thus, the reality of the future is what causes God’s knowledge. The real existence of the future is explanatorily prior to God’s knowledge of it. You say that you can put faith in Christ because he has seen all time. What if he has seen that you will be damned? He can’t change that. What could he do about what he has seen? Your view entails all of the problems of simple foreknowledge that make God impotent to bring about anything except what he has already seen will be the case before he can act.

    I do not believe that God knows the future because it is “there to be seen” (although it does ‘exist’, in some real sense, in my view, as does the past, and the present). Rather, He knows it because He’s interacted with “it”, and “it” with Him. I do not believe that the reality of the future “causes” God’s foreknowledge. It “affects” this foreknowledge (as do many other things) but does not ultimately “cause” it. The real existence of the future is not explanatorially prior to God’s forknowledge of it. They are explanatorially simultaneous. God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t occur without the future, and the future doesn’t occur without God’s knowledge of it. (This goes back to the issue of ordering causes.) They are intricately connected. The best way I can think of putting it is how libertarian free-willers have tried to explain their view via interactions. God and the future [and the past and present] interact with each, in a synergistic way. The future exists (or “will exist”, from our point of view) having been interacted with by God. But this interaction wasn’t caused by how the future will exist, just as human agency isn’t caused when humans interact with the present and past.

    So your claim that God knows the future because he sees it and also that God affects the future is incoherent. If God sees that X, God cannot change the fact that X no matter what.

    God only sees it as He affects it (using the word “as” only as an explanatory device, not a temporal one), because its existence is intricately connected to God seeing it and affecting it. One doesn’t exist without the other.

    Finally, if you can have faith in Christ only because he has seen what will be and cannot fail to be because it already is, then you really don’t have trust even though you say that you do.

    I didn’t say Jesus couldn’t have chosen to fail. He certainly could have. I believe He had free agency after all.

    I just also believe that God forknew that Christ would freely choose to not fail.

    No one can have trust that the past will occur the way it did. On your view, the future has the same properties as the past in every respect because it has already been seen and thus is as certain and closed to causal influence as the past. That is not a plausible view as I see it.

    Close, but no again. It doesn’t have the same properties because it has been seen. It has the same properties for no cause. That is just how reality is.

    And again, I don’t believe the past is closed to causal influences (and then neither is the future).

    Best,
    Pace

    P.S. You might ponder those examples I gave of prayer, and faster-than-light travel, and their relations to causation.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 1, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  402. Blake,

    Re post 400: what I meant was with regards to other real *planets* in the universe, orbiting other stars, who have different saviors (as I suppose our Heavenly Father had-or was).

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 1, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

  403. P. Nielsen,

    God’s power to answer prayers quickly (faster than a light time) is not compatible with relativity, so your example 3 is a spurious argument. The premises contradict each other.

    In addition, any form of time travel into the past such that the past is changed to be something other than what it was is incompatible with basic causality.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 1, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

  404. Pace: It will take me a bit to untangle the confusion in your 401, but since I can answer 402 with less input, I’ll do it now. There are no other saviors on other planets. There is only one savior — Jesus Christ — for all planets and systems. We have had this discussion before on this blog. The notion of numerous saviors on different planets trivializes our theology and is contra-scriptural.

    I’m not sure I need to say much more than Mark has about your examples. They all assume causality since there is no real distinction between “influences” and “causes.” I use the term “explains” and both terms have the same explanatory force. More importantly, the notion that A occurred at t but it is possible for not-A to occur at t is simply a denial of non-contradiction. Science fiction may make for interesting and funny movies, but that doesn’t make such non-sense logically possible.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2007 @ 7:47 am

  405. Mark D.,

    So which do you then reject? God answering prayers quickly? Or relativity? By the way, they are not contradictory in my world-view, where the future can affect the past.

    Also, I should point out that there is a difference between “changing” the past, and freely “affecting” the past. Watch 12 Monkeys for a simple example. (Note: Whether or not you believe in time-travel, the movie should help you grasp the difference between the two concepts. And how free-will could exist in such a setting. [I didn't like the movie personally, but at least it illustrates an idea fairly well.])

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 2, 2007 @ 7:54 am

  406. Blake,

    Well then I simply disagree with you. I believe, for example, that God the Father was once as we are. And I don’t believe that Jesus was His savior, but rather Jesus’ Lordship is limited to His Father’s children. And this notion does NOT trivialize our theology, and it isn’t contra-scriptural as far as I know. (In fact, it finds support among at least a few Presidents of our church.)

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 2, 2007 @ 7:58 am

  407. Pace: Watch 12 Monkeys for a simple example… how free-will could exist in such a setting.

    That is a surprising perspective. I see 12 Monkeys showing a perfect example of how deeply contrary compatibilism is to the restored gospel. It illustrates the faith-crippling fatalism that I railed against in this post very clearly (because there is nothing the main character can do to escape his predestined fate).

    For the record, Blake is the only person who has argued here that Jesus is the only Savior to ever live on any planet. I and others have argued vigorously against that idea in that past. See here for and example.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  408. Blake (and Mark),

    One more quick comment. If you do not believe God answers prayers faster than light, how do you answer the other problems I posed? Is He close by our specific planet (scriptures in the D&C seem to imply otherwise, and that Christ visits other kingdoms, for example)? Does He simply delegate prayer answering to others? How does the Holy Ghost influence others on other planets? Are there multiple Holy Ghosts?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 2, 2007 @ 8:13 am

  409. Pace: I view God’s spirit and his resulting efficacious intentional power to be here now — as it is in and through all things and the power by which all things are governed. I don’t see God as merely a man sitting on a throne on some distant planet watching as the light from distant planets acts on his cornea. That is what I mean by trivializing our theology.

    For the record Geoff: no one has yet shown any scripture to support your leap into detaching Joseph from all of his prior theology. That also trivializes our theology. Moreover, it seems to me that you then have the problem that Pace points to.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  410. Blake,

    Thanks for the answer. I understand that you don’t view God as merely a man sitting on a throne. Neither do I. But, on the other hand, I assume that you do view God as embodied, and existing (in an embodied state) somewhere in the physical universe. How can God’s intentions, with regards to His power, be existent everywhere and not contradict relativity, in your view?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 2, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  411. Pace: I’m pretty unclear on your question. God has intention. Does it matter where his intentions are located? I believe that God has pure intentional power at every place that his spirit governs — and according to our scriptures, that is everywhere. I don’t view intentions as material things so I believe that a category mistake is assumed in your question. If God’s light/spirit/intelligence in the governing power that is in and through all things, then I think that such a view is required. However, let me add that I don’t think that a person must be able to explain how God actually does what he does to have a reasonable theology or view of God. That is asking too much.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

  412. However, let me add that I don’t think that a person must be able to explain how God actually does what he does to have a reasonable theology or view of God. That is asking too much.

    Of course. If you can’t explain it, that is fine.

    But it is still unclear to me what you are asserting. You seem to suggest that God can intend that I find my lost contacts right after I’ve prayed for help, and simultaneously, 1000’s of light-years away, intend to help Fred round up his herd of pterodactyls. When does God know what He has intended? If I asked God “What are you intending to do 1000’s of light years away, right now?” does He know the answer and could He tell it to me?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 2, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  413. Pace: I believe that your question assumes that God is merely a body. If God’s embodiment includes the entire physical universe, so that he is immediately present to all things, then it seems to me that there isn’t a problem. If we add that the non-physical intentionality is present at every place that God is active, then the problem disappears. God is more than a spatially limited body. He is also the life and light that is present to, at, in and with all things as the law that governs them. I’m not sure I can fully grasp all of what is entailed in such commitments, but at least that God is present as intentional power in all places seems to me to be entailed by such commitments.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  414. Blake,

    You might consider my questions again. They have nothing, really, to do with a physical body. Rather, they have to do with the fact that God can communicate His knowledge to us. My questions involve what God knows is going on in other parts of the universe, and whether He can communicate that information.

    These questions are not trick questions, designed to trap you. Neither are they designed to explain my position. They are designed so that your answers will help me understand your position better. We can make them completely realistic. Pretend the millenium has come, and Jesus is on the earth (or, if you prefer, that part of Jesus encapsulated in his resurrected body). If you went to Him, and asked Him how His disciples are doing on another world 1000’s of light-years away, could He tell you?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 2, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  415. Pace: Jesus’s disciples will inherit this earth.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  416. Pace (#405),

    Recognizing that any position I have on relativity and superluminal communication is irrelevant to the strength of an argument that relies on contradictory premises, I would say that relativity as it is presently formulated is inadequate and that evidence from quantum mechanics offers the the best evidence for that position.

    As far as time travel goes, the only way to make it logically coherent is to assume that time travelers create alternate universes that have no bearing on the history of the one from which they departed. However, universe multiplication violates my sense of the law of parsimony a little too much.

    In addition, strictly speaking I do not believe that the past exists to even be examined, except to the degree that evidence for past states is encoded in the present state of affairs. There isn’t the slightest evidence that the past exists as such as a place to be travelled to.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 2, 2007 @ 5:02 pm

  417. Blake (#409): no one has yet shown any scripture to support your leap into detaching Joseph from all of his prior theology.

    I’m not sure what you are talking about with this comment Blake. The evidence that Joseph meant that the Father was a savior on a planet too seems pretty strong to me and lots of other people. What does that have to do with “detaching Joseph from all of his prior theology”?

    Pace has a point that if the savior of any given world has LFW then it is possible that savior could fail. That logical possibility could be considered a problem I suppose but I don’t see real freedom of choice as a problem in general.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

  418. Geoff, if there are an infinite number of worlds, then the small possibility that a so-called (blasphemously) savior of another world will fail becomes a virtual certainty.

    What I mean by detaching scripture from Joseph’s theology ought to be clear. In the Book of Moses, Christ is the savior of all worlds that Moses sees. In D&C 76 Jesus is savior of worlds, plural. These scriptures are directly contrary to the non-sequitur that if the Son did what the Father did, he did virtually everything — including having eggs for breakfast on the exact same day-age. However, such identity of acts is simply impossible given the variance in worlds. I see neither scripture nor logic nor any statement by Joseph to support this contra-scriptural view.

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  419. Hehe.

    It’s amusing to see you play fast and loose with arguments based on infinities after you have dinged me so many times in the past on the same move, Blake. If we are going to play that game then it would also be “virtually certain” that all of us would be exalted (or perdition) already since we have reportedly lived an infinite amount of time. But as you have often pointed out, equating “virtually certain” with “certain” is a fallacy.

    Now I don’t have any problem with you not believing there have never been any other saviors on any other worlds. But you are stretching the scriptures way to far when you claim that they clearly say Jesus himself is the savior of any other world. They don’t specifically say that at all as I read them. Sure “God” has atoned for all previous worlds but “God” is a catch-all term for multiple divine persons so I see very little scriptural for your assertion on that Jesus himself is the one who atoned for, say, the world where the Father was a mortal. But this likely a topic for another post.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  420. Geoff: there isn’t a fallacy in my reasoning. Whereas if we take the class of possible failures and the likelihood of failure for each class member, we can generalize a probability of failure among class members. So my argument is actually valid. What we cannot do is say that for any give individual, the possibility of being exalted means that each member is exalted. That is a logical fallacy. So you in fact are stuck with a pretty serious failed-savior problem on your view.

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  421. Well I’m not particularly stuck since my current preferred atonement theory is an Empathy-Exemplar hybrid so a “failed savior” is not as big of a deal to me as it might be to someone who assumes some variation on a substitution theory. (I have no problem with God having back-up plans either).

    I actually wasn’t saying you were guilty of fallacious reasoning either. I simply pointed out that if you were to equate virtually certain with actually certain there would be a problem. The qualifier “virtually” solves any potential problems. So I can also confidently say that it is virtually certain that we would already be exalted or perdition in an infinite amount of time if we are beginninglessly capable of spiritual progression or retrogression.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

  422. What you’re really saying, I believe, is that atonement isn’t really necessary for anything on your view. No savior OK since even if we don’t have a good example, we can still do just fine.

    Glad to know you’re seeing reason. However, you last sentence is a non-sequitur pure and simple, whereas my reasoning in valid. Indeed, given an infinite number of world-saviors, there are an infinite number not saved — an infinite number with failed so-called saviors. If that isn’t reason to reject a view, what would be?

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  423. I’m not sure what you are angling for here Blake. First, I take your lead in saying the atonement is the ongoing and eternal process of making people one with God. So there is no such thing as a “failed atonement” when using that broad definition of the word atonement. I assume when you are saying “failed atonement” you mean that a God with LFW could presumably condescend to a world and fail to fulfill the scheduled mission on that inhabited planet. If that ever happened I have no problem with the idea that God would have contingency plans in place to ensure that the overall work of atonement remains unimpeded.

    However, you last sentence is a non-sequitur pure and simple, whereas my reasoning in valid.

    I don’t know what you mean here at all. Saying that there is a “virtual certainty” that something (anything) will happen in an infinite amount of time pretty much goes without saying doesn’t it? But my original point is that “virtually certain” is a very different thing than “certain” so it seems to me that such a comment is not useful.

    As for the infinite number of (fill in the blank) argument you are pulling out here — I am surprised you would even bother going there. If there is a finite amount of irreducible space and matter then infinite time would mean some form of eternal recursion is inevitable. If there is infinite space and matter then please name something there isn’t an infinite number of… It seems to me that in such a model the there are an infinite number of already exalted people and an infinite number of sons of perdition and an infinite number of premortal spirits and an infinite number of resurrected planets for the infinite number of resurrected people etc. etc. The whole notion is a mess I think so I don’t know why you are even going down that road.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

  424. Geoff: On my view there must be one who has the capacity to be at-one; a capacity to receive both the pain and fullness of joy of entering into a shared unity where the information and data of our experience. If a savior fails, there is no one capable of such union.

    Now get this — if there is only one savior, then the likelihood of success can be so remarkably high and trustworthiness so sure than doubt is not a rational response. If there is only one savior for an infinite number, then there are not an infinite number of failed saviors, an infinite number of lost. There is only one success — and that is all that there needs to be. That is why I go into it. Your view of an infinite number of saviors is not only wildly contrascriptural, it is laden with infinite failure.

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  425. Blake,

    I think you have a fine version of a Mormon theology and I agree with much of it. I also agree with much of your atonement theory as part of that theology. Having said that, I do disagree with some of your theories and I think you are overstating some of your positions here. For instance you said:

    Your view of an infinite number of saviors is not only wildly contrascriptural

    This is just false. I will grant you that the view that every inhabited world spoken of in scriptures has a savior of its own is extra-scriptural; but it is not contra-scriptural. It may be counter to your personal interpretations of our scriptures but that is not the same as contra-scriptural.

    Also I am interested in the implications of this statement you just made:

    On my view there must be one who has the capacity to be at-one; a capacity to receive both the pain and fullness of joy of entering into a shared unity where the information and data of our experience.

    So there is only one being in all of existence that has this capacity on your view? Even the Father lacks this capacity that you are referring to that Jesus has? That seems problematic to me.

    It is logically possible that there is only one savior throughout all eternity of course. I just don’t happen to believe it. The problem is that such a view assumes there have been an infinite number of people who have lived and died on an infinite number of worlds for an infinity of time that has already passed without the single atonement ever happening. It means that we just happen to be infinitely lucky enough to live on the one single planet where the one and only savior lived. As I said it is logically possible that is the case, but I just happen to be highly skeptical of theologies that claim that our planet is the center of all time and space. It is too much in human nature to assume the universe revolves around us (or around our planet) for me to be comfortable with that notion.

    Thankfully there is plenty of room in Mormon theology for us to have differing opinions on this issue.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

  426. I see neither scripture nor logic nor any statement by Joseph to support this contra-scriptural view.

    There are two other authoritative sources for information on this topic, besides the words of Joseph or the scriptures. One is God, who, if He did reveal the truth to one of us, we wouldn’t have the authority to teach it as binding. The second source is the statements of Joseph’s successors in the Presidency. There we do have a wealth of information on this question. In fact, Brigham said quite a bit on this topic, as did other prophets. (By the way, I’ll mention this again, Brigham already answered the question of whether other saviors have failed, and what would happen if they did, etc…)

    One question I had was with regards to this whole discussion about other saviors having a “real possibility” to fail. Do you guys see this as different than saying Christ had agency? If so, then why suppose there was a “real possibility”? If not, how does this real possiblity differ from the agency God has? He will never fail (as neither will any other god).

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 3, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  427. Pace,

    My view is that there was a real possibility that Jesus could have failed in his earthly mission because he has LFW. But in my theory on atonement that mostly would mean he would fail to set the perfect example and fail to gain perfect empathy (and thus fail to become as the Father is). So the overall work of atonement could have continued on even in that case.

    Yes, I realize that is a reduced vision of the important of the Passion.

    (And yes I realize that this stuff is getting off the foreknowledge topic but since we’re in the 400s now I doubt anybody but us will read this anyway)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  428. Blake, it would seem that you are proposing a theological variation of the anthropic principle? In what way do you propose that the Father worked out his kingdom as per the KFD?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 3, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

  429. Also, Blake, are you saying that Jesus knows infinitely more than the Most High God? It would seem that Jesus is therefor most-higher.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 3, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  430. Geoff,

    So, my question is the following.

    God has LFW and Christ has LFW. What makes it so that Christ has a “real possibility” of failure, whereas there isn’t such a possibility with God? (Or, if you do think God has such a possibility, do you believe that at least one of the Gods in the past has failed?)

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 3, 2007 @ 7:04 pm

  431. J. — You know well that I believe that the Father was fully divine from all eternity. He worked out his kingdom as we all do by progressing from one degree to another — as all divine beings do. He progressed further in his deity by taking upon himself a body. The Son did so after him. We are now doing so. To have a kingdom is to be in a position to inspire others to progress in love and light by entering into the exalting relationship by obedience to the laws that govern such relationships — the law of love. I thought we agreed on such matters?

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  432. J. Both the Father and the Son know all that can be known now except they do not share first-person reflexive knowledge because it is logically impossible for any person except the person in question to have such knowledge. So in terms of knowing all there is to know about the world — both have identical knowledge. In terms of knowing what can be known only from one’s own personal experience, they differ in their knowledge, but one isn’t thereby more advanced than the other. They are simply different in their first person reflexive knowledge and it is logically necessary that it is so.

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2007 @ 7:13 pm

  433. Mark (#416),

    I agree that the past does not exist to be travelled to. It seems we have all seen to Back to the Future to many times. If every instant of the past still existed, there would be a very serious conservation of mass issue with the forward march of time.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 5, 2007 @ 10:02 am

  434. Blake, I think we do agree for the most part. There are just a couple of hard things for me to get past to be with on this one point. First are the fairly clear (at least to me) statements that Joseph taught about the Father’s mortal existence. Second is the power-gap that is produced between Jesus and all other beings, including the Father, as a result of the Atonement. Lastly is the theological anthropic principle, i.e., that we happened to be on the earth where Jesus atoned because we were here to observe it.

    Perhaps you have some explanation for these that I am not familiar with (for example, multiple condescensions of Jesus or something).

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 5, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  435. Mark,

    Thank you for answering my question. I can appreciate your reluctance to accept the idea that relativity is 100% correct in its conception. I’m glad that you recognize that it, as presently formulated, is incompatible with a God who knows all that is happening “now” and can communicated such knowledge, unless God actually exists at all times “simultaneously”.

    As for “travelling” back in time, I too doubt that is possible. However, the idea that the “past” exists “now” is not contra-science; and fits very well with relativity. From some frames of reference, what *we* view as the future will “occur” before what happens “now”.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 7, 2007 @ 11:03 am

  436. To all,

    I was wondering how people who accept an A-theory of time account for relativity? What with the barn-door paradox, I don’t see how they can be reconciled. But I am not familiar with the literature in this regard, and would like someone more knowledgable to “fill-me-in” so to speak.

    Thanks,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 19, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

  437. Pace: There is a good paper about how tensed time fits with relativity theory. You can look it up here: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00003449/

    Comment by Blake — November 19, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  438. Thanks Blake. I read the paper, and here are my impressions.

    I intuitively already accepted the notion that from a fixed frame of reference, one could define past, present, and future, in Minkowski space-time (barring wormholes, and such). James Harrington’s preprint purports to provide such a model. In fact, it claims to cover a slightly larger class of world lines than I originally conceived. However, he still limits himself by making “use of the present tense only locally” (page 2).

    My impression of the A-theory of time is that it posits that the entire universe (which is not local) exists in a state which we call the “present”. Am I incorrect on this? If not, how does this paper answer my question about compatibility of an A-theory of time with relativity? Secondly, my question was (implicitly) in reference to the discussion we’ve been having about God, being present everywhere, and knowing what is going on in the “present”. Again, locality seems to goes out the window in this case.

    Thanks again,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 19, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

  439. Pace: The A-Theory of time entails only that there is an temporal “now” distinct for each inertial frame of reference and for whatever is outside the light cone of each such frame. I discuss the issue at some length in two different chapters of volume 1 of my book.

    Comment by Blake — November 19, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  440. Blake,

    I went back to your book and read what I think you were referring to. I guess it didn’t quite click with me the first time I read the book (or it has been too long) that you privelege God’s frame of reference, and define “now” accordingly. One of your big examples you give is Washington dieing vs. crossing the Delaware. You make it clear that no matter which frame of reference God (or anyone!) looks from, one happened before the other. With this, I agree.

    But I think you are missing something in all of this. You seem to posit on page 356 that if God is an immanent observer “who is immediately present to all inertial perspectives and includes within his experience the experiences of persons in any inertial frame, then it follows that God has all perspectives as his frame of reference.” (I would argue that God also experiences what people experience in non-inertial frames of reference too. But that is a minor quibble.) The problem with accepting the hypothesis is complicated, but I think I can explain it. Suppose that God, from his priveledged frame of reference U, sees that George Washington crosses the Delaware, at universal time t_0 (as defined by U). I posit that there is another frame of reference V (say occupied by a being called Fred), which exists at time t_0 in the priveleged frame of reference U, from which it appears that Washington crossed the Delaware *previously*. God knows this, and in fact knew this back when Fred saw the incident. So God knew before it happened exactly how Washington crossed the Delaware.

    [[In other words, no matter which frame of reference you pick to define “now” universally, there will ALWAYS be other frames of reference [existing at the universal now] from which things existing now have *already* happened. (If you like, take the barn door experiment. Whatever frame of reference you give to God, you will have people seeing the past, and the future, according to said frame of reference.) And since God experiences all these frames of reference, He knows things before they happen.]]

    Now, suppose God takes a movie of what he sees at time t_-1 through Fred’s eyes (namely, Washington crossing the Delaware). And God reveals this movie to another being, George, at time t_-1. But from Sally’s position at time t_-2, God just revealed the movie. etc… In this manner, God could potentially tell himself all about the future.

    I hope this makes the conundrum I see more clear. While from all frames of reference it is true that Washington crosses the Delaware before dieing, this doesn’t matter if God’s knowledge of reality is “faster” than light (i.e. able to comprehend all frames of reference at time t_0 [as defined in terms of a specified inertial frame of reference U]).

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  441. Pace: The problem you have is that you have events outside the light cone of the events at issue causally interacting. That isn’t possible in STR. There is an absolute future and absolute past such that events cannot interact with respect to those events outside the light cone. Thus, there is no intertial frame of reference in which Washington dies before he crosses the Delaware.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 11:23 am

  442. And all this time I thought Washington crossed the Potomac.

    Comment by Hal — November 20, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  443. Pace: I should add that given the retention of absolute space-time in STR, given the limitations of the light-cone, there is no intertial frame of reference in which an observer has knowledge of an event before that event occurs that could then be conveyed to another in another frame of reference. The simple reason for that fact is that it is causally impossible.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  444. Blake,

    I should add that given the retention of absolute space-time in STR, given the limitations of the light-cone, there is no intertial frame of reference in which an observer has knowledge of an event before that event occurs that could then be conveyed to another in another frame of reference. The simple reason for that fact is that it is causally impossible.

    Then how does that not contradict the idea that God “is immediately present to all inertial perspectives and includes within his experience the experiences of persons in any inertial frame”? You can’t have it both ways. God can either experience events both inside and outside a light cone at the “same time” according to some universal frame of reference U, or not.

    I understand perfectly well that if events causally interact outside of light cones, there are problems one has to deal with. You make that very clear in your chapter on a timeless God who sits outside of space. I just don’t understand why your omnipresent conception of God doesn’t suffer from the same sorts of problems you give to the timeless one.

    You can define “now” by fixing a frame of reference U. But if you also posit a being who can experience all other frames of reference at the same time t_0 (as defined by U), then said being is *causally* interacting with events outside of each others’ line cones. Is this more clear?

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  445. Pace: There is no conflict because God is only present to those inertial perspective that exist within the framework of the comic time that I defined. There are no intertial frames of reference in which someone sees what I will do before I do it. Thus, it is no problem if God isn’t present to such a non-existing frame. So I think you have misunderstood me. There are not frames of reference about what is future to my present acts. That frame of reference comes into existence as I act. Even God doesn’t see what does not exist from any perspective.

    Comment by Blake — November 20, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  446. Blake,

    I do not think you understand the issue I am bringing up. I’ll present a thought experiment, and hopefully you can point out where it starts to depart from your model.

    We are accepting an A-theory of time, and accepting relativity. To make this compatible, we are assuming that there is a frame of reference, U, from which we define “the present”. If things appear to happen simultaneously from the viewpoint of frame U, they really are happening simultaneously. The only things *really* in existence are those things which are simultaneous with what is existing at the present in frame U.

    Is this correct so far?

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 20, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

  447. Okay, I’ll assume the premises of my previous post are correct, to this point.

    Now, Blake you said: “There are no intertial frames of reference in which someone sees what I will do before I do it.” By this, I understand you to mean that if an action A occurs at time t_0 according to frame U, then there can be no frame U’, existing at time t_{-1} (according to U) which witnesses action A. Is this correct?

    Now, consider the barn-door paradox I linked to earler. We can (rearranging the actors if necessary) suppose that frame of reference U is the frame of reference of the person on the top of the barn. So, from this universal frame, the two doors of the barn shut at exactly the same time.

    Let U’ be the frame of reference of the person holding the pole. When (according to reference frame U) does the pole-holder view the far barn door close? I posit that it happens BEFORE he is inside the barn, and thus (even according to reference frame U) *BEFORE* the other end of the pole reaches the barn. Whereas, the end of the pole only interacts with the far door (according to frame U) when the pole-holder is “simultaneously” in the barn. So, according to this example, the pole-holder is viewing the future (according to the universal frame U).

    Is this more clear?

    Thanks,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 22, 2007 @ 8:00 am

  448. Pace, to get back to why this is a topic at hand, the paradox is moot if God is in all things through his glory and thereby present presently.

    Comment by Kent — November 22, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  449. Kent,

    That may be the case, if one isn’t bothered by a God who views the future. But I’m trying to get to the heart of the issue here, and see if I really understand how Blake and others try to make an omnipresent God who doesn’t “see” the future compatible with relativity. The thought experiment of my last two posts spells out one problem I see.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 23, 2007 @ 7:56 am

  450. Kent,

    By the way, the paradox is really about a subtle equivocation on the use of “present”, “now”, and “when I do it.” No matter how one picks a frame of reference, and defines “now” therefrom; there is another frame of reference (existing “now” according to the first frame) viewing what will happen “later” (according to the first frame). It is kind of creepy. But such is the paradoxical nature of relativity.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 23, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  451. Pace: If a being had knowledge of all subjective states of all observers in all inertial frames of reference, then that observer would have knowledge of all frames of reference without necessarily being in any of them. Thus, I would agree with Kent’s observations.

    Comment by Blake — November 23, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

  452. Blake,

    Are you asserting, counter to how I read you in your book, that there is no universal frame of reference? If this is the case, how are you defining “present” and “simultaneous”? That’s the question I started with a few posts ago, and you appealed to a paper where it could only be defined locally.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 23, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

  453. Pace,

    It is well known that simultaneity is not preserved in STR. However, that is not a problem.

    Frames of reference do not observe events. Observers observe events. It doesn’t matter what time a remote event appears to occur. The time that matters is the earliest time the observer can have direct evidence that the event occured.

    “The present” (to be real) cannot be a slice from any inertial frame of reference. The only present that matters is what is present (temporally local) to any given spatial location. The idea that anything else is “present” is strictly speaking an illusion.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 23, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  454. Pace: First, I’m making a simple point that it seems you want to ignore at least for now. The issue is epistemic access. If God has intersubjective awareness of all persons in all inertial frames of reference in which sentient beings exist, then God has knowledge of all such inertial frames. This is a pretty significant observation and it doesn’t require grasping STR to see it how it works even if all frames of reference are local (as they must be).

    Second, there need not be a universal present or now for it to be the case that God has such knowledge. There is an overarching epistemic position that encompasses the knowledge of all such perspectives. I refer to this over-arching perspective as the privileged frame.

    Third, you’ve also mistakenly assumed that STR doesn’t retain an absolute past and an absolute future. However, for each event there is a light cone that defines an absolute past and an absolute future from the inertial perspective of that event. The privileged perspective is defined by reference frame associated with cosmic expansion at the edge of space-time or “parameter time.” You are correct that in order for there to be such knowledge of inertial perspectives by a being aware of time defined by an over-arching perspective there would have to be causal interaction among otherwise causally inaccessible frames because light itself doesn’t have time to interact across all of these perspectives. However, I would suggest that you must interact with my argument about God’s power to transcend natural space-time on pp. 353-54. The problem of local light speed limits is not dealt with by the over-arching perspective but by God’s concurring power in which he can suspend the limits on light-speed travel. The problem of defining what can be known “now” is solved by the overarching perspective. Does that clear it up?

    Comment by Blake — November 23, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

  455. Mark,

    I didn’t mean to imply that a frame of reference was ever doing the observing (rather, some being/mechanism/measuring-device in said frame of reference–and since God is in them all, I thought this would be obvious). Sorry for not being more precise.

    “The present” (to be real) cannot be a slice from any inertial frame of reference. The only present that matters is what is present (temporally local) to any given spatial location. The idea that anything else is “present” is strictly speaking an illusion.

    Please realize that I was just going with the definition of “present” that Blake linked to in the article earlier. I already *asked* how one makes an A-theory of time compatible with relativity. If it isn’t via fixing an intertial frame of reference (or a world line) then posit some alternative. Do not put the burden on me, or complain that this definition is ad hoc. I totally agree with you (and seemingly Blake too) that it is ad hoc.

    —————————

    Blake,

    First, I’m making a simple point that it seems you want to ignore at least for now.

    This is how I view our discussion from my frame of reference. First, I asked a general question of how to make an A-theory of time compatible with relativity, to which you linked to an article. I also went back to your book and read a few snippets. I laid out the hypotheses I thought you were making from said article. Only in your most recent post have you made it clear that you don’t follow the definition of “present” laid out in the paper you linked to, and given me specific page numbers to read. If there is any confusion on my part, it is very understandable. Thank you, however, for pointing me to pages 353-354 of your book. They make it clear that I was misreading you.

    Please refrain from trying to mindread my intentions in the future.

    The issue is epistemic access.

    The issue was, originally, my question about compatibility between an A-theory of time and relativity. Let’s get back to that, so I can make sure I understand where you are coming from.

    After rereading those parts of your book, and what you said, here is what I am hearing:

    There is a possible equivocation on the word “now.” In one sense, the “present” can definitionally refer to what is “real” or “existing”. A sort of “expanding blocks” view of the universe. In another sense, it can refer to time-frames we give things via measurements with clocks. In your book, you do make it clear that these two concepts are different. For clarity, I will refer to the first concept as “present reality” and the second as “locally measured present time.” (If I’m understanding your point about epistemic access, you are just asserting that God accesses all events *as* they are “real” [excuse my use of circularity here]. You are not positing that this access occurs at any given “locally measured time” [except in the frame of reference where and when it actually occurs].)

    Second, there need not be a universal present or now for it to be the case that God has such knowledge. There is an overarching epistemic position that encompasses the knowledge of all such perspectives. I refer to this over-arching perspective as the privileged frame.

    I would suggest that, in the future, when discussing this topic, you might avoid the use of the word “frame” in regards to God’s viewpoint. Especially after linking to an article about defining tensed time according to local frames. ;) That said, I think I understand now what you mean.

    Correct me if I’m wrong. When you use the phrase “A-theory of time” you are not speaking of “time” in the sense that physicists use it (as the quanitity measured by the number of ticks atoms make). Rather, you are using it in the sense of “the universe is different now”. That threw me off quite a bit. Now that I recognize that equivocation with the word “time” I think I’m following much better. Relativity just adds to the mix, by exposing the fact that an A-theory of time cannot globally be glued together from “locally measured present time.” (So, if I’m following you, that paper you linked to earlier didn’t really answer my question of how an A-theory of time could be made compatible with relativity.)

    Third, you’ve also mistakenly assumed that STR doesn’t retain an absolute past and an absolute future.

    I’ve never asserted that, locally, STR doesn’t have an absolute past and an absolute future. You need to reread my posts if you think I’ve ever implied this. I was very precise in the thought experiment I laid out, and from which frames of reference I was measuring things.

    You are correct that in order for there to be such knowledge of inertial perspectives by a being aware of time defined by an over-arching perspective there would have to be causal interaction among otherwise causally inaccessible frames because light itself doesn’t have time to interact across all of these perspectives. However, I would suggest that you must interact with my argument about God’s power to transcend natural space-time on pp. 353-54. The problem of local light speed limits is not dealt with by the over-arching perspective but by God’s concurring power in which he can suspend the limits on light-speed travel. The problem of defining what can be known “now” is solved by the overarching perspective. Does that clear it up?

    Yes. It does.

    I don’t know that you need to posit that God’s knowledge or perspective transcends relativity in this framework. If “the present reality” is not a global thing, but rather a local thing, why should God’s knowledge of reality be a global thing? Why not simply posit that God’s local knowledge of global events grows as the light cones intersect?

    Thanks,
    Pace

    P.S. It is getting late. I might have more questions later. I am sorry for not remembering exactly what you said in your book (it was a couple of years ago when I read it–and you didn’t give me any page numbers!!). Please forgive me for misunderstanding the purpose of the article you linked to. By the way, in the future, page numbers would be extremely helpful.

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 23, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

  456. Pace,

    I was responding to your apparent suggestion that the barn door thought experiment demonstrated that the A-theory of time and relativity were incompatible. My point was to demonstrate that with a proper (realistic) conception of the present, there is no paradox and thus no incompatibility.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 23, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  457. Mark,

    Fair enough. As I said, I got hung up on (what I perceive to be) an equivocation regarding the use of the word “time” and temporal tenses.

    The definition of “A-theory of time” given on page 142 of Blake’s first volume says in part that “the distinction between past, present, and future is real. Past events once existed but don’t exist anymore. Future events do not yet in any sense exist. Only present events really exist; future events are only unrealized potentialities.” Now, do you really fault me for reading into this a more global view? (Even Blake’s most recent post, which had God viewing things in different light cones according to some sort of universal “now”, seems to be assuming some sort of global perspective which requires God to break/overcome STR.)

    As I’m reading you, you would interpret the statement “Past events once existed but don’t exist anymore” in a local setting, and interpret “past” to mean “we are in the future half of the light cone”. I’m not sure that was Blake’s intended use of “present”–since he seems to be supposed that God is processing all of these local components at some “present reality” [which I suppose could be "locally measured by clocks" if we were near God?].

    So my question to you is: What do you mean by an A-theory of time? Try to distinguish between “present reality” and “locally measured time”. Do you believe God has a universal perspective whereby He views and comprehends all “present realities”? Does this perspective somehow “glue” together all of the local frames of reference into a global picture of “present reality”? Can God locally measure when this glueing takes place?

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 24, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  458. Pace: “I don’t know that you need to posit that God’s knowledge or perspective transcends relativity in this framework. If “the present reality” is not a global thing, but rather a local thing, why should God’s knowledge of reality be a global thing? Why not simply posit that God’s local knowledge of global events grows as the light cones intersect?”

    I believe that God is knowledgeable about all inertial frames. If he weren’t, then there would be inhabitants of worlds outside his local time cone that he knows nothing about and with whom he cannot causally interact and thus for whom He is not God. So present reality for God is an intersubjectivity that includes all awareness of any individuals in any inertial frame of reference. So I believe that “God has a universal perspective whereby He views and comprehends all “present realities””.

    Comment by Blake — November 24, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  459. Blake,

    I believe that God is knowledgeable about all inertial frames. If he weren’t, then there would be inhabitants of worlds outside his local time cone that he knows nothing about and with whom he cannot causally interact and thus for whom He is not God. So present reality for God is an intersubjectivity that includes all awareness of any individuals in any inertial frame of reference. So I believe that “God has a universal perspective whereby He views and comprehends all “present realities””. [emphasis added]

    Why not modify this so it states that He only knows nothing about them in acausally connected locations? In other locations (where the light cones *have* intersected) He knows all about them. True, only part of God could interact with them, but couldn’t it still be a maximally powerful part, etc…?

    Follow-up question: If God has a universal perspective, couldn’t we define “present reality” in terms of the “locally measured present time” in the frame of reference which God inhabits (say, with His physical body) by asking God what is currently occuring? In other words, in your view, would it be a well-defined question to ask God which of two events came first when the events occured acausally? In other words, does God glue all of the local pieces of information into a coherent global picture? [Or even, in other words, if we did fix an intertial frame of reference U, does God act as a universal oracle in telling us what other parts of the universe occur simultaneously with what occurs at time t_0 in frame U?]

    Your answer to any or all of these questions is appreciated.

    Best,
    Pace

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 24, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  460. Pace (#457),

    Strictly speaking, the A-theory of time is a family of theories with similar properties. I simply described a STR compatible variant that avoids the problems of the time slice perspective.

    In STR, there is no determinate (frame independent) picture of present reality, but that is inconsequential because no spatially located observer can observe “the present” away from his location anyway, because it is all outside his light cone.

    I don’t think that God violates (or can violate) true natural laws. So if the STR constraints we are speaking of hold out against the superluminality inherent in quantum mechanics, I would say the only way God can administer the universe is to delegate his responsibilities to divine agents in multiple locations.

    The other STR compatible alternative would presume that the quasi-conscious activity of an individual divine person is distributed throughout space, and I think that is unlikely.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 24, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  461. Mark,

    Thanks. Those were the conclusions I came to too. Considering them all, I think it more natural to believe in a B-theory of time, and that God does interact with all things at all times.

    By the way, what aspect of quantum mechanics do you think is inherently superluminal. As far as I’ve seen, there is no experimental verification of any superliminality, nor any model of QM that posits such. [Yes, there are those that claim that they've made light travel faster, etc..., but these claims usually boil down to "group velocity" type conditions.]

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 25, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

  462. Mark and Pace: What theory of “natural law” are you working with? I adopt a largely Aristotelian view of natural law and provide a view whereby God’s concurrence is necessary for the effect of natural laws. I adopt the view that God can suspend the effect of otherwise natural occurrences but he cannot determine what the natural laws shall be if they are effective. In that way I adopt the view that things like the resurrection and flesh in fire won’t burn are within God’s power. I believe that there are serious flaws in GTR and STR that will be exposed when we find a way to make them consistent with quantum theory. I believe that there is an implicate order in which everything that exist is interdimensionally interconnected and there is no such thing as a causally inaccessible region for God.

    Comment by Blake — November 25, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  463. Pace,

    J.S. Bell derived a result known as Bell’s Theorem that famously demonstrates that quantum mechanical realism and locality are not compatible. Or in other words, no realistic, local theory such as general relativity requires can generate the statistics that quantum mechanics predicts.

    If you take a look at the multiple particle form of Schroedinger’s equation, you will see that the wave function itself is ridiculously non-local – it is a function of the possible coordinates of all of the different particles, implying that what is “happening” at any x1 for particle 1 is in direct communication with what is happening at any x2 for particle 2. No light time, no delay – but rather immediate non-local coupling.

    Bell’s Theorem demonstrates that this non-locality is not just a mathematical formalism, but rather is inherent in the (experimentally well verified) statistics that quantum mechanics predicts.

    In the 1980s Alain Aspect performed a series of experiments that verified that this sort of non-local “action at a distance” does indeed appear to occur. The idea is to generate two phase correlated photons, and send them on their way in different directions, and then change the alignment of the measurement devices after they are in flight. The results validate quantum mechanically predicted statistics by demonstrating that the alignment chosen for one the devices affects the statistics measured at the other one, which should not be possible unless there is a faster-than-light coupling between the two photons.

    Now a goodly number of physicists faced with this condundrum are happy to follow the Copenhagen interpretation – by basically denying that the wave function corresponds to anything real, it doesn’t matter – the world is just mysterious that way, and saying in any case no one can communicate useful information that way due to quantum randomness. And indeed no one has – at least not yet.

    A smaller group, faced with a choice of realism and locality, choose realism. And there are indeed realistic, non-local versions of quantum mechanics that appear to duplicate all the appropriate statistics. If one of these theories pans out, then in principle it may be possible to transmit real information (not just noise) non-locally (i.e. faster than light). That would of course also be a practical demonstration that relativity is either incomplete or wrong.

    Twenty years ago, masny physicists were talking as if the theory of everything was months away. I was thinking how was that possible considering quantum mechanics and relativity disagreed on such bare fundamentals. I feel the same way today.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 25, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

  464. Blake,

    Within the LDS tradition, I think James E. Talmage is famous for promoting the proposition that God operates within the constraint of independent natural laws. JFS II shared the same view.

    I understand that classically, the view was the God was perfectly timeless. One did not have to worry about divine discretion, because in a sense his discretion was already said and done. Then in the medieval period scholars like William of Ockham developed the view that the power of God was divided into two parts – the timeless potentia absoluta and the temporal potentia ordinata. That things such as natural law were all expressions of God’s absolute power and that particular divine commands or determinations were expressions of his ordinate power.

    Apparently by the late medieval period, the majority of scholastics decided that there was no reason to constrain God’s absolute power to be timeless, that God could change anything, including natural law (very broadly conceived of course) at any time. This was a first class theological disaster from the Thomist point of view – natural law that could be changed wasn’t law at all. The Thomists thought it was the death of reason itself.

    So the Catholics and the Protestants ended up splitting on that point – Catholics being much more Aristotelian and the Protestants largely abandoning classical scholasticism altogether in favor of simpler divine sovereignty theories.

    Then several centuries later Joseph Smith comes along and says that God didn’t create the world out of nothing, that the elements were eternal and indestructible, that God himself did not have the power to create himself nor other intelligences, and that a suffering atonement was an absolute necessity – i.e. something that God himself could not avoid without ceasing to be God.

    Those are all expressions of a radical natural law theory where natural laws are truly separate from God, not practically identical with him. I think that has been the dominant LDS tradition.

    The alternatives are to drop the idea that God has any temporal aspects at all – that all his acts are eternally pre-planned (Calvin’s solution), to go back to the medieval division of God’s power into timeless and temporal components (Ockham’s solution), or to simply say that all natural laws (including any basis of right and wrong) are what are classically called divine ordinances and may change at God’s will and pleasure (more or less a disaster).

    It’s the Euthypro dilemma – does God decree something because it is good, or is something good because God decrees it? I understand JS and JET to say the former (natural law independent of God), Calvin to go for the latter, and everyone else to punt the question into timeless eternity.

    So when I say natural law, I am referring both to the modern conception of natural physical laws, and to the classical conception of any law that is truly timeless whether derived from God or not. But in LDS theology it seems hard to call any divinely ordinance (such as ‘laws’ that operate only by divine concurrence) ‘natural’.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 26, 2007 @ 12:13 am

  465. Mark: As you well know, D&C 88 states that God’s light is “the law by which all things are governed” (88:12). It also states that God “hath given a law to all things by which they move.” (88:42) So the issue for LDS theology is placing this revelation into the context of uncreated realities. However, any view of law in LDS thought must make room for the fact that God gives a law to all things by which they move. That entails that the expression of natural law is somehow dependent on God — at the very least.

    I don’t adopt any of the so called alternatives that you suggest are somehow exhaustive. I adopt the view of divine concurrence. Eternally existing realities have natural tendencies and fixed properties that govern how they can act if they act; but the power by which they act requires God’s concurrence. So the Euthyphro dilemma doesn’t apply as you suggest. The law exists independently of God to the extent God cannot create or define the natural tendencies that eternally existing realities have; but the expression of natural tendencies is dependent on God’s concurring power. So there is a way out of the dilemma provided by LDS theology. While my view is broadly Aristotelian, it is clear that Aristotle was not a concurrentist.

    Comment by Blake — November 26, 2007 @ 8:13 am

  466. Blake,

    The problem is the passage in D&C 88 is in direct contradiction with the general tenor of LDS theology, especially as laid out in the Book of Mormon.

    The critical issue is the absolute necessity of a suffering atonement. If God is prior to all natural law, the idea that a suffering atonement is necessary for the plan of redemption to be accomplished is incoherent.

    The Book of Mormon asserts that wickedness never was happiness. If God is prior to all natural law, then certainly he could make wickedness happiness if he wanted to.

    It also asserts that no unclean thing can be saved in the kingdom of God. If God is prior to all natural law, then he could certainly save unclean things if he so chose.

    D&C 93 states that when spirit and element are separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. Why not? If God is prior to all natural law, the need for a physical body appears to be completely superfluous.

    Ultimately the idea is a form of theological absolutism with all the weaknesses of classical orthodoxy. And if natural law is temporally dependent on God’s concurrence the situation is considerably worse.

    Those are a few reasons is why I don’t think the God as magician attitude towards natural law is particularly tenable. I could name many more.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 26, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  467. If God is prior to all natural law, the idea that a suffering atonement is necessary for the plan of redemption to be accomplished is incoherent.

    This statement just doesn’t seem true to me. The issues related to atonement deal with interpersonal issues of forgiveness and compassion, not satisfying some natural laws. If you believe that the atonement is necessary because it is necessary in the sense of natural law, then we have a very different view of atonement — and different than I thought you had.

    It isn’t a matter of natural law that keeping the commandments makes us happy, is the kind of being that we are that love fulfills us. Free beings aren’t subject to natural law in the sense I think you intend, tho I’m willing to be enlightened.

    Finally, you are free to reject the revelations for the “general tenor of LDS theology,” but I think that the general tenor of LDS theology is consistent (and must be) with D&C 88. Indeed, I have provided a way in which there are eternal realities and aspects of natural law that are prior to God’s will; but it doesn’t follow that God is struck with whatever a deterministic natural law provides as you seem to suggest.

    Comment by Blake — November 26, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  468. God as magician attitude towards natural law is particularly tenable

    Now, now, ad hominem tantrums will get you no where.

    Comment by Blake — November 26, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  469. Blake,

    I think you are defining natural law too narrowly. I am speaking of it in the classical sense, i.e. any immutable constraint on the nature of things, physical or spiritual.

    One could of course make the argument that God is constrained by natural spiritual laws, but not by natural physical laws. Such a distinction seems artificial to me. When the woman with an issue of blood was healed, Jesus felt “virtue” go out of him. That sounds like a natural law to me – i.e. healing takes energy, the loss of which can be felt.

    What about creation ex nihilo? Can God override the law against that?

    Does God’s acquaintance with us necessarily entail suffering? Isn’t that a law independent of his own concurrence? Or does he choose to experience suffering for no reason external to himself?

    Do you think that God can make wickedness happiness? If not, why not? And how is that not some sort of metaphysical constraint independent of God?

    Do you think that God commands things because they are good? Or are they good solely because he commands them?

    Here is a nice discussion of the ethical dimension of the issue:

    John Kilcullen, “Natural law and will in Ockham”, 1995
    http://www.humanities.mq.edu.au/Ockham/wwill.html

    Comment by Mark D. — November 26, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  470. By the way, though some natural laws appear to be deterministic, natural law certainly does not entail determinism in general, any more than the law of gravity prevents me from going from place to place.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 26, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  471. Blake,

    My view of natural law and its relation to God is not particularly philosophical. I believe there are some things outside of God’s control (such as my continued existence as an intelligence) and some things inside of it (such as my continued existence as an *organized* intelligence). I do not read D&C 88 as stating that God is the source of the mechanism for all moving things in the universe (although I’d be open to such an interpretation–know any prophets who read it similarly?). Rather, I read it more along the following lines:

    Ever seen those mazes where a marble rolls around in the maze, and you can tilt the axes to try to avoid the holes? Similarly, I think God set in motion certain movements of the planets, and has set in place safeguards/laws to keep them following certain paths.

    Best,
    Pace

    P.S. I’d be interested to know your answers to my questions, in my previous post to you (#459).

    Comment by P. Nielsen — November 26, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  472. For reference, here a handful of quotes on the relationship between LDS theology and natural law:

    Joseph Fielding Smith:

    “A miracle is not, as many believe, the setting aside or overruling natural laws. Every miracle performed in Biblical days or now, is done on natural principles and in obedience to natural law. The healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, giving eyesight to the blind, whatever it may be that is done by the power of God, is in accordance with natural law. Because we do not understand how it is done, does not argue for the impossibility of it. Our Father in heaven knows many laws that are hidden from us.” (Man: His Origin and Destiny, p. 484- TLDP:649, emphasis added)

    James E. Talmage:

    Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized. Gravitation is everywhere operative, but the local and special application of other agencies may appear to nullify it — as by muscular effort or mechanical impulse a stone is lifted from the ground, poised aloft, or sent hurtling through space. At every stage of the process, however, gravity is in full play, though its effect is modified by that of other and locally superior energy. The human sense of the miraculous wanes as comprehension of the operative process increases. (Jesus the Christ, Ch.11, p.148, emphasis added)

    Miracles are commonly regarded as supernatural occurences, taking place in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto. (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 222)

    David Paulsen:

    In the total context of Mormon revelation, it is clear that God’s power is not correctly described as the absolute power to suspend the operations of all natural laws, but rather the power to maximally utilitize natural laws to bring about His purposes. (David Paulsen, quoted in Mosser, The New Mormon Challenge, p. 183)

    Comment by Mark D. — November 26, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  473. Mark: Do you believe for some reason that my model cannot accommodate every one of these quotes? On my view miracles cannot contravene natural tendencies; but God can so act that what is a natural tendency is not expressed. If you adopt a view that God simply follows natural laws, then how was Christ resurrected? How come Daniel didn’t burn in the presence of fire?

    You ask whether I believe that God could make wickedness happiness–of course not. We have an eternal nature that is not created by God. However, it is passing obvious that God has undertaken action to make it so that we can experience greater happiness. We don’t experience a fullness of happiness just because we naturally evolve into it given our nature; rather, it requires God’s actions and instituting laws to facilitate its accomplishment. Such a view of course is quite comfortable for divine concurrence. Are you imagining that we could experience a fullness of happiness without God’s further action above and beyond whatever we just happen to have as our eternal nature?

    Further, I believe that D&C 88 is fairly straightforward. God has given a law that governs the motions of things.

    Finally, I deal with the Euthyphro dilemma at length in my second volume, ch. 3. It just isn’t a dilemma for my view. Why do you keep bring it up? Something is good because it is expressive of love and actualizes our divine nature. Thus, whatever is less than love is less than fully good and what is injurious to relationships is what doesn’t work to actualize our inherent nature. However, God gives commandments fit to our circumstances to teach us how to love one another. Once again, a divine concurrence. God is not so much subject to a law of divine goodness as the embodiment of divine love.

    Now on your view, could God give us commandments that weren’t just his knowledge of some natural law?

    Comment by Blake — November 26, 2007 @ 9:29 pm

  474. Blake,

    Thanks for your response. Did you actually read those quotes? My position on miracles is identical to Talmage:

    Miracles are commonly regarded as supernatural occurences, taking place in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto.

    So the answer is that Daniel doesn’t burn because God is intervening in some manner consistent with natural law. Transfiguring him by endowing him with spiritual power for example.

    The answer to your second question is no. My point is that God’s inability to make wickedness happiness is an expression of a natural law – an inviolable constraint independent of his own will.

    I raised the Euthypro dilemma again because the existence of a standard of goodness independent of God is likewise an expression of natural law, again in the general sense of the term.

    The answer to your third question is yes. It is clear that God has extensive freedom to establish divine laws and ordinances according to his own design. However I do not think he can simultaneously redeem mankind and require us to behave in a manner contrary to the natural law of morality (that which is discoverable through reason alone).

    Comment by Mark D. — November 27, 2007 @ 12:59 am

  475. Here is the problem that I have Mark — I don’t think that there is such a thing as a natural law on your view. Let me explain. I asked what your view of natural law is. This is a deeply problematic issue in philosophy as I am sure you are well aware. What constitutes a natural law? I suggest that natural laws are defined by the natural tendencies that individual natures of various kinds of things have. That is an Aristotelian view. However, you don’t say what your view is beyond saying that God doesn’t violate natural law. That isn’t a theory of natural law. It is just a statement of regularities — a more or less Humean view. On such a view, natural law is just a regularity. I don’t believe that such a view really renders natural laws at all.

    To flesh this out, let’s take a regularity: Flesh burns in the presence of fire. Of course there is a ceteris paribus clause to all natural laws. It burns unless something is different that makes it so it doesn’t burn. What is it that does that? We don’t know. But there is no regularity that we can identify because God knows how to make it so that flesh doesn’t burn. So there is a certeris paribus clause here: flesh burns in fire unless God doesn’t want it to and finds some natural means to arrest it. So when flesh is in the presence of these other natural conditions that God has brought to bear, it doesn’t burn — and this becomes the new regularity. The problem is that we cannot identify any new change in conditions other than God’s will that changes anything. Moreover, the old regularity is just replaced with a new one — but there will be an infinite number of exceptions to that regularity as well. Thus, there are no regularities in such a world. The certeris paribus clause swallows the notion of natural law you’re using.

    Finally, I may have misunderstood you. I thought that you quoted the sources in 472 to suggest that my view was inadequate. In fact, my view turns out to be like yours in this respect: the regularity of the natural tendency of flesh to burn in fire is swallowed up in the miracle of God withholding his concurring power and thus the flesh does not burn. In the end, it ends up being the same view since the regularity required for all action is God’s concurring power — it is the ceteris paribus clause. Thus, your view ends up being essentially the same as mine with respect to whether natural laws govern the world.

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 7:02 am

  476. Pace: I’m not dodging your question in #459, I just don’t know that I have an answer. I don’t know.

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 7:21 am

  477. Blake,

    I think the whole argument you summarized in #475 is an epistemological fallacy. The fact that we do not know whether our knowledge is complete enough to know whether what we believe to be a natural law admits of exceptions does not imply that there are no exception free laws.

    The same sort of fallacy lead Karl Popper to conclude that it was not rational to believe that the sun would come up again in the morning – on the basis that it was impossible to confirm any theory through empirical evidence.

    Do you believe that there may be cases where wickedness really might be happiness? Or where God might vanish from existence? Or where we could be saved without a suffering atonement?

    Comment by Mark D. — November 27, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  478. Mark: I’m merely pushing your notion of natural law. I don’t think it is clearly articulated. Until you have a notion of what a natural law beyond mere regularity, the discussion of whether God can contravene natural law has no meaning.

    As I said previously, given my quasi-Aristotelian view of law and my agape view of ethics, it is clear why wickedness isn’t happiness: it is contrary to the nature of our flourishing and growth to be as God is. As eternal entities, we have the capacity to be as God and we have a nature that fixes what we must do to realize that nature. However, it also requires God’s intervention and active involvement. The problem that your view has is that it doesn’t seem to require God’s action at all. It is all a matter of natural law and I suppose natural evolution?

    Comment by Blake — November 27, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  479. dammit I get all the way to comment 300 and there is a pingback to a thread on T&S with 200+ more comments on the subject.

    Comment by BHodges — December 19, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  480. Hehe. This argument has generated thousands of comments at various thread BHodges. Thankfully the side I’m on wins.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  481. BHodges, I’m just impressed at your fortitude so far in plowing through old posts. Reading the exchange with Heli reminds me why discussing this often makes me want to tear my hair out (and other people’s).

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2008 @ 5:03 pm

  482. Regarding Geoff’s 428:

    (And yes I realize that this stuff is getting off the foreknowledge topic but since we’re in the 400s now I doubt anybody but us will read this anyway)

    WRONG! Now get back on topic for the love of Pete.

    Jacob: The most irritating part is the quick “go read this post, we already talked about that aspect” comments, when I am linked to something else with a hundred or so comments. Yeesh! Still, they are very interesting. It is something like leaving the bag of food open and available to the hungry dog. He’ll eat himself sick.

    Comment by BHodges — December 24, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  483. I made it!

    Comment by BHodges — December 24, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  484. BHodges: I admire your fortitude. My brain still hurts from the last time I backtracked a thread here (and on Splendid Sun).

    Comment by BrianJ — December 24, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  485. BHodges: What drives me nuts is when I feel like we were on the brink of really figuring things out, and then, *poof* the thread died. That’s why I appreciate your resurrecting some of these lines of thought so much.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  486. Hey guys, I picked up this thread of thought in a recent post if any one still cares.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 4, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

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