Determinism, Free Will, and Track Jumping

March 27, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 9:45 pm   Category: Determinism vs. free will,Theology

How often do we actually use our free will? I have vigorously defended the doctrine of robust free will here and elsewhere on the Web. I am convinced that if there is no free will in the libertarian sense then the entire structure of the gospel fails. We must be free to choose our future in a robust way or this life is no real test at all. With no libertarian free will we all find ourselves as predestined cogs in the great machine called the universe. But having said that, I’m not at all convinced we actually use our free will very much at all in life.

Last year I hinted at this idea when I posited that the natural man is the causally determined man. The point of that post was that if we don’t actively choose to be better than what comes naturally we are in trouble spiritually. It was another way of saying we must act Christ-like rather than simply react naturally to the stimulus life throws at us.

But it now dawns on me that presenting the idea in that fashion let us Mormons off the hook too easily. We usually equate the whole idea of the “natural man” to the idea of a worldly or “Babylonian” person who has standards and morals that are lower than ours and therefore we pat ourselves on the back for being better than that. But I think the proverbial natural man might be more than that. I think the natural man is the person who stays only on the track in life that he or she is started on.

Nurture and Nature; Tracks and Talents

Think about the parable of the talents. Each servant is given a certain amount of money (talents) and the test is all about what each servant does with those funds, not how much money each ends up with. The task is not just to avoid losing the money but to double the money. So a servant who started with one talent and ended with two would be far more pleasing to God than one who started with five and ended with five.

So how many talents do we each get in life? I think a useful way of looking at this question is to consider the life “track” we were handed. For instance, I was born the second son of recent Mormon converts who devoutly adherred to their new religion. Genetically I was given a strong mind and body and environmentally I was given a loving and supportive Mormon family. What was my track? Well as I see it, my track as handed to me by God and my parents was to grow up as an active Mormon young man, receive the priesthood, serve an honorable mission, marry in the temple, remain active in the church, and raise children who will do the same. Ok, so I’ve met the minimum requirements of my track so far. That means I am at least on track or I haven’t jumped tracks downwardly. But is staying on track rather than jumping to a lower track enough? I think not. That is like keeping the five talents I started with – sure I didn’t lose the any of the money, but the task is to increase or even double the proverbial money. So back to the track analogy – our task is not to stay on track (even the active Mormon track) but rather it is to jump tracks upwardly.

So how does this apply to determinisnm and free will? It is admittedly hard to know exactly which of our choices are caused by the free will of the inner us and which are simply the natural reactions to the life track we were given in life. My suspicion is that we are on auto-pilot (read: causally determined) almost all of the time. But I also think that a few really good free choices can cause an upward track jump and an upward track jump means we are thereafter on a more Christ-like track in life. Of course truly free bad choices can cause downward track jumps as well.

I think that these “tracks” I am referring to can be most closely associated to the concept of character. Our character makes us predictable – sort of like tracks make the destination of a train predictable. So in this analogy the goal is to get off whatever track we were given in life and get onto the highest and best tracks we possibly can — or in other words it is to make difficult free choices that change our fundamental characters to make them more like God’s character. I think jumping tracks specifically means doing some things out of character. If we are to jump tracks upwardly we have to do things so Christ-like that they are basically out of character for us. I contend that only by so using our free will can we change our fundamental characters.

It seems to me that jumping above the minimum requirements of the “active Mormon” track eventually requires getting onto a track where we have a real and current and growing personal relationship with Christ. A revelatory dialogue with God is required for us to get to the the “higher tracks” I think. Interestingly, the scriptures say that through such a relationship we will eventually discover that we have jumped tracks to the point where we are in fact on the same track as Christ and the Father.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)

48 Comments »

  1. If your will is free you are always using it. Deciding to go with the flow is still deciding.

    Comment by clark — March 27, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  2. I suppose that is true — at least in the the old “no decision is a decision” model. But no decision is always easier than a decision and therefore jumping tracks is harder than remaining on the the same track or “going with the flow”. It is this more difficult “track jumping” variety of free will that I think we very rarely use… and it is the no-decision type of action the parable of the talents seems to be condemning.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2006 @ 10:23 pm

  3. Geoff: I discuss these issue at some length in chs. 5-9 of my second volume! In fact, I argue that we are free only insofar as we are called out of ourselves in relationship by another. Free will is a gift, but it is one we reject very often because just going with the flow is so much less outside our comfort zone where no growth takes place. Growth takes place outside the comfort zone and by conscious choice consciously taken to be the kind of person we choose to be. Anyway, good post.

    Comment by Blake — March 28, 2006 @ 8:53 am

  4. Ha! Well that must be my cue to continue my series of posts on your new book then Blake. I am enjoying it immensely so far.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 28, 2006 @ 9:09 am

  5. Well done Geoff, I enjoyed it very much. I made a post similar to comments 1 and 2 using the lyrics to ‘Free Will’ by my favorite band. Perhaps I will buy Blake’s book eventually and learn some more. I’m afraid many would think my post there was pretty low level, but one must start somewhere until they can jump track like the spiritual hobos we are.

    Comment by Eric — March 28, 2006 @ 9:44 am

  6. spiritual hobos

    I love the visual image I’m getting here!

    Comment by C Jones — March 28, 2006 @ 11:23 am

  7. Yeah, if Geoff has a flare for anything its in his ability to come up with crafty analogies and great labels such as “ticker tape translation”.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — March 28, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  8. One problem I see with jumping tracks is waiting for the choice to come rather than seeking after it. I think I make pretty good choices when they come along, but that’s the problem. I’m not seeking out choices that will make me better spiritually. You’ve got me thinking again Geoff! Ok, now that I’ve thought about it, it’s too hard, I’ll just keep going along and wait for the big choices to come!

    Comment by don — March 28, 2006 @ 1:13 pm

  9. Yes Eric, I agree with C Jones that the “spiritual hobos” image is an excellent and appropriate riff on the theme I’ve started. And I must confess that Jeff is probably right that my super villain name (if I had one) might be The Analogator.

    Don, I think you are catching the vision I had in mind. I think that after we find ourselves consistently qualified to enter the temple the next track jumps have to do with our personal revelatory relationship with the God. So in a sense this post is not really a new direction for me but rather a look at the same theme from a different angle…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 28, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  10. I have a lot of problems with your particular account of free will which I want to explore in this relatively pristine thread. I don’t have time right now to get into the more important ones, so I’ll just mention one for now.

    Your motivation rejecting compatibilism is that is doesn’t allow for responsibility. Then you also say that the natural man is a causally determined man. If this is so, then the natural man is one who is not responsible for his actions. Thus, it is difficult to see how the natural man could be as bad as the scriptures paint him out to be, i.e. an enemy to God.

    Couple this with the fact that we have no reason to believe that most track jumps are “upward” rather than “downward” and I don’t think your account is at all harmonious with the idea of the natural man.

    To be clear, the scriptures paint the natural man as being bad, with the assumption that the changed, unnatural man is good. Your model, however, says that the natural man is neither good nor bad (although his situation or condition may be bad, he is not) and the unnatural man is both good and bad. The two simply do not match.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 1, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  11. Jeff G,

    Interesting point, I’ll be interested in Geoff’s response here. I tend to agree that there are some important distinctions that not clear to me about the track jumping ideas in the post. For example, I don’t hold a person accountable who does something while sleep walking. If that dude (from Utah, right?) can prove to me that he was asleep when he killed his wife then I’ll let him off the hook. However, if he kills his wife while he is awake, then this might be a very “natural man” sort of thing to do, but I don’t think he is off the hook. If we attribute the murder to causal determinism (as the post may do, not sure) then I do think there is a big problem making sense of our intuitions about responsibility.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 1, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

  12. Jeff,

    The logic is pretty simple:

    God’s work and glory is to help us progress to become exalted and at one with him. The causally determined man makes no spiritual progress toward God at all. Therefore the natural/causally determined man is an enemy to God because he frustrates and impedes God’s work and glory.

    The fact that one can actively choose to move away from God as well doesn’t really change any of that.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 1, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  13. “The causally determined man makes no spiritual progress toward God at all.”

    You don’t think that’s going a little too far? What about the fact that they are embodied? The fact that they are experiencing things? The fact that they learn and grow, all of this does absolutely nothing to progress a person toward God?

    Furthermore, are you really willing to embrace the idea that all infants and children are enemies to God? A person who is raised in the gospel by wonderful parents and faithful to the church throughout his life without ever jumping tracks; this person has made absolutely NO spiritual progress at all?

    I still find it really difficult to believe that “the natural man” is not describing people, but the situation in which people find themselves. The idea that somebody is a flat out enemy to God by merely going with their nature, nurture and environment is repugnant to me.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  14. I guess the main problem I am driving at is this:

    The natural man, according to you, is an enemy to God through no fault of his own, ever.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  15. Jeff: You don’t think that’s going a little too far?

    Nope.

    I don’t find any of your questions at all compelling either. As you know, I am not convinced this is our first physical body. If mature people are entirely causally determined (despite their LFW veto ability) they aren’t learning and growing in any sense that leads to spiritual progress. If they cannot choose otherwise (like little children) they are innocent and thus not the “enemies of God” so that complaint is missing the point. And yes, a person who never freely chooses to be/do better than the track they are on makes no spiritual progress to becoming more Godlike — they simply break even. As the saying goes — The Gospel is designed to make bad men good and good men better. Breaking even does neither.

    The idea that somebody is a flat out enemy to God by merely going with their nature, nurture and environment is repugnant to me.

    First, these kinds of complaints come off as totally ridiculous coming from an atheist like you. Second, the idea of “enemy of God” need not mean God hates them or something — rather it could easily mean that our not progressing spiritually is directly contrary to God’s will for us and is therefore openly fighting against his purposes.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  16. The natural man, according to you, is an enemy to God through no fault of his own, ever.

    Wrong. Mature humans can veto the causal chain on my view. We can thus progress spiritually. If we choose not to do that it is indeed our fault.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  17. First, these kinds of complaints come off as totally ridiculous coming from an atheist like you.

    Firstly, Jeff goes out of his way (it seems to me) to make sure his atheism doesn’t distract from the conversations here. I don’t know why we have to constantly beat him over the head with it. Secondly, Jeff’s statement strikes me as very important one for a determinist to make. If one thinks that everything is simply going with its nature/nurture environment, one has a vested interest in that not being completely contrary to God per se.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  18. Your response is entirely incompatible with your view of what the natural man is. The natural man is a causally determined man, a man who is not responsible for his actions.

    If it is his fault, then he is responsible. If he is responsible, he must not be causally determined. If he is not causally determined, he is not the natural man. Where did I go wrong?

    This is actually getting pretty close to what I see as the big problem with your view, but I haven’t gotten to that yet.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 11:18 am

  19. Geoff,

    We can thus progress spiritually. If we choose not to do that it is indeed our fault.

    This seems to go back to the same issue Clark brought up in the first comment about going with the flow being a decision. If you say (as you do above) that not deciding to progress spiritually is our fault, then aren’t you saying that going with the flow is itself a choice? And if going with the flow is a choice, then it is not, strictly speaking, causally determined, right? I am having a hard time figuring out how you deal with that problem.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:18 am

  20. Jacob,

    Here’s my problem with that quote from Jeff. He uses inflammatory language “repugnant to me” in a sentence where he is talking about God’s opinion on something. He wants to have it both ways — he wants to deny God exists but when it suits his purposes he uses all these loaded phrases as if he were defending God’s honor (or as if he’s worried about the opinion of what he believes is a non-existent God). I find that rhetorical ploy of his annoying an my reply reflects my annoyance.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:23 am

  21. God is an embodiment of goodness. To say that somebody is an enemy to God is to call them a force for evil. To say that somebody who simply goes with a good flow a force for evil is morally repugnant in every way. No rhetorical ploy.

    And it’s not like this is the first time you have played the atheist card.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  22. then it is not, strictly speaking, causally determined, right

    Right Jacob. If we choose to go entirely with the causal flow then that is a choice and we are left with sins of omission mostly. So strictly speaking no one with LFW (most adult humans) is actually causally determined. Rather, we fail to veto the causal chain and thus live as if we were causally determined.

    BTW — I think this idea of never bucking/vetoing the causal chain and thus being the “natural man” dovetails nicely with this teaching from the NT:

    16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Rev. 3: 16)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  23. “Rather, we fail to veto the causal chain and thus live as if we were causally determined.”

    Okay, but is this choice, this sin of omission causally determined or not? Are people responsible for this choice?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  24. It should also be mentioned that I don’t see any relevance whatsoever between the scriptural uses of “natural man” and determinism. The natural man is always, without fail, described as somebody who follows their own passions being carnal, sensual, devilish, etc. These are always contrasted with being meek, penitent, submissive, etc. Nowhere is the causal order of things ever brought into question. You can certainly say that you are working with your own private definition of “natural man”, but in that case I fail to see why anybody should care, or why a new name for the causally determined man is needed.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  25. Geoff,

    Ah, interesting perspective. Perhaps I can cast it in a more favorable light. If Jeff came in here and told us that everything we are talking about is pointless because there is no God, he would be a troll and we would ban him. Instead, he does the polite and responsible thing by adopting the basic premises of our conversations so that he can participate without being disruptive.

    The fact that he spent most of his life believing in God makes it relatively easy for him to drop into that framework and argue from that perspective, even if it is not his own perspective at the moment. He obviously spent many years building up strong opinions from within that framework, so he can argue from that perspective genuinely.

    When he makes statements like the one you took issue with, I believe he is doing it from the perspective of someone who believes in God (as in, “when I was a believer in God, or if I still believed in God, I would find such a thing repugnant”). Alternatively, his statement could also be read as his current view but with the term “enemy to God” basically standing in for what he would think of as a “morally evil person,” even in the absence of a belief in God.

    So, I don’t see it as Jeff trying to have it both ways, but him being willing to put aside his conversation-stopping disagreements with us in order to have meaningful dialogue with us. If he was constantly adding qualifiers to everything he said to make sure we didn’t forget that he doesn’t believe in God I would find that annoying. At least, that is how I see it.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  26. Jeff,

    First, see #22 in answer to your #23.

    Second, this post is about LFW and determinism. I mentioned the natural man idea in that previous post not primarily as an exegesis of that verse but rather as a support for the idea that failing to freely choose to progress spiritually matches up nicely with the concept of the natural man in that passage. (It fits nicely with the lukewarm water that God spews out too.)

    I simply disagree with much of your #21 but to avoid getting off topic I’ll not address it.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:46 am

  27. Well, while I was working on #25 I missed some exchanges that overlap, sorry about that. Looks like my guess beginning with “Alternatively” is pretty close to the mark of #21 though…

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:47 am

  28. Geoff,

    The fact that one can actively choose to move away from God as well doesn’t really change any of that. (from #12)

    Just to be clear, are you counting the active choice to move away from God as a desciption of the “natural man” or not?

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  29. Just to get clear about where things stand:

    I really think that equating the causally determined man with the natural man is a bad idea, for it does not do justice to determinism or the force of the title “natural man.” You seem to be backing away from that, if only because it has so little to do with the free will debate. Fair enough.

    However, you still see man as being usually causally determined and that in such a circumstance he cannot spiritually progress at all. Thus, while you don’t see the causally determined man as being devilish, sensual, etc. you think his circumstances are still pretty bleak.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

  30. “First, see #22 in answer to your #23.”

    I find this answer far from satisfactory. My 23 was a question about your answer in 22. Simply repeating 22 does me no good.

    Here is the big rub:

    “So strictly speaking no one with LFW (most adult humans) is actually causally determined. Rather, we fail to veto the causal chain and thus live as if we were causally determined.”

    This is a SIGNIFICANT (yes, all caps) concession. You basically just said that we really aren’t causally determined at all and that we always have free will. In that case, it is only “as if” we are “the natural man” and not making spiritual progress.

    While this is certainly a more defensible position in my mind, it contradicts a lot of what you have said in the past.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  31. BTW Jacob, 25 was spot on, the entire comment.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

  32. Jeff,

    The problem is that I am assuming more nuance in my view than you are granting. Let’s for instance separate out nature and nurture first. On the nature side our most basic animal instincts and appetites can indeed appropriately be labeled sensual, carnal, etc. We must overcome those and the light of Christ will reportedly encourage us to do that even if we are raised by wolves. But most of us were not raised by wolves so most of us also have nurture that trains us to avoid incessantly feeding all our carnal appetites.

    The point of this post is that just going with the flow is not sufficient to become like God and at one with God. As I said, the gospel is reportedly about making bad men good and good men better. We must use our free will to proactively become more Godlike. So I don’t see why we shouldn’t see the problems of the natural man being a problem on more than one level. I don’t disagree that overcoming our animal appetites is first, but surely you don’t think that is all that is required to become Godlike.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  33. Regarding (#30)

    See my comment #2. I made that concession right from that start. The “as if” should have been included in the original post. So sue me…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

  34. Okay, so I guess I’m just really confused as to what “tracks” are being jumped. I was under the impression that we were talking about more than simply changing from one nature to another, because such a thing is entirely compatible with determinism.

    For instance, I am born with some nature, n0. Through much preaching, introspection, prayer, etc., I come to realize that a better nature, n1, would be better and I accordingly desire it. I pray for help, forgiveness, grace, penitence, etc. and God intercedes in His own way. I have have n1 and I don’t see any where that the causal chain broke down. Nature, nurture, introspection and divine intervention all seems to be well within the causal chain which is natural law.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  35. Jacob: Just to be clear, are you counting the active choice to move away from God as a desciption of the “natural man” or not?

    Well I think my answer to this is related to me response in #32. I do think that it is logically possible for us to freely choose to do worse things than either our nurture or our physical nature are influencing us to do. So I guess that would be worse than the “natural man” as I am using the term in these two posts. But in most cases my guess is that we allow our carnal appetites overcome our nurture/training and by satiating those we are going with the causal flow of our physical natures.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  36. As a little addendum, going against the flow of nature, or even nurture, does not entail going against the flow of causation.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  37. Geoff,

    Your #32 and #33 clarified a lot for me. I think I understand where you are coming from now.

    The point of this post is that just going with the flow is not sufficient to become like God and at one with God. As I said, the gospel is reportedly about making bad men good and good men better.

    I can totally get on board with this sentiment and I’m in full agreement. I guess my conclusion is that some of details I was getting hung up on are not really what you were getting at, so I’m going to let them go. Thanks for clarifying.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  38. Jeff,

    I agree that one can change one’s “nature” in a fully deterministic world. It is not only possible, but very likely that in a deterministic world, if we could take the Jacob at t2 and insert him in the place of Jacob at t1 he would bahave differently than Jacob(1) was about to behave. I think the work “nature” is not mapping very well between the two paradigms (LFW and determinism). Further, I think that I need to think more carefully about what I mean when I talk about someone’s nature since what I’m thinking of might turn out to be incoherent. I’ll do that.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 2, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

  39. As a little addendum, going against the flow of nature, or even nurture, does not entail going against the flow of causation.

    Nature plus nurture = the sum total of all causes on your point of view. How could you do anything not dictated by causes prior causes. It is by definition the case in a deterministic world-view that everything we do, we do because of the prior causes.

    Further, how could anyone act against a nature? A nature is generally defined by a natural kind. One couldn’t for instance, act in a way inconsistent with being human. So you’re going to have to, once again, define your terms. What do you mean by a “nature”?

    Comment by Blake — March 2, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  40. I don’t have time right now, but here are the forms of causation which I see in a Mormon worldview:

    biological nature
    social nurture
    spiritual nature
    spiritual nurture (from God, etc.)
    non-social environmental interaction
    introspection (causation which is constantly happening between the ears)
    random and unexpected accidents (which probably falls under non-social environment, but hey)

    There is soooo much more than mere nature/nurture.

    Comment by Jeff G — March 2, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

  41. Jeff: I was speaking about your world-view. So on our view of determinism that is all that there is. Further, if all of these environments are only part of nature on your old view of Mormonism, then suggesting that there is more than nature and nurture on your old Mormon deterministic view is also misleading.

    Comment by Blake — March 2, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  42. Jacob (#37) — I’m glad to hear we are on the same page with this. I clearly needed to better explain what I meant all along here.

    Jeff — I am not sure what you are getting at with the whole “nature” sidebar but if you are using it to argue against the existence of LFW this is the wrong thread to take that discussion up again. (I only brought up the highly generalized “nature/nurture” thing to better explain my position in this thread. It looks like Jacob at least better understands what I have been meaning…)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 3, 2008 @ 12:48 am

  43. Yeah, I was mostly, but not entirely talking to Blake on that one. Let me see if I get what you are saying, and point out where some confusion may be lurking on my part.

    What you seem to be saying now has very little to do with the free will debates. Indeed, it seems to have more to do with courage than anything else. The natural man is a passive man you isn’t really risking anything or taking a stand for anything. This is what it is for somebody to go with the flow. Is this about right?

    Where I got off if where you call (in the other thread, granted) the natural man the “causally determined” man. That statement wreaks of the free will debates and that is where I was picking things up. You seemed to be saying that track jumping was the only time that counter-causal, LFW was ever exercised for good or evil and that the only time that we could ever jump tracks was by exercising counter-causal LFW. Now am I right is assuming that this is not what you hold to?

    Comment by Jeff G — March 3, 2008 @ 1:02 am

  44. Jeff: I believe I get where Geoff is coming from. The “natural man” is the person who has gone unconscious of his/her freedom and thus fails to choose to transcend what merely follows from stimulus/response behavior. The natural man does not act, but merely reacts. It is as if the natural man is merely a part of the natural order of causes because s/he never chooses to step outside of the causes. In fact the natural man is always free in a LFW sense because at any moment s/he could choose to become conscious and to choose for herself to act and not be merely acted upon.

    Martin Buber had a similar view. We could relate to each other as Its or things which are caused in the order of causes. The object causes me to have a sense of it; but I encounter a Thou. I have a free involvement with another person by choosing to trust and enter into relationship that I don’t have with mere objects — whether that object be a he or a she. (Heidegger also has a good deal to say about the different ways of being and existence).

    I believe that is what Geoff is getting at.

    Comment by Blake — March 3, 2008 @ 7:19 am

  45. Let me add that the natural man, whether it be a he or a she, also hides her accountability and ability to transcend the order of causes from herself. She blames others for causing her to take offense, refuse to forgive and feel the way s/he does. The natural man is thus self-deceived about her freedom of will. She refuses accountability as a means of justifying her failure to be conscious of what she choses in actuality. Thus, the natural man uses the natural order as an excuse to avoid accountability for the choices s/he makes.

    Comment by Blake — March 3, 2008 @ 7:22 am

  46. Blake — You have captured the essence of what I have been getting at nicely. Thanks. And I like your point about how this idea meshes with the It vs. Thou concepts taught by Buber.

    Jeff — The way the “natural man” idea really connects to our earlier debates about the existence of LFW is that I was in part trying to show that it could appear as if people were causally determined even though they really aren’t. But mostly in this post I wanted to show, as Blake noted, that even if we are naturally pretty good people with good training from good parents we all still need to proactively transcend ourselves and choose to be better than we are or we will not be spiritually progressing as God wants.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 3, 2008 @ 8:40 am

  47. Heidegger’s view (what he calls authenticity and inauthenticity) isn’t freedom in the sense you guys are talking about it though. Rather it is freedom for the things as they present themselves to you phenomenologically.

    I think Schelling and Swedenborg had ideas similar to what Geoff is talking about. It’s been so long though I’d need to check.

    Comment by Clark — March 4, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  48. BTW – for those interested my blog is finally up for real. I figured most of those who read it read here.

    Comment by Clark — March 4, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

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