Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Two Page Final - Jody Baltz

One topic that is discussed very often in philosophy is free will. Free will is the ability to act on your own choices and not due to constraints or destiny. This topic is discussed frequently when discussing religion. Also, many major philosophers have stated their views on free will due to the fact that philosophers have tried to prove that mankind has freedom of thought from the beginning of recorded time.
            Free will is often discussed along with religion in philosophy. In the Bible, it tells that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows what has happened and what will happen before we do. To many, this sounds like this violates free will if God knows everything before it happens, but that is not true. God has given us free will to make our own decisions and choices.
            Philosophers have always been trying to prove free will. The first people to try to prove free will were the Greeks. The Greeks tried to prove that our lives were not merely the pawns of gods, and thus the sciences of nature were discovered. One of the first philosophers to give his views on the idea that events are destined was Aristotle. Aristotle believed that events can be traced back to an initial cause, but he believed in chance and uncaused events. He was an indeterminist. Aristotle said that there are three reasons things happen. They are necessity, chance, and a third thing that he described as “up to us.” Epicurus was the first person to recognize the problem of free will. Epicurus believed that atoms would occasionally swerve from their determined path and cause a new causal chain. He was trying to disprove determinism. Epicurus also believed in chance. Cicero is another philosopher that believed that humans had free will. He rejected the idea that our futures are determined by fate. The stoics believed in the contrary. They believed in determinism. Events are caused by prior events that are caused by events prior to that, and so on until the end of the world. Many years later, Saint Augustine had a different approach to free will. He starts by saying in his approach to free will that there is no denying that we have a will. Augustine defines rather good will, which is a will to live a good and upright life. He believed that God could know event’s outcomes and humans still have freedom. Thomas Aquinas believed that men are free, but still felt that need for God’s Omniscience, but God was still ruled by the laws of reason. One of the more famous philosophers to give his views on free will was Rene Descartes. Descartes felt that the freedom of humans was in the mind, but the body of a person is determined. John Locke took the question of free will and turned it to a different perspective. He said that the will of a person is determined, but the people themselves are free. Immanuel Kant stated that all individuals possess free will and capable of recognizing three pillars of morality. These three pillars are God, freedom, and immorality. He believes that no situation can force a person to give up these three virtues unless the person chooses to.
            The idea of free will will continue to incite philosophical discussions for many years to come. Although many of the great minds throughout time have given their views on the subject, there is no true way to prove or disprove free will. We have no way of knowing if we are destined and merely appear to have free will or if we have free will and think we are destined.


  1. The free will debate is inconclusive, true enough, and must finally be resolved by each of us for ourselves. But, this question-begging assertion does not resolve it:

    "this sounds like this violates free will if God knows everything before it happens, but that is not true. God has given us free will to make our own decisions and choices."

    As it stands, this is self-contradictory. If we have free will to decide irresolute things, then there ARE things an "omniscient" being cannot know. If He does know everything, how can we have that sort of free will?

  2. Well the way I look at it is our life is full of choices, such as we can take the right path or the left path. We are free to choose the path we want, but what is to say an all knowing god doesn't already know the path we plan to choose or that he can see the timelines following both choices. I do not see why it has to be a contradiction that god knows everything and we have choices. When it comes down to it we will never know the real answer, but why try to limit something we do not understand by what we think is possible. Would it not make sense that we do not understand God because we try to understand him with out limited knowledge. 300 years ago if you handed someone a smart phone and asked them to tell you what it is and what it can do, they would have no way of defining it properly. Even if you told them some about it, as the bible tells us about God, they would still not have a full grasp due to the knowledge gap present and their need to fit it into what they already know. Is that not one of the great things about God? The fact that we truly do not fully understand him.

  3. If by free will you just mean facing choices, whether or not the choices we'll make are already determined or not, then there's no "contradiction"... but neither is there the possibility that events in your life, and in the larger world, will be genuinely responsive to those choices. Some of us mean THAT, by free will.

    Not sure why it should add to the luster of a putative divine supernatural being that it's ways would be incomprehensible to lesser beings. "Not fully understanding" is our condition as human beings, true enough, but I say let's keep pushing for greater understanding - not surrender like primitives to permanent mystery.