Free will


Jamie123
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Why Free Will Doesn't Exist - YouTube

Here's my problem:

  • We naturally think that we make our own decisions in life and we therefore have free will.
  • But if God is sovereign, surely His sovereignty must extend over our decisions.
  • Therefore we cannot have free will.

People who don't consider things too deeply often leave it at this. But consider the following...

  • If God is sovereign, must He not have the power to delegate part of His own freedom to us?
  • This would not interfere with His own sovereignty since He retains the sovereign power to reclaim that freedom.
  • If this is correct then we do have free will (albeit "on loan" from God).

This as I understand it is the LDS position*: Satan (or Lucifer) wanted God to force obedience on mankind (i.e. for them not to have free will). Jesus Christ wanted God to give mankind the freedom to obey or disobey. When God chose to follow the latter course, it sparked off the "war in Heaven"... etc.

But Cosmic Skeptic throws a spanner in the works here...

  • Our actions are always directed by our wants, but we have no freedom to choose what we do or do not want.
  • Since we do not have the freedom to control our wants, then we cannot have free will.

You might say that a man who yawns his way through the movie Love Story when he'd rather be watching the soccer does not really want to do so, but he does want to please his girlfriend. We don't always want to get out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church, but there's usually some deeper want that forces us to do so. You might also go away and do something you particularly don't want to do (like eat liver...ugh!) just to prove Cosmic Skeptic wrong - but in doing so you would only be obeying another "want" (the "want" to win the argument.) You might say you have a free choice between proving yourself right and avoiding eating disgusting liver... but then it would just come down to which of those two wants was the strongest... It gets you at every turn!

Now consider this...

  • If we take the hyper-Calvinist view we could say that God could have implanted desires in us so as to make us obey or disobey Him (depending on whether we are elect or reprobate).
  • But notice now that we have simply transferred the same problem from the "Human-level" to the "God-level". In what sense is God free to act, other than in accordance with His own "wants"? Unless there is some other kind of "free will" which exists only at the divine level (and which we couldn't imagine) then God does not have free will either.

I wonder whether assigning freedom to God isn't a form of anthropomorphism: (i) Man starts by thinking he has free will. (ii) He assumes that God is analogous to Man. (iii) He therefore assigns to God his own quality of free will. (iv) He then decides that since God is omnipotent and has free will, then Man cannot have it after all.

*I'm not LDS so please correct me if I've misrepresented this.

Edited by Jamie123
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9 hours ago, Jamie123 said:
9 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

Our actions are always directed by our wants, but we have no freedom to choose what we do or do not want.

Since we do not have the freedom to control our wants, then we cannot have free will.

 

I think this arguement only becomes possible because of a slippery and unjustifiably broad definition of the term wants. Many people perform their duty, whether they want to or not, and the performance of their duty has nothing to do with what they want. I think that faith, beliefs, values, and knowledge, seperated from our wants, are equally powerful drivers of actions. Wants are temporal, fleshy, earhly drivers of our actions, and we should all be striving for our actions to be driven by higher things than just what we want. One of Satan's main tools it to tempt us through our wants, and one of God's main tools is to influence us through our conscience. I have difficulty seeing how it could be said that both God and Satan attempt to influence us by appealing to our wants.  

I also disagree that we have do not freedom to control our wants. I think it is perfectly possible to arrive at a wholly logical decision, completely uninformed by any personal desires, and to then act in a manner consistent with that decision.  

We always have the freedom to decide if and how and to what extent we will be influenced by our wants and whether or not we will ever notice or respond to them. I think it would be unwise to try and limit or downplay human capacity or freedom.

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Romans 8:5-7 "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

As taught in the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, the natural man is an enemy to God. You are right when you say we can't control the flesh. No matter how hard we think, we can't make a hair grow on our head or stop hormones from surging through our bodies. No man or woman should ever feel guilt for their appetites - they are by design. But they can still choose.

The fact that your true self, your spiritual self, can stop and yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit means you have every bit of agency that was promised in the pre-earth council. However, pre-mortal existence is not a widely held doctrine outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so our members may benefit from that faith where others do not.

Keep 🙏 and doing good!

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11 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

Why Free Will Doesn't Exist - YouTube

Here's my problem:

  • We naturally think that we make our own decisions in life and we therefore have free will.
  • But if God is sovereign, surely His sovereignty must extend over our decisions.
  • Therefore we cannot have free will.

People who don't consider things too deeply often leave it at this. But consider the following...

  • If God is sovereign, must He not have the power to delegate part of His own freedom to us?
  • This would not interfere with His own sovereignty since He retains the sovereign power to reclaim that freedom.
  • If this is correct then we do have free will (albeit "on loan" from God).

This as I understand it is the LDS position*: Satan (or Lucifer) wanted God to force obedience on mankind (i.e. for them not to have free will). Jesus Christ wanted God to give mankind the freedom to obey or disobey. When God chose to follow the latter course, it sparked off the "war in Heaven"... etc.

But Cosmic Skeptic throws a spanner in the works here...

  • Our actions are always directed by our wants, but we have no freedom to choose what we do or do not want.
  • Since we do not have the freedom to control our wants, then we cannot have free will.

You might say that a man who yawns his way through the movie Love Story when he'd rather be watching the soccer does not really want to do so, but he does want to please his girlfriend. We don't always want to get out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church, but there's usually some deeper want that forces us to do so. You might also go away and do something you particularly don't want to do (like eat liver...ugh!) just to prove Cosmic Skeptic wrong - but in doing so you would only be obeying another "want" (the "want" to win the argument.) You might say you have a free choice between proving yourself right and avoiding eating disgusting liver... but then it would just come down to which of those two wants was the strongest... It gets you at every turn!

Now consider this...

  • If we take the hyper-Calvinist view we could say that God could have implanted desires in us so as to make us obey or disobey Him (depending on whether we are elect or reprobate).
  • But notice now that we have simply transferred the same problem from the "Human-level" to the "God-level". In what sense is God free to act, other than in accordance with His own "wants"? Unless there is some other kind of "free will" which exists only at the divine level (and which we couldn't imagine) then God does not have free will either.

I wonder whether assigning freedom to God isn't a form of anthropomorphism: (i) Man starts by thinking he has free will. (ii) He assumes that God is analogous to Man. (iii) He therefore assigns to God his own quality of free will. (iv) He then decides that since God is omnipotent and has free will, then Man cannot have it after all.

*I'm not LDS so please correct me if I've misrepresented this.

I don't think Mormonism has ever really preoccupied itself with the supposed "sovereignty" of God in quite the way many other Christian denominations seem to have.  We're quite comfortable, in principle, with the notion that there are some things that God just can't do.  For example, we believe the Atonement of Christ was necessary because God was obligated to bridge the gap between/satisfy the demands of both justice and mercy--He couldn't save us unless He was willing to sacrifice His own Son.  And while it's not "officially" doctrinal, we also speculate heavily on the notion that God was once a mortal as we are now--a supposition which which suggests that He had other mortal peers, some of whom may have attained godhood as He has, but over whom He presumably has no dominion. 

I don't think we really subscribe to the idea that our God must be the only/mightiest God in all the eternities and the infinite universes that ever have or ever will existed.  Nor does our faith require that our God be absolutely all-powerful within the realm that is His own.  Really, we envision a council of gods who are each supremely mighty within their own spheres (and only One of which with whom, as Brigham Young put it, "we have anything to do"); and it is enough for us that God is spectacularly more powerful than we are and that He invites us to become as He is.  As for humankind's "free will" or "agency" (and frankly, I think within Mormon discourse we often conflate those two concepts, but that's another discussion):  God, like any parent, has kids who develop independent consciences and wills; and who can only be controlled in accordance with certain principles (and even then, only to a limited degree).  In fact, in Mormonism, the kernel of each individual's identity--the "intelligence"--is co-eternal with God Himself.  God can organize and refine intelligence, but He cannot create it.  The will of the intelligence (or, in its later states, the spirit or the human) is subject to God's power, but is not really subject to God's will unless the intelligence/spirit/human chooses to become so.  

Within Mormonism, I think the more intriguing question isn't whether our "free will" is bound by God's omnipotence, but whether it is bound by His omniscience.  If He can see all things past, present, and future as "one eternal now", as Joseph Smith taught--then in a sense, is my future already written?  Am I just pantomiming a role in a play whose ending is already known?  In my experience, that's the question that tends to keep philosophically-minded Mormons up at night.

Edited by Just_A_Guy
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12 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

This as I understand it is the LDS position*: Satan (or Lucifer) wanted God to force obedience on mankind (i.e. for them not to have free will). Jesus Christ wanted God to give mankind the freedom to obey or disobey. When God chose to follow the latter course, it sparked off the "war in Heaven"... etc.

An important refinement on this to make (speaking as an LDS Christian lady)

Free will is foundational to what it is to be.  It is intrinsic to whom person is.  The Father acknowledges this.  Christ (whom was always the chosen to be the Savior) choose to follow in His Father's wisdom in this regard.  It was Lucifer whom then said (in essence) "Time out-- no no, that's a horrible idea.  I'll force everyone to behave.  I'll be the Savior I"ll be the most High!".  The Father already had the Plan, Lucifer's rebellion was never a valid option.  But Lucifer did always have the option to obey or rebel, and he choose rebellion.

 

You can't get a more anti-Calvinist view point than LDS Christians.  The "sovereignty of God" is... not a concern.  Just zero.  We have all have choices- you, me, the Father, etc.  They are intrinsic.  Obviously some things aren't possible and consequences comes with choices.  Even the Father acknowledges this and works within that framework.  

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15 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

People who don't consider things too deeply often leave it at this. But consider the following...

  • If God is sovereign, must He not have the power to delegate part of His own freedom to us?
  • This would not interfere with His own sovereignty since He retains the sovereign power to reclaim that freedom.
  • If this is correct then we do have free will (albeit "on loan" from God).

This as I understand it is the LDS position*: Satan (or Lucifer) wanted God to force obedience on mankind (i.e. for them not to have free will). Jesus Christ wanted God to give mankind the freedom to obey or disobey. When God chose to follow the latter course, it sparked off the "war in Heaven"... etc.

First, it is this type of YouTube video that makes me cringe. It is someone who doesn't know but rambling on as if he knows because he read research. There is plenty of scientific articles that support Free Will, and I have read how a professor used the same article and findings to support biological behaviorism (no choice, our genes dictate our choice).

There appear to be misunderstandings of the Church's doctrine surrounding "moral agency." First, is that our "free will" (moral agency) isn't "on loan" from God. Moral agency is a law in heaven, and without it we have the following verse of scripture, "And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away."

If there is law, if their is righteousness, if there is goodness, if there is punishment, if there is wickedness then moral agency (not necessarily free will) exists. If a law that never existed until a society was created and a person can obey or disregard, then you know you have choice. Free will I believe is different from moral agency. Free will, technically, is action/choice without accountability. Moral agency is action/choice with accountability (thus the dichotomy of Heaven and Hell).

Second, it is semantics but an important distinction. God didn't choose the latter course. The course was already laid before us, it wasn't like Satan presented an opportunity before God the Father. Satan presented an opportunity for our choice, our choosing. The Father simply move forward with the plan that was already laid out.

Third, Jesus wanted to do the will of his Father and to obey the Father's plan. Jesus wasn't "wanting" God the Father to give mankind moral agency. Jesus was honoring the Father who understood the necessity for moral agency. Jesus was obeying and desiring -- as in life -- the will of the Father, "Thy will, not mine be done."

15 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

But Cosmic Skeptic throws a spanner in the works here...

  • Our actions are always directed by our wants, but we have no freedom to choose what we do or do not want.
  • Since we do not have the freedom to control our wants, then we cannot have free will.

You might say that a man who yawns his way through the movie Love Story when he'd rather be watching the soccer does not really want to do so, but he does want to please his girlfriend. We don't always want to get out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church, but there's usually some deeper want that forces us to do so. You might also go away and do something you particularly don't want to do (like eat liver...ugh!) just to prove Cosmic Skeptic wrong - but in doing so you would only be obeying another "want" (the "want" to win the argument.) You might say you have a free choice between proving yourself right and avoiding eating disgusting liver... but then it would just come down to which of those two wants was the strongest... It gets you at every turn!

The first is a fallacy. Our actions are subject to our: knowledge, our appetites, our passions, our dislikes, and our experiences. The second bullet is a fallacy also. In what way do we not have control over our wants? Any concept or idea is suppositions. So, I have to agree/accept (a choice) -- the irony -- with the bullet to accept their is no freedom to our wants.

When I was 11 I had walking Pneumonia. At that time, this medicine was freaking horrible tasting. I wanted to throw up and gag every time I took it. I didn't "want" to take the medicine. There were many days I didn't take the medicine because it was disgusting. I "wanted" to get better without taking the medicine, and I got better even though I didn't take the medicine everyday like I should have.

If two wants exists -- guess what -- you have a choice between the two wants. And the concepts of choosing the want which is the strongest is faulty also. Are we able to act against the stronger desire? Yes, indeed we are. We see it with drug addicts whose desire -- the strongest want -- is to take the drug. But they stay their hand.

Driving down "free will" to one concept -- want -- is myopic.

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On 9/17/2021 at 8:20 PM, Jane_Doe said:

An important refinement on this to make (speaking as an LDS Christian lady)

Free will is foundational to what it is to be.  It is intrinsic to whom person is.  The Father acknowledges this.  Christ (whom was always the chosen to be the Savior) choose to follow in His Father's wisdom in this regard.  It was Lucifer whom then said (in essence) "Time out-- no no, that's a horrible idea.  I'll force everyone to behave.  I'll be the Savior I"ll be the most High!".  The Father already had the Plan, Lucifer's rebellion was never a valid option.  But Lucifer did always have the option to obey or rebel, and he choose rebellion.

 

You can't get a more anti-Calvinist view point than LDS Christians.  The "sovereignty of God" is... not a concern.  Just zero.  We have all have choices- you, me, the Father, etc.  They are intrinsic.  Obviously some things aren't possible and consequences comes with choices.  Even the Father acknowledges this and works within that framework.  

Yes. Without free choice, it is just a game- a horrible game. There is no need for Satan, because God has become Satan. 

Edited by lonetree
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If we just go by the idea that we are governed by our wants...then we would still have free will.

You may have, at times, many wants that are contrary to each other.

You WANT to go see a movie, but you also WANT to save money.  You WANT to save money for a new car, but you also WANT to go out to eat at the new Steak house in town.

You have the evening to decide what to do.  You must CHOOSE what you will do.  There are probably several other things you WANT to do or that your WANTS will dictate, but you can't do all of them...and thus they cannot dictate that you HAVE to do any of them.

Thus, even there, you see freedom of choice.  It may be between freedom of WANTS...but it is still a freedom of choice as by choosing one, you exclude other choices.

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On 9/17/2021 at 10:05 PM, askandanswer said:

I think this argument only becomes possible because of a slippery and unjustifiably broad definition of the term wants. Many people perform their duty, whether they want to or not, and the performance of their duty has nothing to do with what they want. I think that faith, beliefs, values, and knowledge, seperated from our wants, are equally powerful drivers of actions. Wants are temporal, fleshy, earthly drivers of our actions, and we should all be striving for our actions to be driven by higher things than just what we want. One of Satan's main tools it to tempt us through our wants, and one of God's main tools is to influence us through our conscience. I have difficulty seeing how it could be said that both God and Satan attempt to influence us by appealing to our wants.

I suspect that is too narrow a definition of "want". When we say that God "wants" something (i.e. that we should become His true disciples) are we talking about things "temporal, flashy or earthy"? Yes, many people do perform their duty against their immediate wants, but do they not also "want" to avoid the later shame of not having done their duty? I don't think the argument is dismissed quite so easily as this.

On 9/17/2021 at 10:05 PM, askandanswer said:

I also disagree that we have do not freedom to control our wants. I think it is perfectly possible to arrive at a wholly logical decision, completely uninformed by any personal desires, and to then act in a manner consistent with that decision.  

True...but do you not also "want" to act in a logical rather than an illogical manner, because that will ultimately lead to greater happiness? Again, the problem here is defining a "want" as only something immediate and carnal. Our "wants" exist on many different levels.

On 9/17/2021 at 11:00 PM, clwnuke said:

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Like askandanswer, you are defining a "want" too narrowly. A want could be a very spiritual and noble thing, as well as a bestial or sensual thing. Did you (for example) not want to be baptized? I was (like most Anglicans) baptized as a baby, but I can remember later on wanting very much to be confirmed. And it had nothing to do with any sensual or carnal pleasure. (In fact it was in total opposition to the sensual sins I was struggling with at the time.)

On 9/18/2021 at 12:11 AM, Just_A_Guy said:

I don't think Mormonism has ever really preoccupied itself with the supposed "sovereignty" of God in quite the way many other Christian denominations seem to have.  We're quite comfortable, in principle, with the notion that there are some things that God just can't do.

I have a book somewhere by Alistair McGrath - an introduction to theology - which asks the questions "could God draw a four-sided triangle" and "could God create an object too heavy for himself to lift" and "could God commit an evil act" - from which he develops the theory that divine omnipotence cannot be summarised as "God can do anything". He ends up with the conclusion that God's omnipotence means that He is unlimited in His ability to achieve His purposes. (Or words to that effect - I don't have the book to hand.)

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

First, it is this type of YouTube video that makes me cringe. It is someone who doesn't know but rambling on as if he knows because he read research.

Cringeworthy or not, he raises points which I think deserve thoughtful consideration. Even if we don't agree, it's instructive to consider why we don't. And don't forget he's a kid. A clever kid I grant you, but a kid all the same. We can cut him some slack.

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

There appear to be misunderstandings of the Church's doctrine surrounding "moral agency." First, is that our "free will" (moral agency) isn't "on loan" from God. Moral agency is a law in heaven, and without it we have the following verse of scripture, "And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away."

Thanks for clarifying that. I guess the idea of "free-will-on-loan" has more to do with the Arminians (originally an off-shoot of the Calvinists, who were similarly preoccupied with divine sovereignty).

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

Free will I believe is different from moral agency. Free will, technically, is action/choice without accountability. Moral agency is action/choice with accountability

Isn't that rather like saying that "free will" is deciding whether to chuck your litter in the bin when there's no one looking, and "moral agency" is the same when there's a policeman watching?

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

Second, it is semantics but an important distinction. God didn't choose the latter course. The course was already laid before us, it wasn't like Satan presented an opportunity before God the Father. Satan presented an opportunity for our choice, our choosing. The Father simply move forward with the plan that was already laid out.

OK thank you. I stand corrected.

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

Third, Jesus wanted to do the will of his Father and to obey the Father's plan. Jesus wasn't "wanting" God the Father to give mankind moral agency. Jesus was honoring the Father who understood the necessity for moral agency. Jesus was obeying and desiring -- as in life -- the will of the Father, "Thy will, not mine be done."

One could argue that Jesus still "wanted" to obey his father because he loved Him, and this was for him (being who he was) a stronger desire than his wish not to be crucified. Though I agree that "thy will" and "my will" presented as a dichotomy is rather suggestive.

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

When I was 11 I had walking Pneumonia. At that time, this medicine was freaking horrible tasting. I wanted to throw up and gag every time I took it. I didn't "want" to take the medicine. There were many days I didn't take the medicine because it was disgusting. I "wanted" to get better without taking the medicine, and I got better even though I didn't take the medicine everyday like I should have.

You are falling into the same trap as everyone else, namely of thinking that a "want" can only be something"bestial", or "sensual" or "irrational". I could just as easily argue that you wanted to get better, and your rational mind told you that getting better required you to take your medicine, Therefore you took your medicine (on the occasions when you did) not because you wanted the taste of the medicine but because you wanted the benefit of its other properties - namely its ability to make you better.

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

If two wants exists -- guess what -- you have a choice between the two wants. And the concepts of choosing the want which is the strongest is faulty also. Are we able to act against the stronger desire? Yes, indeed we are. We see it with drug addicts whose desire -- the strongest want -- is to take the drug. But they stay their hand.

It's exactly the same as with the pneumonia medicine. The drug addict is presented with two wants - the want for the drug, and the want to be free of his addiction. His "bestial" self will choose the drug, while his "rational" self will realise that greater long-term happiness will be had by resisting it. It could still be argued (though I wouldn't do so myself other than to play "Devil's advocate") that he is still responding to the stronger want.

On 9/18/2021 at 5:08 AM, Anddenex said:

Driving down "free will" to one concept -- want -- is myopic.

I think you are basically correct, though not for the reasons you have given.

On 9/18/2021 at 1:20 AM, Jane_Doe said:

Free will is foundational to what it is to be.  It is intrinsic to whom person is.

This comes closer to what I think myself. Let me try to explain (though it's not going to be easy)...

CosmicSkeptic's arguments have a hidden assumption about what the human "will" really is: namely that it's a causal machine which takes inputs in the form of wants and produces outputs in the form of actions. It is like a thermostat responding to the relative strengths of "hot" and "cold" and adjusting the heating or A/C accordingly. But that is in essence also his conclusion, so the argument is circular.

You see the same sort of idea in Freud - the idea of "man as a machine" whose actions are programmed into him by "complexes" which can be explained in a causative manner. But if the mind is nothing but a mechanism, where is the...whatever-it-is...that experiences the effects of its operation? I was never convinced by Freud: if I had gone into psychology, I would be a Jungian, not a Freudian. (Most likely I would have driven myself nuts.)

I mentioned in my original post that even if the want>action model is (at some level) correct, perhaps God has a kind of "freedom" which goes beyond it. (I put the word "freedom" in quotes because I don't know how to define it.) But perhaps we also have that same sort of freedom ourselves: either "on loan" from God as the Arminians would claim - or perhaps inherent as Jane Doe says - or perhaps (in kind of "Pullmanish" way) as a result of original sin. Quite what this is I could not really contemplate - but could an entity ever really contemplate itself?

In a similar vein, I remember once seeing Susan Greenfield on TV talking about how consciousness was a "sensation" which we would one day - by science - understand. I thought at the time that this was wrong: a "sensation" requires someone (or something) to experience it, and would not that experiencer need to be conscious in order to do so? You stand at the beginning of an infinite regression. To make sense of anything there has to be something "above and beyond" - and that whatever-it-is could be the real seat of free will. But what that whatever-it-is is...

Pope said "Know then thyself presume not God to scan". Maybe both are unattainable.

(And by the way, thanks to everyone for replying!)

Edited by Jamie123
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Isn't that rather like saying that "free will" is deciding whether to chuck your litter in the bin when there's no one looking, and "moral agency" is the same when there's a policeman watching?

I get your point; however, with "moral agency" the "watcher" so to speak is God who is always looking. At the same time, "moral agency," incorporates personal accountability. I find it pleasing is the following verse of scripture, "The show of their countenance doth witness against them..." It is why in the end all will be able to say "Thy ways are just" to God even if they aren't in Heaven (Celestial).

One could argue that Jesus still "wanted" to obey his father because he loved Him, and this was for him (being who he was) a stronger desire than his wish not to be crucified. Though I agree that "thy will" and "my will" presented as a dichotomy is rather suggestive.

I agree with "wanting" to obey his father because he loved him. That is the main reason our Savior did what he did. He honored the two great commandments: 1) Love of God -- his father, 2) Love of his neighbor -- us.

You are falling into the same trap as everyone else, namely of thinking that a "want" can only be something"bestial", or "sensual" or "irrational". (same with the drug addict)

I'm not falling into any trap, as I don't think wants can only mean what is suggested above. I was giving an example of how we can act against a "want" in both cases (sickness or drug addicts). The argument for or against both is subjective, thus not offering true evidence for -- our choice is determined by our wants. It is better said that our choice is "influenced" by our wants, not determined.

I assume an important question would be, can a "want" or "desire" be personal, and if so then that means we have free will. This is where the concept of "wants" can only be true if our "genetics" determine our wants. If there is any choice in what we like, what we want, and what we desire then we have -- free will. Simple because that "want" is mine own creation.

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

It's exactly the same as with the pneumonia medicine. The drug addict is presented with two wants - the want for the drug, and the want to be free of his addiction. His "bestial" self will choose the drug, while his "rational" self will realise that greater long-term happiness will be had by resisting it. It could still be argued (though I wouldn't do so myself other than to play "Devil's advocate") that he is still responding to the stronger want.

I think what’s getting lost here is YouTuber isn’t just dealing with dichotomies, even when he only offers 2 choices, instead there’s an unstated hierarchy of wants. My want at level 50 is “don’t sound pretentious” while my lower want at level 75 is “shake it up a little”. Given the rankings I will greet you with “Hello” instead of “Bonjour”. That’s how it’s going to play out. And it will play out like that every time. That being the case, why did I say “Bonjour”? YouTuber says it’s because there’s actually another want at play. At level 38 is “I want to prove YouTuber wrong about free will.” 
 

The problem as you’ve stated is that, although it is sel-consistent, it’s also circular. For addicts, “take a hit” ranks higher than “don’t” but there are addicts who don’t. Therefore they must have a third want that you don’t know about. They want “in tact family” or “steady job” or “stop breaking mom’s heart” or some other want. This philosophy is unfalsifiable. The implication of this model is if we want to change behavior we need to add a new want to the hierarchy in a higher rank, or alter the ranking al an existent want. This then leads to the second issue with this philosophy. (I’ll get there after the following paragraph).

In the Hello/Bonjour example another solution that YouTuber didn’t discuss at all is that maybe there wasn’t a third want - maybe my hierarchy shifted. Every time I say “Hello” my “shake it up” want moves up the hierarchy a notch. Once it’s at 49 I say “Bonjour” and it drops down again. This is something like the infinite prisoners dilemma (there’s a good TedEd video on that) (this is also the problem with the stable marriage algorithm - it only works if everyone’s rankings stay the same).

Whether Bonjour comes from a new rule or a shift in the hierarchy, it highlights the same question: Where does the hierarchy of wants come from? YouTuber is arguing a mechanical-style of free will based on the hierarchy of wants which means (hopefully I’m not presuming too much) this hierarchy falls under the nature/nurture debate but must ultimately be nurture. That is, if it is mechanistic then the current example can come from how a person was raised (outside influences) or genetics (natural influences) but if it’s ultimately mechanistic then the outside influence (culture, counter culture, parents, etc) is the result of meta-evolution and the natural influence is from evolution. Since YouTuber hasn’t expressly made this argument I won’t engage it further, but I’ll leave it here for consideration.

Beyond nature and nurture I can think of two other sources for this hierarchy of wants. How bout God? The challenge here is a theological one @Traveler often raises. If a person sins because of the hierarchy God set, who is ultimately responsible for that sin? Is God just for condemning the man He preset to sin? This lead to the fourth option, that there’s something independent within the individual uncreated by God. @Just_A_Guy wrote previously about “intelligences” and while Latter-day Saints are comfortable with it, it creates a divide when discussing with credal Christians about Creation or God’s relationship to man.

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I think it is impossible for an external observer to make completely reliable conclusions about the motivations of a person, or to make definitive statements as to whether a person's actions are being driven by fear, wants, personal values, logic, knowledge, faith, or anything else. Given the impossibility of an external observer being able to make reliable conclusions about what is motivating a persons actions and choices, I think we need to rely on what the person themselves say - they are the ones most likely to be able to make accurate statements about what is motivating them. I think that in many instances, in answer to the question of "why are you doing that", there will be many occasions when the person will say something other than because I want to, and many occasions when they will say something like because I choose to. When considering why a person is be doing something, I think it is perfectly reasonable to give greater weight to the words of the doer of the action rather than those of the observer or the philosopher.

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On 9/17/2021 at 12:46 PM, Jamie123 said:

Why Free Will Doesn't Exist - YouTube

Here's my problem:

  • We naturally think that we make our own decisions in life and we therefore have free will.
  • But if God is sovereign, surely His sovereignty must extend over our decisions.
  • Therefore we cannot have free will.

People who don't consider things too deeply often leave it at this. But consider the following...

  • If God is sovereign, must He not have the power to delegate part of His own freedom to us?
  • This would not interfere with His own sovereignty since He retains the sovereign power to reclaim that freedom.
  • If this is correct then we do have free will (albeit "on loan" from God).

This as I understand it is the LDS position*: Satan (or Lucifer) wanted God to force obedience on mankind (i.e. for them not to have free will). Jesus Christ wanted God to give mankind the freedom to obey or disobey. When God chose to follow the latter course, it sparked off the "war in Heaven"... etc.

But Cosmic Skeptic throws a spanner in the works here...

  • Our actions are always directed by our wants, but we have no freedom to choose what we do or do not want.
  • Since we do not have the freedom to control our wants, then we cannot have free will.

You might say that a man who yawns his way through the movie Love Story when he'd rather be watching the soccer does not really want to do so, but he does want to please his girlfriend. We don't always want to get out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church, but there's usually some deeper want that forces us to do so. You might also go away and do something you particularly don't want to do (like eat liver...ugh!) just to prove Cosmic Skeptic wrong - but in doing so you would only be obeying another "want" (the "want" to win the argument.) You might say you have a free choice between proving yourself right and avoiding eating disgusting liver... but then it would just come down to which of those two wants was the strongest... It gets you at every turn!

Now consider this...

  • If we take the hyper-Calvinist view we could say that God could have implanted desires in us so as to make us obey or disobey Him (depending on whether we are elect or reprobate).
  • But notice now that we have simply transferred the same problem from the "Human-level" to the "God-level". In what sense is God free to act, other than in accordance with His own "wants"? Unless there is some other kind of "free will" which exists only at the divine level (and which we couldn't imagine) then God does not have free will either.

I wonder whether assigning freedom to God isn't a form of anthropomorphism: (i) Man starts by thinking he has free will. (ii) He assumes that God is analogous to Man. (iii) He therefore assigns to God his own quality of free will. (iv) He then decides that since God is omnipotent and has free will, then Man cannot have it after all.

*I'm not LDS so please correct me if I've misrepresented this.

So I like these questions. However, I would suggest that there is a flaw:

1) There are certain things which are not 'wants' in the traditional sense. An addict who 'wants' to quit smoking has an addiction to smoking, but does not 'want' to smoke. Similarly, someone blinded by rage might not 'want' to commit an act, but due to a blinding emotional state they find themselves either unable or unwilling to fight a compulsion.

2) The more water we drink, the more we want water. The more love we share with our family, the more we want to love. We may not be able to 'control' our wants, but we can certainly influence them.

This leads me to a question I have yet to find a substantive answer to:

 

God is omniscient.

We have free will.

We can choose to go with God, but we might not.

God knows whether we will or will not even before we're created.

So why create us, knowing that even though we could choose the right thing, that we won't. If I put a child in a crib on a tightrope and that child plummets, even though the child could have stayed safe, I knew the child wouldn't. How much of our failures does the omniscient being bear?

What I believe is that God does know even before we are created and given a body what our ultimate choice will be. I suspect that his sacrifice allows  us to make a certain amount of bad choices and that he reaches out to us at all points to try to bring us in. I believe that those who make the deliberate decisions cannot hold Heaven hostage to their own bad choices.

But I still don't know why they're created in the first place.

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29 minutes ago, FunkyTown said:

So why create us, knowing that even though we could choose the right thing, that we won't. If I put a child in a crib on a tightrope and that child plummets, even though the child could have stayed safe, I knew the child wouldn't. How much of our failures does the omniscient being bear?

What I believe is that God does know even before we are created and given a body what our ultimate choice will be. I suspect that his sacrifice allows  us to make a certain amount of bad choices and that he reaches out to us at all points to try to bring us in. I believe that those who make the deliberate decisions cannot hold Heaven hostage to their own bad choices.

But I still don't know why they're created in the first place.

My thoughts on the question of why God creates someone that will not make it.... is really simple.  Even a little bit of progress is better then no progress.

Lets walk through this... God sees a pre-existent Intelligence and knows what it is capable of...  And does what he does to advance it to being one of his spirit children.  The focal point of my thought is that the selected Intelligence is much better off with the advancement even if it goes no further.  Then there is the physical body, we are better off with a physical body then with out one.  Then there is the resurrection and degrees of glory.  Each type is better then mortality, but some are better then others.

Thus each step along the way is a benefit and gain for us but we only go as far as we are willing to go.  With this idea then even Lucifer being lifted to a Spirit Child is a positive and net gain for him even if he does not go any farther.

Now we do have the things like 'endless suffering' and 'eternal damnation' to deal with... But I have to ask... compared to what?  What an exalted person has... Sure... But maybe not when compared to a pre-existent Intelligence

 

 

 

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@mordorbund mentioned one of my logical problems - I will go a little more in detail.

When we talk about free will - I am not convinced that there is enough proof to even suggest that free will is even possible - at least in mortal life as we know and experience.  There are so many logical examples that free will does not "ALWAYS" exist.  We cannot will ourselves to live or be born.  We cannot will ourselves to regrow a severed or missing limb.  We cannot will our natural eye color.  From a scientific standpoint we cannot will natural laws or if or when the universe will end.  I am not sure that free will has any chance of existence beyond our own imagination.   If we have any degree of free will it is temporary and dies with us.

Our LDS scripture introduces another idea that is called "Agency" or "Moral Agency".   This is the idea that we have the choice to become an agent of light or an agent of darkness.   The great Chiasm of Christian scripture is that G-d's creation begins with the separation of light from darkness and ends at the resurrection and final judgment with the same notion of concluding the separating of light from darkness.  Everything in-between is the process of separating light from darkness.  

This principle of agency is not a difficult concept or principle - an yet Traditional Christian doctrine has turned this into such a confusing discussion of free will that the result is moral chaos - that we cannot even justify that believing in G-d is all the beneficial - which is why agnostics and atheists has been so pronounced in modern thinkers capable of even modest logic.  But most religious thinkers deplore logic except when it is bent to justify their "strange" beliefs.  Like the Pharisees at the time of Christ - they define logic as that which supports their beliefs.  Jesus was very logical and it drove them nuts and made them angry - so angry that they crucified the Son of G-d. 

 

The Traveler

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I thought to add something - it appears to me that the entire debate over free will verses determinism is all encompassed under the notion that G-d is "All Powerful".   It appears to me that many throughout the religious community hang all their belief in G-d on the concept that he is "All Powerful".  But there is a problem with simple logic - if G-d is "All Powerful" than nothing else has any effect on any outcome.  To claim otherwise is a logical conundrum.  But sadly few in the religious community will address any notion that does not fulfill their religious fantasies - and they interpret every scripture and prophetic statement as completely in line with their religious fantasy.  

In short the Calvinists are correct a "All Powerful" G-d equals determinism.  There is no other logical possibility and therefore any argument becomes a contradiction.   The only light in this darkness comes to us through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that specifically teaches of a pre-existence where humanity had power to choose their destiny - not just in this mortal existence but in eternity.  If we begin with the premise of  the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rather than the premise of Traditional Christianity (and most all other world religions) we can argue free will and moral agency - but without such understanding - there can only be contradictions.  At least I have not seen a single logical argument that G-d is "All Powerful" and that mortals have free will or agency.

 

The Traveler

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One can be all powerful, but choose not to USE that power.

There is a difference between being all-powerful and all-knowing.

Just because you know something and have the power to make it occur or prevent it from occurring does not mean that you have to do either.

You can grant someone the power to choose without interfering, even if you are all powerful.

People wonder WHY an all-powerful and all-knowing being would do this...which is really what many of the questions come down to.

If he is all-powerful, why does he allow men to do such terrible things to each other?

If he is all-powerful, why does he allow bad things to occur?

If he is all-knowing, he would already know the outcome of everything, so why even let it happen.

We are not all-knowing or all-powerful, but we have similar things with our own lives.

If you have ever had a 3 year old and a 25 piece puzzle, you probably could easily put it together yourself.  You could put it together for the 3 year old.  Some parents did and do.  Some choose not to.  The 3 year old can demonstrate if they have an interest in puzzles if they start trying to do it themselves.  You can see if they truly are interested if they keep at it.  If they succeed, they can have the pride to show off to their parent and the pride in their own success.  Even if a parent aids them, they may still have pride that they were able to do it.  Even though you KNEW how to put it together (most likely) very quickly, and could have done it for them, you allow them to do it.  It helps them to know their interests (they may have no interests in puzzles, if you do it for them, what does it do to really help them?) and they will lose interest in it, or they may find they love puzzles.  If they like puzzles, they can have the pride that comes with finishing them.

It is a simple answer.  We have these things for our benefit and to discover ourselves.  It is not for the benefit of one who already knows and could do it themselves, but for us.

The next question is why do bad things happen then.  We wouldn't let a child purposefully hurt themselves (unless we have some sadistic streak within us)?

We may let the child be saddened.  Perhaps they cannot figure out the puzzle and we won't help them figure it out.  They may be upset and angry.  We know it most likely won't cause any lasting harm.  Eventually they will either go back and figure it out, or realize that at this point in life, perhaps puzzles are not things they REALLY are interested in.  They are hurt for a little while.

For an all-knowing being that is eternal, this life is temporary.  It is like a blink of an eye compared to endless eternity.  In comparison, we feel less pain in this life in the timespan comparative to each other, than a child would have at not being able to figure out a puzzle.  It's all in the perspective.

Perhaps if we look at it from the perspective that this life is all, that this is all the time there is, it may not seem logical, but when we see from an eternal perspective (even if it is a mere 10 BILLION years, that means someone who lives 100 years will have live will have lived 1 one hundred millionth of the time of the existence.  That would be around a minute of pain if they experienced pain their entire life (actually, not absolutely sure on the Math, that's why I'm a historian and not a mathematician, but it's not a terribly long period of time).

Compared to your life, one minute of pain is extremely short compared to the rest of it.

NOW...as members of the Church of Latter-day Saints there is another additional factor that we see tossed into it.  This life is also a TEST to see if we are worthy to have the greatest power there is, the power to have the same ability as our Deity, to inherit all he has.

This is something you don't just want to trust to anyone.  At the same time, you want those who do not receive it to understand WHY they don't get it, and ultimately be responsible for their OWN choice in the matter.

Instead of simply telling the child..."because I said so"... it instead becomes the idea of..."because you choose so."

Sure, he could FORCE us to do as he wants, but then we become nothing more than automatons with no free will and no free thought...which is better for our Deity to enjoy...mindless automatons, or things that he can take pleasure in as he sees us take pleasure?

Edited by JohnsonJones
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