Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God All Knowing and Our Agency

Our philosophy teacher posed a pointed question today. If God knows everything then does that take away our ability to choose? His argument was that if God knows what we're going to do before we do it then there is no way we can decide our own future, it has already been decided.

My argument to the contrary is simple. I begin by posing a quick example. Look in at the planets. Look at everything that we call nature. They all have certain tendencies and behaviors. They all react in specific patterns and they are all constrained to certain natural laws. Thus, they all have a certain nature that they cannot break.

So back to the original question. If God knows EVERYTHING does that mean that we are no longer free to make our own decisions? There is a key word that needs to be defined about us humans for this argument to be complete. That word is nature. In this particular argument I will use this definition: Our nature is our choices.

Every individual makes choices everyday based on influences. Whether the influence is his instincts, other people, or things in his environment. Individuals can change the pattern in which they make their choices, but that is again part of their nature. The choice to change choices is still a choice and it is still based on some influence. So for simplicity sake changes in our nature are still considered part of our nature.

With these definitions decided, this is my argument. God knows the nature of all things. He knows the patterns in which all things respond. This does not change the fact that they act with in their nature out of the simple fact that it is their nature, He simply knows what is going to happen before it happens.

This shouldn't be surprising either. We know what certain things are going to happen in nature because of their patterns. We know what will happen when we leave a plant in sun light with plenty of water and fair weather. It only follows that God, knowing every detail about everything, would be able to know much more detailed things about the nature of things than we would.

So, if God knows our nature as detailed as he knows the nature of everything else it would follow that he would know what we are going to do before we do it. Then it follows that his knowledge does not change our nature which means that our choices and decisions (our nature) are not effect.

Thus God knows our nature well enough to know what we will do before we do it. Our nature includes all of our choices, decisions, and changes. God's knowledge does not effect our choices.

7 comments:

the.kim.peterson said...

I don't know. I feel as if this argument is flawed. To say that God knows what we will do before he will do it, because God understands our nature and the choices we will make does not circumvent the issue in my mind which is that our life path is linear. And if our path is linear than we have no real control over our choices. God made us, God made our nature so he would know it, there for God made our nature predestined for this path. Right?
I took a philosophy class where this same problem was posed. It was an Atheism versus a christian God path. I used this argument. "God is all knowing. He knows more than our minds can begin to fathom. We do God a great injustice by limiting his knowledge to what we can comprehend as all knowing. Therefore, I propose that God knows every possible choice that we could ever possibly make. Every minute action we take creates branches through our life and we fallow some paths while others (though still created) are left untread. So our life is like a complicated web of possible decisions. It just happens that God can know all these infinite possibilities. And yet, we can still choose where we want to go. We have infinite posibilities. Thsu free agency." I think the problem with most religious philisophical debate is our inability to raise God above human definition. You should read up on languge and it's use in Social constructionism Joe. It'll blog your mind.

the.kim.peterson said...

sorry my spelling is so bad. My typing/ english skills are impaired in Taiwan.

the.kim.peterson said...

I meant blow your mind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructionism

It's basically the idea that language creates reality. Nothing exists to us until we say it exists. Then, we acknowledge its reality. It's pretty awesome. And they say comm. majors don't learn anything.

joe said...

You do have a good point. But with nature I hardly think that God has pre-decided our nature. Who we are is something that we have had through all eternity and we will continue to have through all eternity. It never has changed and never will. But I do enjoy the idea that you pose that our life is a complicated web of possible decisions. Our teacher also argued against someone else with that idea.
I did know that Social Constructionism was a thing. I had basically figured that out in my head but I never knew it was an actual thing. I'm gonna read up on it some more! Thanks Kim!
p.s. I understand. I don't expect Taiwanese would be very helpful in your english skills. XD

the.kim.peterson said...

Yeah, arguing about God is hard. There are no real answers right? I think it's sort of futile really. No one is ever really wrong except by way of someone else's logic. You should read into Soc. Con. and constantly remind your professor that his class isn't reality and so on. I think that would be pretty awesome. Yeah, and the whole Christian God premise is what makes me think arguing nature is hard. the Christian God definition as we learned it is that God must be these 3 things (concommitantly) All knowing, all powerful, all loving. So even if our nature is not "pre-decided" then it must be known at least. And if our nature is known (completely known) then our decisions must be as well. If God created us (and our nature), and God knows our nature completely (which all knowing should suggest), then creating something and knowing exactly what it will do, might take away free agency. If he knows us to the extent that all knowing suggests, then we will not stray from this path. If there's no way you will then the path is set right? Though we still have the illusion of Free agency, our destiny is completely known, so even if we think we have a choice, in a cosmic sense it's really not a choice (though to us it is...hmm.). Though I see what you mean. We still have the right to choose, it's just that God knows what we'll choose right? But I think our creation makes it hard to argue that point. It's still a better argument then any of the students in my class ever suggested though.

joe said...

Thanks Kim. I think you're very right about everything. It is pretty much useless to argue about any particular God because its not really fair for any of us to decide who God really is to other people.

I think the hardest thing with my argument is trying to explain that God created our bodies, he created our spirits, but he didn't create us. I would argue that our individual nature was not created nor could it be created. It is something that has coexisted with God as long as he has (which is forever by definition right? XD its so complicated!). Anyway. So if he didn't create our nature then he doesn't pick our decisions. At least to an arguable extent.
Dang this is difficult. I agree with you Kim! You're flippin brilliant! At least more so than anyone else I've discussed this with!

p.s. what kind of camera do you use? do you ever photoshop or are all the colors etc. done with the camera?

the.kim.peterson said...

Hey joey joe joe junior shabadoo.

I like the idea of our natures coexisting with God and him just putting us in a vessel. I haven't heard it before and I like it. But then, there's many O Christian/God Believer who'd call that blasphamy. so Let's just decide on our own. Go! Also, I have a Canon 30 D. You could probably get it used now for a good deal.
And, I photoshop everything. At least to some extent. I don't usually do crazy amounts, just curves and saturation. I like to work with RAW files. They are massive but have more info.
I like Canons. The super new Nikons are amazing but pricey. Don't every get a Nikon d200. Ever. Don't do it. I like my camera a lot. a 20D is pretty nice too. I've heard nikons have really good out of camera JPG files, but I never use out of camera so I like canons. Feel free to pick my brain alls you want. I love philosophy and photography.