Sunday, September 29, 2013

On the Proper Analysis of God in the Face of Free Will

From guest blogger, Talia.  

In my paper, I'm trying to pinpoint the definitions of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence under which individuals can still maintain their free will. Basically, my argument is that God's omnipotence is limited by his immateriality and by logical consistency, his omniscience is limited by his lack of foreknowledge, and his omnibenevolence remains intact by attributing evils to free agents. These limitations, as I'm understanding them, aren't necessarily restrictions on his moral perfection, since they are all dependent on logical impossibilities for the Abrahamic conception of God. For example, God cannot do the logically impossible, as they are not things that are capable of being done. Similarly, God cannot know everything because what will occur in the future isn't a knowable topic. And finally, God cannot intervene in order to prevent evils from occurring because that would infringe upon our free will. I know these are all things we've discussed in class, so I'm hoping for suggestions as to how I can introduce a new thought or criticism into the mix. My paper is still in the new stages of development, so any suggestions as to how I can improve my thoughts would be helpful!


Jesse Steinberg said...

Talia, Your paper topic is fascinating. You might find it more manageable if you write on one of the various problems you mention. For example, you could focus on why your proposed analysis of omnipotence survives challenges from folks like Morriston. This alone would be a feat and, I think, would take a few pages to work out in a powerful way.

Good luck with your paper! I'm happy to meet to chat about it.

Andrew Josten said...

Here is a suggestions I have:

Maybe you could describe the properties a god would have to have for people to have free will, rather than finding the "right" definition of the three O's for free will to exist. The required properties of a god might be such that an "omni" wouldn't be appropriate. For example, if free will requires that a god know only facts about the past and present, but not the future, it seems to me that the appropriate description would be that he is not omniscient, rather than that he is omniscient and omniscient means knowing only past and present facts. To me omniscience, or all knowingness, requires that you really know "all". So if asked an omniscient god if I will post this comment 5 minutes from know, he couldn't truthfully say "I don't know, we'll have to wait and see."

A related comment: If free will requires that if there is a god he does not know facts about the future, it seems like such a god could not be "timeless". If there is a timeless god who sees all of time at once like a mountainscape (or whatever - I've never read Slaughterhouse Five), it seems like he would have to know future facts. So basically I think free will is incompatible with a timeless god, at least if timeless gods see all of time at once.

Natalie North said...

I have considered similar topics for my paper. If you are considering including or studying the work of other philosophers, you should check out Spinoza and Saadya. People think Spinoza was actually either a pantheist or an atheist, but he was a Jewish philosopher writing to a Jewish audience, so he makes his arguments within the context of the Jewish canonical texts, which he believes should be read as literature but as representing real lessons. Saadya is another Jewish philosopher that may be helpful to you, in particular his work The Book of Beliefs and Opinions. One of Saadya's beliefs is that God cannot have a substance, quantity, or quality (which if helpful, you should look up his definitions of these because they are not exactly as they seem) because he created all of these things, and what he created cannot be attributed to him. To do so would require that they were attributed to him before he created them, which is absurd. This view helps to deal with the anthropomorphic views of God and some other misconceptions in his view. He explains what attributes he gives to God, and I believe that Saadya would say that the canon should be read figuratively when it violates any attribute of God. The attributes of God seem to be very similar/in accordance with the laws of nature and reason.

Anonymous said...

How do these enquiries, if you like, substantially differ from a God coloring book and box of crayons where blue represents omniscience; red, omnipotence; yellow, omnibenevolence, etc? Does the finest rendering of God in this light convince anyone of his existence; or the poorest, of his non-existence? Does any of this speak to whether or not he listens to and answers prayer? Loves us and forgives us our sins? Aids and assists in times of trouble? Speaks to the heart of mankind?

"... the more necessity any knowledge carries with it, the more there is in it of what cannot possibly be otherwise thought or represented in perception - as, for example, space relations; hence the clearer and more satisfying it is, the less is its purely objective content, or the less reality, properly so called, is given in it. And conversely, the more there is in it that must be conceived as purely accidental, the more it impresses us as given only empirically, then the more that is properly objective and truly real is there in such knowledge, and also at the same time the more that is inexplicable, in other words, the more that cannot be derived from anything else." - Schopenhauer