Final I wrote for philosophy. Got an A even though it\'s a page under the required length. Professor tried to get me to change my major after reading it.
Joshua Tucker Philosophy and Basic Questions Professor Boedeker 4/29/2007 In this world we live in, many things depend on responsibility. Vital things are based upon everyone being responsible for his or her actions, such as Law, Religion, and the goal of each, Justice. People through out history have tried to circumvent this responsibility through blaming fate, destiny, or any other idea of a set future. How can they be responsible for what they do if they have no control over it? Do we truly have free will if God has absolute foreknowledge of what we will do? St. Augustine argues that human beings have free will even though God knows in advance exactly everything they will do. I argue only that predestination and free will can coexist. St. Augustine defines “free will” in the beginning of his third book in his paper, On Free Choice of the Will, as “the ability to voluntarily choose to pursue either the common, unchangeable good, or the lesser, changeable goods.” Firstly, human beings must have “free will” because it allows us to do good things. If free will allows us to do good things, then free will must be good. If free will is good it must have been given to us by God, the giver of all things good. Secondly, human beings must have this kind of “free will” for God punishes those who choose the lesser, changeable good, and rewards those who choose the common, unchangeable good. God would not unjustly punish or reward human beings, so his gift of “free will” was given to us to do right. St. Augustine also says that God must have given human beings “free will” because it is under his jurisdiction to punish or reward their choices.1 St. Augustine also believes that God is omniscient. Omniscience is the capacity to know everything, including everything that will be. This leads to his belief of God’s foreknowledge. It appears, given that anything God foreknows must happen by necessity, that our freedom of will is hindered. St. Augustine argues that this is not the case. St. Augustine argues that “the only thing that is within our power is that which we do when we will it. Therefore nothing is so much within our power as the will itself, for it is near at hand the very moment that we will.”2 From this he gathers that the foreknown will cannot be necessary, because then there would be no will involved and no will would be foreknown. He also argues that if something is present when we will it, then it is in our power. Since our will is present when we will it to be, then our will must be in our power. Therefore, he also foreknows this power. Following this, that God’s foreknowledge doesn’t take away that power, it increases the certainty that you will have that power since God’s foreknowledge is infallible. According to these arguments, both free will and God’s foreknowledge can coexist.3 I agree that the arguments are sound, but not necessarily valid. I think this is because of invalid premises. St. Augustine’s arguments are based on premises that stem 1 2 3 Cahn, Steven “Classics of Western Philosophy” Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2002 p. 342-343 Cahn, Steven “Classics of Western Philosophy” Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2002 p. 347 Cahn, Steven “Classics of Western Philosophy” Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2002 p. 347 from belief in God. The idea of God having for knowledge comes from the belief that God is a perfect being. What if God isn’t a perfect being? What if there is no God? St. Augustine argues in book two of On Free Choice of the Will that he would persuade an atheist who didn’t conceal any deceitfulness or obstinacy to believe in God, based on the fact that it’s more reasonable to believe in God than not, since “great men” left written testimony that they lived with “the Son of God” and saw things that “couldn’t have happened if God didn’t exist.” He says it is more reasonable for him to believe this because he expects other people to believe him about his own state of mind and other things he knows but other people do not.4 This argument assumes that the “great men” were not deceitful or obstinate either. It also assumes that the things these “great men” saw couldn’t have happened if there wasn’t a God. How could these men posses that knowledge? The atheist posse’s knowledge of his state of mind and the other things he knows, but how could the “great men” know Jesus was truly the Son of God. This argument only works if everyone in this is not deceitful or obstinate, which is all very unlikely. I do agree, however, that his reasoning for the coexistence of predestination and free will is sound and valid. You don’t necessarily have to believe in God at all to follow its logic. You only have to believe that the premise that foreknowledge is possible for it to be sound. It cannot be necessary for me to will something because it would become a necessity and not a will at all, making it impossible to foreknow my will in the first place. 4 Cahn, Steven “Classics of Western Philosophy” Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2002 p. 343 Also, since something is only not in our power if we will it and it is not present, and if we will but the will doesn’t happen then we aren’t really willing at all. This leads to the conclusion that it is impossible for us not to will when we are willing, which in turn leads to the conclusion that our will is in our power. For will to be necessary it would to be out of our power and we just proved that will is in our power, making it impossible for a will to be necessary. So while it isn’t necessary for a will to occur in the way it was predestined to, it only increases the certainty of it happening if it is based on actual foreknowledge. Even thought I agree with St. Augustine that predestination and free will can coexist and even strengthen one another, I can still see some problems with the argument. First of all, if not from some omniscient entity, where is this foreknowledge coming from? Both people in this argument would have to believe that foreknowledge is even possible. Another problem is what if a will can be a necessity? A person must necessarily will to exist, otherwise they wouldn’t. You can’t truly will not to exist and still exist, because you have power over your will and if you willed not to exist you wouldn’t. Free will is a necessity for existence, given that human beings have power over their own existence. This is another reason why human beings must have free will. Another problem with the idea of foreknowledge is that we do not know if this knowledge is foreknowledge until the event proves it, at which time it is no longer foreknowledge. So human beings can never recognize foreknowledge for what it is. In conclusion, while I agree with St. Augustine’s argument for the coexistence of foreknowledge and free will. It is a sound argument, given that everyone agrees on the validity of the premises. Free will and predestination can coexist.