Predestination (as caused by an omniscient being) doesn't imply the lack of free will.

I base this statement on a few basic points:

  1. Free will is in the eye of the beholder. There is no absolute/empirical way to test for the presence or lack of free will, save from the perspective of the one using the free will. (And in that case, the test is: "Are we making our own decisions?")(If there is such a test, please tell me about it.)

  2. We, the beholders, seem to have the property of free will. That is, we think we are making our own decisions. So, by point 1, we have free will.

  3. If God, or any sufficiently God-like entity exists (to wit, one with the property of omniscience), then predestination is in effect. That is, if this entity is aware of, and knows for certain, the sum total of all information in the universe (and any others, of course), then all events are predestined.

  4. So, we have demonstrated that, given the presence of an omniscient entity, free will exists. Or, rather, that it's a moot point, because if we think we have free will, then we do.

Don't think an omniscient being exists?

I have a most elegant proof of that, but this node is too small to contain it.


Well, getzburg has some interesting points, but my esteemed colleague has, I think, missed the point of the above arguments.

Free will can be convincingly argued to be an illusion, without the addition of a supreme being.

After all, we are built of things which follow specific, rigid rules - the laws of physics. Although quantum physics could add some uncertainty, they have so little effect on the macroscopic scale as to make them irrelevant, especially because our actions are based on our thoughts, the least of which involve millions of molecules.

Therefore, it is theoretically possible to simulate the universe, and determine what will happen before it occurs. Simply because this is theoretically possible shows we have no free will.

Although, if we had some sort of extranatural extrusion, such as a soul, we might be inherently unpredictable.

But given the extranatural, it is but a small step to suppose a supreme being.

In any case, I must disagree with your contention to the meaning of predestination. Predestination means that your destiny is preselected. It is not prediction, which means that something (such as the score of a basketball game), is stated (dictated) before hand.

Going back to point #3, we see that free will is in the eye of the beholder. It is a trivial act to watch someone, understand why they make their choices, and claim they have no free will, because they made their choices in a consistent way. After all, the reason I went to the store today was because I was out of food. What else could I do? I was destined to go there. The fact is, free will is, unless someone has an empirical test for it, a qualitative matter. You cannot say, "According to theorem X, I have free will." You can only say, "I feel like I have free will, because I think I make my own choices."


I'd also like to ask you to look at the meaning of predestination. It doesn't mean prediction.

Nor is free will defined in terms of outside systems. It is a product of one's point of view.

Don't pull semantics on me, I have Webster 1913 on my side!


Tem42: I said there is no empirical way to prove we have free will or not. That is, there is no formal rule or test we can follow that will give us an answer. Free will cannot be expressed in a formal way as, say, a chemical reaction can. Nevertheless, we think we have it, and, indeed, if we did not act as if we had it, we'd be screwed. ("I'm just gonna sit here, because I have no free will, so it doesn't matter what I do..." - the pessimistic view of no free will, as opposed to the optimistic view of no free will, "I may not have it, but I'll act as if I do".)

Free will is the product of our worldview. You can't prove a choice was made with free will, because by the time you know what the choice was, the decision was made, and it was, presumably, the only decision they would have made if the circumstances were exactly duplicated and they decided again.

What we do have, though, are our feelings and beliefs. We can, and some of us do, believe that we have free will. And that's really the only test we have.

Survey says: Like Hell!

If predestination is caused/enforced by a higher power, then the existence/non-existence of free will should be observed from the viewpoint of that higher power, in which case it becomes obvious that we have no free will.

Assuming, of course, that you believe in predestination in the above form. I don't. If there is a sort of predestination, I prefer to think of it in terms of prediction, like looking at a basketball mid-air and calling whether or not it's going in the basket. With that paradigm, we get predestination AND free will, best of both worlds. :-)
For what it's worth, I was taught that in Judaism there is both predestination and free will, and they don't contradict one another from the point of view of humanity.

Basically, God has given us infinite choice on every turn. He knows which option we are going to chose, that's the predestination bit. But he also leaves us unaware of the future so that we actually make the choice ourselves, without his direct interference.

It's a nifty way of not letting people use religion and faith as a way of running from responsibility.

One problem with S_alanet's argument is that he seems to be saying that because we cannot prove whether or not we have free will, we must therefore have it.

By the same argument, I can claim that there is no free will, because you cannot prove either that there is or is not free will, and I think there isn't.


I am looking at this from a philosophical point of view. From the theological, or perhaps faith based point of view, He May Have A Point. S_alanet seems to be saying that free will is all in your mind. I am talking about free will from an ontological point of view. In this sense free exists, or it doesn't. Whether you know about it or not has no effect, in much the same way as we might say that Pluto existed before we proved that it existed, and Vulcan was proved not to exist even though we believed (for good reason) that it did.


Re: S_alanet, yes, it may be logical to act as though you have free will. But that has no baring on whether or not you actually have free will.

Your statement
"Predestination doesn't imply the lack of free will."
Should be
"Predestination doesn't imply you should act as though you don't have free will"

And this too I can argue with.

Believing in determinism doesn't imply that you should act differently than you should if you believe in free will. What you think and feel remains the same. What you feel is right and wrong remains the same. What will make you happy or unhappy remains the same.

If it happens to be true that we are predetermined to try to do what we think is right (or what makes us happy), it wouldn't imply that you can stop acting and everything will turn out okay. In fact, it would be impossible for you to try to do something wrong (or that doesn't make you happy). It would also be impossible for you to stop trying. (Please note that this is a conditional; there is an if there. I'm not saying that this necessarily is the case).

Also note that the lack of free will would not mean that we could not change things. It probably does mean that we cannot choose freely*. But we could very well change things, in much the same way as a meteor (completely devoid of free will) might well fall from the sky and kill you. We also have all kinds of fancy feedback loops that allow us to change what we think and how we think it; if there is such a thing as improvement (on any and every level), there is no reason to think that we cannot improve, even if it is the case that we cannot freely choose* to improve.

* Please note that I am not actually defining "freely choose", nor saying that the phrase makes any sense, or that it doesn't, or hinting at what it might mean if it does. I'm just saying that if you want to use the phrase "freely choose" or something of the sort, it ain't the same as "change".


S_alanet is using determinism as a worldview, while I have been using it as a objective theory that we are trying to prove/disprove.

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