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Our panel of 90 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

Good morning, Please give me your perspective on the following topic Theological determinism and free will. Theological determinism seems to imply that I am not truly free if God is omnipotent and has infallible foreknowledge. After all, if God knows in advance that I will steal a car, it seems as though I am destined to do so, and that I am actually not responsible (God's fault, I am absolved of morally unacceptable behaviour). Some (Christian) Philosophers would probably argue to the contrary. They might say that God's foreknowledge does not imply that I am destined to act in a certain way, as God's foreknowledge only means that he knows what I will freely choose to do. Had I chosen to freely act in another way, his foreknowledge would have anticipated that as well. My own thought is that this argument merely implies that our Free-Will is an illusion. A simple thought experiment to support that is : If God decided to reveal some of his infallible foreknowledge to me, such as, for example, that I will buy a new red car tomorrow, then I would be free to act in a way that violates this foreknowledge; I may decide to buy a second-hand blue car instead. So Free-Will seems to imply that I can only be truly free if I could act in a way that violates God's infallible knowledge. There are of course many different permutations and views. Some answers resort to Modal Logic (about which I know nothing), suggesting that some sort of reconciliation between Infallible foreknowledge and Free-Will is possible after all. Your views will be greatly appreciated Kind Regards

Thank you for your excellent question and observations.

While I am inclined toward what is known as open theism (in accord with work by William Hasker) which essentially denies that divine omniscience includes truths about future free action (referred to sometimes as future, free contingents), I am (for the most part) agnostic about whether omniscience of the future would indeed show free will to be an illusion or provide evidence for fatalism. The reason why I am inclined to open theism is because I suspect that what you and I as free agents will do tomorrow is under-determined. It has not yet happened that tomorrow you will (freely) buy a red car. HOWEVER, if we adopted some form of 4 dimensionalism, according to which all times are equally real, and it is true that (say) in 2018 you are freely buying a red car (and so the event of your free action is the result of your free action at that time), then I suggest God's knowing that would not violate your free action.

Your point about what would happen if you were informed by an infallible, omniscient source about what you will do is very interesting! Arguably, your point rests on what seems right, that when we deliberate about what to do freely in the future, we do not already know what we will do. If I KNOW I will buy the car, it would be odd for me to deliberate on whether I should or should not make the purchase. This reasoning might, then, give us reason for thinking that God's revealing (assuming 4 dimensionalism, etc) to you now in 2017 what you will do in 2018 (freely?) would compromise your freedom or at least lead to paradox. But if we take the thought experiment to its natural conclusion, on this schema, all the factors would enter into what takes place in 2017 and 2018. So, what you do in 2018 might involve this: "It was revealed to me a year ago I would buy a red car. I want to defy this to back-up a claim I made on the blog Askphilosophers, but then again, I have a chance to buy that Italian racing car and, while it happens to be red, I will paint it blue just after the purchase." As you make the purchase, you hear a divine voice: "You raised a good point in Askphilosophers in 2017, but keep in mind I revealed to you that you would purchase a red car in 2018. I did not fill you in that you would paint it blue after the purchase."