That Godless Animal, Free Willy

I have this problem with the free will threads; I’ll see if I can explain it coherently.

The universe can be thought of as a four dimensional object: space-time. If you could somehow view this object as a whole, you would see it as “static”. By this I mean that motion is a movement of objects with respect to time. If you are looking at space-time as a whole, time is just one axis of the object. So what you would see, to give an example, in place of a moving ball is a worm like object that winds along a trajectory which has various components from each of the four axes at different places. Only where it runs parallel to the time axis is it stationary to an observer in the universe. I’m glossing over some fine points of relativity here (for instance the time axis can vary with the observer, within limits), but none of them really change where I’m going with this. That worm like object doesn’t change (what would it be changing with respect to since it can’t change with respect to time?) The motion is already implicit in its “static” existence. I have no problem imagining the universe this way, even if I can’t see it, bound as I am within space-time. (Please don’t jump on me if this picture is wrong in some small detail - the point is that it is not difficult to imagine seeing the universe from “outside” time - unless one assumes that perception is itself a time-dependent process. This assumption will be returned to below.) I don’t believe in God (For a variety of reasons), but I can easily postulate a god whose mechanism of perception is completely different from anything I know and who thus can have a perspective like that I’ve described. To assume otherwise is actually a fairly radical theological step, IMO. At any rate, it is not obvious to me that postulating a god who is “outside of time” is inherently flawed. Or “weaseling out” as one person put it.

I think I misunderstood the OP in the first free will thread. I took it to be asking if omniscience by itself precluded free will. I still think it does not. It seems to me every argument I’ve seen to the contrary invokes one of two other properties for the omniscient being:

  1. Omnipotence (however we define it)
  2. Subject to time-dependent causality (meaning events in the future cannot affect the omniscient being [OB] in the present or the past - thus assuming that the OB is bound to follow its own trajectory in space time).

Now, you can argue that God is omniscient, and you can argue that God is subject to time, if you want to. But that feels like introducing elements into the problem that were not given; it feels to me like we’re making tendentious assumptions. But I’m not sure the poster of the OP in that other thread (NuVoDaDa, IIRC) would object to these assumptions. His (her?) interest was in GOD as the OB.

So here is my question: Does omniscience itself preclude free will? Forget God. This is simply any old OB. And omniscience can be defined either as knowing absolutely everything (Definition 1) or as knowing everything that is knowable (Definition 2). Please specify which definition you are using; if using Definition 2 specify how you demarcate knowable from unknowable.

I should add that I have an elaboration on the above picture of space-time that I think is necessary for free will, and perfectly conceivable. It does not conflict with an OB, though it does require modifying the picture a little bit, so I’ll withhold it until I see if this thread generates any interest.

I have already stated my opinion (in one of the earlier threads you mentioned). there is no effect on individual free will so long as the omniscient consciousness does not interact with our universe. Once that interaction takes place, however, free will within the range of that interaction cannot take place.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

SM, I’m glad you replied. I thought you had the most logical take on the issue in that thread. In fact now that I’ve reread your post there of 01-21-2000 04:33 PM, I realize that that’s just about exactly where I was going with this one. Oh well. I don’t like CMK’s version of “God-time”, but I was thinking of something slightly ananlogous (though I hope a little less mystical).

SO. Again, omniscience together with omnipotence, or, at least, determinative action in this universe may exclude free will. And, you may argue that any action by an omniscient being here would be determinative, and I’d agree. And, as I said in the other thread, Marc Fleury’s argument that an OB cannot, itself, have free will still stands. But then I am left with the same position: The postulate of the existence of omniscience, by itself, without further characterization, does NOT logically exclude free will. Maybe I’m just being anal, and this is a dead horse, and nobody cares anymore. If so, sorry to all; just let it die.

Hmmmm, interesting concept. If you posit a hyperdimensional awareness it could indeed be omniscient with respect to our universe, though not necessarily omniscient within its own timestream. But, as you said, any action taken by said entity within our timestream negates free will for the scope of said action. Omnipotence is not required, only the ability to act within our timestream. So we can have an omniscient entity and free will, but only if that entity never interacts with us.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Free Willy is a “Godless” animal?

That takes the notion of “saving the whales” to a whole different level! :wink:

I agree with you APB. Omniscience alone is insufficient to violate free will.

Imagine an omniscient person. He/She/It ambles up to me on the street and says “Hmmm … tomorrow you will steal a car and go on a murderous rampage! That isn’t very nice. Jerk.”

So, tomorrow comes my wife leaves me, I lose my job and I see a fancy porche, I ninja kick the owner, take the keys and play “Carmageddon 2 - The Real Life Version”.

But note, it wasn’t the omniscient person who decided my wife would leave me, or that I would lose my job. Those events were set in motion outside of the person’s control, just like they are out of my control. The omniscient person hasn’t violated my free will, they just know everything that is going to happen.

In that situation one of two situations is true.

  1. you do not have the free will to make any decision (take an anger management course, make up with your wife, find a respect for other’s property, etc.) to achieve any outcome other than the one fortold. These are all decisions which would normally be available to a human being but which have now been denied to you. Therefore, free will is compromised.

  2. You do make one of those decisions and the “prediction” is then incorrect. the other guy does not posess omniscience.

BTW) The other guy has absolutely no free will, since he knows before the moment of decision every choice he will make and is powerless to act in any other way.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Well, there is huge dependency on how you view time.

In order for their to be omniscience the future must be readable, that only makes sense. I.e. it is as if you already made the decision from the readers perspective.

So, assuming a readable future what do we have:

Set of Events, Set of Outcome and Set of Possible Outcomes.

Lets say E[sub]3[/sub] is the prediction event.

All that omniscience says is that they can read E[sub]5[/sub] (for example) and read O[sub]5[/sub]. It doesn’t mean that all the Possible Outcomes won’t be available to you, just that I know which one you’ll happen to take after making your decision, and now you know too. But as the reader I don’t make E[sub]5[/sub] come about, except in the case where actually telling you makes E[sub]5[/sub] come about, but that clearly isn’t always the case (like lets say, in my example, I go home and tell my wife about the reading, she freaks out and leaves me). The key is that the event itself is out of the reader’s control, and so you still have free will. This is not to say that the telling doesn’t have any effect. Certainly, somebody telling me that I am going to go on a murderous rampage is going to have an influence on my life. But, I don’t think it is sufficient to violate free will.

I hope that makes sense.

If we assume that the future isn’t readable, then omniscience (the set of knowables) becomes only applicable to past and present events.

I guess I see free will this way. As long as I can make the decision it is free, but if every aspect of what goes into making the decision is controlled then I don’t. To me that means that the person in control not only knows the event and knows the outcome, but also chooses what events will befall me. Otherwise, what events befall me are entirely up to my decisions even if they know what they are, and even if I know what they are.

I believe you are confusing free will with the illusion of choice, Glitch. To use your terms, If I make (infallible) prediction event E[sub]3[/sub] while within the timestream, then the chain of events between that point and O[sub]5[/sub] is immutable and unchangeable. You, in effect, are presented a set, undeviating path of existence. There is no possibility for you to diverge from that path. You, standing on the path, think you see an infinite number of alternatives, but none of those alternatives are open to you. They represent illusions of choice. If you in fact posessed the ability to choose, then some of those futures would have to have a probability greater than 0. The only way infallible prediction (omniscience) can occur within the timestream is in a strictly deterministic universe. The fact that you cannot see the chains binding you to a single path does not mean you are free to deviate from it.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Again, I don’t see it that way.

Imagine I know you will stumble across a deck of cards. I know you will pick a card from the deck. I know the card you pick will be the 5 of clubs.

So, you amble up to the deck of cards, and I tell you, “Hey, you’re going to pick the 5 of clubs.”

You shuffle the deck, ponder them all carefully, and then pick a card. It is the 5 of clubs, of course.

You still have a choice of any card you want, and even the choice not to choose any card at all. It just so happens I know you will pick and it will be the 5 of clubs, and so do you before you pick. Knowing doesn’t alter your ability to actually make a choice based on your own internal methodology. I just know what that methodology is going to decide.

You may thinkn that you have a choice, but you would be incorrect. Unless you are wiling to abandon causation, then the only way that the infallible knowledge of an event can exist within the timestream is if all causative elements are known. If all causative elements of your choice are known before your choice occurs, then you are in fact a puppet, moving to strings you cannot see. There is, in fact, no choice. There is simply an inevitable chain of causation which leads to you choosing a particular card. If your mind and spirit were replaced by a machine, there would be no possible deviation from the chain of events. Even your illusion of free will, should you posess such an illusion, is simply another determined event over which you had no choice.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.