I've always wondered how omniscience and free will can coexist. Of course it depends entirely on how you define omniscience and free will.
Heavenly Father has agency, yet if he is absolutely metaphysically omniscient he would know what he would do before he does it. Can he then do something different?
Personally I think the philosophical constructs of 'omniscience' and 'omnipotence' are contradictory. Some philosophers think that God can make the rock he cannot lift, and then lift it anyway just because he's God. That seems silly to me.
Seems to me that when the Book of Mormon says that God must be just or he would cease being God is onto something. I'm just not entirely sure what.
Here is how I see the issues regarding free will and foreknowledge.
1. If there is only one possible choice (ie, if you rewinded time and the same choices are always going to be made), then it seems we have a purely mechanical universe, where things cannot be different than they are, and therefore any choice is somehow hinged on the totality of the cosmos, such that one cannot, in the instance, make any decisions not completely dictated by all that has come before in the history of the universe across all space and time. It doesn't seem we have a meaningful personal choice.
2. If there are multiple possible choices (ie, if you rewind time, different choices are sometimes made), then it seems that has to be some sort of way to explain it that follows a principle other than normal mechanical cause and effect. This is difficult.
a) Maybe it's random. There isn't any particular reason for one choice over another. In this case, it seems we have no meaningful choice. (Also, note that randomness isn't truly "random." It's instead very fine mechanical interactions, theoretically determinable--unless you mess around with quantum physics, then see "no meaningful choice".)
b) Maybe it's an eternal part of who we individually are, separate and distinct from any mechanical universe. Everyone's individual nature interacts with this otherwise mechanical universe, in such a way that the you end up with #2 anyway. Of course, if we have an eternal nature, is that nature something set, or is it variable? Repeat options #1 and #2. Ie, this has no apparent ability to solve the problem, it just moves the same issue up to a higher level.
So the basic problem is that I can't think of any solution to what "choice" can even be. Either it is eternal fixed (one way or another), or it is random (a concept that, itself is fictional, since "randomness" is merely causation too fine in detail for us to clearly determine the outcome).
This is all before we ever worry about if/how someone could theoretically foreknow something.
I'm not happy with any of the solutions. What I would like is an understanding of a non-mechanical, non-"random" concept of choice itself.
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I don't think that (1) follows. If one rewound time, and things still turned out exactly the way they did, that does not imply that there is a mechanical reason/cause for the sameness.
Think of it this way: Suppose, for sake of argument, that each choice is like a mini "creation ex nihilo". We create it at the moment. The past is not a sufficient cause for what happens. Things could have turned out differently. But time is not the reason things could have turned out differently, and so backing up time and running it forward again changes nothing. That factor was taken into account in the moment of choice.
My view of choice is not exactly like that, but I think that compatibilism has much to add to the discussion. Agency is the ability to act for ourselves--to be given a choice. That doesn't mean our choice is completely unconstrained. Such a thing is nonsensical anyhow. Rather, the constraints are minimal--our own desires, our experiences, etc...
Posts: 5047 | Registered: Jun 2001
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I once had a friend get mad at me for explaining the Newcomb Paradox to him. I must have not done such a good job because he thought I was trying to prove that either God doesn't exist or that we don't have free will. That wasn't the case at all, it's just a fun thing to think about.
For those who haven't heard about the Newcomb Paradox it's a thought experiment set up like this
An experimenter sets up two boxes. One of the boxes is guaranteed to have a thousand dollars in it. The other one may or may not have a million dollars in it. A person is then given the option of taking one OR both boxes. (At this point it seems obvious that they should always take two boxes.) The tricky part is that the experimenter has foreknowledge on what you are going to do (Perhaps the experimenter is God, or the person who is going to make the choice had their brain scanned, it could be anything). If the experimenter predicts that the person will take both boxes they don't put the million dollars in the second box. If they think/know the person will not take the box with the guaranteed $1000 they will put the million dollars in the second box.
The question is, if the boxes are already set up (the money has been put into the second box or not already), and you are then told about how it is set up, do you take one or both boxes?
Interestingly out of the people asked the responses are about 50/50.
On one side you have the people who say taking both boxes is always better. After all the million dollars is either already there or not. If they pick both boxes they will always come out $1000 ahead. The other side has the people who choose to take one box because if they choose one box then of course it will have one million dollars in it, the person setting it up would have predicted it, and one million dollars is better than $1000.
Posts: 39 | Registered: Jan 2006
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I'm writing a paper right now on the "surprise examination paradox" which has some ties into the Newcomb paradox.
I'm not as familiar with the literature on the Newcomb paradox, but I find it a fascinating puzzle. In the version you gave, I'd take the single box with the million dollars (surprise, surprise).
By the way, one of the interesting things about that paradox is that if you could do it in real life, and you could watch other people make their choices, you could decide very quickly which option was better.