Sunday, November 20, 2011

Question about Freedom and Possible Worlds

This is my 150th post of 2011! The following is a great question concerning omniscience, freedom, and possible worlds.

“I don't know why, but for some reason I've been having some trouble understanding free will and God creating an actual world.

On the one had we have God's foreknowledge (and/or middle knowledge) and when He creates a world He knows what each individual will do. Obviously, God knowing what we will do doesn't eliminate our free will.
Moreover, God is restricted in creating certain worlds because He knows what each individual will do in any given world. So, for example, God doesn't create a world in which NO one is saved.

But He doesn't just "know", rather He acts; He creates a world. So it almost seems to me that prior to God's creating, we have free will in that God can't(and or wont) create certain worlds. But after creating, this changes.

1) In His created free agents eye's, it seems like we have free will. For example, I don't have to be typing this right now.
2) But in God's eye's, it seems like we don't have free will because God has determined not just who will be saved and lost, but every single action as well. By choosing to create a world in which I am typing this, I am typing this. Given the actual world, in God's eyes, there is no way I could NOT be typing this.

So although it seems like we have free will, in the grand scheme of things (in God's eyes) we really don't. And it seems to me that the important factor is ‘the grand scheme of things’.”


Hi Robby, I think I might be able to help. It seems what you're saying is that prior to God's actualizing a world (which involves creation), we have free will, but subsequent to it we do not, because it is true in that world we will do what we will do (that is a tautology, after all). But of course this does not follow, for it is a tautology along the lines of the law of identity (A is A); simply because what we will do is what we will do it doesn't follow we could not have done otherwise. After all, ask yourself why it is true we will do something in that world, at least on this scenario: because we would freely do it! If it is truly free prior, nothing actually changes except the distinction from possible to actual (what we would do to what we will actually do).

But then we arrive at another concern, explicitly stated. "Determined" can be a very ambiguous term, and without its exact implications being teased out can result in some confusion. "Determine" can mean either "knowing" or "causing." If knowledge, then there is no problem. If we mean "causing," remember that on middle knowledge God doesn't cause the individual actions of free creatures, he causes them to be actual. This is a hugely important distinction. The would counterfactual is true whether or not God makes the counterfactual circumstances the actual circumstances of the world. If that is true, then God's actualizing the possible world containing these true would counterfactuals doesn't cause anything (other than it being actual).

The same distinction helps your last sentence in the second to last paragraph. Given the actual world as true, and you type in the actual world, then yes, you type in the actual world. But that is tautological. This again calls back to the distinction between necessity de re and necessity de dicto. Necessity de dicto says of this problem, "Necessarily, if the actual world exists, then the events in the actual world are actual." Necessity de re says of this situation, "The events of this world are necessarily actual." Your concern that "given the actual world . . . there is no way I could NOT be typing this" seems only to be true in the harmless, de dicto sense of necessity. I can't think of any other reason to think the statement is true unless we're thinking "Necessarily, if the actual world exists, then the events in the actual world are actual" (since you type in the actual world, it would be impossible both for this world to be actual, you to type in this actual world at this time, and not type in this actual world at this time. At least one of these statements is incorrect, since they are incompatible. But this is non-controversial).
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