Tuesday, March 15, 2016

609: Free Will and christianity

The Ancient Greek were the first to debate about free will in our philosophical history and they already touched the sensitive nerves of the problem.

With the advent of monotheistic christianity, where a god became a personal and active creator of man, a new series of problems is added to the debate.

And the debate is still hot. This coming Friday, for instance,  there will be a debate between Daniel Dennett, Dick Swaab and  Victor Lamme in Haarlem.

That is a town only 12 km from where I live now. However, they asked 450 euro for a one day conference, so I won’t go :-)

But Swaab and Lamme are interesting because as neuroscientists  they deny the existence of free will and are on the philosophical villain list of Dennett.

We’ll talk about them later, however. Let’s first have a look how christian thinkers contributed to the debate.

The quintessential theme in relation to free will is the question of individual responsibility for one’s actions. If there does not exist free will there can not exist responsibility either.

For Saint Augustine (354–430 C.E.) there is no question that human beings have free will. Man is god’s creation and free will is a gift of god.  Human beings have been given free will so that they can do what is right.

So with the gift of free will god has given man the capacity not only to do good but also evil. 

In thinking of it as a gift of god Augustine is not taking free will for granted, but is grateful for it and for everything which having it presupposes: indeed for human life.

This is some gift, I’d say. It leads to the conclusion that god is responsible for the evil. that man does and hence for the evil in the world.

Augustine further holds that though men have the freedom to choose between good and evil, and so are responsible for their good deeds 

and wicked actions, nevertheless they cannot do right, follow goodness, without god’ s grace.

You may wonder, what in the world is god’s grace, but if that is needed to do right, where is the free will?

Another question Augustine feels he must answer concerns god’ s foreknowledge. God is omniscient and so knows everything, 

and that includes not only all that is in people’ s hearts, all that they desire, and their intentions, but also all that has happened, is happening and will happen.

His way out here is, starting a debate on the meaning of foreknowledge. I won’t bother you with that, but you can imagine, that according to Augustine foreknowledge of god and free will of the individual go together quite well.

While Swaab and Lamme state that their claims about free will are based on empirical evidence, Augustine has no empirical evidence for his claims.

Yet he tries to deal with the new problems in his book “ De Libero Arbitrio”  (circa 387, On Free Choice of the Will). But it is all just an intellectual debate.

You may agree or disagree with the neuroscientists, but they bring at least one thing to our attention: the absolute relation between mind and brain.

This makes a lot of philosophical debates just intellectual exercises, alienated from empirical reality, only based on unfounded assumptions,

or, in other words, based on beliefs for which is only a verbal justification without any empirical evidence.

In that way Augustine, unknowingly because he lived around 400 AD, created his own intellectual puzzles about free will.

Thank you….the floor is yours ^_^…….

The Discussion

[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): mulling over ....
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): This is some gift, I’d say. It leads to the conclusion that god is responsible for the evil. that man does and hence for the evil in the world.
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i disagree with this
[13:26] herman Bergson: You know Gemma...
[13:26] CB Axel: Just because God knows what you are going to do before you do it doesn't mean you don't have free will.
[13:26] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): Augustine took his own sins as his own free will
[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and boy he has a lot
[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and that is why the church created confession
[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): as a remedy for sin
[13:28] herman Bergson: The reasoning often is that those who are controlled by greed and lust have no free will in it....
[13:28] herman Bergson: the Platonist idea....
[13:28] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): the  foreknowledge of god is just to scare people
[13:28] CB Axel: Greed and lust are just instincts?
[13:28] CB Axel: The whole idea of God is just to scare people.
[13:28] herman Bergson: WellCB...the funny thing is...n all those philosophyies...
[13:29] herman Bergson: the lust, greed, viciousness and so on are all 100% human, beyond the grasp of god...
[13:29] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): there you go
[13:29] herman Bergson: and all virtue is the work of god in man
[13:30] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): if we choose to be virtuous
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): (i feel only greed when I see chocolat)
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehehe
[13:30] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:30] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:30] CB Axel: hehehe
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): sorry! I have already eaten everything!
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): MUAHAHAHAH"
[13:30] herman Bergson: I only fel greed when I see..... ^_^
[13:30] herman Bergson: whatever :-)
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): hahahahah
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cant help being saiyan
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:31] CB Axel: I'm willing to share my chocolate, but if you reach for more than your share you'll pull back a bloody stump.
[13:31] herman Bergson: Bu there si a kind of pattern in this way of thinking....
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): auw CB
[13:31] herman Bergson: when it is about all kinds of bad behavior the philosopher blames man himself....
[13:32] CB Axel: A pattern in blaming evil on man and good on God?
[13:32] CB Axel: Oh. Yes.
[13:32] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): So god does already know that I long for chocolate, I can't hel p that I'm greedy , I just respond to his will?
[13:33] CB Axel: No, Beertje. He just knows already how your free will will respond to chocolate.
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): he knows you love chocolate andn made it for you
[13:33] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont):
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): well the cocoa
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:34] herman Bergson: No free will regarding consuming chocolate here, Beertje
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): that he made for everyone i think cause EVERYONE loves chocolate
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): including me
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako) whispers: yummy!
[13:34] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): right
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): that counts for everything people like i presume?
[13:34] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): eating, loving, even killing?
[13:35] herman Bergson: To be honest....
[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): now we get to evil against society
[13:35] herman Bergson: this debate on free will is becoming a bit boring....
[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:35] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): there is no end
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): heheh
[13:35] herman Bergson: I mean in the historical perspective...
[13:35] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont):
[13:36] herman Bergson: the real debate of today is between philosophers and neuroscientists...
[13:36] herman Bergson: between Dennett and Swaab...
[13:36] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Swaab says : we are our brain
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): will the conference be filmed??
[13:36] herman Bergson: Don't know Gemma, but I guess they'll do that...
[13:36] CB Axel: The neuroscientists don't believe in free will?
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): then you can tell us
[13:37] CB Axel: Do they blame the Big Bang like I do? °͜°
[13:37] herman Bergson: No CB....Swaab doesnt...neither does Victor Lamme
[13:37] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe we can see that on YouTube?
[13:37] herman Bergson: Denntt however does...:-)
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): maybe
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): should be really interesting meeting then
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): if they charge 450 euro to go there question is if they will let the movie out free for everyone but everything find its way to youtube, at least almost
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): even if some are deleted by copyright guys
[13:39] herman Bergson: Oh yes...I am sure it will Gemma...but I don't want to pay 500 US$ for it to attend it
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats lot for 1 person
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): it really is a lot
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): insane
[13:39] CB Axel: That is a bit steep when we can debate the issue right here for free. °͜°
[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): coffee is free
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehehe
[13:40] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): pay them in LD Herman
[13:40] herman Bergson: So true, CB :-))
[13:40] CB Axel: Yeah. For that kind of money they should at least have an open bar. °͜°
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:41] herman Bergson: Anyway...I gonna rethink how to continue this project :-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: I mean...all thes useless thoughts about gods and their foreknowledge as affecting free will...
[13:41] herman Bergson: waste if time
[13:41] herman Bergson: of
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): since it i still so much of a question  yes
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it goes in a circle sort of
[13:42] herman Bergson: We should move to the debate with the neuroscientists...
[13:42] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[13:43] CB Axel: I'd like to hear what they have to say.
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): god is just mans idea of how to control other people and gain power and greed for themselves, have been for very long
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita and let me tell you this....
[13:43] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): will there be a report from the debate in some journal?
[13:44] herman Bergson: homo sapiens was a hunter - gatherer....
[13:44] herman Bergson: inthat state of being there was no room for gods...
[13:44] herman Bergson: ok...for animism....
[13:45] CB Axel: There was no god of the hunt?
[13:45] herman Bergson: but god was invented when homo sapiens became a settler...a farmer....
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:45] herman Bergson: groups became larger.....villages....so control over a group became more complicated too...
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm
[13:46] herman Bergson: thence there emerged rules and regulations....
[13:47] herman Bergson: and to impose them on the growing population in stationary places you need a transcedent authority...
[13:47] herman Bergson: so only when you live in villages you also have a stationary location where you can build temples and so on...
[13:48] herman Bergson: tottally alien to the hunter-gatherer...
[13:48] herman Bergson: that is when god was invented.....to control the group...just as you said Bjiita
[13:48] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:49] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): seems like a probable idea
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): in that day people were afraid of everything
[13:49] CB Axel: The monotheistic god or gods in general?
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): the sun
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): the  storms
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): eclipse
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): who to blame
[13:49] CB Axel: Because I can imagine gods before civilization.
[13:50] herman Bergson: the misbehavior of the people, Gemma....
[13:50] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and
[13:50] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): some even believe aliens came and they were the gods
[13:50] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): and on to the greek mythology
[13:51] herman Bergson: that is only an invention of our times, Gemma...
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): right
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): today we have science and stuff but basically what they do in middle east for example is trying to hold time still in the middle ages era even its 2016 so the people will still believe in these gods
[13:51] herman Bergson: in those early days of mankind they even didn’t know they lived on a planet
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): no
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): was no pictures from space then
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): showing what a planet is
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and that the earth is round
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita...that is  quite a problem....
[13:52] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): right but they knew is creature s came out of the sky
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): the crazy thing is some still believe the earth is flat!
[13:52] herman Bergson: I mean th eMiddle East and its attitude towards modern society
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): winder if they believe the Discworld series is the bible?
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): wonder
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:52] CB Axel: lol
[13:53] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): what has this to do with free will Bejiita?
[13:53] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): then they have got it all wrong
[13:53] herman Bergson: Simply nothing Beeertje :-)
[13:53] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well belief affect free will u can say in a way
[13:53] herman Bergson: We just sometimes digress a little here :-)
[13:53] CB Axel: They are free to believe in a flat earth.
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes i guess they are
[13:54] herman Bergson: No they are not CB....:-)
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its complex indeed this
[13:54] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i am not sure many believed in a flat earth anyway
[13:54] CB Axel: They are free to be completely wrong, but they are free.
[13:54] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i think that is partially myth
[13:54] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): that so many did
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): one at my work even told me about it
[13:54] herman Bergson: Depends on what you mean by "FREE"
[13:55] herman Bergson: So you can say that they are free to believe that there is no gravity....
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): a sect or cult of kind of many thinking earth is flat and nasa pics and moon landings are just artwork and fake
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): sounds crazy indeed
[13:55] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): where
[13:55] CB Axel: Of course they're free to believe there is no gravity.
[13:55] herman Bergson: you put them on a high buiding and say...plese...walk on...go ahead...no gravity is your belief...
[13:56] CB Axel: And if we're lucky, they'll all float the hell away.
[13:56] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:56] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:56] herman Bergson: and the funny thing is...they wont step over the edge of the roof....:-))
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well the thing is they believe if you walk to far out you will fall off earth and into nothingness
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): so gravity they believe in I guess
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least the concept
[13:57] CB Axel: Maybe they don't believe in gravity and just believe that the world sucks. °͜°
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): lol
[13:57] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i need to go now
[13:57] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): another appointment in sl
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its crazy however
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu Gemma
[13:57] CB Axel: Bye, Gemma.
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:57] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): tuy
[13:57] herman Bergson: ohh wow...Gemma :-))
[13:57] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:57] CB Axel: See ya.
[13:57] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hope to try for tuesday
[13:57] herman Bergson: Have fun...:-)
[13:58] herman Bergson: Thank you alll again for your participation...:-)
[13:58] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ..:-)

[13:58] herman Bergson whispers: But stay if you like :-)

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