Archive for ‘Fatalism’

June 11th, 2012

The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Libertarian Freedom in Contrast to William Hasker’s Argument Against Theological Fatalism

by Max Andrews

I. The Argument

William Hasker has a deep commitment to the position that man holds a high level of libertarian freedom.  In his section on “Freedom, Necessity, and God,” Hasker takes the libertarian to task by challenging him with free will’s compatibility with divine foreknowledge.[1]  Hasker’s argument states that because God foreknows an agent’s action the agent necessarily fulfills that action.

  1. It is now true that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Assumption).
  2. It is impossible that God should at any time believe anything false or fail to believe anything which is true (Assumption:  divine omniscience).
  3. Therefore God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 1 and 2).
  4. If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing.  (Assumption: the inalterability of the past).
  5. Therefore it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 3 and 4).
  6. It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow, and that I do not in fact have one.  (Inference from 2).
  7. Therefore it is not in my power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 5 and 6). So I do not have free will with respect to the decision whether or not to eat an omelet. [2]
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June 8th, 2012

The Molinism Directory

by Max Andrews

I’ve decided to gather all my posts on Molinism in one post for easy reference.

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)
  3. Review Essay: Four Views on Divine Providence
  4. Defining Omniscience
  5. Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge
  6. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  7. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  8. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  9. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism–Moral Responsibility
  10. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  11. The Pelagian Equivocation
  12. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  13. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  14. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
    read more »

February 6th, 2012

Boethius on Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will

by Max Andrews

Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI).  He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity.  He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed.  When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals.  Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events.  He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem.  If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.

November 6th, 2011

The Delayed Choice Experiment in Quantum Physics

by Max Andrews

Source: SUNY

If photons are fired through the experiment one at a time (firing photons at a wall with two holes and a photon detector on the other side of the holes), they will build up an interference patter on the other side, as if they had gone through both holes at once and interfered with themselves.  If the experiment is set up so that detectors monitor which hole the photo goes through, the photon is indeed observed to be going through only one hole, and there is no interference pattern.  If a detector is set up not at the holes but intermediate between the two holes and the back wall detector screen then it may be possible to see which route a particular photon took after it had passed the two holes before it arrived at the screen. 

September 19th, 2011

Middle Knowledge and Eternal Omniscience

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Ryan Hedrich. Ryan is an undergraduate Public Policy major at Georgia Tech with an interest in epistemology and theology, subjects he writes about at his blog unapologetica.blogspot.com.

__________

“If God did not determine [an act], then there must be in the universe a determining force independent of God.”[1]

This argument, stated simply, has been and continues to be the crux upon which the legitimacy of Molinism is hinged. Can the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God be harmonized with a theory that human choices [in particular] are self-determined?

The Molinist claims that God possesses middle knowledge, “…non-determinative knowledge of the realm of creaturely possibility, a foreknowledge of events which depend not on his decree but on the liberty or free choice of the creature.”[2] It is referred to as “middle” knowledge because it is said to logically reside in between – so to speak – God’s knowledge of both possibilities and logical necessities and God’s knowledge of what will be due to His free instantiation of a particular possible world.

In other words, although God’s knowledge is eternal, His “natural” knowledge of that which must and could be can be said to be a precondition for or logically prior to His middle knowledge of what one would freely choose – in the libertarian sense[3] – given individuating conditions of a possible world. In turn, God’s middle knowledge functions as the precondition for or logically prior to God’s “free” knowledge of that which will occur based on His unconditional decree by which He effects the conditions for a particular possible world.

The important idea is that divine middle knowledge as believed by Molinists is with respect to self-determined human choices which would be exercised given the conditions of a particular possible world (including this one). The important question, again, is whether or not an adequate explanation can be provided as to how God could from eternity know what humans would choose in a given possible world by means other than His own determination.

The “grounding objection” to Molinism has consistently been cited as the greatest obstacle to its acceptance. The issue is this: God doesn’t determine what humans freely choose; what possible conditions God could instantiate would not themselves determine what humans would freely choose, though they may limit what could be chosen. It is clear that if one possesses a libertarian free will, nothing extrinsic to him would cause what he would choose in a given possible world.

Hence, on the assumption that humans possess libertarian free will, the question is begged as to how a contingent object of divine middle knowledge – i.e. that person X would choose Y given particular antecedent conditions Z – is certain. An answer was provided by the father of Molinism, who wrote that middle knowledge is:

…the knowledge through which God, before he decides to create a being endowed with free choice, foresees what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.[4]

Human choices are self-determined. Thus, free choices to which God’s middle knowledge corresponds are the grounds for God’s middle knowledge itself. But this has an interesting implication:

…for Molina’s concept to function, the conditions standing prior to the contingent event must be understood as not merely possible, but as having some sort of actuality or quasi-actuality apart from the divine willing – inasmuch as the point is… that God knows what will occur contingently upon certain conditions lying outside of his will: these conditions are not mere possibility nor divinely will actuality, but foreknown conditions, foreknown as actual apart from the decree, at least for the sake of stating the contingency.[5]

That is, if a person’s choices are the result of libertarian free will, God knows what X would choose “on the hypothesis” of Z only if God quasi-instantiates Z such that X is in a position to, after deliberating possible alternatives, choose Y. [That God would quasi-instantiate Z rather than actually instantiate Z follows when it is remembered that God’s middle knowledge is under consideration, not His free knowledge]. Because Molinists believe in a doctrine of libertarian free will, man’s choice is naturally to be considered the means by which it becomes evident what X would choose from the sphere of what it would be possible for X to choose.

Perhaps the reader may think the grounding objection has now been defeated, since an account has been offered as to how God can know the truth value of a counter-factual of creaturely freedom. Parenthetically, it might even be relevant to the possibility of a multiverse, which is (from what I have read) a hot topic on this blog.

However, the explanation comes at an unaffordable price: “…things contingent, till they are determined to come to passe, or not to come to passe, are not knowable that they shall come to passe, nor are knowable that they shall not come to passe.”[6] It is trivial to observe that God’s middle knowledge is not natural knowledge, and one cannot argue that what a man would freely choose in a given possible world could be necessitated by factors external to the exercise of his own will. But on Molinism,

…there are two phases, as it were, of the divine knowing of an event prior to his willing it – namely, that God first knows an entire possible world in an indeterminate way, as containing (possibly!) both an event and its contrary (scientia necessaria), and then knows by scientia media the outcome of the contingency or free choice were he to actualize that world, with the result that God in (or, indeed, temporally subsequent to) his actualization can also introduce other factors into that world order that are consequent on his knowing of the particular outcome.[7]

The problem, then, is that prior to the point in quasi-instantiated Z at which it can be discerned that X would actually choose Y – viz. when X chooses Y – it can legitimately be claimed X could have chosen not-Y, for that is what libertarian free will entails. Arguing that God’s knowledge is predicated upon the outcome of what a person would choose in quasi-instantiated Z is just a roundabout way of saying that the purpose of the quasi-instantiation of Z is that God can observe and thereby learn that X would, in fact, determine to choose Y. This is, of course, incompatible with the biblical doctrine of an eternally omniscient God.

On the other hand, to insist God knew X would choose Y at the point it was possible that X could have chosen not-Y is intuitively untenable and can be quickly demonstrated. “There must be a causal determination that moves any future contingent from the realm of mere possibility into the realm of actuality…”[8] On Molinism, this causal determination is the free choice of X. What possibilities X could choose are eliminated only when X chooses Y given [quasi-]instantiated Z. Only at that point is it certain X would choose Y in Z.

This is why Molina recognized that the way in which God possesses determinate middle knowledge would be by “foresee[ing] what that being would do on the hypothesis that it should be placed in a particular order of things – this knowledge depends on the fact that the being in its freedom do this or that, and not the other way around.” These points are wholly contrary to the suggestion that God could know X would choose Y given Z apart from foreseeing the self-determination of such, as that would mean God’s knowledge is not dependent on anything external to Himself.

To conclude, there can be no middle knowledge, no human indeterminacy, and no eternal priority of contingencies to any facet of God’s knowledge.


[1] Gordon Clark, Predestination, pg. 39.

[2] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 417.

[3] cf. Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 2.

[4] Luis de Molina, Concordia, Disputation 52.10.

[5] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 421.

[6] William Twisse, A Discovery of D. Jackson’s Vanity, pg. 338.

[7] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 430.

[8] Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Volume III, pg. 424.

August 25th, 2011

The Incompatibility of Middle Knowledge and Libertarian Freedom

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Roger Turner, a Philosophy Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.

If you’re a Molinist—at any rate, if you believe that God has middle knowledge—you believe that God knows whether or not any given counterfactual, or subjunctive conditional is true.  What’s more, you probably believe this because you think it helps make clear how it is possible that humans can act freely even though God knows, before they act, how they’ll act.  And you probably want to have some grasp on how all that works because you’re a libertarian with respect to freedom.  That is, you think that determinism and free will are incompatible, but you believe that divine foreknowledge and free will are compatible.  If you are a libertarian, you think that indeterminism is true.  In other words, you think that the theses ‘the conjunction of the past and laws of nature entails a unique future’ and ‘nobody has a choice about the future because nobody has a choice about what God foreknows’ are false.  So, the idea of middle knowledge seems to be the best way to duck and dodge the relevant snares.  But there’s a puzzle here.  There appears to be a significant tension between one’s being a libertarian about freedom, and one’s being a Molinist.  In what follows, I hope to illuminate the problem.

Take your friend, Jones.  If you believe God has middle knowledge, you probably believe that, if you were to ask God what Jones would do in such and such a circumstance, God would know the answer to your question.  God would respond, so you think, with something like the following:  “If Jones were in C, he would freely A.”  And you’d feel pretty confident that God’s having answered this way fails to undermine Jones’s freedom because you think that God’s belief about whether or not Jones A’s in C depends on Jones and whether or not Jones A’s in C and not the other way around (i.e. Jones’s Aing in C doesn’t depend on God’s knowing that, if Jones were in C, he would A).

Quick question, though: what is the truth value of a subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?  Here’s why I ask.  If a particular event is an indeterminate event (that is, the event is undetermined) the odds of that event’s happening are something like 50/50.  So, take Jones again and his being in C and whether or not he A’s.  If Jones’s Aing is undertermined, then he’s just as likely to A as he is to not-A given his being in C and an identical past up to the point of his being in C.  This is what indeterminism implies.  Given Jones’s past from t0 to the present moment, the moment just before he acts, Jones is supposed to be just as free to refrain from Aing as he is to A.  It can’t be the case, for example, that, if Jones is libertarianly free, he’d be more likely to A, given his past (or other conditions beyond his control), than he would be to refrain from Aing.  Because if that’s the case, then he’s got factors that are out of his control which bear on whether or not he A’s.  And this would absolve Jones of (at least part of) his responsibility for Aing (or refraining from A).  If we’re libertarians (and we usually are if we believe God has middle knowledge), then we think Jones has just as much chance of Aing, given that he’s in C, as he does refraining from A.

Okay, back to the question about the truth value of a subjunctive conditional given the truth of indeterminism.  The subjunctive conditional (this thing:  €®) expresses what would happen in the closest-by, relevant possible worlds.  So, take Jones again.  And express the proposition ‘if Jones were in C, he would freely A’ as follows:

JC nec. €→ A

The way this is typically read is something like this: in all the closest-by C worlds (i.e. the worlds in which Jones is in C), Jones A’s.  But this implies that it’s not indeterminate what Jones would do in C.  It’s not indeterminate because we can “zoom-out” and see which C worlds are the closest to the actual world.  And, just by doing that, we can see that in any C world that is most closely related to the actual world, Jones A’s.  The odds aren’t 50/50 given the truth of the subjunctive conditional; the closest-by C worlds are such that Jones A’s.  So, if Jones is in C, though it’s not necessary that he A—there are, after all, possible worlds where he’s in C but doesn’t A; they’re just further off—he’ll A.  He’ll A because there is a group of possible C worlds—those closest-by to the actual world—where he A’s.  And whether or not Jones is in a closest-by C world has nothing to do with Jones!  It’s beyond Jones’s control as to whether or not he’s in one of the closest-by C worlds.

But, wait.  On the libertarian view, indeterminism is true; that is, determinism is false.  Jones must, to be libertarianly free, be just as likely to A, in C, as he is to refrain from A.  That is, Jones must be equally likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A in all C worlds.  It can’t be the case that the proximity of the C world to the actual world determines whether or not Jones A’s.  But, if the subjunctive conditional (this bit:  JC nec. €→A) is true, then it can’t be that Jones was just as likely to refrain from Aing in C as he was to A in C.

So, if indeterminism is true, the subjunctive conditional must be false.  The answer, then, to the above question ‘what is the truth value of the subjunctive conditional if indeterminism is true?’: the truth value of the subjunctive conditional, if indeterminism is true, is False.  But this means that it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A.  And what’s more, it’s false that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  And since God can’t have any false beliefs, he can’t believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A is true, nor can he believe that if Jones were in C, then he would freely refrain from Aing.  He can’t believe this because it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely A and it’s false that if Jones were in C he would freely refrain from Aing.  It’s false because there is no would to it; indeterminism implies that the proximity of the worlds in which Jones is in C has no bearing on whether or not Jones A’s.  It has no bearing because, in all C worlds, Jones is just as likely to refrain from Aing as he is to A.

The upshot of all this is that if it’s true that if Jones were in C, he would freely A, then Jones was not libertarianly free to A.  Some factor that wasn’t up to Jones made it the case that his particular C world was closer to the actual world than some other C world, some other C world where he refrains from Aing.  And this implies that, if it’s true that if Jones were in C, then he would freely A, then libertarianism is false.  At any rate, it implies that if the subjunctive conditional is true, then God’s middle knowledge rules out our acting in a libertarianly free way.

So, either you are a Molinist—at any rate, you believe that God has middle knowledge—or you are a libertarian.  But you can’t be both.  So the argument goes, anyway.

June 15th, 2011

The Philosophy Behind ‘Source Code’

by Max Andrews

Ben Ripley and Duncan Jones’ recent film Source Code is loaded with philosophical underpinnings and pushes the edge of current science.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays the role of an Army helicopter pilot (Colter Stevens) who faced a near-death injury in battle but wakes up to find himself in the body of another person, Sean Fentress, on a Chicago bound train.  Colter, while embodied in Sean’s body, needs to gather vital intelligence on the terrorist attack that is going to happen on the train in eight minutes to help prevent a future attack soon to come.  Though at times I got tired of monotonous scenes after Colter’s failed attempts the plot and philosophical and scientific edge makes a great film for those deep thinkers out there.

Inside the Source Code

This is how it works.  The Source Code is a computer program that takes the electromagnetic field from one person’s brain and allows that person to assume the role of another individual bearing the same likeness.  The personal duplication only lasts for eight minutes because that’s how much memory can be accessed by the electromagnetic field of the brain (per the movie).  The first important metaphysical question to be asked is how does this work with personal identity? For clarification I will refer to Colter’s embodiment of Sean on the train as code-world and Colter’s consciousness reflected in his personal self as real-world.  If real-world Colter assumes the identity of code-world Sean then what happens to code-world Sean at the moment Colter assumes his identity?  Now remember, code-world Sean was once real-world Sean during those real-world eight minutes Colter embodies Sean.  Also, code-world Colter was once real-world Colter at the same moment of code-world Colter going “back” as code-world Sean.  This begs the question, to whom do we predicate personal identity to Colter when he is in the code-world?  This isn’t so much of a time travel issue rather it’s related to parallel realities.  This may seem like Hollywood’s inability to be philosophically trained in consistent metaphysics but perhaps Ripley’s writing isn’t inept, perhaps it’s pushing the edge of contemporary philosophy and science!

Now let’s look at the issue of the parallel realities.  Max Tegmark is a leading proponent of the multiverse.  His is a little more extreme than many other proponents since he advocates a fourth-level multiverse, which is to say that mathematics is equivalent to physical reality.  The Source Code would be equivalent to the third-level multiverse.  The third level multiverse assumes unitary physics and that every possible physical particle interaction actually does occur.  Consider the illustration of a man and a woman who meet up for drinks.  It could go a number of ways, she could say, “Sure, let’s have a drink” or she could say, “No, I’d rather not.”  In this scenario both outcomes actually occur and reality splits and each story continues its course.  Now this model assumes that consciousness may be explained on the quantum level.  Source Code is consistent here.

The issue now is getting from one reality to the other.  Columbia University physicist Brian Greene is one of the leading string theorists and he believes there is a way to verify whether or not this can me done.  At the Large Hadron Collider in CERN hundreds of physicists from around the globe gather together and construct high energy particle experiments.  What happens is that they accelerate particle beams near the speed of light with the potential of producing 14 TeV.  These particle beams collide and reveal smaller sub-particles.  It works in a way similar to building a block made of legos and when you throw one block of legos at another block it was come apart and the smaller components will be left.  That’s how sub-particles are discovered.  Greene’s prediction is that when collision events occur and the data reveals that less energy is present than there should be then it may be that some particles, or energy, have been transferred into another brane (or another reality).  It’s not as though this idea is so far fetched or that it is unfalsifiable, branes may actually exist.  In regards to the modesty of the position this interpretation is known as the Many Worlds Interpretation (though it still faces its physical challenges and dissenters).  The MWI was developed my Hugh Everett and Tegmark is the contemporary who has carried the torch at this point.

In order for Source Code to be achieved there would have to be a tremendous amount of concentrated energy, that would be the consciousness of Colter, and specify that on the consciousness of Sean (or the electromagnetic field).  The precision and energy are almost certainly impossible to harness that energy in such a specified way to be able to determine the specified outcome of each particle interaction from one brane to another.  It’s the concepts of merely transferring energy from one brane to another that is possible.  Source Code takes the advances of modern high energy physics and fictionalizes it to be able to traverse realities.  It certainly raises metaphysical questions of identity, which are quite worth entertaining.  We shouldn’t always shape our metaphysics to what knowledge of the physical world we do have.  Our physics may not confirm or suggest certain ideas like this but these hypothetical thought experiments are great mental exercises and thought experiments.  I really enjoyed this film simply because it made me think about how this could actually work.  The physics are next to impossible but the philosophy behind it is what makes the movie worth it’s praise.  The plot and character development isn’t horrible but, hey, there has to be some milieu in order to portray the idea.

March 6th, 2011

The Philosophy Behind ‘The Adjustment Bureau’

by Max Andrews

George Nolfi and Phillip Dick’s recent movie ‘The Adjustment Bureau‘ is certainly a film that can get you thinking and asking the questions, “How?” and, “But why?”  I had no idea this movie was coming out until a friend Tweeted it to me a couple of days before the premiere, which made for a great date night.  Before I get into the details, my opinion of the film is that though it was entertaining and had an ‘indy-esque’ vibe to it, though it made me frustrated.

David (Matt Damon) falls in love with Elise (Emily Blunt) in the only-in-the-movies-could-it-ever-happen type moments.  They hit it off and we begin the story line.  David is heading to work a few months later after his mysterious run-in with Elise and Harry, a bureau case officer, is supposed to make David spill his coffee by 7:05 AM.  Well, it doesn’t happen and it becomes a problem because it has compromised “the plan.”  David sees Elise on that bus and they reunite.  Not good for the bureau.  Once David gets off the bus he walks into work and notices that his staff is being tampered with (for lack of a better word).  They are scanning their brains in the moment as time seems to have frozen.  Because David had not spilled his cup of coffee he witnesses what is going on.  David meets the bureau and finds out what they do and then we continue on with the plot.

Source: IMBD

Going into the movie I didn’t know what to expect as far as how they were going portray human freedom and the bureau’s providence.  There’s a clear and distinct correlation between the bureau’s chairman and God; and the case officers with angels.  The case officers are limited in their scope of abilities by the chairman, they report to the chairman, they are not perfect, and they do work for the chairman.  The chairman is the one who makes the plans.  The plans are referenced by the case workers in these books they carry around.  Here’s where I get frustrated because there seems to be an inconsistency.  Throughout the film you’ll come to understand that humans really do have free will.  In the scene when David enters his office and finds the case officers tampering with his colleagues brains, they are doing that in order to change their minds about something.  Here we have the classic illustration of soft-determinism/compatibilism.  Say there’s a scientist who plants electrodes in my brain.  I’m free to act according to my will as long as I do what the scientist wants.  Now, say I’m in a room with you.  I can either shoot you or I can walk away and we both live.  Now, I don’t want to kill you, but perhaps the scientist wants me to kill you.  Because I don’t want to do what the scientist wants me to do he activates the electrodes in my brain, which causes me to kill you.  Now back to the film.  We have David’s colleagues doing something that requires a strong-actualization, an introduction of direct causation into the states of affairs (directly causing the changes in the brains).  Now, we don’t know the efficacy of these changes, whether it’s merely an introduction of new information to be considered or if it’s something that necessarily brings about the change, we don’t know but it seems to be the case that it was actually changed.

Later on in the film you come to learn that every historical event happened to bring about the state of affairs David finds himself in.  The black plague existed to bring about this certain aspect in David’s life, the Enlightenment was brought about so that David will be reasonable, etc.  David seems to be a focus of a theodicy.  David’s not allowed to be with Elise because if he is with her then he will not be what the bureau needs him to be.  We now find ourselves with counterfactual knowledge.  If David does this, then this will happen.  If David does not do this, then this will happen (and this will not happen).  You also find the bureau using terms and phrases like “you would do this” or “you would have done that.”  So there seems to be an indication of a knowledge of counterfactual human freedom.  Okay, this makes sense.  If all these historical events were brought about so that a particular state of affairs would obtain that seems to be quite providential given that these humans have free will.  It sounds like good ‘ole Molinism! (But… it’s not).

Source: IMBD

I would not be surprised if we find this film being referenced as illustrations for openness theologians in the time to come.  It really is an excellent depiction of overall openness providence, since the climax and denouement will help shape how you interpret the earlier parts of film.  The two writers could have made a clearer distinction on how free will is portrayed and how it relates to the bureau’s providential plan.  The film is quite entertaining and you find yourself caught in the middle of David and Elise’s relationship.  One moment you want them to make it and the next you don’t because you’re too mad at David.  However, a word of caution to you philosophically minded folk, you may find yourself with the same frustration I had in trying to get a consistent depiction of human freedom and providence.

December 30th, 2010

Determinism vs. Fatalism

by Max Andrews

It’s easy to confuse these two concepts so I wanted to give a brief differentiation.  I’ve noticed the confusion on the blog here, and I’ve had two students attempt to construct an argument for determinism when they were actually arguing for fatalism.  Determinism entails that an event is necessarily constrained to actualization by causal relations.  Fatalism entails that an event is necessarily constrained to actualization, but it is not by causal relations.  This becomes an issue with simple foreknowledge (i.e. If God foreknows any state of affairs then those state of affairs happen necessarily.  So, if God foreknows I will be sitting down at t1 do I have the freedom to stand up at t1?).

Determinism (let S be a state of affairs)

S1 → S2 → S3 → S4

Let this represent a causal relationship between each state of affairs.  So if I were to ask the question, “If God foreknows that I will be sitting down at S4 do I have the freedom to stand up at S4?”  The answer is no.  I don’t have the freedom to stand up because in each I was determined to sit down by the prior causes and God foreknows what will happen because the causes logically precede God’s foreknowledge (in the case of natural knowledge) or are concurrent within God’s foreknowledge (though this would deny all possible worlds except for one, the actual world).

Fatalism

S1ʹ → S2ʹ → S3ʹ → S4ʹ

In the above states of affairs, there doesn’t need to be any direct causal relationship (so let’s use prime to differentiate).  Now let’s ask the above question concerning God’s foreknowledge and the necessary actualization of any state of affairs.

God foreknows S4ʹ will happen:  Because S4ʹ will happen (by virtue of God knowing that it will happen), S1ʹ → S2ʹ → S3ʹ must necessarily happen to bring about S4ʹ.  Remember, any prior states of affairs happen necessarily as well by virtue of God’s simple foreknowledge.  This is different from determinism because the states of affairs are not [necessarily] causally determined or related to each other.

Determinism and fatalism both have their problems.  I find determinism to be problematic because of the problem of evil and human freedom.  Fatalism confuses the logical moments of God’s knowledge.  So the question I’ve been asking is simply just a bad question.  I’m taking God’s free knowledge and putting that logically prior to God’s natural knowledge or middle knowledge (depending on what I’m objecting to).  So if I’m going to ask if I can (natural knowledge) do anything other than what God foreknows (free knowledge), then I’m making the third moment precede the first moment.  It’s simply incoherent and inconsistent.