The Philosophy Lesson

Today I broke one of my own rules briefly, and staged a philosophic discussion in one of my lessons with some interested students.

I kicked off with as little Socratic chicanery. I asked:

“Whom do you more resemble, your Mum or your Dad…?”
“Why do you resemble them, and not say, Bruce Willis or Angelina Jolie…?”
“How much DNA do you share with your Mum/Dad…?”
“Would you say that you are related to your Mum/Dad…?”

Appropriately obvious answers were given, by slightly perplexed 18-20 year olds.

I then of course wrote in big letters across the bottom of the board: A CHIMP SHARES 96% OF HUMAN DNA.

A lot of fallen faces and "no teacher"s to which I simply drew their attention back to the answers they had freely given.


Anyway, that’s how it kicked off. But, as philosophy is wont to do, we soon got into the whole Allah/Evolution/free-will bit. The consensus being we are made, rather than evolved. I let that go, mainly because I know from previous experience that to push it is unproductive. And drives me mad. So instead I went for the free-will angle.

The Koranic version of things has the “it is written” bit - ie: from the instant of your conception to the time and manner of your departure, Allah knows all. Your fate is inescapable. So I asked “if my fate is known, emphatically (actually, I didn’t say emphatically because no-one would have known what that meant, but anyway) then it is impossible that I have free-will. My path is fixed, and those things I thought I could have done differently during my life were illusions…”

But no, apparantly Allah has his cake and eats it too. We are given free-will. Even though our fate is known, absolutely. Contradiction.

I point this out a few times, in a few different ways.

“Aha”, says my student, and gives the classic example of a serial-killer complaining about being sent to hell at the end of his life, even though Allah knew that he was going to be a killer (and therefore hellbound) right from the moment of Allah’s creation of him: “Look” says the killer “you knew I was going to be bad even before I left the womb. So why did you make me…? If you knew…?”

At which point I nodded and thought to myself “game,set and…”

But no. My student then gave Allah’s reply “My son” says Allah to the killer, “I knew you would do these things, but I did not make you do them.”

At this point, luckily the bell went, and I shuffled off for a cigarette and a cup of tea in the staffroom.

Now, my question to the theologians here is this: Does God’s being able to predict absolutely our choices, negate our choosing of them…? Negate free-will…? Or does the “I didn’t make you do it” card get free-will out of jail…? And either way, doesn’t the “It is written” bit imply determinism…?

Thank God I’m not a theologian. I would go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. And I really love collecting that $200 each round. My best thinking is that God knows this and also knows better than to mess with my happiness on this earth, and thus I am free to direct my own life and consciousness without worrying about divine intervention yet loving it when it all works out in my favor. Hmm, now that reminds me of mom and dad…

Why should it? X knows from experience that his wife will choose a certain colour of curtains or place-mats, but he doesn’t make her choose. It’s just the way she is.

The theology is that God knows, but nobody else does.

Except Calvinists, of course. :smiley:

I had a couple of lovely old Christians come to myy door the other day and during a long discussion, I posed the very same question. They were flummoxed and assured me they would be back with the answer. Sure enough, one of them returned a few days later with a leaflet which explains this. I will post the ‘answer’ later after I have looked for it.

I’m pretty sure Tab’s point Ocks is that if God made us and knows exacty everything that is going to happen, he knows that we will sin. And he created that. Not only that, but if he were to pull through and punish us for our sins (which originated from our creator) then he would be damning us to eternal hellfire and unrelenting pain for doing what he knew we would do when he made us. So an all loving god is not possible under the ‘all knowing’ circumstance.

I dunno, I have this preoccupation with the notion that if behaviour is absolutely predictable, even if only by God, Allah or Rumplestiltskin, then it cannot be free. Rather that it is determined, and clunks along like a roller-coaster. Swoopy, exhilarating but still, A->B with no option of C.

Something is either predictable, or not. If God can know, then in principle if not in practice, so can anyone.

Yeah, kinda. But more really it’s the whole, knowing, but not intervening. I mean, Allah/God is all powerful, so intervention to prevent me from er… making the choice to eat that baby say, is no real skin off God’s nose. It’s not like he’s got shopping to do or a video to watch. But that’s the whole “why is there evil” argument - a different fish.

And of course the free-will choice/prediction thing.

The best I can do is lash up an idea of ‘levels’.

Would it be fair to say that I, lacking the omniscience of a God, can - at least at my level - act freely, even though to a higher-level being my actions are predictable. ie. I’m choosing ice-cream flavours, but because I cannot predict/model my own decision processes to the point where the accuracy of my model would recurve and effect my decision at that time… My decision is ‘free’. Whereas to God/Allah, who can model my decision-making proceses with accuracy - will always know which flavour - super-vanilla - I’m going to choose…?

There is no logical necessity, though, in that. We often say, “He would never agree to that,” but it does not mean that ‘he’ does not make a genuine, independent, autonomous choice. If humans can say that, surely an agent outside space-time can do so.

Sure, but if we followed him around all day, and you were right about him every time, I’d begin to suspect you were remote-controlling his ass.

If I was right about all his moral decisions, that would not be so remarkable.

I found the leaflet.

This particular section is called ‘Did God know that Adam and Eve would sin?’ I’ll write an excerpt or two:

[i]"The Scriptures show that Jehovah is ‘wise alone’. They began shouting in applause when Jehovah brought forth his earthly creations. No doubt these intelligent spirit creatures followed events in the garden of Eden with great interest. Would it thenn make sense for a wise God, after creating an awe inspiring universe and an array of marvelous earthly works, to bring forth under the eyes of his angelic sons two unique creatureswho he knew were bound to fall? Clearly, to plan sch a calamity would not stand to reason.

Still, someone may object, 'But how could an all-wise God not have known? Granted, a facet of Jehovah’s great wisdom is his capability ‘to know from the beginning the finale’. However, he does not have to use this capability, just as he does not have to always use his immense power to the full. Jehovah wisely uses his ability of foreknowledge selectively."[/i]

So are you happy now Tab? ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?


I’d be curious to know of a single scriptural reference that even half-unambiguously states that we are created with free will. I know there’s a few that state the opposite, such as that Faith is a product of God’s grace, and is not something chosen.

Even though God has, God does and God will know what will happen, we humans make to our own choices thus we are responsible for our actions. The whole reason in my opinion it gives us the opportunity to aspre to righteousness. If we didn’t, there would not be a need for us to go through what we do everyday in our lives.

We have the right information to put us into that position, it’s how we utilize it that gives it value to us spiritually. Just imagine if evryone strived for good things of the spirit. We wouldn’t be at the point we are in now. The Book of Revelations would not have the things in it has now. Yet, we as a whole feel we don’t need God. So, here we struggle and suffer letting our ‘free will’ not closely align to God’s 'Will".

God and the Time Traveller: A Brief Chat

God: Look, he’s coming to the intersection.

Time Traveller: Ya, he’s gonna turn left.

G: He is, of course, free to do so.

TT: No he’s not.

G: He is free to turn right, or go straight for that matter. Or mount the curb. Or stop and abandon his vehicle…

TT: Is he gonna turn left?

G: Yes.

TT: Is there any way he’s gonna do otherwise?

G: Well, no.

TT: Then he’s not determining anything. He’s just being a passenger in the driver’s seat.

G: But I invested him with free will, I’m sure of it!

TT: If you did, then you must have used your Omnipotence and willed yourself out of Omniscience.

G: But I need omniscience to be omnipotent!

: Your problem.

G: (“poof”)

  1. that cup of coffee and cig, is a cumpolsery need, your dopamin need will steer your subconciousness to like the things, even though the cig will taste really bad and smell, the compulsion will make you like it, even if you don’t like it the subconcious need is so great that it will overwrite your concious thoughts.

There are no God, even if there was, what say that it isn’t another god pushing us around?

You should study psycology and neurology …maybe toxocology too, then you would automaticly have the answers.

I’m trying to figure out how to reply to this thread.

:arrow_right: :banana-dance: The banana will help me.

I think this comes down to a question of whether or not our existence is linear.
Random will isn’t free will, either.
Just because it can’t be foreseen doesn’t mean it’s free.

It also comes to the inner outer duality that isn’t real.
We are both cause and effect.
Outside and inside influences move between eachother and they trade chairs.
What was once you wont be you later.

It is best to use what we have, no matter whether we are slaves or free.

Personally I’d say we are only as causal as our e=mc2.
How much energy we have determines how much we can do.
Life is tiny in the universe therefor it is not very free, in my opinion.

I think free will can be reduced to physics, because the whole process
is about what energy does and how it reacts with everything and needs

Maybe it’s a question of whether a deity ‘exists’ outside space-time.

Tab, I wonder what would happen if you bring Kabalah up before these students. In my experience muslims are fascinated to the point of fear by the Jewish teachings. There is respect and hatred for them. Anyway why I say this, what it has to do with the subject matter is that the doctrine of free will is a bit (just) more elaborated on in Judaism than in Islam. Here’s a transcript from a video I ran into googling the subject:

Your student has a point, actually. There’s a difference between knowing what will happen, and being the cause of what will happen. You might say knowing what will happen means knowing the causes that make it happen, and that if there are causes that make it happen, then what happens did not happen out of any free volition. The problem with this line of thought is that this is true only as far as human thought is concerned. We, as humans, can predict the future only if we know the elements at play, i.e., the causes. That is how we function. However, it is silly to assume that’s how God knows the future. Perhaps God can know what will happen without having to look at the causes that make it happen. It seems inconceivable to us, but we’re talking about God here. It’s silly to assume God’s capacity to know and method of knowing is similar to ours.

Must be nice. Can you smoke in your classroom?

I agree. I also think there’s a nice touch of tragedy in such a story. God knows what will happen, and has the power to prevent it, but doesn’t interfere. That’s a powerful story - classic parent/child stuff, but on a whole other level.

doesn’t interfere?
didn’t he make, from scratch, the souls of these individuals?
he interferes on the most fundamental level.
you can’t possibly interfere any more than god does in this scenario.
first they say god created everything, and then they pretend he’s passive?
another case of having cake and eating it too.

The story is that God made people with free will. I’m saying it’s like a parent who let’s their child screw up, so that child will grow up and not always be a child. I’m not a theist, but I don’t think this story is overtly nonsensical. You have to dig deeper to find issues with it.