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Discussion 1 to Reflection on Ethics 12
A comment on the plausibility of human free will vs. divine omniscience

by: Christian Bieck

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While I agree with most of the thoughts in this reflections, the conclusion on the compatibility of free will with divine ominiscience does not convince me. The author states "knowledge of future events does not equate causality". On its own, that is true, of course. And in the Bob, John and Dave example, Dave's foreknowledge does not negate Bob's free choice; because of the nature of the situation also no problem.

Where it gets weak is in the following A+B, hence C argument. While C (we are free to choose) might nominally follow from A and B, divine foreknowledge make this choice meaningless. Dave did not cause Bob to shoot, but Dave also did not create Bob. While he knows that John will die, he does not know how Bob will exercise his choice.

A better analogy would go like this: Dave builds a machine called Bob that can sing, clean, cook pasta and shoot people. He equips this machine with a choice engine that decides independent of its original state. But, while the decisions are independent of him, he still knows exactly what the machine will do. He then lets the machine loose in NYC, and it goes and shoots John.

Whom will a jury convict as responsible for the shooting, Bob, Dave, or both?

We have a similar problem when contemplating prophecy. If prophecy comes true no matter what we do, free will becomes meaningless. If Dave knew the Bob machine would shoot John, the machine's decision program becomes meaningless. If God knows all our actions, our choices are foreknown and thus meaningless.

Omniscience per se is thus also inconsistent with free will.

(NB: one might argue that omniscience is a necessary side effect of omnipotence, thus reducing it to a subset of the other arguments.)