On Free WillFree Will and God’s Foreknowledge By St. Augustine of Hippo
Problem: Gods foreknowledge and Human Free will • “Since God foreknew that man would sin, that which God foreknew must necessarily come to pass. How then is the will free when there is apparently this unavoidable necessity?” • The following 2 propositions are contradictory: 1) God has foreknowledge of all future events and 2) we sin voluntarily and not of necessity.
The Problem of God’s Foreknowledge • God knows today, at time 1, that you will sin tomorrow, at time 2. • God knows this today, at time 1, with absolute certainty, meaning that what God knows about your decision tomorrow is as certain as the certainty in the claim that 1+1=2. • The reason for this certainty in God’s knowledge is that God’s knowledge is infallible which means that it is impossible for God to be mistaken.
You cannot have free will • However, if God’s knowledge today of the sin you will commit tomorrow cannot be wrong, then you are determined to commit that sin tomorrow and there is nothing in the world that can change this fact. • But if your action is determined, then it is impossible to claim that you are truly free.
Do we will by necessity? • Determinism • If we observe internally, that is, if we reflect on our internal deliberations we seem to be “making decisions” and acting freely.
Free will? • To be free means to have the power to do otherwise. • To be Autonomous • Not caused by anything except your own volition. • Notice that the idea of autonomy is a mysterious one, because all things in the universe have a cause; that is, all actions and events have an antecedent action or event that brought it about. • To say that humans have free will is to say that when humans act, there is no antecedent event that brings it about. Rather the person is fully responsible for the action.
Solution • God’s foreknowledge of a sin does not compel the agent to commit the sin even though it was certain that he was going to sin. • Simply, God knows our decisions (all at once), and he knows these because we have chosen them and it is not the case that we have chosen them because God knows them.
Solution • Augustine argues that God knows because he is not limited by time, and God’s conception of past, present and future is not the same as ours. • For God, there is no past, present and future; rather all time is present.
Best Possible World • A world with the possibility and actuality of evil is better than a world with no such possibility and actual evil. • The soul/mind is superior to the body • A mind is a moral agent – free will • A world with mind is better than a world without mind.
There must be a heaven/invisible world • If there was only this world, then this would not be the best possible world. I could conceive of another world much greater. • But if, in addition to this world, there were another world, a heaven/invisible world, then this (visible and invisible world) would be the best possible world. • How do we know there is an invisible world?
Objective Comparative Judgments • What are objective Comparative Judgments? • “When the human soul says: ‘this is better than that’ and if it says so truly, it will say so because of its relation to divine reasons on which it depends.” • For instance, if one judges one figure to be a better circle than another figure another, we must ask how the person can make such a judgment?
An Invisible World Exists • This comparative judgment is only possible, if the person has access to real concept of a perfect circle. • But there is no such thing in the visible world. • Therefore, not only must there be an invisible world, we must have the ability to access such a world.
Theory of Divine Illumination • God is the source of the light that allows us to see the eternal concepts that make one wise, such as justice and good, and eternal truths of mathematics hat make us intelligent • Light Analogy. • One can see light (intelligence) of a fire from a distance, but to feel the heat (wisdom) of the light one must be very close to its sources.