Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Friday, October 24, 2008

Free Will (Short Version)

Podcast of this article.

What is free will?

I'd say that none of our attempts to define free will 'feel' right. If we say that our actions are caused then we should blame the laws of physics when someone does something wrong. On the other hand, if we say that our actions are *not* caused then it sounds like they happen randomly, because the only alternative to stuff being caused that we can imagine is randomness. That would make doing the right thing a matter of chance.

I think that a good solution involves imagining two 'worlds' out there: a finite world and an infinite world.

Humans see the finite world. In the finite world, everything is a matter of cause and effect. In the finite world A causes B, which causes C, which causes D, and so on. People are determined in the finite world.

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In the infinite world people are not determined, but that doesn't mean that they act randomly. The concepts of 'causation' and 'randomness' don't apply in the infinite world. It's a whole different 'ball game', where everything, including causality, is totally different. God lives in the infinite world, because God is infinite. Free will comes from the infinite world, and that's the only place where it can exist.

(Click to enlarge)

This situation explains why humans can't understand free will. We can't understand free will because it's very hard to use finite reasoning to understand the infinite.

OK, that might explain how free will can exist even though we don't understand it, but doesn't this mean that only God has free will? After all, only God is infinite. Or am I saying that humans are infinite? But that would put us on God's level.

My view is that humans are partly infinite and partly finite. Only God can be fully infinite, because God 'encompasses all possible infinities' in his being. That's why God can't make another God. But you can go 'halfway'. That is, God can make people partly infinite without making another God.

(Click to enlarge)

Our soul is infinite, and we get our free will, consciousness, and a moral sense from our soul. But everything else about us *has* to be finite, including our reasoning and knowledge.

This is how I see free will 'working': our physical bodies and soul together make up our personality - through God's power the finite is connected to the infinite. We make choices through our soul, and through our bodies we get something to express our choices with, as well as reasoning and knowledge. God makes our choices in the infinite world shape the makeup, structure and functioning of our brain. This is the side of us that science sees: humans as deterministic, self-aware biological machines (we cannot see our infinite selves).

So free will can make sense, if you say that there's a mysterious 'infinite world' where there can be free will in a way that we can't understand. We get to have this freedom because God made us partly infinite, even though we can't understand it. This is a dualism of the infinite and the finite, rather than soul and matter.

Further reading: what is stuff in the infinite world like compared to the finite world?

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