Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Keith Parsons

Keith Parsons, a longtime personal friend of some 40 years, and teaches at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Because of Harvey, I am concerned, since he has not responded to my e-mail. Jeff Lowder thinks he is in a shelter somewhere without internet access.

He may be an atheist, but he is in my prayers.

261 comments:

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Joe Hinman said...

I have emailed Jeff Lowder and Eric Sotnak waiting to learn if they heard any thing, and praying/

Joe Hinman said...

Lowder and Sotnak have not heard

Mortal said...

I wouldn't get too worried just yet. I doubt that many people in the Houston area have internet access right now.

Stardusty Psyche said...

OP "Keith Parsons, a longtime personal friend of some 40 years, and teaches at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Because of Harvey, I am concerned, since he has not responded to my e-mail. Jeff Lowder thinks he is in a shelter somewhere without internet access.

He may be an atheist, but he is in my prayers"
--Why?

Yes, I realize that a friend of yours is out of touch in a disaster location, so this is your way of expressing your sincere concern, and I imagine Keith would appreciate the sentiment as an expression of human solidarity.

But what functional value do you suppose prayer has outside of its potential emotional benefit to you owing to its meditative value and effects?

How does prayer do anybody else any actual good? What is the mechanism for achieving this outside 3rd party benefit?

God is asserted to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Presumably God knew Harvey was going to wipe out services and put Keith in potential danger. Presumably God knows where Keith is right now and God already knows what He intends to do, if anything, to alter the course of natural events for the benefit of Keith.

Do you suppose God can change his mind? Was God going to let Keith drown but because He heard you begging for Keith's well being God changed his mind, manipulated the physical world, and prevented Keith from drowning? That would make God wrong in his knowledge of his own behavior prior to changing his mind.

On omniscience God has no capacity to change his mind. He can only do 1 thing about Keith, the thing he knew he would do with Keith before Harvey even made landfall.

Prayers can have no effect on an omniscient god.

Legion of Logic said...

A very odd reaction.

Hal said...

Legion of Logic,

You are too kind.

My guess is the SP's particles are not clumping together properly.

T said...

Bad timing, Mr tone deaf Stardusty.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
" A very odd reaction."

Blogger Hal said...
" You are too kind."

Blogger T said...
" Bad timing, Mr tone deaf Stardusty."

--Well, it seems I am "odd", not deserving the kindness of being called "odd", and "tone deaf".

Two things, among others, can be counted upon in a natural disaster. Christians will pray for the victims, atheists will react to such prayers with incredulity.

For the Christian the prayers are offered almost without a conscious effort, like saying "excuse me" if you bump into somebody, it is just an ingrained aspect of our socialization considered to be a natural and positive aspect of our considerate sensibilities.

For an atheist the reaction of incredulity is also somewhat reflexive, having been experienced time and time again as we are continually exposed to reports of disasters and the inevitable spectacle of public offerings of prayers for the victims.

Bad timing on my part? An odd reaction or worse, perhaps you would say insensitive or inconsiderate or downright offensive? Have you considered how insensitive and offensive to atheists public offerings of prayers for disaster victims are?

Mortal said...

Well, get ready to be offended, Stardusty, because I pray even for you.

Hugo Pelland said...

Is it really that hard to see Victor's post as nothing but good intentions?

Or, in other words, shut the fuck up SP. It's because of individuals like you that vocal Atheists are hated. Victor expressed positive feelings towards someone else. That's it; it means nothing more. Why can't you just leave it at that in that specific situation?

Legion of Logic said...

Think of it this way Stardusty.

Someone is on their deathbed and makes a comment that they are going to see the Lord and their family. If you overheard, would you ask the dying person what evidence for an afterlife they have? If yes, you're sick, but if not, then you understand the concept of there being certain situations that are not appropriate to engage like that. This is one of them.

Mocking prayers in times like this is becoming increasingly common among the left, and it might hold water if prayer was all people did. But those who pray typically also act if they are in a position to help, so in cases like this, the mockery is harming the mocker. Shame on those who take this tactic.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "For the Christian the prayers are offered almost without a conscious effort, like saying "excuse me" if you bump into somebody, it is just an ingrained aspect of our socialization considered to be a natural and positive aspect of our considerate sensibilities."

What Christians do you hang around with? Because none I know treat prayer reflexively. When they say they will pray or are praying, they mean it.


Stardusty: "Have you considered how insensitive and offensive to atheists public offerings of prayers for disaster victims are?"

I would tell these atheists to either grow the hell up, use a doll to show where the prayer hurt them, or run to a safe space and color pictures while petting therapy dogs. Because seriously, anyone who can't handle the sight of someone doing something they don't has some serious emotional issues.

Bilbo said...

C.S. Lewis on The Efficacy of Prayer.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said...
" Well, get ready to be offended, Stardusty, because I pray even for you."
--In spite of the primitive absurdity of it I do appreciate the sentiment nevertheless :-)

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hugo Pelland said...

" It's because of individuals like you that vocal Atheists are hated."
--The reason atheists are hated is that the haters are ignorant primitive hateful retards.

Most Christians don't actually hate atheists, in fact, I doubt very many at all hate atheists. Those that do have some serious personal problems.

Atheists who blame themselves or blame other atheists for being hated have their own personal problems.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" Think of it this way Stardusty."
--Why? Your hypothetical is melodramatic.

" Someone is on their deathbed"
--Do you suppose Victor is on his deathbed?

" Mocking prayers in times like this"
--To a thin skinned theist any rational criticism is mocking.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" use a doll to show where the prayer hurt them, or run to a safe space and color pictures while petting therapy dogs. Because seriously, anyone who can't handle the sight of someone doing something they don't has some serious emotional issues.
--Indeed, so how about all you little girls get over your little melodrama meltdown at the mean old atheist who was so crass as to actually point out the absurdity of prayer?

People are faced with real serious situations in life. Illness, natural disaster, losses of many sorts. Homeopathic pills, exorcisms, Christian Science, voodoo, magic spells, and prayer are all fully deserving of having criticism heaped upon them, most especially at times like these.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said...
September 01, 2017 9:05 PM
" C.S. Lewis on The Efficacy of Prayer."
--Typical meandering drivel of Lewis.
" God always hears and sometimes grants our prayers"

Really? There is a magic man who is listening to all human voices at all times? He also reads all minds at all times to monitor all silent prayers? You really believe that? Some of you are actually mad at me for calling that fantasy idiotic?

Oh, but the absurdity of prayer is not merely a matter of my personal incredulity, oh no, it is much more than merely that.

The efficacy of prayer is incoherent. That is, rationally absurd on an omniscient god.

According to Lewis (and how does he know this exactly?) God sometimes grants prayers. So God changes His mind. He wasn't going to do X, but he heard somebody begging for X, so He changed His mind and decided to do X.

So God was wrong before when he thought he would do ~X.

Oops, how can an omniscient god be wrong? Hence the incoherence of the efficacy of prayer.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Why? Your hypothetical is melodramatic."

Would you, or wouldn't you? It's interesting that you'd rather dodge the question than face the implications of either answer. Interesting indeed.


Stardusty: "To a thin skinned theist any rational criticism is mocking."

As if theists are the only ones who can have thin skin. You're very much lashing out right now.


Stardusty: "Indeed, so how about all you little girls get over your little melodrama meltdown at the mean old atheist who was so crass as to actually point out the absurdity of prayer?"

Looks to me like you're the one who is having issues, given your lashing out with childish insults. I found your initial post to Victor bizarre, others found it offensive, and I find your doubling down on it amusing (and utterly predictable).

Also, I suspect you don't have the faintest clue why most people pray, or what the purpose of prayer is, given your shallow analysis of the subject in your initial post on the thread, and in the follow-up to Bilbo. Prayer isn't about making God into a genie.


Stardusty: "Homeopathic pills, exorcisms, Christian Science, voodoo, magic spells, and prayer are all fully deserving of having criticism heaped upon them, most especially at times like these."

Talk about an utter failure of reasoning.

Why, precisely, are the first five (forms of voodoo and spells anyway) condemned, and rightly so? Because not only are they usually used in place of medical treatments and thus can result in needless suffering or death, but some of them could even directly harm the patient.

Show me a Christian in a position to help who prays instead of helping, and you will have found a garbage Christian and a garbage person. Show me a prayer that directly harms someone, and I'll call you a liar. At the very worst, even in the unlikely event there is no god, prayer is no worse than an atheist wishing someone well. Tell me, are you making the rounds criticizing people who wish others well?

I read your post to Bilbo, and I think you need to calm down. Your first post was undeniably problematic from the standpoint of appropriateness and common standards of decency, particularly when someone is worried about a good friend, and you are now lashing out that both atheists and Christians called you on it. Some people honestly don't know when they have tread over a boundary, as I am well aware due to my close experience with autism, but my advice is to not play the atheist game with people worrying about others when they can't help.

But feel free to double down, as I suspect the autism spectrum is not a factor here.

Mortal said...

Atheists who criticize or mock prayer fail to understand two things: the nature of eternity and the implications of the Incarnation. Now they may not agree with what the Christian means by those things, but without at least an understanding of them, any criticism of prayer will be about as successful as running toward your own goal in a football game.

Hal said...

Mortal,
I see no problem with criticizing prayer. But there is a time and a place for doing so. This thread is not the place to do so.
Whether or not I agree with him, I think SP is being an ass by bringing it up while Victor is expressing his concern over the safety of a friend.

Legion of Logic said...

Hal,

Precisely. I'd be happy to participate in a prayer thread discussing it, but this isn't the one.

Mortal said...

Hal,

Agreed. My comment was rather a result of Stardusty raising the issue of the efficacy of prayer, and my thinking about it for a bit.

Part of the problem for those who have trouble accepting the idea is that our vantage point from within time does not allow us to (clearly) see the eternal consequences of any particular action. (Off subject, but that is the biggest reason I cannot embrace universalism, or at least why I have so much trouble with that particular belief.) We also cannot see that the sequence of events can be irrelevant to the cause and effect nature of prayer. (It would be totally appropriate, for instance, for a Christian in 2017 to pray for Allied victory in WWII.)

The other difficulty is that non-Christians simply do not understand, let alone accept, that Christ's Incarnation changed everything. By God becoming a human being, He raised literally everything we do to the divine level. Working in the garden, driving to work, doing the dishes, writing a blog post, all of these things have been given unimaginable dignity by their sharing the same time and space as the Creator. Christ said "I am the Way," and not "I am the Destination."

So just by living we share in Christ's divine nature. And as Jesus prayed, so can (and must) we.

And yes, I have no problem with people doubting the efficacy of prayer. But as you said, there's a time and a place for everything. When Job's "comforters" simply sat with Job in silence for 7 days and 7 nights, they were acting appropriately and being of great service to their friend. But when they started lecturing him, they had crossed the line.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said... September 02, 2017 6:16 AM

" I think SP is being an ass by bringing it up while Victor is expressing his concern over the safety of a friend."
--Victor said "He may be an atheist, but he is in my prayers"

He brought it up.

Suppose he had said "He may be an atheist, but I will sacrifice a cow for him".

Or

"He may be an atheist, but I will paint my face and dance around a fire throwing sparks in the air while chanting to the rain god to let the waters subside".

To the average Christian saying "he is in my prayers" is just a simple little statement of concern and well wishes. Natural disasters always trigger references to god. Some folks pray for the rain to stop. Some people pray for the safety of people they care about. Some people say it is god's punishment for our wickedness as a perverted nation. Apparently this foolishness is taken so seriously that mentioning the irrationality of it is deeply offensive. Well, lots of things offend me too, c'est la vie.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty, I think at this point it's readily apparent your obstinacy is doing you no good. As this is not a thread about prayer, I won't point out the numerous flaws in your analyses, but there are three especially salient points you really ought to understand in the context of this thread. All evidence indicates you understand none of them at the moment.

One, Victor did indeed bring up prayer, but in context, it is quite clear why he did. The title of the post was not "Does Prayer Work" or "The Purpose of Prayer" or anything like that. The subject is Victor's concern for his good friend, and it may come as a shock to you that Christians pray for others. It was readily apparent to both the theists and other atheists who read it what the point was, yet you rushed over to the concerned person and told him he was being irrational because you disagreed with his method of expressing concern. There is no empathy or decency in that. And now you're apparently outraged that everyone called you out on it, as if everyone else but you acted inappropriately.

Two, no one cares if, or is offended that, you think prayer is foolishness. You're an atheist, of course you do. The difference between atheists like Hal and Hugo, and atheists like you and poor Cal if he was here, is that Hal and Hugo treat Christians like fellow adults. They have hearty disagreements, but when it comes time to get serious, they share common humanity. They know where Victor is coming from. You and Cal, on the other hand, display nothing but contempt for Christians and seem to feel the need to point out that contempt at every single opportunity, including when someone expresses concern for a close friend. Masking that contempt behind overtures of caring for them and wanting to help them abandon beliefs you don't agree with does nothing to help.

Three, no one cares if prayer offends you. Prayer harms no one and nothing. You have no justifiable reason to be offended by it. If something you disagree with offends you when you hear or read it, despite it's benign nature, then you have issues you need to deal with.

You really should calm down. You aren't doing yourself any favors.

Bilbo said...

From the relevant part of C.S. Lewis's The Efficacy of Prayer to SP's objection:

"Petitionary prayer is, nonetheless, both allowed and commanded to us: “Give us our daily bread.” And no doubt it raises a theoretical problem. Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God's mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.
For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, “to wield our little tridents.” Is this amazing process simply Creation going on before our eyes? This is how (no light matter) God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing."

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said.. September 02, 2017 10:45 AM.

" You really should calm down. You aren't doing yourself any favors."
--You keep talking about me calming down, why?

This is old hat. We atheists are surrounded by this sort of thing every day. Natural disasters simply do inevitably bring out several predictable sorts of religious reactions.

"Three, no one cares if prayer offends you"
--Yet I am supposed to care that you and the other folks here are offended? Hypocrisy much?

"You and Cal, on the other hand, display nothing but contempt for Christians"
--Projection perhaps? If you had bothered to read my original post you would find it had a great deal of empathy for Victor's sincere feelings. But theists tend to get very offended by any criticism of religion or religious rituals.

"you rushed over to the concerned person and told him he was being irrational because you disagreed with his method of expressing concern. There is no empathy or decency in that."
--There is, but it is like telling an alcoholic that he is addicted to a harmful substance. The messenger is likely to be met with scorn.

" And now you're apparently outraged"
--Not at all, I am not even slightly surprised by any aspect of this whole little episode, nor has my heartrate increased even a single beat per minute...just another day in the life...

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion said:
"Hal and Hugo treat Christians like fellow adults. They have hearty disagreements, but when it comes time to get serious, they share common humanity. They know where Victor is coming from."

Exactly, thanks.

---

SP said:
"But theists tend to get very offended by any criticism of religion or religious rituals"
I don't think anybody is offended here. This is about you, about why your initial reaction to Victor's post was silly, childish in that context.

And yes, look at stats, many religious people, i.e. the majority in the US, still hate Atheists, or dislike if that's too strong of a word. It's mostly out of ignorance, I think, but also because the only times they hear about Atheists are when they make silly comment like yours. Some people even think that this is what Atheism is about: talking shit about religion and religious folks. Ever heard Richard Dawkins quoting his mother? "Not believing in God I could understand, but an Atheist!?"

B. Prokop said...

I believe that I posted on this subject at length quite some time ago - perhaps more than a year ago. But it bears repeating, since I think it is apropos of the rather accidental discussion here.

The 3 Synoptic Gospels all relate (with differing degrees of detail) the story of Our Lord's temptation in the wilderness. Dostoevsky wrote (in The Brothers Karamazov) that this story is so insightful, so revelatory to the human condition, that even if it were not true, it would remain one of the most astonishingly wise things ever to be written, deserving of our full attention and deepest reflection.

So Christ goes into the wilderness immediately after His Baptism, he is "with the wild beasts" and is tempted by the devil. Reading this, I ask myself, "Now what could possibly tempt God?" (Spoiler alert: I regard the story as an accurate account of actual events. So the temptations have to be genuine, and not just some sort of play acting.) Answer to my question: He could be tempted to deny Mankind free will in the service of everyone knowing Him and eliminating evil from the world.

So we get to the 3 temptations. The first is to turn stones into bread. Now what could possibly be wrong with that? After all, Jesus is hungry. He hasn't eaten for 40 days! But the real meaning of the all too innocently sounding temptation is to eliminate all natural difficulties in this life. No floods, no earthquakes, no famine, no drought, no difficulties whatsoever. You want a house? Poof! There's a house. No need to build it, there it is. You want dinner? Poof! The table is set. No need for farms, etc. A grateful Humanity would surely acknowledge their Creator and Benefactor.

The second temptation is even more insidious. "Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple!" says Satan. In other words, satisfy the demands of Keith Parsons, et al., for an unmistakable sign. Have the stars spell out "Turn or burn" or some such nonsense. Make it impossible to not accept the evidence.

In the 3rd temptation, the devil simply loses his patience. (Doesn't he always? When you give in to temptation, it's nearly always just a second or two before he would have given up the attempt.) The offer of the kingdoms of the world is just another way of Satan simply screeching in exasperation, "Just take away their free will, dammit! Then they'll HAVE to believe in you!"

But the devil's temptations are spurned. No, Mankind must not be turned into robots. The end does not justify the means. We must not gain the whole world, only to lose our souls.

The answer to the 3 temptations is for Humanity to partner with God in bringing about the Kingdom. When Jesus said "Take my yoke upon you," he was telling us to step into harness alongside Him, and not instead of Him. (We today live in a non-agrarian society and probably do not realize that yokes are meant for 2 oxen pulling in tandem, not for a single beast.) Prayer is one means of our pulling alongside God to effectuate His will.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hugo Pelland said...

" I don't think anybody is offended here. This is about you, about why your initial reaction to Victor's post was silly, childish in that context."
--Ok, so the folks are not offended, it's just that I am silly, childish, tone deaf and I should "shut the fuck up".

Hugo Pelland said...

Precisely my opinion, yes. But I cannot speak for others...

Stardusty Psyche said...

B. Prokop said.. September 02, 2017 12:57 PM.

" Prayer is one means of our pulling alongside God to effectuate His will."
--Another theistic blizzard of vague drivel.

How does praying to god for the well being of a loved one "effectuate His will"? What is the mechanism for this supposed "effectuation"?

What will change about god by begging him to perform a miracle for somebody? Was god going to just let person X suffer some physical problem, but then he somehow heard you begging, so he changed his mind and miraculously manipulated the material world to fix things up for person X?

How does you making a prayer influence physical reality for an outside and distant 3rd person? Have you ever stopped to consider the logical absurdities this would require on an omniscient god?

steve said...

I assume an obvious reason Victor posted this in the public domain is that it alerts more potential informants who could report back on Keith's situation. A perfectly reasonable and innocuous thing to do.

Mortal said...

Oh, Stardusty, Stardusty, Stardusty.

You appear to imagine Christians thinking of the Lord God as some sort of genie in a bottle, with prayers being the rubbing of the lamp to get Him to do our wills. Quite the contrary. Prayer is not about getting God to "change" - it's about getting us to change, to align our wills to His.

And as for a "mechanism", why is one necessary? God created the entire universe and all its inhabitants by His word alone, and not by means of anything external to Himself. He required no "mechanism" do do this. And He needs none to accomplish His will today.

Not long ago, I learned of a perhaps-too-intellectual person who asked his mother why she prayed the Rosary each day (as do I, by the way). He wondered what she could possibly get out of endlessly repeating such a "childish" prayer. Her answer? "It's my time with God. I look at Him, and He looks at me."

Now that's one of the best definitions of prayer I've ever heard! Out of the mouths of babes... and old women.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Mortal said...

" Prayer is not about getting God to "change" - it's about getting us to change, to align our wills to His."
--Ok, so there it is, praying for the well being of somebody you care about is of no benefit to that person.

Claims of miraculous healing or rescues are nonsense. At last we agree.

" Not long ago, I learned of a perhaps-too-intellectual person who asked his mother why she prayed the Rosary each day (as do I, by the way). He wondered what she could possibly get out of endlessly repeating such a "childish" prayer. Her answer? "It's my time with God. I look at Him, and He looks at me.""
--Right, I anticipated that in my original post by asking "But what functional value do you suppose prayer has outside of its potential emotional benefit to you owing to its meditative value and effects?"

Obviously, prayer is a form of meditation for the individual. One could reasonably expect to derive some personal emotional or cognitive perceived benefit from prayer.

But it is not I who treats god like a genie, it is every person who ever prayed for an improvement in the situation of a 3rd party by divine intervention, which is explicitly or implicitly done whenever one prays for the safety or health of some other person.

We agree, that doesn't work.

Mortal said...

Sorry, but we do not agree on that at all. Absolutely nothing I wrote says or even implies that intercessory prayer is not efficacious. On the contrary, it very much is.

This was vividly illustrated in the 2nd Chapter of the Gospel of John, the story of the Wedding at Cana. In fact, here we can see your desired "mechanism" in action.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Yet I am supposed to care that you and the other folks here are offended? Hypocrisy much? "

Nice try. I was never offended, I simply found your reaction bizarre.


Stardusty: "There is"

This is called delusion. You're comparing praying to being an alcoholic, and you call my death bed example melodramatic? You are still dodging my question incidentally. Would you, or wouldn't you, tell someone about to die that their belief in an afterlife is irrational?


Stardusty: "nor has my heartrate increased even a single beat per minute...just another day in the life"

Yeah, don't believe you. Your follow-up posts were filled with a greatly increased volume of insults and swear words than is typical. That doesn't just happen.

Legion of Logic said...

Mortal and Bilbo, you're feeding Stardusty's desire to debate prayer in this thread. This ridiculous desire of his really ought to be fed somewhere else, I think.

B. Prokop said...

St. Augustine wrote "To sing with joy is to recognize that we cannot put into words what our heart feels."

This is a valuable insight into the efficacy of prayer. St. Paul wrote much the same thing in his Letter to the Romans: "We do not know how to pray as we ought. But the [Holy] Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."

And significantly enough, Paul follows this immediately with these amazing words: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him."

...

You know? What saddens me most when dealing (especially in this artificial, impersonal environment of the internet) with people like Stardusty, is that they seem to live forever on the surface of things - never plumbing the depths, never seeing the riches that lie beneath, if only one sets aside all of one's preconceived notions and genuinely seeks out what one does not know. God is forever a God of surprises. You build your altar in one place, only to see the fire from Heaven descending someplace else. You expect to hear Him in the storm, the earthquake, or the fire, when all the time He is calling you with His "still, small voice."

We pray, and we "fall short of the glory of God", but.. so what? God amazingly consents to descend to our level, to reach down to us, and lift our prayer up to His own ear. What more could we ask for?

Bilbo said...

Hi Legion, all I've done is linked to C.S. Lewis's essay on the efficacy of prayer and quoted the portion that seemed to be relevant to SP's objection to the efficacy of prayer. Given that SP hasn't responded to it, I don't think I fed his desire to debate very much. However, I think Lewis's essay serves as an inspiration to those who feel they should pray for Keith Parsons, the victims of the hurricane, and anyone else that comes to mind.

Mortal said...

you're feeding Stardusty's desire to debate prayer in this thread

Good. The only reason Stardusty haunts this site is that his soul hungers for God. He may fight Him every step of the way, but deep in his heart he knows what his soul craves. Why else is he here? Heck, if I were a convinced atheist, I'd never spend a nanosecond on Dangerous Idea. But God has granted, even to the most hardbitten denier, a roadmap to where the Truth lies.

Legion of Logic said...

Seems to reward what he did to Victor, but as you will. He definitely has no idea what prayer is, though, and might lessen some of his prejudice if he did understand, so maybe worth a shot with Victor's blessing.

Legion of Logic said...

Mortal,

You're right of course, but as this is Victor's blog, I feel hesitant in participating in what feels like a hijacked thread whose topic is concern for a friend.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said... September 02, 2017 6:38 PM

" Sorry, but we do not agree on that at all. Absolutely nothing I wrote says or even implies that intercessory prayer is not efficacious. On the contrary, it very much is."
--Make up your mind already. Either god does stuff in response to prayer or he doesn't.

The idea that god acts on prayer is incoherent on an omniscient god.

The idea the god does not act on prayer is at least coherent, but it makes all those who pray for benefits to others delusionally wasting their time.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said.. September 02, 2017 7:13 PM.

" Would you, or wouldn't you, tell someone about to die that their belief in an afterlife is irrational?"
--Depends on the emotional state of the individual, whether they are likely to be able to deal with my honest opinion.

Victor is an owner of a blog that sees endless debate between theists and atheists. I very much doubt he is going to come down with a case of PTSD or experience a painful death because I questioned the efficacy of his prayers.

Legion of Logic said...

I have no doubt Victor can handle your behavior. That doesn't excuse it.

Hugo Pelland said...

Mortal said:
"...but deep in his heart he knows..."
Whatever comes after such statement is mind reading. It's a bad approach. And to prove the point, you added:
"...if I were a convinced atheist, I'd never spend a nanosecond on Dangerous Idea..."
You cannot know how you would be, think, or feel as an Atheist. And you know even less about how other people think. It's telling though; it implies you're someone who doesn't want to challenge his views.

And Legion said he agrees with that? Oh well, no wonder we disagree on so much after all... I am the exact opposite of you guys.

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo,

My responses to Mortal were not nuanced as they were written on the fly, but I can flesh it out further.

Of atheists I personally know, it is a roughly half and half mixture of those who love to debate the subject and those who couldn't care less. So the staying away from this blog is not what I was addressing. A love of discussing ideas is of course sufficient motivation to come here, for both sides. It's that way for all topics.

The other part, even aside from being a Christian, that there must be a god seems so painfully obvious to me that it's one of the main reasons I began engaging atheists in the first place, to see what their thoughts were on the subject, since I couldn't fathom them. Coupled with being a Christian, yes I do believe that there are basic recognitions and yearnings that all experience, though they can certainly be quashed and ignored. I can't prove it, any more than when so many atheists have told me over the years that deep down I know there is no god, but I hold on for emotional reasons. It's not useful for discussion, but then I don't know how to PM Mortal and keep that thought private.

That's not intended to be a slight to you, but at the very least I wouldn't be much of a Christian if I didn't find God to be self-evident. I simply don't think a test tube or a telescope is the right place to look.

Hugo Pelland said...

Ok, that makes more sense. We might get to discuss the details at some other time!

Hal said...

Legion,
Thanks for clarifying your agreement with Mortal. I think his (her?) claim was too broad to be taken seriously.

Might make for an interesting thread.

Just want to add that the general tone and quality of the responses seemed to have improved on this site. For some time discussions have seemed to consist mainly of name calling.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said.. September 02, 2017 7:58 PM.

"...linked to C.S. Lewis's essay on the efficacy of prayer and quoted the portion that seemed to be relevant to SP's objection to the efficacy of prayer."
--Lewis did nothing to address the incoherency of the efficacy of prayer on an omniscient god.

" Given that SP hasn't responded to it,"
--Done, September 01, 2017 11:21 PM

"I think Lewis's essay serves as an inspiration to those who feel they should pray for Keith Parsons, the victims of the hurricane, and anyone else that comes to mind."
--Right, that's all it is, reinforcement for the already convinced. Lewis doesn't even make an argument for the efficacy of prayer, rather, he just prattles on with a number of ad-hoc assertions of his imagination.

Legion of Logic said...

There is nothing incoherent about prayer with an omniscient god. The only reason to think so is if one has no idea what prayer is even for.

Under the assumption of the Christian God existing, this god wants a relationship with people. What is a relationship? Is a person staring through a window at someone else a relationship? Of course not. It's a two way street in order to be a relationship.

Now how does a person have a relationship with God? How does a person keep God in their thoughts? How does a person speak their mind, their troubles and hopes, to God, in order to ease their own burden?

It's called prayer. And it is highly, highly effective. And that's not even a comprehensive list of what prayer is for. Prayer is to help the believer conform to God, not the other way around.

Know what prayer isn't for? Treating God like a genie or a slave to demand things, or to demonstrate for Science so we can Know that it works. That's total BS.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said.. September 03, 2017 9:04 AM.

" Know what prayer isn't for? Treating God like a genie or a slave to demand things, or to demonstrate for Science so we can Know that it works. That's total BS."
--Ok, so we agree, there is no efficacy in prayer for the benefit of a 3rd party.

We agree then, the notion of praying that a 3rd person will be kept safe in the midst of a natural disaster is incoherent.

Mortal said...

I think his (her?) claim

His. Also Caucasian, closer to 70 than to 60 years old, married empty-nester. Cradle Catholic who fell away in my youth and returned as an adult. Highest education: Master in Business Administration from Boston University. (My children all have PhD's, so I feel very humbled when around family.)

There. That should be enough to prevent you from getting the wrong impression about who I am.

Bilbo said...

SP: "Lewis did nothing to address the incoherency of the efficacy of prayer on an omniscient god."

Yes he did.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "We agree then, the notion of praying that a 3rd person will be kept safe in the midst of a natural disaster is incoherent."

If by that, you mean that Victor would be irrational for believing that his prayer was going to single-handedly change God's mind and thus alter the course of events, then yes that would seem to be irrational, and contrary to Christian doctrine.

Of course, there is no reason to suspect that Victor prayed in the belief that his prayer was going to make God second-guess himself and change what he was going to do, so your objection is irrelevant. You are still hung up on genie mode.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said..
September 03, 2017 10:22 AM.

SP: "Lewis did nothing to address the incoherency of the efficacy of prayer on an omniscient god."

" Yes he did."
--Darn, I missed it, all I read were ad-hoc assertions and idle speculations. Would you be so kind as to quote the exact paragraph?

Mortal said...

Hmm... The way I see it, Stardusty, there is no requirement for Lewis (or anyone else) to "address" your charge of incoherency, since you have done nothing to demonstrate the existence of any such thing (other than just declaring it to be so).

Sorry, but the ball is clearly in your court.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Legion of Logic said.. September 03, 2017 10:30 AM.

"You are still hung up on genie mode."
--Nope, it's all the Christians who are continually praying that god will do things like heal the sick, keep people safe, and on and and on.

Here is one particularly ridiculous example:

So, Lord, I come to you now praying for healing for my sick pet, ________. I am in need of your help. You know the exact illness that is afflicting my pet even though he/she cannot speak; I trust your divine guidance in_________life. Help them Lord; deliver _________ from any pain and suffering.
https://www.missionariesofprayer.org/2015/07/prayer-for-healing-a-sick-pet/

Natural disasters bring out this spectacle like clockwork. In every disaster we are subjected to Christians publicly praying that people are kept safe, or recover from their injuries, or find their missing loved ones.

Why should I assume Victor was not just another example of this commonplace Christian nonsense?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said.. September 03, 2017 10:55 AM.

Hmm... The way I see it, Stardusty, there is no requirement for Lewis (or anyone else) to "address" your charge of incoherency, since you have done nothing to demonstrate the existence of any such thing (other than just declaring it to be so).
--If you have an MBA those skills were not active in the respect that I already posted on this
September 01, 2017 11:32 AM

Of course maybe you just made up the stuff about the MBA and the family education, just as SteveK obviously lied about being a mechanical engineer and grod obviously lied about being a mathematical physicist. Who knows?

An omniscient god cannot change his mind. He can only do 1 thing, the thing he already knows he will do. Therefore the individual begging that is prayer can have no effect on god's actions, given god's omniscience.

B. Prokop said...

Stardusty.

Before you ask for further addressing of your claim of incoherency, you need to first pay attention to what people have already explained to you. Yesterday at 12:57 PM I posted the following:

When Jesus said "Take my yoke upon you," he was telling us to step into harness alongside Him, and not instead of Him. (We today live in a non-agrarian society and probably do not realize that yokes are meant for 2 oxen pulling in tandem, not for a single beast.) Prayer is one means of our pulling alongside God to effectuate His will.

You'll never understand Christianity until you take the Incarnation seriously. I'm not asking you (at least, not right now) to actually believe in it, but you need to comprehend its implications before you can hope to conduct an intelligent conversation with a Christian about his faith.

Since God became Man, we are in this together. As St. Paul wrote, we are the Body of Christ, God's chosen means of effectuating His will on Earth. (It's why we pray in the Our Father "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth." Our prayers are all part of God's desire that we act as one with Him, that we become that "mechanism" you were asking for, that brings about the Kingdom of God here in this world.

Here's a real world example of the powerful efficacy of prayer. I pray every single day without fail for two young girls (whom I have never met and who do not know that I even exist) in the town of Mango, in northern Togo, Africa. Their parents are the very definition of poverty. They're not just poor, they have nothing. They've never been a single day in school ever. They collect scrap wood to sell as firewood to keep alive, and that is their sole source of income. They are on the bottom rung of a social ladder whose top would still be considered far, far below the poverty line in this country.

And you know what? Those two girls have been in school for almost four years now, have all the school supplies they need, clean clothes, adequate food, and even a little left over for their parents. Totally impossible without prayer, and a lot of it. So don't even try to tell me that prayer does not work! I have empirical evidence that it does.

Bilbo said...

SP, I'll just re-paste the same paragraphs:

"Petitionary prayer is, nonetheless, both allowed and commanded to us: “Give us our daily bread.” And no doubt it raises a theoretical problem. Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God's mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.
For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, “to wield our little tridents.” Is this amazing process simply Creation going on before our eyes? This is how (no light matter) God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing."

Stardusty Psyche said...

B. Prokop said.. September 03, 2017 11:25 AM.

" two young girls ...in northern Togo, Africa. Their parents are the very definition of poverty. They're not just poor, they have nothing."

" And you know what? Those two girls have been in school for almost four years now, have all the school supplies they need, clean clothes, adequate food, and even a little left over for their parents. Totally impossible without prayer, "
--Learn how to think.

Correlation is not causation. You prayed for food, they got food, so you conclude your prayers caused the girls to get food. The stupidity of that "reasoning" is truly staggering.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said.. September 03, 2017 11:32 AM.

" SP, I'll just re-paste the same paragraphs:"
--None of which addresses the incoherence of an omniscient god changing in response to prayers. Lewis makes no argument in that regard.

Lewis goes on talk about what god might chose, which is also incoherent on an omniscient god and Lewis makes no arguments in that regard. He just asserts a set of mutually exclusive ad-hoc fantasies.

God can't chose anything because he already knows what he will do.

God can only do 1 thing, the thing he already knows he will do.

On an omniscient god he has no free will, makes no free choices, and is incapable of changing in response to prayer or anything else.

An omniscient god is a preprogrammed robot, a machine, a clockwork that con only act ridgedly and deterministically.

Mortal said...

You prayed for food, they got food

You dope. You absolute dope! Even someone as stupid as me can read between the lines here. Isn't it obvious that it was none other than B. Prokop himself who provided the financial means for that education, food, etc.?

But I see the point. His prayers were part and parcel of whatever support he was providing, and cannot be separated from the purely financial aspect. You can't have one without the other. Without prayer, there may have been no goad to actually do something about their situation. And without the actual aid, the prayer would have been (worse than) meaningless.

Like St. James wrote: "You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." (James 2:18)

Joe Hinman said...

this has been super amusing guys. I'm out of pop corn.

Now wonder new atheism is dying out, what a stuffed shirt.

Victor Reppert said...

I am rather shocked that my expression of concern for an long-time atheist friend should have resulted in 65 comments! Keith, I happen to know, never criticized Christians for praying for him. We Christians are commanded to do so. When I pray, the first question I ask is if there is anything I can do to be the answer to my own prayer. Prayer is what we Christians do when we are concerned about someone.

Do I think my prayers are answered? Well, it certainly has looked like it at various times in my life, sometimes amazingly so. By the way, not all the prayer studies have negative results, but so much of what it takes to make the efficacy of prayer a testable hypothesis effectively guts the intent of prayer, that if they were all negative it wouldn't shake my faith at all.

Most of what prayer does in my life, including prayer for others, involves nothing that atheists would call magical. In fact, I have trouble believing that atheists can be as moral as Christians because I find being moral difficult, and I need all the help I can get from spiritual disciplines. Praying about Keith led me to think about what I can do for the Harvey victims, and churches very often provide the means to provide aid for victims in these circumstances.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Victor Reppert said...

" I am rather shocked that my expression of concern for an long-time atheist friend should have resulted in 65 comments!"
--You are, of course, aware that the subject of the efficacy of prayer is an area of some significant debate. At the time you offered what was likely for you just a simple manner of expression you apparently did not consider that this is something of a burr in the saddle, or thorn in the side, or whatever metaphor one prefers, for atheists in situations of natural disaster, injury survival, and the like. Not that my little pet peeves should matter to you much at all, but there it is.

" Keith, I happen to know, never criticized Christians for praying for him."
--Christopher Hitchens did his best to accept such prayers gracefully as he neared death. Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, perhaps unsurprisingly, have been a bit more acerbic on the subject.

" When I pray, the first question I ask is if there is anything I can do to be the answer to my own prayer. Prayer is what we Christians do when we are concerned about someone."
--Ok, but is the second thing to ask god to do something for a 3rd person? If so, you are at that point engaging in a rationally incoherent endeavor, as our emotions often drive us toward.

" Do I think my prayers are answered? Well, it certainly has looked like it at various times in my life, sometimes amazingly so."
--Confirmation bias is the first thing to look for in that case.

" By the way, not all the prayer studies have negative results,"
--With respect to 3rd parties? I doubt that very much. Person X prays for person Y to receive some benefit and after controlling for all natural biases and effects divine intervention in response to prayer is demonstrated? No, not the case that I have ever heard of, not a single such well conducted study exists.


" Most of what prayer does in my life, including prayer for others, involves nothing that atheists would call magical. In fact, I have trouble believing that atheists can be as moral as Christians because I find being moral difficult, and I need all the help I can get from spiritual disciplines. Praying about Keith led me to think about what I can do for the Harvey victims, and churches very often provide the means to provide aid for victims in these circumstances."
--Right, and I anticipated that effect in my original post. Prayer can be a form of meditation and reflection, so it is not surprising that you derive personal motivations, organized thoughts, and perhaps a sense of inspiration to take personal actions on the subject of your prayers.

Human psychology is all that is required to account for such effects and naturalism/materialism is sufficient to account for human psychology.

Legion of Logic said...

Thank you for that, Victor. Your explanation goes hand in hand with what all of us have been saying about what prayer is for, and blows Stardusty's objections out of the water yet again.

Praying for others is not about "making God change his mind". It is part of our end of the relationship. Expressing our hopes and troubles to God, while seeking to conform to his will, and acknowledging him as sovereign. That's how Jesus prayed in the Bible - immediately after expressing his concerns, he followed his prayer with "not my will, but yours be done."

Genie prayer is wrong. Thinking that's what prayer is for is wrong. Thinking prayer is incoherent is wrong. Seems like only one of us here is struggling with these facts, though.

Victor Reppert said...

But I was speaking as a Christian practicioner, not giving and argument or wanting to start one. Prayer is what Christians do, it is a appropriate for a Christian to respond prayerfully to a situation like this. I shouldn't have to win an argument about the efficacy of prayer in order to do that.

You know nothing about the situations in which I believe my prayers were answered, and I am not going to talk about them, so you have no basis for saying that it was confirmation bias or not confirmation bias. I am going to be a bit of a heretic here and say that confirmation bias may not always be a bad thing, or make it less likely that we will find the truth.

Joe Hinman said...

It's all very telling, Dusty is so separated from human response by his ideology that he can't look at prepay as feelings he has to see it as a red flag and he's a bull.

on Metacrock's blog Mid and emergent property

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said.. September 03, 2017 3:12 PM .

" Genie prayer is wrong"
--Tell that to the gazillions of theists who do it.

" Thinking that's what prayer is for is wrong."
--Ditto.

" Thinking prayer is incoherent is wrong."
--Praying with the thought that prayer will possibly lead to god taking an action on behalf of a distant 3rd person is incoherent.

If you would take off the blinders you would see that is what I have said from the outset.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Victor Reppert said... September 04, 2017 1:11 AM

"I shouldn't have to win an argument about the efficacy of prayer in order to do that."
--Nobody is stopping you.

" You know nothing about the situations in which I believe my prayers were answered,"
--I know more than nothing in that you have alluded to some situation wherein you prayed and you observed an effect and you believe that effect was a result of you having prayed.

" and I am not going to talk about them,"
--You have already told me enough for me to say your belief is incoherent on an omniscient God.

You said "I believe my prayers were answered". Allow me to take a close look at what those words mean.

"I believe"
--Here you are stating what you think, the idea you are convinced is the case.

"my prayers"
--Here you state that you prayed, and since you are a Christian, it is reasonable to assert that you directed your prayers to your concept of God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or some unified personified concept of a God being, an individual intelligence capable of hearing your verbal prayers or hearing your thoughts as it were.

"were answered"
--An answer is a response, verbal or by observed action. So you prayed for X. You observed X. You believe, by your own words, that X was an answer to your prayer for X.

Let's suppose X was going to happen anyhow. Well, then X would not be an answer to your prayers, it would merely be a coincidence with your prayers.

So, for X to have been an answer to your prayers it must be the case that X would not have occurred if you had not prayed for X. So something changed because you prayed for X. What changed? Why, God, of course. What else?

Prior to your prayer God was going to do ~X, or at least sit back and allow ~X to happen without interference. But you prayed for X and God heard you and God answered you by changing to make X happen instead of ~X.

If God is omniscient then it is incoherent to assert He changed. He can only do 1 thing, the thing He already knows He will do. If He does something different than what he knew he would do then his knowledge is wrong.

An omniscient God is a robot, a clockwork, a deterministic mechanism with no free will and no ability to respond differently to anything or do anything differently than what is precisely predetermined. On omniscience all free will, including God's, is an illusion, so God could not possibly have "answered your prayers".



" so you have no basis for saying that it was confirmation bias or not confirmation bias."
--I said it was the first thing to look for.

" I am going to be a bit of a heretic here and say that confirmation bias may not always be a bad thing, or make it less likely that we will find the truth."
--If attitude matters in an investigation of truth then the attitude that bias is ok could well cloud your objectivity in your search for truth.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Your comment confuses the truth of a counterfactual with the occurrence of a change.

For my part, I have psychological/factual problems with petitionary prayer, but not philosophical ones. If, on occasion, God wants us to ask before He grants, then it is no "change" in God for Him to grant when we ask and not to grant when we do not. You might think that that would be bad form of God, and I can understand that ... but I'm not sure we're best placed to say that God couldn't or shouldn't do that.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 04, 2017 7:52 AM

Stardusty,

" Your comment confuses the truth of a counterfactual with the occurrence of a change."
--It is God that has changed, not X. Neither X nor ~X occurred prior to X occurring.

If X occurs irrespective of whether the prayer was or was not made then petitionary prayer has no efficacy.

If God responds to petitionary prayer then God changes. A response requires a change due to a stimulus. But a change in X versus ~X cannot happen if God is omniscient.


" If, on occasion, God wants us to ask before He grants, then it is no "change" in God for Him to grant when we ask and not to grant when we do not."
--Then God has no free will. In that case God is a robot. All one need do is push God's X button and God will provide X. I you don't push God's X button then God will provide ~X.

The Christian God is incoherent because a set of mutually exclusive properties are assigned to it:
Omniscience of God
Free will of God
Free will of humans
God acts in response to prayer

If you assert all these things simultaneously you necessarily contradict yourself and therefore express an incoherent set of ideas.

Mortal said...

People! You are now casting your pearls before swine. I believe the case for the efficacy of petitionary prayer has been clearly and sufficiently laid out - several times, in fact. If Stardusty refuses to comprehend the explanation... well, we've done all that is required of us - to speak the Truth. We get no guarantees that any particular person will listen or understand.

I am unsubscribing from this conversation. From now on one of three things is going to happen:

1. It will get boringly repetitious.
2. It will descend into ad hominem and insults.
3. It will die a merciful death.

Meanwhile, I will pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Bilbo said...

SP,

A hypothetical:

Event X and event -X are equally (overall) good events, God could do either of them and still obtain the results he wants. Jane wants X to happen and prays that God will make X happen. God knows that granting Jane's prayer would be an even greater good, so God grants Jane's prayer.

What's the problem?

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "If you assert all these things simultaneously you necessarily contradict yourself and therefore express an incoherent set of ideas."

So you assert. You're obviously wrong, of course, as countless apologists and philosophers have demonstrated, but my willingness to put any further effort into it is tempered by my experience with your stubbornness and the fortunate fact that the agreement of Stardusty or any other skeptic is not a prerequisite to being correct, not to mention debating prayer with an antitheist is like debating Glock vs Beretta with a pacifist. I leave you in the others' capable hands.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said..
September 04, 2017 9:32 AM.

" Event X and event -X are equally (overall) good events, God could do either of them and still obtain the results he wants. Jane wants X to happen and prays that God will make X happen. God knows that granting Jane's prayer would be an even greater good, "
--You just contradicted yourself.
"X and event -X are equally (overall) good events"
vs
"God knows that granting Jane's prayer (X) would be an even greater good,"


"so God grants Jane's prayer.
What's the problem?"
--Besides your self contradictory wording the greater problem is the set of mutually exclusive properties attributed to the Christian God.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said.. September 04, 2017 9:03 AM.

" People! You are now casting your pearls before swine. I believe the case for the efficacy of petitionary prayer has been clearly and sufficiently laid out - "
--Tut tut, you just called Legion a swine. A bit crass, don't you think?

Bilbo said...

SP,

But there is no contradiction. Granting Jane's prayer is an additional event. Thus we would have the event X + the event of granting Jane's prayer vs. the event -X. God would know that the sum of the first two events is a greater good than than the third event.

I don't understand how your second objection applies. Could you be more specific?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said..
September 04, 2017 9:45 AM.

Stardusty: "If you assert all these things simultaneously you necessarily contradict yourself and therefore express an incoherent set of ideas."

" So you assert. You're obviously wrong, of course, as countless apologists and philosophers have demonstrated, ... I leave you in the others' capable hands."
--Typical theistic diversionary argument, vaguely pointing out into the distance, claiming the answer is out there, then leaving.

Seems the theists here are kind of split on this. You rather derisively characterized petitionary prayer as a "genie" sort. Others think it really really works.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Suppose God permanently (or "timelessly") wills to answer someone's prayer on the condition that they make the prayer. Why would answering the prayer be a change?

It's true that the "answer" wouldn't happen if it weren't for the prayer. That's the counter-factual needed for it to make sense to say that the prayer was "effective". But no change on God's part seems to be required. Not unless you think that God acting at all involves change. Well if it does, then the Christian will happily admit that God changes in that restricted sense.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Apologies for the double-post. I should have included this in the last ...

From your comments it seems that you would say that this means that God doesn't have free-will.

I don't think that follows at all. We don't know what God "timelessly" wills. And whatever it is, it's up to Him.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "Typical theistic diversionary argument"

No, simply the result of experience. Based on all evidence available to me, I do not remotely think you will adjust your beliefs if it is beneficial to anything theistic in nature, no matter how good the argument against you is, thus I see no productive reason to engage in the conversation. The holes in your argument are quite apparent and very large...but again, your mind is already made up that anything theistic in nature is wrong from the start, so why bother?

You make assertions as though they will catch people flat-footed, as if they aren't age-old questions that were satisfactorily addressed long ago. I think you've done zero research on the matter, based on your shallow analyses.


Stardusty: "You rather derisively characterized petitionary prayer as a "genie" sort. Others think it really really works."

No, because we are talking about two different situations.

In the situation I am criticizing, God is going to do X or allow Y to happen without intervention, according to his plan. A person prays and beseeches God to not do X or to prevent Y from happening. God ponders the prayer, sees the benefits of granting the request, and modifies his plan. That is genie prayer. A Christian who does this does not know how to pray, nor does he understand the sovereignty of God. And as you say, it is incoherent.

In the situation others are talking about, God's plan is God's plan, but Christians are given certain commandments, one of which is prayer for others. As has already been addressed, prayer is for the benefit of the believer in helping them to be mindful of God and to conform to his will. This is one example of results that could be conditional based on a believer's behavior - a believer out of God's will may experience chastisement that he otherwise would not have, as another example. So in a situation in which a believer's prayer "influenced" the outcome, it would have been a conditional situation to begin with, from our perspective. But by no means is there ever a change in what God was going to do or allow - paths are laid out for people, and their choices dictate which path they walk. God already knows which path is chosen, but from our perspective, we see results based on our behavior.

Regarding Victor's prayer about Keith specifically, God's will won't be thwarted regardless of the prayer, but Victor is supposed to pray for Keith according to God's will. Did it have an effect? I don't know, but it doesn't matter. The point of prayer isn't to make God conform to our desires, but to make us conform to his.

Bilbo said...

Hi Legion,

I'm not completely sure I understand you, but it sounds like SP's characterization of your view of petitionary prayer is correct.

Bilbo said...

For example, when Victor prays for Keith Parsons, I do not think he is merely praying, "God, help me accept whatever has or will happen to Keith in this situation." Rather, I strongly suspect that Victor has prayed and is praying, "God, please deliever Keith from danger!"

Legion of Logic said...

Bilbo,

I'll try and figure out how to rephrase what I'm talking about. The distinction is clear to me, but obviously I've missed something in my delivery.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 04, 2017 12:05 PM.

" Suppose God permanently (or "timelessly") wills to answer someone's prayer on the condition that they make the prayer. Why would answering the prayer be a change?"
--Then god is a robot in that case, absent any free will of his own.

He is noting more than a conditional branch statement in a computer program, or a simple relay circuit that turns on a relay with input A but turns off that relay with input B.

Aside from the lack of free will your scenario requires, there is still a change, since god will take an action one way or the other. In a conditional branch program execution the output is undetermined. If input A is received then the output is changed from Z to X. If input B is received then the output is changed from Z to Y. In either case the output transitions from the default or indeterminate state to the particular output that is determined by the input received at that time.

God must change to take an action. On omniscience that change is deterministic, as a clockwork moves. If you think somehow god has free will then he has not yet made up his mind, so he must change from not yet knowing what he will do to doing either A or B depending on what begging he does or does not hear.

If god "grants" a thing then he is taking an action. An action is a change. An action cannot be completely static, since a completely static system takes no actions and thus "grants" nothing, making the notion of an unchanged changer irrational.

Any way you slice it, the Christian god is incoherent.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said.. September 04, 2017 3:41 PM.

" In the situation others are talking about, God's plan is God's plan, "
--Then God is a robot that can only do 1 thing, rigidly follow His plan. God has no free will in that case.


" Regarding Victor's prayer about Keith specifically, God's will won't be thwarted regardless of the prayer,"
--Right, petitionary prayer does not work, so vast millions of Christians who attempt it and think it actually works are being incoherent in their thinking and suffering from observational or analytical biases that falsely reinforce their logical errors.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said... September 04, 2017 4:34 PM

" For example, when Victor prays for Keith Parsons, I do not think he is merely praying, "God, help me accept whatever has or will happen to Keith in this situation." Rather, I strongly suspect that Victor has prayed and is praying, "God, please deliever Keith from danger!"
--Yes, you have summarized the 2 major alternative approaches. I am sure you will agree that it is reasonable to take Victor at his word as to what he is thinking, feeling, and intending during his prayer, but since he indicated that he thinks in other cases his prayers were "answered" it seems reasonable to consider your second sort of prayer intention to be Victor's intention in this case.

So, there is a split in the Christian camp, here on this blog and in the world at large. You describe that split well.

The split is not surprising given the wide differences of doctrine among various denominations and individuals. What I found surprising is that I was thought to be somehow ignorant of Christianity by asserting that praying for a benefit to a 3rd party is incoherent on the further properties asserted to God, as though I were somehow just making it all up in an unfair smear against Christianity.

Bilbo said...

Hi SP,

Maybe you missed my reply to your accusation that I made a contradiction?

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I think you are betraying a complete lack of sympathy for the theistic position.

Firstly, many Christians actually think it is un-Biblical to insist that God is unchanging and that it actually comes from a Greek philosophical heritage which the Christian is under no obligation to accept. God is perfect, but getting from there to Him being unchanging is not trivial. No Christian who believes in answered petitionary prayer will be surprised to hear that "God acts". If action entails change then we accept that God changes. It's not something any reflective Christian in this position will be reluctant to believe.

Secondly, the remainder of your comment seems to be bringing in an argument that foreknowledge and free-will are incompatible. That's a separate discussion, or at least ought to be. Needless to say, I disagree with you about it. In short, free-will doesn't entail that there no future tensed facts. In case it helps, I also note that our actions (and God's for that matter), don't change the future. They bring it about.

It's all in Boethius. Though Lewis, as ever, is rather clearer.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Bilbo said...
Maybe you missed my reply to your accusation that I made a contradiction?
September 05, 2017 11:33 AM

--It seems to me that event X is inseparable from granting the prayer. To grant the prayer is to cause event X. To cause event X is to grant the prayer.

If no prayer for X had been made then X would stand on its own, true, so I imagine you are considering something along those lines. But once the prayer for X is made it seems to me that granting the prayer and causing X become inextricably linked for god.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 05, 2017 2:08 PM.

" I think you are betraying a complete lack of sympathy for the theistic position."
--"Sympathy" has many possible connotations, but it is true that my judgement of theism is mostly negative, in particular theological positions of many sorts.

" Firstly, many Christians actually think it is un-Biblical to insist that God is unchanging and that it actually comes from a Greek philosophical heritage which the Christian is under no obligation to accept."
--There is a large contingent of Thomists around these parts. You can find some of them here:
http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2017/01/david-haines-defense-of-aquinas-first.html


" No Christian who believes in answered petitionary prayer will be surprised to hear that "God acts". "
--Ok, but now you are in opposition to the unchanged changer (Thomistic) assertion of god.

" It's not something any reflective Christian in this position will be reluctant to believe."
--Right, which is why I list my objections relative to the particular theistic position set.

" Secondly, the remainder of your comment seems to be bringing in an argument that foreknowledge and free-will are incompatible. That's a separate discussion, or at least ought to be."
--It is related to my assertion that the Christian god is incoherent due to a set of mutually exclusive properties asserted to any particular speculation of god.

" Needless to say, I disagree with you about it. In short, free-will doesn't entail that there no future tensed facts. In case it helps, I also note that our actions (and God's for that matter), don't change the future. They bring it about."
--Deterministically, as a clockwork, and thus not free. On omniscience god is a robot, completely incapable of making a free choice or changing his mind, only going through the preordained motions as the clockwork of god and the rest of the universe ticks on the only one way it possibly can.

Bilbo said...

SP: "It seems to me that event X is inseparable from granting the prayer. To grant the prayer is to cause event X. To cause event X is to grant the prayer.

If no prayer for X had been made then X would stand on its own, true, so I imagine you are considering something along those lines. But once the prayer for X is made it seems to me that granting the prayer and causing X become inextricably linked for god."

Yes, but if we can consider X and the prayer for X as independent events, then there is no reason why God cannot. But even if you want to say that God cannot distinguish them, it is beside the point. God causes X because he is granting the prayer that was made. So prayer can have causal efficacy. And that was the original issue, wasn't it?

B. Prokop said...

Stardusty is doomed to failure in his attempts to understand the relationship between God and change, because he does not first understand the relationship between time and eternity.

Here is a very crude analogy, admittedly not applicable at all points yet nevertheless of some utility here.

Imagine you're walking around a building. When you're standing in front of it, it looks one way, but when you move around to the side it looks totally different. So has the building changed because of your movement? No, of course not. What has changed is your vantage point.

In an analogous manner, we "see" God prior to some action He takes (say, the Incarnation). Then we "see" Him afterwards. It would appear that He has changed in the most radical way possible. Prior to the Incarnation, God was pure spirit and possessed no physical body. Subsequent to the Incarnation, He very much has a physical body (the resurrected Jesus).

But has He changed? In no way! All that has occurred is that we, the observer, so to speak, have moved in time from before the Incarnation to after the fact. We see an unchanging God from two different vantage points, as it were.

Now as to free will within time and in eternity, that is an entirely different discussion, but it basically hinges on the very same issue of vantage points. Any action appears free from within time and predestined from the perspective of eternity, and both viewpoints are correct!

That Catoctin Forest in western Maryland seems immense when you're hiking within it, but from the vantage point of, say, the Moon, it's less than a speck. So which is the "correct" perspective? Answer: They both are. So much depends on where you stand. If you travel from Frederick County, Maryland, to the Moon, Catoctin Forest appears to have shrunk dramatically in size, when all that has happened is that we see it from a different perspective.

Stardusty Psyche said...

B. Prokop said.. September 05, 2017 4:09 PM .

" Prior to the Incarnation, God was pure spirit and possessed no physical body."
--What is "pure spirit" made of? Where is it? What is it's structure? How does spritstuff organize to reason and observe and remember vast quantities of information? Do Christians consider the absurdity of a notion such as "pure spirit" or do they just blithely utter such meaningless terms?

" Subsequent to the Incarnation, He very much has a physical body (the resurrected Jesus)."
--Ok, so he went from ~B to B. That's a change.

" But has He changed? In no way!"
--Aye yie yie. You are one confused puppy. You just sad "god was pure spirit and possessed no body" Then after some time he possessed a body.

So, in your "thinking" he went from no body to having a body over time but that is not a change. Your naked irrationality and moment to moment self contradiction is truly stunning.

" All that has occurred is that we, the observer, so to speak, have moved in time"
--Then nothing ever changes, we only see things differently from a different temporal vantage point. How absurd.


" Now as to free will within time and in eternity, that is an entirely different discussion, but it basically hinges on the very same issue of vantage points."
--So you plan to leverage your above rational disconnect into a discussion of free will?

" Any action appears free from within time and predestined from the perspective of eternity, and both viewpoints are correct!"
--Pure gibberish.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I'm sympathetic to Thomism. At some stage I may even adopt it myself. However, not all Christians are Thomists and I imagine that not all Thomists are the same. But even a Thomist will not be surprised to hear that "God acts". According to Thomism God is pure act! When God is said to be an "un-moved mover" the point is that He is not "moved" by anything outside Him and contrary to His will. But for these purposes you may find it helpful to think of God as combining change and permanence in the manner of a dynamic equilibrium: like a river with a constant rate of flow, or a steady beam of light.

I believe on Thomism God is (usually?) thought to be "outside" time. As such, God relates to time in something like the way in which an author of a book relates the time within the novel he writes. The author's birth is not "before" the birth of his characters, nor is it "after" those births ... not when measured by the time within the novel. In another sense, the author is obviously prior to the characters, and remains so even if his novel is set in the distant past.

I'm not sure I understood your final rejoinder beginning "Deterministically, as a clockwork, and thus not free.". I don't see how "On Omniscience, God is a robot".

Suppose I know what I'm going to do tomorrow. It remains my decision to do it. The knowledge creates no compulsion. What is the connection between Omniscience and determinism you are seeing here?

Bilbo said...

SP, I'm beginning to feel neglected, again. I think I understand your point about God not being free. Since he must act according to the greatest good, he is not free to do otherwise. And if he knows the future, then all his acts are already determined. I can live with that. I'm not sure what that has to do with the question of the efficacy of petitionary prayer, though. God knows that Jane will pray that God does X, and God knows that doing X because Jane has prayed that God does X is the greatest good. So God must do X because Jane has prayed that God would do X. That sounds like her prayer was effective. We could say that Jane was determined to pray that God does X. Okay, so Jane has no free will, either. I can live with that. Still, the event of her praying that God does X has causal efficacy. Again, what's the problem?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 06, 2017 4:42 AM

" I believe on Thomism God is (usually?) thought to be "outside" time."
--Those are the empty words often attributed to god, yes.

" As such, God relates to time in something like the way in which an author of a book relates the time within the novel he writes."
--That is a common attempt at an analogy that fails to bring substance to the empty words "god is outside time".

"When God is said to be an "un-moved mover" the point is that He is not "moved" by anything outside Him "
--That is one interpretation. Thomists often assert the empty words "pure act" to god, which is like saying "pure motion". Change is defined in medieval terms of reducing from potential to actual. Since god is imagined to be only actual then he is imagined to never change from potential to actual. So you get people like Prokop and many others who do mental gymnastics that fall flat on the face in order to try to justify the absurd notion of an "unchanged changer" or "unmoved mover", in that sense asserted to mean unchanging or unmoving.

Moved is an ambiguous word all by itself meaning alternatively:
Was moved by something else. X was moved by Y.
Was moved by itself. X was moved by X.
Changed position. X moved since the last time I observed X.
Is changing position. X is being moved by Y.
Changed the position of something else. Y moved X.

I typically try to make clear which sense of the word I am addressing, or to list all senses of the word and address them all.


" I'm not sure I understood your final rejoinder beginning "Deterministically, as a clockwork, and thus not free.". I don't see how "On Omniscience, God is a robot"."
--In the case of perfect knowledge the knower can only do 1 thing, that which is known, else the knower is not perfect. Perfection of knowledge mandates determinism. Determinism eliminates free will.

" Suppose I know what I'm going to do tomorrow. It remains my decision to do it. The knowledge creates no compulsion."
--Your knowledge is not perfect, I am sure you will acknowledge. You do not know for certain what you are going to do tomorrow. An unexpected emergency might arise such that you do not actually do what you had imagined you would do. You might die tonight (I'm not hoping anything bad happens to you, but I am sure you realize we all face a non-zero chance of sudden death over night).

" What is the connection between Omniscience and determinism you are seeing here?"
--On omniscience the future is known in perfect detail. Thus, only one future can actually happen, the future that is already known. If actual events occur differently than what had been previously imagined then knowledge is not perfect and omniscience is not the case.

Omniscience of any being in existence anywhere or in any sense mandates strict determinism in all of existence.

B. Prokop said...

"Pure gibberish."

Seeing as that comes from Stardusty, I will take that for the compliment that it is.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I'm going to restrict my comments here to the only portion of your last which contains anything approaching argument. The rest is mere fluff.

I do of course acknowledge that my own knowledge is "imperfect". What I don't see is how that makes any relevant difference. The knowledge is determined by the thing known and not the other way around. God knows X because X is the case. We can infer the X is the case from the fact that "God knows it", but in metaphysical terms the thing known comes before the knowledge of it. As such the knowledge is not limiting God's choices to things compatible with X, it's just that He will only do that which is compatible with X, not that He must. To think otherwise it to make unjustified shifts of your modal operators.

Bilbo said...

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a good article on Foreknowledge and Free Will. Frankly, it's all above my head. I think a lot of theologians are turning to Open Theism, because they think it's the only way to consistently maintain free will.

But regardless of whether God or human beings have free will, I think it is irrelevant to the issue of the efficacy of petitionary prayer.

grodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 06, 2017 1:05 PM

"As such the knowledge is not limiting God's choices to things compatible with X, "
--If god knows today that he will do X tomorrow then tomorrow X is the only thing god can possibly do, else god's knowledge was not perfect.

If god is omniscient then god is a robot, deterministically acting for all time in only one possible way, and by connection the entire universe is 100% deterministic, making all free will an illusion.

"it's just that He will only do that which is compatible with X, not that He must."
--If god has perfect knowledge he must do tomorrow what he knows he will do.

You can't have it both ways. You either deny god is omniscient, or deny there is any free will in the universe with god or any other being.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I'm not trying to "have it both ways". These things are a little confusing when you first set your mind to them, but eventually one comes round to seeing that although what God knows will happen, it's not the case that it must happen. And since it's not the case that it must happen, agents (including God) could do differently. Of course if they were to do differently, then God would have had different foreknowledge than He actually had. But that's all counterfactual or in the subjunctive-mood, and doesn't impact what actually goes on.

It is a little mind expanding at first, rather like thinking about time-travel or backwards causation, but it's entirely logically consistent.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 10, 2017 7:20 AM

" I'm not trying to "have it both ways"."
-- If you assert both omniscience and free will then yes, you are.

" These things are a little confusing when you first set your mind to them,"
--I'm sorry you are confused owing to your just having begun to think of these things. I wish you all the best in gaining some thinking experience and clearing up your confusion.

" what God knows will happen, it's not the case that it must happen."
--If god is omniscient, yes, they are the same.

"Of course if they were to do differently, then God would have had different foreknowledge than He actually had."
--Ok, now you are starting to understand, very good. Now realize that omniscience has no time limit. God has always known everything that will happen in the entire universe. Therefore his foreknowledge can never change and he can never change his mind and the universe is 100% deterministic.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I was not saying that I had only just set my mind to thinking on these things. I was saying you had. I have a PhD in philosophy from a top ranking UK university, and I specialised in philosophy of religion in a thoroughly secular department. I know my way around these issues.

I agree, we are getting somewhere. Omniscience indeed has no time limit. His foreknowledge doesn't change. Indeed, I'm happy to admit that it "cannot change". But that doesn't entail "could not have been different" and so doesn't entail determinism.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I think your argument goes something like this. Obviously, you can substitute the first premise however you see fit ...

(1) I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(2) God knows that I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(3) On omniscience, God cannot be wrong.
(4) Therefore, I cannot bring it about that God is wrong.
(5) If I didn't have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, then I'd bring it about that God is wrong.
(6) Therefore, I cannot fail to have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.

But (5) is false. I'd bring it about that God foreknew something else. This would not be a change in God, He would always have known it. He would only change his "beliefs" if I were change what did. I'd have to have my Cheerios, then "unhave" them. But that's incoherent. As I said earlier, we don't change the future we only "bring it about".

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Steve Lovell said... September 10, 2017 9:02 AM

" I was not saying that I had only just set my mind to thinking on these things. I was saying you had."
--Are you omniscient now? How else could you know this (falsely) about me?

" I have a PhD in philosophy from a top ranking UK university,"
--Wow, I am really so very impressed you have made this claim, you must be right and I must be wrong, after all, every PhD agrees with every other PhD and they are always correct in their unified voices.

" and I specialised in philosophy of religion in a thoroughly secular department. I know my way around these issues."
--I have not seen evidence of this claim in your words on this subject.

" I agree, we are getting somewhere. Omniscience indeed has no time limit. His foreknowledge doesn't change. Indeed, I'm happy to admit that it "cannot change"."
--Ok...

" But that doesn't entail "could not have been different" and so doesn't entail determinism."
--Darn, you were doing so well there for a moment.

You realize the foreknowledge of an omniscient god is eternal.
You realize that the foreknowledge of an omniscient god cannot change.
Yet you do not realize that requires there to be only 1 possible future, the future god knows now and has always known and will never change.

Omniscience does not specify the mechanism of determinism, it simply requires that determinism is somehow the case. On omniscience the future can only occur in 1 possible way, the way god already knows. There can be no deviation from this future. The future is fully pre-determined indicated by the fact that god knows it.

God can never change its mind. God is a robot, only acting out the things he already knows will happen, and we are all robots, only acting out the things he knows will happen.

The assertion of omniscience requires that 100% determinism is the case.

You can flip a coin 10 times and to you the sequence of 10 results appears random, but it isn't, because god already knows how those coin flips will come up. There is 0 probability that any of those flips will come up in any other way. You are flipping robotically and deterministically, merely a puppet on god's stage going through the motions of doing what he already knows you will do.

The script for the universe is already written. God knows the script. Everything in the universe always has and always will act exactly according to the script, else god is wrong.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 10, 2017 9:21 AM.

Stardusty,

I think your argument goes something like this. Obviously, you can substitute the first premise however you see fit ...

(1) I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(2) God knows that I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(3) On omniscience, God cannot be wrong.
(4) Therefore, I cannot bring it about that God is wrong.
(5) If I didn't have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, then I'd bring it about that God is wrong.
(6) Therefore, I cannot fail to have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.

" But (5) is false. I'd bring it about that God foreknew something else."
--You have just contradicted (2) in your own argument.

" This would not be a change in God, He would always have known it. "
--Then (2) is a false premise and your argument is unsound.

You are a philosophy PhD?

Steve Lovell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Apologies for the deleted comment. I hadn't noticed that you'd commented twice, which made some of my initial response off base.

I only mention that I have a PhD from a high ranking UK university to illustrate my point that I haven't "only just started thinking about these things". My evidence for thinking that perhaps you have is that you seem to be thoroughly confused. If you've been thinking on these things for a long time and are still so confused then ... well, let's stop there.

The argument (1) to (6) was supposed to be a reconstruction of your reasoning, not my reasoning. It's a failed attempt to show that omniscience entails determinism. If that's not your reasoning, then what is?

When you write "you have just contradicted (2) in your own argument", you seem to be saying that (2) and (X) are contradictory:

(2) God knows that I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(X) If I were not to have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, God would not know that I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.

But they clearly aren't contradictory. The form is:

(a) A
(b) If B then not A

Ex hypothesi, I will have Cheerios for breakfast, so B is false. But the fact that it's false doesn't entail that it's impossible or necessarily false.

Take God out of the picture for a moment. Let's just say it's true that I will have Cheerios tomorrow. Then what in your view is wrong with the following argument?:

(1') I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(2') It is true that I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(3') A true statement cannot be false.
(4') Therefore, I cannot bring it about that a true statement is false.
(5') If I didn't have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, then I'd bring it about that a true statement is false.
(6') Therefore, I cannot fail to have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.

If this argument is sound, then determinism is true whether or not there is an Omniscient God. I think this argument has essentially the same problem as the first one.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

In case it helps ...

I grant that there is only one future consistent with what God knows. But given that God knows the future because it's the future and not the other way around, that knowledge places no restrictions on what may happen and so doesn't yield determinism ... at least not a determinism that contradicts free-will.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 10, 2017 11:00 AM

" I grant that there is only one future consistent with what God knows. But given that God knows the future because it's the future and not the other way around,"
--Right, omniscience does not specify the mechanism of determinism, it simply demands that determinism is the case.

" that knowledge places no restrictions on what may happen"
--Of course it does. The restriction is that god knows today X will happen tomorrow. Therefore X must happen tomorrow.

If ~X happens tomorrow then god knows today that ~X will happen tomorrow.

If god knows today that X will happen tomorrow, but ~X actually happens tomorrow then god was wrong.

" and so doesn't yield determinism ... at least not a determinism that contradicts free-will."
--Free will is completely impossible if there is an omniscient eternal being. For will to be free I must be able to choose between X and ~X. There is some chance I will choose X, and some chance I will choose ~X. But god already knows I will choose X, so there is 0 chance I will choose ~X. I may feel like I freely chose X but in truth I could not possibly have chosen otherwise, rather I merely executed deterministic code of many choices but none of them free.

My choice of X was predetermined. Perhaps god does not implement this predetermination, perhaps the universe simply is a clockwork and god merely knows every detail of the workings of this universal clockwork, but it must be a clockwork by some mechanism for god to have perfect knowledge of what will happen.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I may be reading too much into it, but your last comment reads as though you think that God has some mechanism by which he knows the future. Perhaps that He works it out as a prediction from the current state of affairs (or something). If that were the case, then I'd agree ... but then the determinism would be in place regardless of God's knowledge of the future.

The traditional view is that God "sees" the future in future in much the same way that we see the present. No additional mechanism is required.

Anyway, you might not have meant that ... it just sort of sounded that way, and indeed I'm not sure what else your last paragraph might have meant.

Did you look at the wikipedia article I linked on shifting modal operators?

a) Bachelors are necessarily unmarried.
b) John is a bachelor.
Therefore, c) John cannot marry.

This argument is clearly wrong. However, the conclusion

d) John is not married

would have been legitimate. Moreover, that conclusion would follow, of necessity from the first premises. Given the first two, the last "must" be true. But there is no necessity to the conclusion other than that conditional sort. Similarly, if God knows that I'll have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, then it "must" be true that I'll have Cheerios tomorrow. But it's only necessary in that conditional sense. It doesn't follow that it's determined.

P.S. I commented twice in a row before, did you see my first comment. What do you think of the argument (1') to (6')?

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Steve Lovell said...

" The traditional view is that God "sees" the future in future in much the same way that we see the present. No additional mechanism is required."
--Ah yes, the "outside of time" incoherent argument. I have heard it many times.

God is said to act in our time. If he somehow goes skittering about in the fanciful eternal now or timeless existence he still acts on our timeline. Suppose he writes down today on a real piece of paper I will do X tomorrow then I must do X tomorrow. So then he flits off into this fanciful timelessness and I go and choose to do ~X tomorrow. So I pick up the paper, read it, and say "god was wrong".

Sorry, the god outside of time, or eternal now, or observation of all times as though they are present or any similar argument simply does not hold up to analysis.

Our timeline must be deterministic by some mechanism if god can come into our timeline and record today what I will do tomorrow, which of course an omniscient omnipotent god can do.

a) Bachelors are necessarily unmarried.
b) John is a bachelor.
Therefore, c) John cannot marry.
--Depends what the meaning of "is" is :-) If you mean that John is a bachelor today and if you mean by "cannot" a statement about the future then the status of John being a bachelor today can change tomorrow.

God can't change his knowledge, ever, if god is omniscient and eternal. God knew everything that will happen in our future before any of us were born. Even if god can fancifully flit about in this incoherent notion of being outside of time yet acting in our time the fact remains that we are still mired in our time.

We must plod along with unidirectional time. If god has seen our future then there is only one future, the future he knows right now will happen to us. Thus the future is strictly determined.

"God knows that I'll have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, then it "must" be true that I'll have Cheerios tomorrow. But it's only necessary in that conditional sense. It doesn't follow that it's determined."
--Of course it does, you are just not thinking this through clearly. If god knows today I will do X tomorrow then tomorrow X is not conditional, X is predetermined.

If I do ~X tomorrow then god did not foresee X tomorrow, rather he foresaw ~X so I must do ~X.

You are confused as though god can foresee today that I will do X tomorrow, then I do ~X tomorrow, so he can somehow go back and foresee something different than what he actually foresaw.

Changing a prediction after the fact makes it not a prediction in the first place.

Hal said...

Steve,

Bernard Williams pointed out in one of his books that simply because we know what choices people made in the past that doesn't entail that they were not able to choose their actions.
I believe it is in his book "Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy".

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

It's time for bed here. Let me simply say that just because you say something is incoherent, that doesn't make it so. You haven't demonstrated anything of the kind. Indeed, I'm not even that convinced you've tried. I've put forward what I think is your argument, and shown where it is wrong. Now it's your turn.

As things stand, it seems like you don't understand at least one of the following:

(1) Counterfactuals and subjunctives
(2) The difference between truth and necessity

Some other comments. Although we cannot change the past and in that sense the past could not now be different than it was, the past could have been different than it was. You seem to be confusing these two.

Something similar goes for the future: We can't change it. There is a way it will be, but there is no necessity to that. The way it will be is just one of the ways it could be.

God knows the way it will be. Including whether or not this argument will ever end ;-)

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 10, 2017 3:10 PM

" It's time for bed here. Let me simply say that just because you say something is incoherent, that doesn't make it so. "
--True.

"You haven't demonstrated anything of the kind. Indeed, I'm not even that convinced you've tried."
--True, it was just a statement of position at this point.

" As things stand, it seems like you don't understand at least one of the following:
(1) Counterfactuals and subjunctives
(2) The difference between truth and necessity"
--No, that is not the problem here. The problem is that your time sequence of events analysis is incomplete.

" Some other comments. Although we cannot change the past and in that sense the past could not now be different than it was, the past could have been different than it was. You seem to be confusing these two."
--No, you are not analyzing the relevant times sequences of events completely and consistently.

If today god writes on a piece of paper that I will do X tomorrow, then when tomorrow comes I must do X. You are the one having difficulty with counterfactuals here. When tomorrow comes it no longer matters that we consider god could have written ~X on the paper because he didn't and today is gone.

Now if you want to consider that god can write ~X on the paper today fine. Then tomorrow I must do ~X. When tomorrow comes it will be too late to consider that god might have written X on the paper because he didn't.

Whatever god predicts today must come to pass tomorrow. Thus the universe is deterministic.

" Something similar goes for the future: We can't change it. There is a way it will be, but there is no necessity to that. "
--Once god states what the future will be then that is necessarily what it will be. Since god knew a billion years ago what I will do today and what I will do tomorrow those things absolutely necessarily must occur, else god was wrong a billion years ago

"The way it will be is just one of the ways it could be."
--The only way things can be in the future is the way god already knows they are and knew they would be billions of years ago.

" God knows the way it will be. Including whether or not this argument will ever end ;-)"
--Indeed, so that is the only possible way it can be if there is an eternal omniscient god.

Frankly Steve I am surprised you are having so much difficulty with this analysis. Maybe you just do not typically think in terms of time sequences of events in a way that allows you to grasp the necessity of a deterministic universe on an omniscient god.

This video is exceptionally good in that it is short, to the point, an uses precise language, unlike so many youtube videos that drone on and on.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPiqDTILA4I

So, one suggestion is to watch the video and realize the ways you are not analyzing this issue validly.


Mortal said...

I think T.S. Eliot summed it up best, in his poem Burnt Norton:

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Steve Lovell said...

Thanks for the link Stardust, I'll check it out later (currently on my commute so no WiFi).

For now...

You wrote "If today god writes on a piece of paper that I will do X tomorrow, then when tomorrow comes I must do X."

Explain for me why this says "must" rather than simply "will".

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Stardusty,

I just watched the video. It's pretty much a repetition of the same things we've both been saying. Admirably clear, but still a repetition. I agree with Craig and you agree with the voice-over-artist.

The version of the argument for determinism that the presenter puts forward uses "cannot fail to happen" rather than "must", but there seems no basis for either use of words. He also points to a similarity between the present and the past, saying that the past is unalterable and that on foreknowledge the future would be similarly unalterable. I'm happy to agree with that. The idea of "changing the future" is incoherent whether or not we accept determinism.

As I was reflecting on this on my commute, I was wondering if the sticking point might be this: how can we be certain that what God foreknows will happen if it's not "pre-determined". In human knowledge there is generally a difficulty about the certainty of prediction, and we're most confident of our predictions when we can see the causes of the future state of affairs already in place. If God's foreknowledge worked like that, then I believe you'd be fundamentally correct. But to my knowledge no-one thinks it works like that.

And moreover in general there is no inconsistency between certainty on one hand and contingency on the other. I am absolutely certain of my own existence ... and yet, as I'm sure you'll be pleased to agree, I am not a necessary being.

What I would say, however, is that I'm happy to admit that the detailed workings of God's knowledge are a "mystery". I don't know how He knows the future. The idea of an "Eternal Now" is intended as a helpful model and not as a literal description of God's relationship to time.

So, I repeat: why "must" rather than "will"?

And also: what about that parallel argument (1') to (6')?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 11, 2017 4:29 AM

" I just watched the video. .. Admirably clear, but still a repetition. "
--Most folks on youtube, on all sides, tend to drone on an on. This guy gets right to it.

" He also points to a similarity between the present and the past, saying that the past is unalterable and that on foreknowledge the future would be similarly unalterable. I'm happy to agree with that. "
--If you are not free to choose your future then you are not free to choose. You have no free will. There is only one possible future in this case, thus the universe is a clockwork, fully determined.


"If God's foreknowledge worked like that, then I believe you'd be fundamentally correct. But to my knowledge no-one thinks it works like that."
--The assertion of mere timeless observation doesn't change the conclusion of determinism, as opposed to predictions based initial conditions and transfer function, or the idea that god manipulates the universe to make his foreknowledge become the case.

The mechanism is not relevant. On an omniscient being the universe is deterministic. On determinism free will is an illusion.
1. Omniscience by time travel observation.
2. Omniscience by application of transfer functions to initial conditions.
3. Omniscience by divine intervention.

It doesn't matter. Whatever the mechanism omniscience mandates determinism. Determinism eliminates free will.

" I'm sure you'll be pleased to agree, I am not a necessary being."
--No, I don't agree. On determinism we are all necessary beings. All of existence is necessarily just as it is.

" So, I repeat: why "must" rather than "will"?"
--They are functionally equivalent. If a perfect god foresees that X will happen then X will happen, X must happen, X cannot fail to happen, there is no alternative to X happening, by some unspecified method X is determined to happen, X is predetermined.

These are all different ways of expressing the same thing. This is a time sequence of event analysis. God knows at time T that at time T+1 X will happen. Time passes. Will X happen? Yes, it must, else god was wrong, and that violates the premise that god has perfect foreknowledge.

Craig makes the same crucial analytical error you have made above, so you are in good company at least. The narrator corrects that error.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPiqDTILA4I
Time 1:10
Craig "It could have failed to happen, but if it failed to happen god would have foreknown something different"
TMM "Yes, if an event were to fail to happen, god would have foreseen something different, but if god did not foresee something different then the event he foresaw could not fail to happen"

So, to claim that X will happen but not necessarily is mistaken given god's foreknowledge of X. Absent god's foreknowledge either X or ~X could possibly happen by some probability. Given god's foreknowledge of X happening the probability of X happening is precisely 1, and is thus predetermined, necessary, and cannot fail to happen.


" And also: what about that parallel argument (1') to (6')?"
--Sorry, in a rush, your wording was unfamiliar to me so it will take me some time to give it a proper analysis, but I am sure it will not change the situation.

If you have the time I suggest you revisit the points raised at 1:10 in the video I detailed above.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I'm at work, so keeping this brief: if "X will happen" and "X must happen" are equivalent, then God plays no role in the argument. The existence of truths about the future is all that's required.

Needless to say, I think "X will happen" and "X must happen" express quite different things. You write that they are "functionally equivalent". I don't know what you mean by that. They seem completely different. One attributes necessity the other does not.

Your assertion that we are all necessary beings took me by surprise. You can't mean that in the full-blooded sense that we use of God (and abstract objects if we accept their existence) ... or can you? Either way, I think the point I was making still stands ... you certainly can't deduce that you are a necessary being (in any sense) from the fact that you are certain that you exist (unless determinism is a truth of logic ... which I believe is it obviously is not).

Mortal said...

Steve,

You need to keep in mind that Stardusty does not understand the meaning of the term "necessary being".

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I actually think that the video makes some reasonable points against Craig's theory of time. There are things Craig could say, but I think they'd be "concessions" and make his view considerably less plausible.

To explain that a little, the video suggest that for God to know the future in the same way as He knows other times (such as the present) those times must be equally real. But Craig's (official) view is that only the present exists. I think Craig believes that there are future truths despite the strict non-existence of the future. That is to say he believes in irreducibly tensed facts for which the truth-makers are things which "don't (yet) exist". I find this philosophically puzzling, though I'm not confident that it's nonsense. He says something similar about middle-knowledge, which I find similarly puzzling (see the "Grounding Objection" to Molinism).

Anyway, I'm not trying to defend Craig's theory of time, which I think doesn't comport well with the idea of God as "timeless" (he agrees that his theory implies that God is "in time" at least "since creation" though not "sans creation" as he likes to say).

But all times being equally real is not a problem. The past is unalterable, the present is unalterable, and the future is unalterable. We didn't change them (past), we don't change them (present) and we won't change them (future). Rather we brought them about (past), bring them about (present) and will bring them about (future). Freedom doesn't require the possibility to "change the future". The presenter is simply confused on this point.

I'm interested in your mechanisms of omniscience. Suppose there were no God and no foreknowledge. Could people then be free? If so, why does this picture change when we add foreknowledge which is gained by time travel. The viewer sees something at time T, and travels back to time T-1 and know can be said to foreknow what happens at T. How can this influence the future to be deterministic when, ex hypothesi, that knowledge is causally downstream of that future?

It still seems to me the argument you are making is as Craig and I characterise it:

(a) Necessarily if A then B
(b) A
(c) Therefore, necessarily B

Which is simply an invalid argument. It necessarily follows that B. It doesn't not follow that Necessarily B.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Mortal September 11, 2017 8:58 AM

" You need to keep in mind that Stardusty does not understand the meaning of the term "necessary being"."
--You don't understand the meaning of "on determinism".

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Steve Lovell September 11, 2017 8:52 AM

" I'm at work, so keeping this brief: if "X will happen" and "X must happen" are equivalent, then God plays no role in the argument. The existence of truths about the future is all that's required."
--On any omniscient being of any description in any part of the universe the entire universe must me absolutely deterministic. So yes, the logic holds irrespective of the label of god or otherwise to the omniscient being.

" Needless to say, I think "X will happen" and "X must happen" express quite different things. "
--They are precisely the same if "will" has a probability of 1.
X will happen.
X must happen.
X cannot fail to happen.
X is certain to happen.
X is preordained to happen.
X is necessary to happen.
These all express the same thing in different words. Perhaps not surprising we have so many different words for this same concept, as it has long been considered throughout humanity.


"You write that they are "functionally equivalent". I don't know what you mean by that."
--Sorry, technical jargon crept into my words. I am happy to drop that particular term.


" Your assertion that we are all necessary beings took me by surprise."
--I said "on determinism". That is a crucial qualifier to my statement. On a clockwork existence everything in the universe is necessary and could not fail to exist and must be precisely as it is. On the existence of an omniscient being all existence is a clockwork.

" abstract objects if we accept their existence"
--You will not be surprised to find I don't :-)

" ... or can you? Either way, I think the point I was making still stands ... you certainly can't deduce that you are a necessary being (in any sense) from the fact that you are certain that you exist "
--Even if intrinsic randomness is the case I can still be certain I exist, so I agree.


Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Steve Lovell said... September 11, 2017 1:40 PM

" We didn't change them (past), we don't change them (present) and we won't change them (future). Rather we brought them about (past), bring them about (present) and will bring them about (future)."
--Then we are robots merely executing an unalterable algorithm just as a computerized robot "brings about" its motions.

" Freedom doesn't require the possibility to "change the future". The presenter is simply confused on this point."
--Then in what sense is anybody or anything free?

" I'm interested in your mechanisms of omniscience. Suppose there were no God and no foreknowledge. Could people then be free?"
--To be free is to be able to have done something else, for it to be true that at base something else could have happened. We can have a false sensation of freedom if we are ignorant of what dictates our actions.

" If so, why does this picture change when we add foreknowledge which is gained by time travel. The viewer sees something at time T, and travels back to time T-1 and know can be said to foreknow what happens at T. How can this influence the future to be deterministic when,"
--It doesn't by itself influence the future, it mandates that a mechanistic clockwork progression of events is the case without specifying the mechanism for this clockwork

" ex hypothesi, that knowledge is causally downstream of that future?"
--Foreknowledge is not in the causal series, but it requires a deterministic causal series is the case.



(a) Necessarily if A then B
(b) A
(c) Therefore, necessarily B

" Which is simply an invalid argument."
--It is a perfectly valid argument, although the word "Necessarily" in (a) is redundant.

To say "if A then B" is to say
If A happens then B must happen.
If A is the case then B is the case.
Whenever A occurs B always occurs.
If A is true then B is necessarily true.

Again, there are many words in our language to express the same concept, since this is such a widespread way of thinking throughout humanity for millennia.

To state the premise "necessarily if A is true then B is true" is the same as stating the premise "necessarily if A is true then B is necessarily true" which is the same as stating the premise "if A is true then B is necessarily true"

We usually simply say "If A then B". The necessity of B being true if A is true is implicit in that form of expression.

If we were to say "not necessarily if A then B, we have an entirely different premise. We could no longer state "if A then B", because it would not necessarily be the case that if A is true B is true.

Certain knowledge that X will happen means X must happen, X is necessary to happen, X cannot fail to happen.

If X is not necessary to happen then we cannot have certain knowledge X will happen.

How could we have certain knowledge that X will happen yet X does not necessarily happen?

X is necessary to happen.
X cannot fail to happen.
X must happen.
X is certain to happen.
X will happen.
X has a probability of 1 of happening.
X is inevitable to happen.

These are all precisely the same statements using slightly different words.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Can I just check what you were agreeing to when you said "yes" in the first paragraph of your latest comment. I'd said that if "will happen" and "must happen" are equivalent then the existence of future truths is sufficient for determinism and God plays no role in the argument. You responded "yes" but then went on to say it doesn't matter what label we give the omniscient being.

To what exactly are you agreeing here? That the concept God (or god) plays no role in your argument and that the heavy lifting can be done by true propositions about the future regardless of whether they exist in a divine mind?

You mention things having a probability of 1. Suppose the world is indeterministic. What is the probability associated (by you) with "Stardusty exists"?

Hugo Pelland said...

Mortal,
"does not understand the meaning of the term "necessary being""

I don't understand; what does it mean?

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I was reading this morning on my phone and again managed to miss that you'd posted twice, so I haven't addressed some of your comments. So now I'm posting twice (with Hugo's non-sequitur in between), sorry about that.

The argument (a) through (c) is invalid. There is no argument here. I'm not aware of a single expert anywhere who has ever endorsed that argument form. I'm guessing you have misunderstood the argument structure as I simply don't believe you really think it's valid.

SL: We didn't change them (past), we don't change them (present) and we won't change them (future). Rather we brought them about (past), bring them about (present) and will bring them about (future).

PS: Then we are robots merely executing an unalterable algorithm just as a computerized robot "brings about" its motions.


I agree that a robot "brings about" its motions. I didn't say, or at least didn't mean to say, that bringing things about was sufficient for freedom. I simply meant that "changing the future" isn't necessary.

Suppose we have freedom as understood by the "libertarian" school of thought, what is sometimes called "contra-causal" freedom. Now supppose there are two options open to me, and that I select one of them. In what sense have I "changed the future"?

Suppose that a train is running down a track and approaching a set of points. A man stands at the points operating a switch to control which path the train takes. Even this man does not "change the future". When he operates the switch, freely we may suppose, then what would have happened had he not acted does not happen. I can understand why someone might want to call this "changing the future" but it is really an incorrect use of words and causes confusion. It's not the case that the train went one way, then the man acted and undid that and made it go the other way. That's what would be required for it to be true that he "changed the future" ... but it's utterly incoherent and clearly isn't required for the man stood at the points to have acted freely.

On the "mechanisms" of foreknowledge. It seems to me that you're saying that if freedom is real, then time-travel is impossible. Otherwise anyone could go back in time, omniscient or otherwise, knowing some future state which would otherwise think was brought about freely.

But then I can't see how you can square that with your previous assertion that "the mechanism" is unimportant.

You ask "How could we have certain knowledge that X will happen yet X does not necessarily happen?"

Indeed, but it's not "we". It's God. And as you've admitted even we can have certain knowledge of some things which aren't necessarily the case.

So I reckon I've left you with some questions across my two comments:
- What did you say "yes" to? (see my previous comment).
- What is the probability you associate with "Stardusty exists"? (see previous comment)
- Can you double check that (a)-(c). I'm afraid that if you really think that that is a valid argument we're going to have to call off this discussion. The "necessarily" in (c)
is part of the conclusion, not a mere comment introducing the conclusion. Are you happy with parsing model statements in terms of "possible worlds"? If so, use them to help you analyse the argument structure.
- In what sense does freedom require changing the future?

I'm at work so need to stop (I've already spent way too long on this), but I'd like to come back to the "time travel" thing as I believe it could be helpful.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Ooh, just spotted an unfortunate typo in my last which might have caused confusion. One of the questions at the end had "model" where it should have had "modal". There are other typos too, but hopefully the meaning will still have been clear enough.

I've taken the liberty of phrasing (a) through (c) in possible world terms:

(a') In all worlds in which A is the case, B is also the case
(b') I world @ (the actual world), A
(c') Therefore, in all worlds, B

This is the same as the argument (a)-(c), only expressed in possible worlds semantics. If this argument is invalid (which it pretty clearly is), then (a)-(c) is invalid. As I said, I find it difficult to believe you really think (a)-(c) is valid, which makes me think you may have been interpreting it differently.

Mortal said...

Hugo,

A necessary being is that which is dependent only upon itself for its existence. This is contrasted with a contingent being, which only exists due to some other being.

I would not be here absent my parents, so my being is contingent upon their prior existence.

The Grand Canyon would not exist without the Colorado River first being there to erode the ground, so the canyon is contingent upon the river.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said..
September 11, 2017 11:33 PM.

" Can I just check what you were agreeing to when you said "yes" in the first paragraph of your latest comment. I'd said that if "will happen" and "must happen" are equivalent then the existence of future truths is sufficient for determinism and God plays no role in the argument."
--How do we know a future truth with absolute certainty? That requires omniscience, or at least a sufficient subset of it to determine some particular truth to be absolutely true.

" You responded "yes" but then went on to say it doesn't matter what label we give the omniscient being."
--Right, because that is a common term for being able to determine all future truths with 100% certainty.

You raise valid distinctions concerning
will happen
did happen
necessarily happened
...if human being are involved, which is typically the case for most arguments. So in a typical human centric argument I can say X will happen. Time passes. X does happen. But just because X did happen it is invalid to assert X necessarily happened because I could have been wrong and I could have just gotten lucky.

Not so with an omniscient being. When an omniscient being says X will happen then X necessarily must happen. Time passes. X happens. We may validly say X necessarily happened because an omniscient being has foretold X.

On an omniscient being your human centric distinctions are no longer applicable. If the omniscient being says X will happen then X must happen, X is necessarily going to happen, X cannot fail to happen, therefore the universe is deterministic by some mechanism, not necessarily because the being intercedes directly to make its predictions come true.

Mortal said...

We may validly say X necessarily happened because an omniscient being has foretold X.

How so? You have yet to describe a cause and effect relationship. Your logic leads to the following:

- I see a man walking across the street.
- Therefore, the man is walking across the street because I see him doing it.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

In my question "what are you agreeing to?", I was referring to truth, not knowledge of it. Certainty relates to the latter, so I'm not convinced you've answered the question. Though reading into your other comments, I think you want to say that God does play a role in the argument (but that anything "omniscient" would play the same role).

Supposing there is a necessary being, your reasoning seems to suggest that everything known by them is a necessary truth. Certainty and necessity are not the same thing.

What about those other questions of mine?

Bilbo said...

The argument presented in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a little more complex than the version SP is presenting:

Basic Argument for Theological Fatalism.
(1) Yesterday God infallibly believed T. [Supposition of infallible foreknowledge]
(2) If E occurred in the past, it is now-necessary that E occurred then. [Principle of the Necessity of the Past]
(3) It is now-necessary that yesterday God believed T. [1, 2]
(4) Necessarily, if yesterday God believed T, then T. [Definition of “infallibility”]
(5) If p is now-necessary, and necessarily (p → q), then q is now-necessary. [Transfer of Necessity Principle]
(6) So it is now-necessary that T. [3,4,5]
(7) If it is now-necessary that T, then you cannot do otherwise than answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am. [Definition of “necessary”]
(8) Therefore, you cannot do otherwise than answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am. [6, 7]
(9) If you cannot do otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely. [Principle of Alternate Possibilities]
(10) Therefore, when you answer the telephone tomorrow at 9 am, you will not do it freely.

Meanwhile, I'll just take this opportunity to remind everybody that this issue is independent of and (to my mind, at least) irrelevant to the issue of the efficacy of petitionary prayer.

Hugo Pelland said...

Steve Lovell said...
" with Hugo's non-sequitur in between"
Oh sorry, I did not realize this was now your private chat room. You realize I was replying to Mortal's comment, right?

Hugo Pelland said...

Mortal said...
"A necessary being is that which is dependent only upon itself for its existence. This is contrasted with a contingent being, which only exists due to some other being."
Ok but what's the difference with 'eternal'? There seems to be some difference but I have never understood why. Hence my question...

Steve Lovell said...

Apologies Hugo. I hastily jumped to the conclusion that you were being disingenuous and, is common in these parts, simply trying to derail the discussion.

Necessary being has more than one definition depending on the school of thought. However there are some common elements:
(1) Eternal
(2) Uncaused / Independent / Not relying on anything outside itself for its existence (either in origin or continued existence).

Many want to add to this things such as

(4) Existing by a necessity of its own nature
(5) Having existence as part of its essence
(6) It being impossible for it not to exist
(7) Existing in all possible worlds

Many of these have either close ties with certain forms of the cosmological argument or with forms of the ontological argument.


Steve Lovell said...

I'd meant to add that something could be eternal but not exhibit these other features if it depended on something else which was also eternal. Eg if the sun had existed forever, the. It's rays would also, but we would still say the rays were dependent on the sun.

Steve Lovell said...

Eek, I missed out a number (3)?!

Hugo Pelland said...

Steve, no problem.

You said:
"However there are some common elements:
(1) Eternal
[...]
"

Is it fair to say that all the other variants imply 'Eternal'?

You kind of answered 'no' already when you said "something could be eternal but not exhibit these other features if it depended on something else which was also eternal."

Therefore, necessary = eternal + non-contingent

And you could thus have 2 different things:
- Necessary thing A
- Non-necessary thing B, eternal but its existence depends on A

Is that correct?

"Eek, I missed out a number (3)?!"
I would never have noticed, haha; one of many common illusions that trick our brains so easily... yet another proof that physicalism is most likely correct ;)

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said..
September 12, 2017 1:10 AM.

" The argument (a) through (c) is invalid."
--No, it is perfectly valid. It is just a matter of language choice.

" There is no argument here. "
--Ok, so stop disagreeing with me then :-)

"I'm not aware of a single expert anywhere who has ever endorsed that argument form. "
--Then all the experts you are aware of are wrong or simply have not addressed this precise point.

"I'm guessing you have misunderstood the argument structure as I simply don't believe you really think it's valid."
--Of course it is valid. I explained in detail a number of equally valid wordings. It is just a matter of language choice. There is no god of language. There can be multiple wordings that are equally valid.

" I agree that a robot "brings about" its motions. I didn't say, or at least didn't mean to say, that bringing things about was sufficient for freedom. I simply meant that "changing the future" isn't necessary."
--An absence of a deterministic future is necessary.


" But then I can't see how you can square that with your previous assertion that "the mechanism" is unimportant."
--The mechanism for determinism on an omniscient being may be important in the sense of interesting to consider, but it is unimportant to the fact that the existence of an omniscient being mandates that determinism is the case.

" You ask "How could we have certain knowledge that X will happen yet X does not necessarily happen?"

Indeed, but it's not "we". It's God. And as you've admitted even we can have certain knowledge of some things which aren't necessarily the case."
--The "we" was rhetorical, meaning anything or anybody, god, me, you, my dog, whatever. If any being is omniscient and that being knows X will happen then X necessarily will happen.


" So I reckon I've left you with some questions across my two comments:
- What did you say "yes" to? (see my previous comment)."
--I believe I answered that.

" - What is the probability you associate with "Stardusty exists"? (see previous comment)"
--One.

" - Can you double check that (a)-(c). I'm afraid that if you really think that that is a valid argument we're going to have to call off this discussion."
--Up to you, kind of a shame you don't seem to realize that a valid argument is not restricted to a particular conventional form, perhaps you could consider that there are multiple valid wordings.

" The "necessarily" in (c)
is part of the conclusion, not a mere comment introducing the conclusion."
--The word "necessarily" appears twice in (a), once explicitly and the second time implicitly. Redundancy does not invalidate the argument. To say
"If A then B" simply means
If A is true then necessarily B is true.


(a) Necessarily if A then (necessarily) B // implicit word shown in ()
(b) A (is true)
(c) Therefore, necessarily B (is true) // previously implicit word now explicit

I can expand (a) further
Necessarily if A is true then necessarily B is true.
Awkward wording but still logically valid.

" Are you happy with parsing model statements in terms of "possible worlds"? If so, use them to help you analyse the argument structure."
--No, not happy, I find the whole paradigm of "possible worlds" to be overused and frequently coopted by woo mongers to the point it has become distasteful to me. However, I realize it has serious applications so I am willing to consider it further.

" - In what sense does freedom require changing the future?"
--Freedom requires that there is no specific, deterministic, or perfectly known future.

Steve Lovell said...

Hugo,

On your question: "Is it fair to say that all the other variants imply 'Eternal'?"

I think so, but I think it's open to debate at least in theory. However, to my knowledge anyone who has ever claimed of something that it's a "necessary being" or "exists necessarily" has also held that that being did not begin to exist and will not cease to exist. At least, anyone with the exception of Stardusty ... but then I think it's pretty clear that when he spoke (hypothetically) of his being a necessary being on the assumption of determinism, he didn't mean to claim he would exist "independently".

So I guess I accept "If Necessary then Eternal", but not "If Eternal then Necessary".

On eternal but not necessary beings depending on other beings, Aquinas went one step further. Some of his variants of the cosmological argument say that there are also necessary beings the necessity of which is derived from the necessity of something else. This would be something like the necessity of a theorem in mathematics, which derives it's necessity from the necessity of the fundamental axioms of mathematics. God's necessity is analogous the that of the axioms.

For my part, I've never felt I have a sufficiently firm grasp on the concept of a necessary being to find the cosmological argument from contingency completely persuasive. I think the arguments are sound, but as for persuasion ... I'm always left with a niggling doubt. As for the Ontological argument, I appreciate the beautiful structure of several variants, but they leave far more than a niggling doubt!

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I'll reply more fully later (back at work for now), but for now allow me to put side by side a few snippets from above:

Snippet #1
SL: you certainly can't deduce that you are a necessary being (in any sense) from the fact that you are certain that you exist.
SP: Even if intrinsic randomness is the case I can still be certain I exist, so I agree.


Snippet #2
SL: What is the probability you associate with "Stardusty exists"? (see previous comment)"
SP: One.


Snippet #3
SP:
X is necessary to happen.
X cannot fail to happen.
X must happen.
X is certain to happen.
X will happen.
X has a probability of 1 of happening.
X is inevitable to happen.

These are all precisely the same statements using slightly different words.


Conclusion
Something has got to give.

Bilbo said...

Hi SP,

If you want to continue arguing that God's knowing the future and free will are incompatible, I suggest you adopt the argument from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which I have already linked to twice.

Bilbo said...

Hi Steve Lovell,

Regardless of your success or failure at convincing SP that his argument is invalid, there is still the argument from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy regarding the same issue. I'm curious how you would deal with it.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Bilbo,

The article on SEP is very good. If you read past the part you quoted you'll see it includes a response to the argument, which I'd be happy to defend.

Bilbo said...

It lists a number of possible responses. Which one(s) do you prefer?

Steve Lovell said...

Thanks Bilbo, good point. I'm taking the Ockhamist stance, and using Boethian analogies to help illustrate it's coherence.

In general I agree with the article that the principle of the necessity of the past is problematic and believe the incompatibility of the triad of propositions at the end (i.e. (a) to (c) in Section 5 - Beyond fatalism) will always provide good grounds for rejecting one of the premises in any argument for fatalism.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said... September 13, 2017 1:01 AM


Snippet #1
SL: you certainly can't deduce that you are a necessary being (in any sense) from the fact that you are certain that you exist.
SP: Even if intrinsic randomness is the case I can still be certain I exist, so I agree.
--Observation of an event that happened.

Snippet #2
SL: What is the probability you associate with "Stardusty exists"? (see previous comment)"
SP: One.
--Observation of an event that happened.

Snippet #3
SP:
X is necessary to happen.
X cannot fail to happen.
X must happen.
X is certain to happen.
X will happen.
X has a probability of 1 of happening.
X is inevitable to happen.
--Prediction of a real event that will happen, or an abstraction in a logical system of binary states being either true or false.


" Conclusion
Something has got to give."
--Conclusion: You have not differentiated between an observation of a real event that did happen as compared to a prediction of a real event that will happen, or an abstraction in a logical system of binary states being either true or false.

Hence your false perception of a conflict in my statement.

Omniscience requires determinism. You have provided no sound argumentation to the contrary.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Bilbo said.. September 13, 2017 2:26 AM

" If you want to continue arguing that God's knowing the future and free will are incompatible, I suggest you adopt the argument from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which I have already linked to twice."
--This isn't that complicated.

Omniscience is defined to include perfect foreknowledge.
Perfect foreknowledge requires determinism.
Determinism requires an absence of free will.

The rest is fluff.

Bilbo said...

Hi SP,

"Omniscience is defined to include perfect foreknowledge.
Perfect foreknowledge requires determinism.
Determinism requires an absence of free will."

It's not a big deal to me, but I think Steve has demonstrated that your second premise ain't necessarily so. I think that's why the SEP argument, though more complicated, is a better version of the argument. But since I think it is irrelevant to the issue of the efficacy of prayer, I'll let the two of you continue to thrash it out. Good luck.

Mortal said...

I believe I destroyed Stardusty's premise that omniscience necessitates determinism in my posting from September 12, 2017 7:32 AM.

The fact that I see a man crossing the street in no way causes him to cross the street.

The fact that God knows that I am going to eat oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow in no way causes me to eat oatmeal for breakfast.

I see no substantive difference between those two sentences.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Stardusty,

Sorry you've heard less from me today. Work is a little crazy at the moment, and it's occupying most of my waking thoughts. There are lots of different threads in this discussion which I'd like to pick up and attempt to tie together but I simply don't have time/energy and it would probably make for some tediously long comments in any case.

You've agreed that something can "have a probability of 1" and not be a necessity. Your own existence was the example. And yet you have also claimed that having a probability of 1 and being a necessity are equivalent.

Now you say what exactly? That your existence is observed fact. I have some quibbles about that, but okay. Well to God, future events are also observed facts. Supposing He foreknew them via time-travel (and you said the mechanism was not important) then that would be a pretty much perfect description. So, like your knowledge of your existence being certain but not implying your existence is necessary, in a similar way, God's knowledge of future events, however certain, does not imply that those events are necessary.

You write: "Omniscience requires determinism. You have provided no sound argumentation to the contrary."

Well the first part is the point under discussion. You are correct that I've not provided an argument that they are consistent. I thought it was pretty clear that the burden of proof was on you here.

Now, back to that argument (a)-(c), either we are talking about different things (which is certainly possible), or you are flat out wrong. I'm guessing it's the former. To help clarify the argument form I think you're using, allow me to write "It is necessarily the case that P" as "N: P".

This makes the argument (a)-(c) equivalent to:

(a) N: If A then B
(b) A
(c) Therefore, N: B

(In modal logic, the N would normally be replaced with a square box, but if that's possible here on blogger, I don't know how to do it.)

In no primer on logic will you ever find this argument endorsed as valid. Indeed, in the primer I have on my shelf it's given as an example of an invalid inference (Harry Gensler's _Introduction to Logic_, Chapter 7 section 3).

At this point, I expect you to say the argument is really more like:

(a*) N: If A then (N: B)
(b*) A
(c*) Therefore, N: B

This is certainly a valid argument, but now you'd owe us a further argument for (a*) since it would completely beg the question to assume it. And of course that argument better not be the invalid one (a)-(c). But I haven't seen anything else here.

I earlier asked you "in what sense does freedom require the ability of change the future?"
You replied: "Freedom requires that there is no specific, deterministic, or perfectly known future."

I'm not too sure what you mean by the first, we agree about the second, and we're debating the third. Interestingly, none of them seems to have any relationship with "changing the future".

Steve Lovell said...

Mortal,

I completely agree ... I'm taking the scenic route ;-)

bmiller said...

@Steve Lovell,

"Now, back to that argument (a)-(c), either we are talking about different things (which is certainly possible), or you are flat out wrong. I'm guessing it's the former."

I can see that you are not omniscience in this case. :-)
Nor have you read many of Strawdusty's posts.

But thanks for taking the time to respond, and for your civility in doing so.



Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said... September 13, 2017 12:37 PM

" I believe I destroyed Stardusty's premise that omniscience necessitates determinism in my posting from September 12, 2017 7:32 AM."
--That is a false belief.

" The fact that God knows that I am going to eat oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow in no way causes me to eat oatmeal for breakfast."
--Cause is irrelevant. The mechanism need not be specified. Perfect foreknowledge dictates that some mechanism for determinism is the case.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said...
September 13, 2017 1:29 PM
" You've agreed that something can "have a probability of 1" and not be a necessity."
--Only retrospectively on an element of intrinsic randomness in the universe.

To say an omniscient being exists is a different matter. To assert that a future event has a probability of 1 mandates that determinism is the case.


" Now you say what exactly? That your existence is observed fact. I have some quibbles about that, but okay. Well to God, future events are also observed facts. "
--Then there is no element of intrinsic randomness in the universe.

If the only information I have is my own self awareness that alone is not sufficient to absolutely discount the speculation of intrinsic randomness.

If the assertion is made that an omniscient being can foretell the future that rules out intrinsic randomness.

" God's knowledge of future events, however certain, does not imply that those events are necessary."
--Of course it does. If god can perfectly foretell the future then that is the only future that can happen.


" This makes the argument (a)-(c) equivalent to:

(a) N: If A then B
(b) A
(c) Therefore, N: B

(In modal logic, the N would normally be replaced with a square box, but if that's possible here on blogger, I don't know how to do it.)

In no primer on logic will you ever find this argument endorsed as valid. "
--Then all primers of logic are either mistaken or have simply not fully addressed this particular formulation.


"Indeed, in the primer I have on my shelf it's given as an example of an invalid inference (Harry Gensler's _Introduction to Logic_, Chapter 7 section 3)."
--Argument from authority is not impressive.

" At this point, I expect you to say the argument is really more like:

(a*) N: If A then (N: B)
(b*) A
(c*) Therefore, N: B

This is certainly a valid argument, but now you'd owe us a further argument for (a*) since it would completely beg the question to assume it. And of course that argument better not be the invalid one (a)-(c). But I haven't seen anything else here."
--Then you missed it in your professional haste and preoccupations.

"If A then B" is shorthand. It is nomenclature. It is formatted notation. We parse sentences and paragraphs and written language arguments, using a translation of sorts into logical notation. The notation has implicit meanings and understood omissions of words by convention.

One expanded version of "if A then B" is "If A is true then B is true".
There are many valid expansions of "if A then B" because the English language is rich with synonyms and sentence structures with equivalent meanings. You, as a PhD need me to lecture you on these sophomoric facts?

If A is true then B is true.
If A is true then B is always true.
Any time A is true then B must be true.
It is always the case that when A is true B necessarily is the case.
Necessarily when A is true then it is necessarily the case that B is always true.
And on and on and on.

Any person with a bit of education can write endless permutations that are all valid English language versions of "if A then B".

The primer probably does not bother to list all those permutations because they are obvious and superfluous and contain redundant wordings that are nevertheless logically valid.


" I earlier asked you "in what sense does freedom require the ability of change the future?"
You replied: "Freedom requires that there is no specific, deterministic, or perfectly known future."

I'm not too sure what you mean by the first, ."
--By specific I mean specified, as in an omniscient being who provides a specification regarding the future.

Hugo Pelland said...

Steve Lovell said...
"I accept "If Necessary then Eternal", but not "If Eternal then Necessary""
That's fair I think, given the context provided above. I wonder what more you get from this though. I am curious to know what you think basically, not what Aquinas or others have written about it.
So what else does that mean to you?

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I kind of admire your tenacity here.

It is certainly true that the same argument can be expressed in multiple different ways. But sometimes certain ways of expressing things are clearer. Moreover, sometimes the same form of words might be used by one person to express one proposition and by another to express a quite different one.

The two argument forms I present as (a)-(c) and (a*)-(c*) could both be expressed in the same form of words, but that would simply cause confusion. I think you are the unwitting victim of such confusion.

You've expressed concern about interpreting modal claims in terms of possible worlds. I also have some minor misgivings. The main virtue, in my view, is the ability to make language less ambiguous. As such, I'd like to note how very different the possible worlds readings of (a) and (a*) actually are:

(PWa) There is no possible world in which A and not-B
(PWa*) If A is true in the actual world, then there is no possible world in which B.

Now, I'm sure you'll admit that these are very different claims. What I think is that in our case, claims analogous to (PWa) may be true but will not validly lead to the conclusion you are looking for, while claims analogous to (PWa*) are essentially building in the conclusion for which you are arguing making the argument question begging unless that premise is giving further support.

You say I might have missed that further support. Perhaps so. I'm happy for you to point me (by quoting a timestamp) to the comment in which you made your argument. I'll be happy to address any point you feel I have not addressed to date.

Meanwhile, you say that arguments from authority are not impressive. Indeed, but I'm not trying to impress you. I'm trying to instill a moment of self-doubt. Moreover, I'm not simply quoting an authority. Rather I'm claiming that experts are unanimous on this point. If it is a matter of debate, you can presumably point me to a logic text from a respected publishing house in which the argument form (a)-(c) is endorsed as valid.






It seems to me you are suggesting that the arguments (a)-(c) and (a*)-(c*) are equivalent.
Commenting from my phone

Steve Lovell said...

Ooh, just noticed I'd left part of a previous redraft at the end of my last comment. Please ignore it.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Hugo,

I'm not too sure what you're asking in your latest question. Perhaps simply for me to further unpack the concept of "necessary being" as I understand it?

Unfortunately, I don't really have a settled view on this. I think there are at least two senses in which God had been claimed to be "necessary", and while I feel I understand one of them I'm not convinced by it, and the other I have a weaker grasp of.

The Ontological argument would seem to require that God's existence be Logically Necessary, that He exists "(at all times and) in all possible worlds", that "God does not exist" is incoherent. There are days when I find this plausible and attractive. But there are others when it seems to me insane.

Plantinga's version of the ontological argument uses this form of necessity. A simplified version of his argument says that if it's possible for there to be a necessary being such as God then there is (necessarily) a necessary being such as God. Appropriately understood this argument is valid. And the premise "A necessary being is possible" seems very plausible. However, no less plausible is the argument, also valid, that if it's possible that there is no necessary being, then it's necessary that there is no necessary being. And the (logical) possibility of God's non-existence strikes me intuitively as pretty much just as plausible as the possibility of His existence.

So how else might we understand God's necessity? Many philosophers seem to say that God is "metaphysically necessary". Unfortunately they say this much more often that they explain it. I've read quite a few volumes on the cosmological argument where the author seems to think that the meaning is obvious and needs no unpacking. The Thomists have an account, but I'm not convinced by their metaphysical scheme (yet?). At one point I emailed Norman Geisler to ask for clarification of the notion of necessity used in his form of the cosmological argument. His insultingly short response was that "God is actually necessary". Needless to say, I didn't find that very helpful.

I tend to think that metaphysically necessary ought to mean something like: logically necessary GIVEN the metaphysics of the actual world (in a similar way to how I might understand physically necessary and that which is mandated by truths of physics (in terms of laws/theories not "observations"). That's fine, but then what is the metaphysics of the actual world? Again the Thomists have an answer, but ...

I've no idea if those ramblings were helpful. Feel free to ask again.

Mortal said...

Hmm... On September 12th, 6:59 AM, Stardusty posted "We may validly say X necessarily happened because an omniscient being has foretold X." Then yesterday at 9:17 PM he writes "Cause is irrelevant."

Methinks Stardusty needs to learn the meaning of the word "because".

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Stardusty,

Scrolling up and down this discussion on my phone gets a little confusing due to the longer quotes from each other. I've scrolled past some (parts of?) your comments because I thought they were my comments, but actually just included quite a lot of my words in quoted form!

I just saw this: "Then all primers of logic are either mistaken or have simply not fully addressed this particular formulation."

Am I supposed to take this seriously? I'm hoping it was tongue in cheek.

As I was thinking on this yesterday, I began to think that you may be thinking something like the following:

- If our decisions are free, then the future is "branching".
- Our free decisions determine which branches are taken.
- It cannot be known what the future holds with respect to X unless all available branches are the same with respect to X ... one way for this to be the case would be if there were only one open branch.

While multiple futures are "open" it is not true to say "I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow", and nor is it true to say "I will not have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow".

Neither statement is true until tomorrow comes.

Now this strikes me as a reasonable position. False (in my view), but not insane. If a theist accepted it, then they'd put themselves in the Open Theism camp.

But notice that this doesn't mean the Open Theist thinks there are facts that God doesn't know. Rather there are new facts "created" as time rolls by. Moreover, notice that the way this would support your argument is by explaining why it would not be possible to know the future unless there is a "determinate" future to be known. God, in fact, plays little or no role in the argument.

The real heavy lifting is done by the model of time: future contingents do not have a truth value (or are all false depending on quite how you parse them).

You may recall that very early in this discussion I asked if you thought the argument was equally persuasive if your did without reference to God's perfect foreknowledge and instead replaced it with the idea that there are truths about the future. You never really answered that question and seemed to me to be insisting that God does play a role in your argument, so I hadn't reopened that question.

I now believe you are saying you can't make sense of the idea that God knows the future unless you also assume that the future has a determinate shape to it, and that for the future to have a determinate shape is for there to be only one open branch or for all the open branches to have no relevant differences.

I'm doing my best to sympathetically interpret your position here. Is this your thinking?

Mortal said...

Neither statement is true until tomorrow comes.

The opposite of Schroedinger's Cat! The poor cat is neither alive nor dead until you open the box. Until you do, he's both! The statements, "The cat is alive," and The cat is dead," are simultaneously true.

Hugo Pelland said...

Steve Lovell said...
"I'm not too sure what you're asking in your latest question. Perhaps simply for me to further unpack the concept of "necessary being" as I understand it?"

Yes, that's exactly what I was asking, and you did a great job at it I believe. Useful ramblings ;)

The only comment I would make is this: if your view is not settled on this, it seems to imply that arguments that depend on a 'necessary being' are not convincing enough. Therefore, we can discard them as arguments in favor of God's existence. It does not, in any way, prove the contrary of course; it's still possible that there is God. It's just not a good way to justify the belief.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 14, 2017 6:12 AM .

SP " I just saw this: "Then all primers of logic are either mistaken or have simply not fully addressed this particular formulation."

" Am I supposed to take this seriously? I'm hoping it was tongue in cheek."
--Unfortunately for the general state of affairs in philosophy my statement is accurate.

Investigating your error further I found a great school of philosophers who engage in the same sort of error. Not surprising.

Here is one such example. He ends pompously with "class dismissed". How amusing when the ignorant are so smug.
http://maverickphilosopher.blogspot.com/2004/05/necessitas-consequentiae-versus.html

Your error, and the large body of philosophers who engage in this error, relates to a lack of understanding of prior probability as opposed to posterior probability. The problem is exacerbated by the theistic tendency to wander about mentally, somewhat aimlessly as Craig does in the short video I had linked to you previously, where he reverts in time and then just stops thinking any further without carrying on with the consequences of his change, rather, his analysis just fizzles and is easily shown to be erroneous by the narrator of the video.

In a more extreme example the above author fails to understand the necessity of truth in tautology.

Nec(p->p)
p->Nec p

In English we read left to right. Of course a thing that is logically prior can be to the right in a sentence depending on sentence structure, but in this case reading left to right is helpful.

The prior probability of p is unknown without further information. So the prior probability of p cannot be stated as certainly 1. I have no justification, without further information, that p is necessary.

Once I know p is in fact true then the posterior probability of p is 1.

What is the first thing we see in this statement?
p->Nec p

We see that p is true, therefore we know that necessarily p is true. After we know p is true we have the certainty of a tautology that p is true. Once we have stated p is true then it is necessarily the case that p is true, else we have a false tautology, which is incoherent.

You, and apparently all the primers if your survey of them is accurate, and the above author, and a sadly vast body of like minded philosophers, are all in error because after having been told p is true you promptly forget that established fact and revert your thinking back to the prior probability. I have found time sequence of event problems and logical sequential progressions to be an especially weak area among philosophers, especially the theistic sort.

Nec A then B
A
therefore nec B

This is an obviously valid argument. The premise is that it is necessarily the case that when A is true B is also true.
Then we are told A is in fact true.
So of course B must necessarily be true. That follows inescapably from the premise. Every time A is true B is also always true.
Given that A is true the posterior probability of B being true is 1.
After A is stated to be true the only ways B could be false is if either the original premise is false or the statement about A being true is false. That would make the argument unsound by false premise, but not logically invalid.


" But notice that this doesn't mean the Open Theist thinks there are facts that God doesn't know."
--Then god is not omniscient and the requirement that the universe is deterministic on omniscience no longer applies.


" I now believe you are saying you can't make sense of the idea that God knows the future unless you also assume that the future has a determinate shape to it, and that for the future to have a determinate shape is for there to be only one open branch or for all the open branches to have no relevant differences."
--I would have put it more simply that if god perfectly knows the future then the universe is deterministic, but that seems to amount to about the same thing as you describe.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said.. September 14, 2017 4:44 AM.

" Hmm... On September 12th, 6:59 AM, Stardusty posted "We may validly say X necessarily happened because an omniscient being has foretold X." Then yesterday at 9:17 PM he writes "Cause is irrelevant."

Methinks Stardusty needs to learn the meaning of the word "because"."
--Methinks you need to focus on the subject.

A thing may be validly said because of P.
We don't need to know the cause of P. P could have happened for a variety of reasons. The cause of P is irrelevant. We know that when P is true that thing is valid irrespective of the cause of P.

Focus, Mortal, focus. Concentrate on the logic of the propositions and what is actually being stated and reasoned.

Steve Lovell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I said that I might have to give up this discussion if you really thought the argument (a)-(c) was valid. Well, we appear to have reached that point.

My faith in your rational powers has finally given way. Perhaps it was irrational to hold such faith in the beginning. I didn't have much evidence for it, but sometimes an exercise in faith can be a path to discovery. Apparently not on this occasion.

You may consider this a victory for your argumentation. It is nothing of the sort. You simply don't understand modal logic and apparently show no concern about the fact that you are at odds with all recognised experts. If you think there is anything right about Loftus' outsider test (I do, though I don't endorse the way he uses it), this ought to give you pause.

I'm happy to let any other remaining readers make their own decisions.

Hugo Pelland said...

(a) Necessarily if A then B
(b) A
(c) Therefore, necessarily B

That's the (a)-(c) argument you refer too, right?
Sorry just confirming as It's far up now!

It's true without the 2 instances of 'necessarily', but not true as is. I see how this relates to contingent vs eternal.

(a) implies B could be eternal, but not non-contingent. B cannot be necessary. B depends on A.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Hugo,

Yes, that's the argument. The necessity in question here was the "necessity of the future" (or of particular future events) rather than anything else. Without the "necessarily" in the conclusion, or without both instances of the word, the argument is perfectly valid. When it's included, it becomes necessary to clarify the meaning to assess validity. Stardusty seems to think the valid and invalid forms say the same thing.

In terms of argument structure, "If A then B" doesn't really tell you about the dependency relations. If interpreted in terms of mathematical proofs, then I think what you've said is natural, though it could lead to oddities as there are cases when both "If A then B" and "If B then A" are both accepted. And these and a great many other cases the relations of inference and the relations of dependency come apart.

In fact, in many cases it's natural to think of "If A then B" expressing the opposite dependency. "If A then B", or "Necessarily: if A then B" is equivalent to saying either:

(X) A is a sufficient condition for B
or (Y) B is a necessary condition for A

And if we thought of God creating freely, and it being impossible for those things to exist without Him, it is more natural to use the second formulation and substitute B for "God" and A for "something other than God" (or what have you).

On your earlier comment about my struggles with the concept of God's necessity and what that means for the arguments for God's existence which use the concept, I'm pretty much in agreement. There are forms of both arguments which I think are valid and indeed sound. But I can't see how to make them fully persuasive. On the ontological argument, I can't see that that even could change and it seems like an "all or nothing" sort of situation.

I feel a little differently about the cosmological argument. C Stephen Evans writes of the "Cosmological Insight" and argues that there are considerations here which point in a theistic direction. This is admittedly vague, but chimes nicely with my own thoughts on the matter. Moreover, while the arguments may or may not be useful in terms of rational persuasion, I think both can be the basis of deep and intellectually satisfying meditation on the nature of God and creation and may help one clarify one's ideas about our proper relationship to both.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 15, 2017 1:20 AM.

" I said that I might have to give up this discussion if you really thought the argument (a)-(c) was valid. Well, we appear to have reached that point."
--Typical theist. Offers no counter argument, only leaves.

" My faith in your rational powers has finally given way. Perhaps it was irrational to hold such faith in the beginning."
--Why would you have faith in me? You seem to form faith easily and then become disillusioned when the object of your faith seems in your view to fail your test of faith.

" You may consider this a victory for your argumentation. It is nothing of the sort. "
--Empty claim absent specific argumentation.

"You simply don't understand modal logic"
--Typical theist, no actual counter argument, you just declare "you don't understand".

" and apparently show no concern about the fact that you are at odds with all recognised experts. "
--Argument from authority.

Steve Lovell said...

< shakes head />

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hugo Pelland said...

(a) Necessarily if A then B
(b) A
(c) Therefore, necessarily B

(a) implies B could be eternal, but not non-contingent. B cannot be necessary. B depends on A.

September 15, 2017 1:25 AMSteve Lovell said.. September 15, 2017 2:10 AM.

" Hi Hugo,

Yes, that's the argument."
--A very bad one.

Now you are confusing correlation with causation.

B might not depend on A. Additional statements might be true.
Nec if C then B
Nec if D then B
and on and on and on without upper bound.

Further, it could be the case that A depends on B.
Let A = son.
Let B = mother.
Necessarily if son then mother.

Or both A and B might be derived from X. We could have knowledge that A and B are always created by X in pairs. For every A there is a B. For every B there is an A.

The argument abc is clearly valid. I suggest you both spend less time unquestioningly accepting authority and common knowledge and status quo and spend more time thinking for yourselves and demanding specific rational arguments instead of links to dusty reference books.

Stardusty Psyche said...

I'll help you folks out with an example theists might be able to relate to.

Necessarily if creation then creator
creation
therefor necessarily creator

This is actually a very common theistic argument for god. Interesting that no theistic philosopher I am aware of complained about supposed violation of every logic primer and ignorance of modal logic in making this argument.

The argument is logically valid. It is unsound because of the assertion of "creation" merely begs the question in the greater argument of existential origins.

Steve Lovell said...

I'm going to make one more attempt, but I think I know where this is heading ...

If the argument form (a)-(c) is valid, then the following, since it exhibits that form is also valid:

(x) Necessarily, if P then P
(y) P
(z) Therefore, necessarily P

The first premise is true. It is necessarily the case that if something is true, then it's true. Take any random truth you accept and substitute it for P. Then that will make the second premise true also. If the argument form is valid, then the conclusion also follows, namely that P is a necessary truth. So if the argument form is valid, then all truths are necessary truths.

If you believe that, then there really is no hope.

Steve Lovell said...

By the way, your argument that you think theists will relate to is also invalid. It would be valid if you removed the "necessarily" from the conclusion. The necessity in play in the valid version is a necessary relation between the premises and the conclusion. There is no necessity within the conclusion itself. Then you express arguments the way you have done, it simply invites confusion.

Steve Lovell said...

Sorry, **when** you express arguments the way you have done ...

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said..
So if the argument form is valid, then all truths are necessary truths.
--All truths that are known to be truths are necessarily truths because a tautology is necessarily true.

You reverted to prior probability at the very last step, suddenly forgetting that you already stated P is true.

The prior probability of P is unknown. We cannot validly state the probability of P from 0 to 1 without further information.

In line (b) that information is provided. P is true. After reading (b) we have knowledge that the probability of P being true is 1 and is therefore necessarily true.

The last line states "therefore". To say "therefore" is to refer back to all the previous statements, and to make a conclusion, not in isolation, not based on knowledge prior to the argument, rather, in full consideration of all information provided throughout the argument.

Absent (a) and (b) P cannot validly be said to be necessarily true. but (c) starts with the word "therefore" which means "in consideration of previous statements". In consideration of (a) and (b) P is necessarily true. To revert to the prior probability after the logical sequence and ignoring the word "therefore" is invalid.

BTW, I can also clearly show where Anselm made a logically invalid step in his ontological argument. Many people do not understand that either. As a young man even Bertrand Russel thought the ontological argument was sound, or at least he could not identify any logically invalid step. Russel was wrong. It is unfortunate that certain misconceptions are so widespread.

Steve Lovell said...

This is a somewhat promising response Stardusty.

But the argument is completely general and it makes no difference whether P is a statement about the past,the present or the future.

If you think through the consequences of how you have rationalised your position on the invalidity of (x)-(y) you'll see there is no real content to the "must" in your arguments for determinism; the "must" is a connection between premises and conclusion not part of the conclusion. It only follows that we _will_ do what God foreknows we will do, not that we _must_ do it. It really does follow, and it follows "of necessity" but the content of the conclusion doesn't become necessary on that account.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 15, 2017 2:41 PM .

" But the argument is completely general and it makes no difference whether P is a statement about the past,the present or the future."

P is true therefore P is necessarily true.
Valid statement.

P is true therefore P was necessarily true.
Invalid statement.

P will be true therefore P will necessarily be true.
Valid statement on the assumption that the word "will" is infallible.

If I say P will be true that is a mere human assertion and carries doubt.
If an omniscient god says P will be true then P necessarily will be true, and so must necessarily come to be true, but not necessarily because god acts to make P true since god could simply be observing P to become true without causing P to become true.

" If you think through the consequences of how you have rationalised your position on the invalidity of (x)-(y) you'll see there is no real content to the "must" in your arguments for determinism; the "must" is a connection between premises and conclusion not part of the conclusion. It only follows that we _will_ do what God foreknows we will do, not that we _must_ do it. It really does follow, and it follows "of necessity" but the content of the conclusion doesn't become necessary on that account."
--When an omniscient being foreknows X then X necessarily will occur as foreknown. The necessity of X occurring need not be due to god's intervention or creation or direct action, but some mechanism that mandates X must be the case and X must necessarily occur. We know of this necessity because god is omniscient and the things god foresees cannot fail to occur.

Synonymous statement:
X must occur
X cannot fail to occur
X has a probability of 1 to occur
X will certainly occur
X will necessarily occur
Certainly X will occur
Necessarily X will occur

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

The following is written in some frustration. It does not provide much in the way of argument, but instead summarises what seems to me the state of things. Doubtless the state of things appears rather different to you.

You don't understand the meaning of "necessarily". You keep confusing the necessity of a relationship between two propositions and the necessity of a proposition itself. You are supporting this confusion by insisting that things which aren't synonyms are synonyms and then claiming that all recognised authorities are simply wrong on the matter of whether a particular argument form is valid. Frankly this strikes me as delusional.

All that necessarily follows from God knowing that P is that P. It does not follow that necessarily P.

It makes no difference whether P is a statement about the past, the present or the future.

That necessity would need a separate demonstration. The final corners in which your view may yet find some hope lie in unpacking ideas such as temporal asymmetry (the "necessity" of the past Vs the openness of the future) and models of time on which there are no (contingent) truths about the future. You have been offered such possible routes by Bilbo and I and have failed/refused to take them. It is down to you to make your own views plausible. We've tried to help, but so far you keep insisting on repeating the same nonsense with which you began.

Rant over (for now).

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

You write:

"P is true therefore P is necessarily true.
Valid statement."

This is a claim that all truths are necessary truths. It's false. Now one may choose to so mangle language that this statement expresses a truth. Fine, but it won't help anyone be clear in their thinking. That's in large part why this thread has become so long and tedious. Clarity is a virtue in speech and writing.

Please re-express your argument without mangling language like this.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 16, 2017 2:47 AM .

" You don't understand the meaning of "necessarily". "
--Interesting, do tell.

"You keep confusing the necessity of a relationship between two propositions and the necessity of a proposition itself."
--No, but I am not surprised you think so.

" You are supporting this confusion by insisting that things which aren't synonyms are synonyms and then claiming that all recognised authorities are simply wrong on the matter of whether a particular argument form is valid. Frankly this strikes me as delusional."
--I will be happy to be of as much assistance as I am capable of in helping you overcome your delusions :-)

" All that necessarily follows from God knowing that P is that P. It does not follow that necessarily P."
--For human beings the prior probability of P is unknown even if it is known that P is presently true, so the prior necessity of P is unknown even if P is known to be presently true. Given that P is known with certainty to be presently true then P is necessarily presently true, because a tautology is necessarily true.

For an omniscient eternal being there is no prior probability. God has always known P will be true at some particular time, therefore P necessarily will be true or is true or became true at that particular time (depending on the human perspective of that time as future, present, or past respectively).

" It makes no difference whether P is a statement about the past, the present or the future."
--I am sorry you do not follow the importance of the time sequence of events implicit in the formulation of various notations and textual arguments. That is a weakness common in philosophy and especially common among theistic philosophers, which may account for your assertion that I am at odds with "all recognized authorities". If all recognized authorities have difficulties in time sequence analysis like yours that would explain there common errors.


" That necessity would need a separate demonstration. The final corners in which your view may yet find some hope lie in unpacking ideas such as temporal asymmetry (the "necessity" of the past Vs the openness of the future) and models of time on which there are no (contingent) truths about the future. You have been offered such possible routes by Bilbo and I and have failed/refused to take them."
--That is very kind of you but I really do not need to mold my analysis into your frame work of necessity and contingency. My analysis stands on the words I have chosen to express it. I am sorry you have yet to develop the capability to understand this time sequence analysis. Many highly trained and intelligent philosophers who are otherwise very proficient in many areas are weak in this line of reasoning.

" It is down to you to make your own views plausible."
--Already done. You have not offered specific counter argument, only general references to other terminology.

" We've tried to help, but so far you keep insisting on repeating the same nonsense with which you began."
--I realize it does not make sense to you. So, I have said essentially the same sorts of things using a variety of examples and sentence structures. This is a common pedagogical technique.


" Rant over (for now)."
--As opposed to ranting generalities you might wish to carefully follow my reasoning that is manifestly unfamiliar to you and difficult for you to comprehend.

Perhaps in attempting to identify specific errors in my actual words you will come to realize that my analysis is sound.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

You may "talk down" to me as much as you wish. It may succeed in making me angry. It will not make your points any more credible.

You still seem to think that the argument (a)-(c) is valid. It isn't. Remember that example of the "unmarriable batchelor"? That has the same form. You admitted it was invalid.

You still haven't explained in what sense the capacity for free choice entails the ability to change the future. It doesn't.

You still haven't clarified your position with respect to whether you think the argument for determinism works when we take God out of the picture and replace Him with the mere existence of truths about the future. I believe the two stand and fall together. And that both fall.

Will certainly occur is not synonymous with will necessarily occur. To think otherwise is to confuse "conditional necessity" with "absolute necessity", the necessity of a relationship between propositions with the necessity of the propositions themselves.

Let me take a different route. You have said that the mechanism by which God knows the future is not important.

So, rather than talk about God, let us talk about an imagined lesser being. Let's call him Snod. Snod is like God in that he observes all events as they happen and has perfect recall of past events.

I presume you agree that the existence of Snod would not entail determinism. Let Snod live through all of time and finish time knowing all that occurred. Throughout the process, Snod has not known the future choices of humans, and those choices were, we may suppose, free.

Now having reached the end of time, imagine that Snod by whatever means is transported back to the beginning and lives through all of time again. He is there only as an observer and doesn't interact. However, since he has perfect recall, he now does possess "foreknowledge". He has observed these events before and recalls them perfectly. So although he knows them "from his own past", relative to his location in external time, what he knows is "the future". And note that the events are not happening a second time, rather he is observing them a second time.

Since they are one and the same series of events, if they were free the first time that Snod observed them, they are also free the second time he observed them.

Now it seems that Snod has foreknowledge and that that foreknowledge in no way entails determinism. Presumably you think that something about this story is incoherent. What?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said.. September 16, 2017 4:58 AM.

SP "P is true therefore P is necessarily true.
Valid statement."

" This is a claim that all truths are necessary truths."
--No, it is, among other things, a claim that all tautologies are necessarily true.

" It's false."
--Your claim about my claim is false.

I followed that statement by substituting the word "was" for the word "is".

You may not be surprised to learn I rather enjoyed Clinton back in the day as he said interpretation depends on what the meaning of "is" is. In a legal setting it is the responsibility of opposing counsel to ask "is there now or has there ever been". The failure of counsel to use that phrase gave Clinton the opportunity to play upon the subtlety of "is" to answer in the sense of the present moment excluding past events.

Many people were aghast at how Clinton had supposedly mangled the language. In fact he had merely used the language with razor sharp acuity.


"That's in large part why this thread has become so long and tedious. Clarity is a virtue in speech and writing. Please re-express your argument without mangling language like this."
--Already done. I went to some lengths to give you wordings of "is", "was", and "will". I further indicated the differences between a human being and an omniscient being as it relates to those usages.

I think part of the problem is that my ordering of statements placed something unfamiliar and for you controversial or seemingly absurd first. I will re-order them here in a way that introduces you to some less controversial wordings first.

P is true therefore P was necessarily true.
Invalid statement because the prior probability of P remains unknown even though P is presently known to be true.

P is true therefore P is necessarily true.
Valid statement because the prior probability is unimportant to the posterior probability of P. The bolded "is" is used in the colloquial sense of human perception of the present, which is an internal model of recent past, present moment, and immediately foreseeable future. The first use of "is" is temporally and logically prior to the second use of the word "is". The word "therefore" means "in consideration of". A tautology is necessarily true.
First we state P is certainly true.
Then we state that we wish to consider further conclusions in light of our now past statement that P is certainly true.
Since a tautology is necessarily true, we may now state in a logically and temporally posterior conclusion referencing a previous knowledge that P is certainly true the P is at this present time certainly and therefore necessarily true.
P cannot fail to be presently true. P must be presently true therefore P is necessarily true.

So, while this may all make you frustrated and drive you to ranting, well, unfortunate as that is I have a very solid time sequence, logical, and linguistic analysis of omniscience as it relates to the necessity of a deterministic future and therefore the necessity of all events in the future.

Having laid the groundwork of the necessity of a true tautology we can extend this tautological reasoning as it applies to the word "will"

Stardusty Psyche said...


P will be true therefore P will necessarily be true.
Valid statement on the assumption that the word "will" is infallible.

If I say P will be true that is a mere human assertion and carries doubt.
If an omniscient god says P will be true then P necessarily will be true, and so must necessarily come to be true, but not necessarily because god acts to make P true since god could simply be observing P to become true without causing P to become true.


In the context of the argument for determinism as necessarily correlated with omniscience these are in fact synonymous statements:
X must occur
X cannot fail to occur
X has a probability of 1 to occur
X will certainly occur
X will necessarily occur
Certainly X will occur
Necessarily X will occur

We can think of a necessary future event as and event that must happen, or an event that cannot fail to happen, or an event with the probability of 1 of happening, or an event that is certain to happen. The English language is rich with alternative wordings. You may attempt to draw distinctions between them but there is no meaningful difference in this context.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

Many thanks for your efforts to clarify. I still think you are making some fundamental errors here. However, suppose I accept (which I don't) that the argument (a)-(c) is valid. There are ways of reading it which make it okay, I just think they are far less clear than the alternative wordings for the valid version and lead to confusion. If we are consistent in our use of words, that shouldn't be a problem.

So, I reproduce the argument I attributed to you way way back ...

(1) I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(2) God knows that I will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.
(3) On omniscience, God cannot be wrong.
(4) Therefore, I cannot bring it about that God is wrong.
(5) If I didn't have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow, then I'd bring it about that God is wrong.
(6) Therefore, I cannot fail to have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow.

I don't think you've ever actually said that this is your reasoning, but nor have you said that it isn't. But it certainly seems to be.

I'd originally said that the problem will this argument is that "cannot fail" in the final line simply didn't follow. If you were using standard argument forms, then I'd still want to say that. However, it turns out you want this to be a conditional statement which still keeps God's foreknowledge in view, and not an absolute statement that stands on its own. As such, it is, according to your synonyms, equivalent to "will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow".

The problem with this, however, is that it isn't determinism. It's just saying that God has got it right. And I agree with that.

Time for bed.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said...


" I'd originally said that the problem will this argument is that "cannot fail" in the final line simply didn't follow. If you were using standard argument forms, then I'd still want to say that. "
--Then either you are mistaken or standard argument forms are inadequate for this sort of analysis.

"However, it turns out you want this to be a conditional statement which still keeps God's foreknowledge in view,"
--Of course, that is the whole point, the consequences of omniscience. Why would we ignore omniscience in an argument about omniscience?

"and not an absolute statement that stands on its own. As such, it is, according to your synonyms, equivalent to "will have Cheerios for breakfast tomorrow"."
--Will certainly.
Must.
Necessarily will.
Has a probability of 1.

" The problem with this, however, is that it isn't determinism. It's just saying that God has got it right. And I agree with that."
--If an omniscient god knows today I will eat Cheerios tomorrow it is not the case that I merely will eat Cheerios tomorrow.
If it is true that an omniscient god knows I will each Cheerios tomorrow then:
I must
I certainly will
I have to
I cannot fail to
necessarily I will
certainly I will
there is a probability of 1 I will
there is a probability of 0 I won't
eat Cheerios tomorrow.

That is determinism.

Steve Lovell said...

Oh ... the internet ate my last comment :(

Bit busy today, I'll repost when time allows.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Blogger Steve Lovell said.. September 16, 2017 1:50 PM.

" Will certainly occur is not synonymous with will necessarily occur. To think otherwise is to confuse "conditional necessity" with "absolute necessity","
--On an omniscient eternal god all conditional necessities are absolute necessities and everything in the universe is an absolute necessity.

Moreover, by acknowledging the term "conditional necessity" you have implicitly affirmed my argument. Recall, I said the posterior probability of P is 1 in consideration of the statement P is true, but that does not mean the prior probability is known simply because P is now known to be true.

Once P is known to be true by an omniscient being it becomes a conditional necessity. Since the omniscient being has always known P would be true then P has always been a necessity and is thus an absolute necessity.


Let me take a different route. You have said that the mechanism by which God knows the future is not important.

" Snod is like God in that he observes all events as they happen and has perfect recall of past events."
--Observation of present events does not by itself require determinism.

" Now having reached the end of time, imagine that Snod by whatever means is transported back to the beginning and lives through all of time again. He is there only as an observer and doesn't interact. However, since he has perfect recall, he now does possess "foreknowledge". He has observed these events before and recalls them perfectly. So although he knows them "from his own past", relative to his location in external time, what he knows is "the future". And note that the events are not happening a second time, rather he is observing them a second time."
--Since he experienced these events before and he knows how he will experience them again then the mechanism by which events unfold must be deterministic, else he cannot count on his memories being experienced a second time.



" Since they are one and the same series of events, if they were free the first time that Snod observed them, they are also free the second time he observed them."
--That does not follow. Reinacting extemporaneous speech is not extemporaneous speech.

" Now it seems that Snod has foreknowledge and that that foreknowledge in no way entails determinism. Presumably you think that something about this story is incoherent. What?"
--Besides the fanciful descriptions of time travel the assertion that the second time could have been free if the first time could have been free is a non-sequitur.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

I'm not too fussed about your views on Snod. I can understand you wanting to say that when Snod returns to those times he's previously experienced that the same events might not happen. I disagree, but it makes a weird sort of sense. The reason I disagree, for what it's worth, is that "those are the things that happened at time t" and he's "visiting t". I am not imagining the events happening again. I am imagining Snod experiencing them again. If it were the former, then I'd have to concede your point ... but I don't see it that way.

Anyway, to return to your own argument (and my comment which went AWOL) ...

You write: "Why would we ignore omniscience in an argument about omniscience?"

Now I didn't mean to say that we can ignore God's omniscience, but that we may bracket the particular things which He foreknows. I assume that your response would remain much the same. However, I think you're mistaken here. To assert that we have free will (or that we don't) is to say something about what is possible in addition to what is actual (or what is not possible). We are inevitably considering things counterfactual and in the subjunctive mood. And for that reason, it can be legitimate to bracket things which we know to be true in the actual world. Allow me to illustrate my point using an argument about which we have already reached a degree of agreement:

a) Bachelors are necessarily unmarried.
b) John is a bachelor.
Therefore, c) John cannot marry.

This argument has the same format as the ones you endorse, although we both agree that the argument is incorrect. The problem with this argument is that it invalidly applies the necessity of the tautology to the conclusion. That John isn't married follows of necessity, but it does not follow that it's a necessity that John isn't married. So, it is only "conditionally necessary" that John isn't married. If I were to insist that nevertheless John is necessarily unmarried (and therefore cannot marry), you'd be quite right to insist that I'm holding the premise b) fixed in a way which is illegitimate.

If I were to respond "why would we ignore John's being a bachelor in an argument about bachelors", you'd think I was mad. And rightly so.

Well ...

Stardusty Psyche said...

Steve Lovell said

a) Bachelors are necessarily unmarried.
b) John is a bachelor.
Therefore, c) John cannot marry.

"This argument has the same format as the ones you endorse"
--No it isn't. That argument is obviously unsound. "Subjunctive mood" is irrelevant. You seem to argue in a manner known in the upper midwest of the USA as a "snowjob". The metaphor refers to expressing a blizzard of irrelevancies, side issues, and parenthetical statements to hide the truth, like a needle in a haystack, to invoke another such metaphor.

Omniscience mandates determinism.
Determinism mandates an absence of free will.

This isn't complicated. Since god has always known everything that will ever happen in the universe then everything in the universe absolutely necessarily must happen according to that single known script, whether god causes it to happen or merely observes events with other causes.

Since there is only 1 possible future and that future is presently known the universe is deterministic. On a deterministic universe free will is an illusion.

If your training as a PhD you claim to be did not prepare you to quickly and easily reach these obvious and simple conclusions then that training is either erroneous or incomplete.

Steve Lovell said...

Stardusty,

If you re-read you latest you'll see that it contains nothing of substance beyond two assertions provided without support. One of these is

"Omniscience mandates determinism.
Determinism mandates an absence of free will."

That your conclusion, repeating it as a mantra doesn't make it any more true.

The other is:

"Since there is only 1 possible future and that future is presently known the universe is deterministic. On a deterministic universe free will is an illusion."

This is either a mere assertion or a circular argument. You begin with "there is only one possible future" which isn't a promising start.

When your best shot is attempting to cast doubt on whether I have a PhD in philosophy, which is a matter of public record, things aren't looking good. I can send you a copy of my certificate if you like, and you can find a copy of my thesis in the British Library.

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