Friday, June 26, 2009

Freedom and Foreknowledge: Are We Really Free if Someone Knows The Future?

Try this little argument on for size:

1. If God not only believes, but knows that I will choose (x) at time (t) in the future, then the following statement is already true:

S = “S.B. will choose (x) at (t).”


(I may not be in a position to know S is true, but God is in such a position, being able to “see” that future event.)

2. If S is already true, then it is not now possible that S is going to be false.

3. If it is not now possible that S is going to be false, then it is not now possible that I will choose to do something other than (x) at time (t).

4. If it is not now possible that I will choose to do something other than (x) at time (t), then I am not free at that time to do anything other than (x).
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5. Therefore, I am not free at time (t) to do anything other than (x).

[This argument can be repeated for all statements concerning all of my choices in the future. It follows that I am not free in regard to any future choice of mine. In fact, the argument can be applied to all statements concerning all of my choices, past, present and future. So, I have never been free.]

Try this differently worded version:


1. S = “S.B. will freely choose (x) at (t).”


2. If S is already true, then it is not now possible that S is going to be false.

3. If it is not now possible that S is going to be false, then it is not now possible that I will freely choose to do something other than (x) at time (t).

4. If it is not now possible that I will freely choose to do something other than (x) at time (t), then I am not free at that time to do anything other than (x).
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5. Therefore, I am not free at time (t) to do anything other than (x).

Is this little argument a proof, a paradox, or some sort or fallacious argument? Can foreknowledge and freedom happily coexist?

To test the argument, consider the step from #1 to #2. Does it follow from the fact that it is now true that I will choose to do some particular thing, like drink a bottle of Porter beer at 3:01 pm next Thursday (even if, right now I don't know that I will so choose) that it is also the case right now that it is impossible that I do something else?