Free Will and prima causa


#1

A recent discussion in another thread led me to an interesting question:

Does a free thought, i.e. a thought that came from an act of Free Will, have a cause?

If so, is it really free? I say, if there are a chain of deterministic steps that led to this thought, it is not free.

If not, wouldn’t that seriously hurt the reasoning made by Thomas v. Aquin and others, that everything must have a cause, and to avoid an infinite chain of causes, God must exist as the ultimate cause (prima causa)?


#2

I don’t want to jump into the middle of your discussion from the previous thread, but I have a few thoughts, for what they’re worth. The problem I see is in definitions. Free will certainly isn’t totally free of all causes. Any choice we make is driven by many factors - our life experience, our desires, our fears, our ethical boundaries, physical limitations, etc. Free will is not free from all influences. The concept of free will with respect to an omnipotent and all-loving creator is an incredibly complex thing indeed. As I understand it (with my limited faculties, of course - I’m no theologian or philosopher), free will is more a limitation that God places on Himself rather than the granting of an all-encompassing freedom to choose to us. As Christians understand it, God loves us as children and wants us to choose to love and obey Him. In order for us to make that choice, we have to have some freedom to choose and not simply be pre-programmed to love and obey God. However, in order for the Creator of all to allow us to choose to love and obey Him, we also have to be free to hate Him, reject Him, disobey Him, and even choose not to even believe He exists. Although He wants us to choose Him, He limits Himself and cannot interfere in that choice directly. This limitation has far-reaching consequences and somewhere in this mystery is the answer to the objection I hear from atheists with whom I have talked on the matter - how can there be an omnipotent and all-loving God who allows evil and suffering.

Anyway - back on topic…

Why does God want us to choose? I haven’t a clue. However, I’m a father of four boys, so my understanding of free will has gained greater clarity since I have had the opportunity to look at my interaction with my sons. There are things that I want them to do because I know that it will be good for them; however, if I try to force them, they rebel. Therefore, I have learned to stand back and let them make some of their own choices so that they can learn from direct experience and not just accept what I say on faith alone. After a few unpleasant experiences, I have found that they are much more willing to accept, on faith, what I say because they have learned to trust me and know that I am interested in their good. This is a simplistic analogy, but compared with God, we are simple creatures.


#3

I like these kinds of questions … though I know they will never come to a satisfactory conclusion they do get one’s synapses jumping.

I have thought that Free Will has to do with an action, not a thought. Thoughts come from seemingly out of nowhere, but how I respond to those thoughts is Free Will.

Example: Being cut off and almost run off the road in traffic by a cell phone talking imbecile. My thoughts at that moment … rage, violence and who knows what else. I cannot explain how those thoughts got in there in a few nanoseconds. But my reaction to those thought bursts are mine. I choose to retailiate, cool-off or go home and kick the dog.

Free Will gives me the ability to choose my actions … I own those actions and are held accountable for them … both to society and to God.

Thanks for listening.


#4

Now, that’s interesting.
Do you think, those thoughts have a cause? What about the process of responding (as you call it) itself? Does it have a cause?

Is man creative here?


#5

Has anyone had an “Original” thought? If you say “yes”, then how do know the thought was original?

For myself, I do not think I have had an original thought. What we think started with a “blank slate” and through our senses we added data. A reordering or rearranging of the data may produce a new thought for that particular individual. But in the cosmic sence that thought was not original. Ha Ha , just a thought.:crying:


#6

[quote=Exporter]Has anyone had an “Original” thought? If you say “yes”, then how do know the thought was original?

For myself, I do not think I have had an original thought. What we think started with a “blank slate” and through our senses we added data. A reordering or rearranging of the data may produce a new thought for that particular individual. But in the cosmic sence that thought was not original. Ha Ha , just a thought.:crying:
[/quote]

the potential to experience and original thought is found in the frequency our environment offers unique experiences. An original thought is formed when the experiences of our past stored in our memory fails to offer a satisfactory definition of the present experience. If the definition arrived at for a unique experience reflects the uniqueness of the experience it has the potential to be original in as much as that experience is unique among all experiences of all others of a species that share the environment.

I think…


#7

[quote=AnAtheist]Now, that’s interesting.
Do you think, those thoughts have a cause? What about the process of responding (as you call it) itself? Does it have a cause?

Is man creative here?
[/quote]

Free Will doesn’t rise out of thought or emotion. Both thought and emotion become habituated to repitition inherent in experience. Free will rises out of the service offered by the faculties of intellect and reason. Those faculties are able to offer definitions to experiences that are drawn from an order of reality inaccessible to animals. They also allow humans the possibility of defining unique experiences internally by means of mental processes rather than externally by means of past behaviours.


#8

[quote=AnAtheist]Now, that’s interesting.
Do you think, those thoughts have a cause? What about the process of responding (as you call it) itself? Does it have a cause?

Is man creative here?
[/quote]

Sure they have a cause… but I cannot explain it. I dont know if science can explain it. One of the reasons is there are possibly thousands … maybe millions of causes that go into even 1 thought and to narrow it to just one is impossible. I believe thoughts have causes but they are not under our control, therefore they cannot be under the control of Free Will. My scenario below tries to explain this.

The state has just outlawed thinking about Pink Elephants. There are signs everywhere, commercials everywhere reminding everyone it is against the law to think about Pink Elephants. If a policeman asked me whether I am thinking about Pink Elephants how could one answer without going to jail. It would be a different scenario if it was illegal to talk about Pink Elephants. I could be held responsible for talking about Pink Elephants. There is a huge difference in those scenarios. In one I have no ability to obey the law and in the other I have a choice to either follow or disobey the law.

The important point is the cause I cause by my actions. I am a cause to someone else by my actions. That, at least to me, is the jist of Free Will. The causes that prompt me to do something I cannot control, but my responses to those causes is many times under my direct control.


#9

That is not exactly what I am looking for. I am wondering whether an act of Free Will can be considered a creative act…

But I like the Pink Elephant thing, it misses my point, but hits a lot of others. I must memorise that one, it’s really good.


#10

[quote=AnAtheist]That is not exactly what I am looking for. I am wondering whether an act of Free Will can be considered a creative act…

But I like the Pink Elephant thing, it misses my point, but hits a lot of others. I must memorise that one, it’s really good.
[/quote]

Why is the creative act an important aspect … could you explain the relationship between Free Will and a creative act. I guess I am missing something so please explain.

Thanks.


#11

[quote=ncgolf]Why is the creative act an important aspect … could you explain the relationship between Free Will and a creative act. I guess I am missing something so please explain.

[/quote]

Because if an act of free will creates something new (out of nothing so to speak) and there is no other cause than the human who produced that thought, the Aquinate’s prima causa argument becomes invalid. (imo that is)


#12

If a will isn’t free is there a will at all?


#13

[quote=AnAtheist]Because if an act of free will creates something new (out of nothing so to speak) and there is no other cause than the human who produced that thought, the Aquinate’s prima causa argument becomes invalid. (imo that is)
[/quote]

Ok … now I get it a little bit better. No I do not believe an act of free will creates something new. Something new is drastically different than something created out of nothing. The “something new” is something that finally we are able to grasp or understand (Newton and Einstein were good at that). They (and I say this cavailerly) merely took what already existed and understood it. They did not create anything.

Free Will is the response to causes even if we cannot isolate or understand what those causes may be … we are limited in those capacities.

I believe that all arises from some cause and all can be traced back to the first cause. There is only one that can create from nothing and that would be a deity … something that would have always have existed outside of any constraint we could think of … any constraint would of have to been created.


#14

[quote=AnAtheist]A recent discussion in another thread led me to an interesting question:

Does a free thought, i.e. a thought that came from an act of Free Will, have a cause?

If so, is it really free? I say, if there are a chain of deterministic steps that led to this thought, it is not free.

If not, wouldn’t that seriously hurt the reasoning made by Thomas v. Aquin and others, that everything must have a cause, and to avoid an infinite chain of causes, God must exist as the ultimate cause (prima causa)?
[/quote]

== Freedom of the will is not a faculty of willing that is wholly autonomous and “free-standing”. For Thomas, the will is free when it is non-necessitated, and is directed as it ought to be directed. For it is created with an orientation or bias towards God - as is the rest of the being called man. It is not self-determined, but meant to co-operate with the rest of our human nature in inclining us to our goal, which is God. It is free - but not with “liberty of indifference”, to do or be anything it likes - it has what is called “liberty of specification”, freedom to direct us to the God Who made it, the God Who at every moment provides by His care for its freedom. There is a huge amount of philosphy here, and even more theology.

So it can perfectly well be working as the entity it is, yet be every moment kept in being by the Loving Providence of God. It is God Who provides the “environment” for it to exist at all, and, more particularly, for it to be the free will that it is. So God is its Guarantor - not a mere external entity Who exists as but one of a number of influences in the universe upon how the universe (including free will, which is one of the creations in that universe) exists.

Far from it - God’s influence is internal, not purely external as ours is. And God is not one cause among many, but the source of all created causality - that of our wills included

I forgot: causality is of many kinds: it is far more than a series of links in a chain. Causes can be concurrent, dynamic, personalist, efficient, principal, formal, material, transcendent, and so on. God’s causality is never remote - He is always intimately involved with His handiwork - never a far-off God. As witness the Nativity. ==


#15

[quote=Gottle of Geer]== Freedom of the will is not a faculty of willing that is wholly autonomous and “free-standing”. For Thomas, the will is free when it is non-necessitated, and is directed as it ought to be directed. For it is created with an orientation or bias towards God - as is the rest of the being called man. It is not self-determined, but meant to co-operate with the rest of our human nature in inclining us to our goal, which is God. It is free - but not with “liberty of indifference”, to do or be anything it likes - it has what is called “liberty of specification”, freedom to direct us to the God Who made it, the God Who at every moment provides by His care for its freedom. There is a huge amount of philosphy here, and even more theology.

So it can perfectly well be working as the entity it is, yet be every moment kept in being by the Loving Providence of God. It is God Who provides the “environment” for it to exist at all, and, more particularly, for it to be the free will that it is. So God is its Guarantor - not a mere external entity Who exists as but one of a number of influences in the universe upon how the universe (including free will, which is one of the creations in that universe) exists.

Far from it - God’s influence is internal, not purely external as ours is. And God is not one cause among many, but the source of all created causality - that of our wills included

I forgot: causality is of many kinds: it is far more than a series of links in a chain. Causes can be concurrent, dynamic, personalist, efficient, principal, formal, material, transcendent, and so on. God’s causality is never remote - He is always intimately involved with His handiwork - never a far-off God. As witness the Nativity. ==
[/quote]

I guess that means the will exercises it’s full measure of freedom when it leads us to fullfilling our purpose and end in God. Otherwise it’s a free will bound.


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