Since this deals with definitions, I’ll begin by defining the terms:
**Omniscience**: [the property of having complete or maximal knowledge, or knowledge of all true propositions](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/omniscience/).
And, just for the sake of being thorough, **Knowledge**: [justified true belief](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/knowledge-analysis/#KnowJustTrueBeli).
**Free Will**: [Control over one’s actions](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/).
The most common arbitrary definition in my experience that people add is that the truth can be dynamic (but a special kind of dynamic that I’ll address), but knowledge must be static. That free will is “the ability to do otherwise”, which must *obviously* conflict with knowledge, because if you know something, that something you know must be the truth forever and ever amen and never change. Why? …Because.
The obvious response to this is that omniscience is simply knowledge of all truths; if a truth can change, so too can knowledge of that truth. But here’s where that special kind of dynamic comes in: people will declare that even though the truth can change, once it changes, it always was the truth, and the truth-that-was never actually was the truth at all. But this begs the question: If the truth-that-was never actually was the truth, how could the truth change? What does it mean that the truth changed if it didn’t *actually* change? It feels more like a 1984 declaration that we have always been at war with Eurasia than a proper philosophical concept.
If I’m able to get someone to acknowledge that knowledge and truth can be equally dynamic, such as with an example that I know the time at 9:05 and at 9:06, and neither of my differing knowledges were wrong, they’ll usually then reply that omniscience/God’s knowledge is different! This is special pleading. Plain and simple. There is no justifiable reason for God’s knowledge to be incapable of change *if the truth is capable of change*.
Another common arbitrary argument is what I like to call “the unfair test”. God communicates to you at Time A what you will do at Time B. If you can do something other than what God communicated to you at Time A, you have free will, but God does not have omniscience. If you cannot, God has omniscience, but you do not have free will.
This test is unfair because it arbitrarily ignores [conditionals](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-conditionals/) in order to *force* a conflict between omniscience and free will. God *has* to communicate what you *will* do at Time B, and it *has* to be the truth. There is no acknowledgement that in the real world, humans can and do take information into account to determine their future actions, whether that information is true or not.
…I don’t have a conclusion, so I’ll just give a TL;DR:
**Knowledge and free will only conflict when you** ***want*** **them to conflict**.
EDIT: Because people keep assuming this, I need to add an addendum.
#I am not claiming the truth is malleable or dynamic.
If god is subordinate to time, and unable to see beyond the present moment to know which futures will be ‘true’ and which will be ‘truths that never were’, then that contradicts the idea of omniscience.
If god knows all possible futures without any of the ‘futures that never were’ because he’s not constrained by time and able to ‘know’ all of creation from beginning to end, then our futures are just as fixed and immutable as our pasts, because there’s only one way everything could have happened.
Even if he reaches into the timestream to command us or meddle with circumstances, that act will result in a new set of factors and circumstances that will then, viewed from after or outside of time, have happened one and only one way they could have, with that change having been made.
Free will is only an illusion. A mirage that is visible to us as we approach the near future, because our ignorance to all the factors blinds us to the inevitable causal chain of reactions that will follow just as certainly as they did up to our current moment from the past.
Your link to free will isn’t a definition that I can see, it points to a list of conflicting ideas of what free will is and what it means to have it or not have it, philosophers and thinkers views on it ancient and modern, I still don’t know what *you* mean by it.
Apologies if I am wrong here, but I honestly don’t know what your definition of it is.
>I know the time at 9:05 and at 9:06, and neither of my differing knowledges were wrong
I’m not sure I agree wit this, your knowledge that at 9:05 you knew it was 9:05 remains constant. At 10:05 it still remains true that you did know it was 9:05 at 9:05.
Even if you get the wrong time at 10:05, that doesn’t change the knowledge you had was correct at 9:05.
>they’ll usually then reply that omniscience/God’s knowledge is different! This is special pleading. Plain and simple.
Are you saying an omniscient being’s knowledge is *not* different? The only special pleading I see is to claim that a god’s knowledge is not constrained by time in the way that humans are, but to challenge the ramifications of this is not fair by treating it different to human knowledge.
>This test is unfair because it arbitrarily ignores conditionals in order to force a conflict between omniscience and free will. God has to communicate what you will do at Time B, and it has to be the truth. There is no acknowledgement that in the real world, humans can and do take information into account to determine their future actions, whether that information is true or not.
Is this god ignoring the conditionals or not? Is this god capable of knowing exactly how each conditional will effect me as an individual or not?
If the claim is god has *knowledge* of me doing X at time B, then any conditionals have already been taken into account.
If it is simply making a calculation that I will probably do X at time B, then it is not *knowledge*, it can be pretty well-informed expectation, but it is not knowledge.
This seems like you want to have your cake and eat it, if god has omniscience, he knows the outcome of everything, including any and every additional info to be taken into account, if he doesn’t know this, he is not omniscient.
You can look at truth and omniscience in two ways
1. There is a Truth out there and it encompasses the information about everything throughout all time for that reason it is necessarily static or solid, so to speak. Omniscience in this case implies being aware of all that information and since it spans all of time and space and whatever else there might be you will never ever know anything else, because you already know everything and, as i already pointed out, that which you know will never change.
2. There is no Truth. The future is ever changing and only manifests in the present. Omniscience would imply possessing knowledge about everything in the past and current moment but nothing in the future because the future doesn’t really exist yet (only as a multiple of potential versions of reality).
To your point about the “dynamic” property so often described to truth by people. They are probably referring to the fact that we don’t know everything and so what we call the truth is only the best approximation of reality we can manage. Of course we will learn new things about things we believe are already established. Take gravity for instance. Isaac Newton had a theory of gravity which was accepted as “truth” until Einstein came along and showed how that theory was incomplete despite the people at the time thinking it was the truth. So in that sense the truth is dynamic but only to beings who aren’t omniscient such as us humans.
Finally i believe the “unfair test” is simply a logical incoherence. Naturally you can’t be all knowing in a universe with free will.
> Another common arbitrary argument is what I like to call “the unfair test”. God communicates to you at Time A what you will do at Time B. If you can do something other than what God communicated to you at Time A, you have free will, but God does not have omniscience. If you cannot, God has omniscience, but you do not have free will.
God doesn’t have to tell you. She just has to know it in advance and can’t be wrong.
As someone who believes free will is compatible with determinism, I’d have to say that you can also use the same arguments here. That’s much simpler. Free will, as you’ve defined it and as I define it is having control over your actions. It doesn’t matter whether those actions are predictable, either by God or by a hypothetical supercomputer that calculates future states of the universe.
You are what you are and your choices come from you. How could you choose to do what you would not choose to do? Whether “you” are a physical brain in a pre-determined universe or a soul. That “freedom” would actually be slavery to randomness.
Just a couple of random points.
I hope you’re not implying that atheists are the ones saying that truth is static and unchanging. Most, or at least this atheist knows that the knowledge that we gain is only as good as the current evidence allows… That is, we accept certain things as true because that is what we currently have evidence for. If new evidence is found (and found to be generally accepted) then we must update our view of what is true.
If we could test a god communicating with anyone that alone should prove gods existence and the free will debate become moot.
If god tells you at Time A what you’ll do at Time B and you use that knowledge to change what you do at Time B, when does god know that you’ll use that knowledge to decide to do something differently at Time B? Did god always know this, only know it after they gave you the original knowledge at Time A, or something else?
> Knowledge and free will only conflict when you want them to conflict.
This sentence here highlights the fundamental issues with the argument. It’s just an elaborate “God works in mysterious ways” argument, which ultimately comes down to “if I define X as not-X, then your critique is no longer valid”. This isn’t very compelling.
As another commenter said, there isn’t reasonable evidence to suggest truth is somehow malleable like the argument suggests. You’d need to provide supporting evidence for this groundbreaking discovery.
Even ignoring this, the argument actually fails to grasp at why a contradiction exists to begin with. God cannot know *I will* take a sip of my tea if I instead decide to throw the mug across the room. To know *I will* perform an action at a fixed point inherently suggests a lack of malleability with regard to truth, so the whole argument is actually completely irrelevant.
I roll a regular die. Does God know what the result will be before I roll the die?
If yes, how come my free will cannot influence the result of a die roll at all,
If no, what reason is there to call God omniscient?
The truth doesn’t change. At each moment in time you are asserting a completely new truth statement.
I reject your idea that truth can change.
> such as with an example that I know the time at 9:05 and at 9:06, and neither of my differing knowledges were wrong
Neither are wrong because they are both distinct and separate truth statements. At 9:05 the time is 9:05, and that is and always will be true. At 9:06 the time is 9:06, and that is and always will be true. If I say I am in New York, then I fly to LA and say I am in LA, they were both true statements and both will always have been true.
If a god is omniscient and knows all true things, something that the god knows cannot change and become a not true thing. If that happens it was never a true thing. If this god knows that you will do A, but you do B, then the god did not know you will do A. Maybe the god believed you would do A, but the god was wrong. The god did not know a true thing, the god believed a false thing.
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