Friday 15 February 2019

What does it mean to be 'free'? Does it emanate from original sin or virtue?

Free means self-caused - only that which is self-caused, and that which is capable of self-causation, can be free.

Free does not mean un-influenced. That which causes is often subject to external influence but free means that behaviour cannot wholly be explained by influences.

Ultimately, freedom cannot be explained - nothing self-caused can be explained.

Thus, freedom is irreducible. We cannot know what goes-on, or how freedom arises.

There is no 'natural' (analytic, rational, scientific) explanation for what leads-to freedom (or else it would not be free). Freedom stands outside cause and effect.

Indeed, freedom is divine in nature.

We can perceive only the result of freedom; and all we can do is just take it, or leave it.

We may, or may not, be aware of that which is free - but it emerges complete and ready; so all that can be done-about freedom is to accept or reject it (whether unconsciously or deliberately).  

Therefore, it is crucial to know whether that which is innately free is good, or evil.

This is the question of original sin.

Is that essential-self which is free basically evil/ sinful in nature; or is it good/ of God?

One or the other must be assumed.


Anonymous said...

In response to your titular question: I think it's the other way around.

Sin or virtue are only possible when there is a free will; a machine cannot sin (or have a virtue, for that matter).

Therefore, sin or virtue emanate from free will.


Bruce Charlton said...

@LC - Think about what I wrote.

BruceB said...

Thank you for this.
This doesn’t have much to do with your conclusion (which I’m not smart enough to fully understand) but can I ask a question?
Is it unorthodox to claim that some parts of our being are uncaused? Maybe the physical body, memory, etc. are caused but things like free will and reason/logos are uncaused. God gives us this part of himself so a created being can have eternal aspects.
This doesn’t sound so different than the orthodox assumption of created beings with the imago dei/divine spark.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - I'm not the go-to guy on what's orthodox! - and it depends which kind you mean.

But as far as I understand Aquinas (indirectly, from reading several scholars, and not the man himself) it was his orthodoxy that Men were give real free will.

I personally can't understand how a wholly-created being can have real free will; therefore I take the Mormon metaphysical idea that our free will is a degree of autonomy that is a consequence of our eternal origin as primordial beings, before we were created as God's children.

The key point is that we have free will only as a consequence of that which is divine in us.

But the purpose of this post was to try and understand how free will (wherever it came from) interacts with consciousness. In particular, what it is that makes 'decisions' (consciousness), is different from that which generates free will (the divine self).

We can only sin as a result of consciousness - I think that would be generally agreed; but since consciousness is separated from the divine self, it does suggest that the relationship is that consciousness can only 'take it or leave it' - as above.

Francis Berger said...

What you expressed so clearly here touches on a few of the points I expressed abstractly when I wrote about the nebulousness of freedom last week or thereabouts.

Of course, this is hardly surprising as most of what I wrote there was inspired by your Feb. 1 post "Some New Thoughts on Consciousness"( the one containing that excellent self/consciousness-egg metaphor). This post is a great continuation of the ideas you stated there.