One Internal Contradiction in the Christian Worldview: God’s Omniscience vs. Free Will

Unjust God predestines people, yet judges them morally for actions. I recently found a blog post where a Christian reprints a debate he and his friends had on Facebook with an Objectivist. It’s a very long discussion where a lot of words are written, yet very little actual debate seems to be accomplished. In skimming this wall of words, one point caught my eye: the Christian participants are claiming that what distinguishes the Christian worldview from others–and what makes it the true worldview–is that it is internally consistent, whereas other worldviews are not.

In epistemology, this view–that what makes something true is (solely) its logical consistency with an overall structure of knowledge–is called the “Coherence Theory of Truth.” To say that this epistemological view is problematic is an understatement; it really is a non-starter. My theory of truth is a version of the Correspondence Theory: the only theory I consider tenable.

But my point here is not to attack coherentism or defend correspondence. Beyond the problems of coherentism, the claim that the Christian worldview is internally consistent is blatantly false. There are several places where I could show logical contradictions, but I only need one irreconcilable contradiction to demonstrate internal inconsistency. So I will confine myself to one: the contradiction between God’s supposed omniscience and human free will. (1)

Free will vs. God’s Omniscience

Most Christians are committed, implicitly, if not explicitly, to what I regard as genuine free will. This is the idea that a person’s choice in a given situation is not necessitated by antecedent factors, but represents a selection among alternatives that could also have been chosen in the same circumstance. (In contemporary philosophy, this is called “libertarian free will” as opposed to the alleged alternative, “compatibilist free will.” I will discuss Christians who hold compatibilist views after dealing with the libertarian version.)

Christians also generally believe that God is omniscient, such that he knows the future outcome of people’s choices and can infallibly implement his divine plan. But if God currently knows, with certainty, the outcome of future choices, then this means that there must be a current fact about those outcomes for him to know. If there is a current fact about the outcome of future choices, then those choices are already predetermined. This means that those “choices” are not genuine choices, because there is only one thing that will happen, with no alternative possibilities. Any “choice” is purely illusory, and thus, there really is no free will. So Christians are logically committed both to the position that humans have free will, and to the position that they do not.

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Philosopher Greg Salmieri (of Rutgers University) Discusses Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy on the Elucidations Podcast

The Library Research Pavilion at the University of Chicago, whose philosophy department produces the Elucidations podcast

The Library Research Pavilion at the University of Chicago, (whose philosophy department produces the Elucidations podcast.)

The Elucidations podcast has released an interview with Professor Greg Salmieri on Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy. This is a great interview, especially for those who don’t know that Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy supports friendship, benevolence and helping other people in certain ways and under certain circumstances.

The interview also does a good job of presenting Ayn Rand’s basic approach to morality and moral thinking.

Listen here:

Elucidations, Episode 73: Greg Salmieri discusses Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy

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Related Posts:

Introduction to Objectivism

Why the Philosophy of Objectivism is Still Relevant and Needed in the Age of Modern Science

Why “Selfishness” Doesn’t Properly Mean Being Shortsighted and Harmful to Others

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy vs. Abortion Bans: Why a Fetus Doesn’t Have Rights

The Wages of Altruism: Domestic Abuse

Philosopher Greg Salmieri (of Rutgers University) Discusses Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy on the Elucidations Podcast

The Library Research Pavilion at the University of Chicago, whose philosophy department produces the Elucidations podcast

The Library Research Pavilion at the University of Chicago, (whose philosophy department produces the Elucidations podcast.)

The Elucidations podcast has released an interview with Professor Greg Salmieri on Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy. This is a great interview, especially for those who don’t know that Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy supports friendship, benevolence and helping other people in certain ways and under certain circumstances.

The interview also does a good job of presenting Ayn Rand’s basic approach to morality and moral thinking.

Listen here:

Elucidations, Episode 73: Greg Salmieri discusses Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy

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Related Posts:

Introduction to Objectivism

Why the Philosophy of Objectivism is Still Relevant and Needed in the Age of Modern Science

Why “Selfishness” Doesn’t Properly Mean Being Shortsighted and Harmful to Others

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy vs. Abortion Bans: Why a Fetus Doesn’t Have Rights

The Wages of Altruism: Domestic Abuse

Objectivism for Dummies?

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff

A more in-depth, book-length overview of Objectivism.

I find it a bit strange that one of the top Google auto-completes I see for “Objectivism” is “Objectivism for dummies,” considering that there is no “For Dummies” book on this topic. But what it indicates is that there is significant interest in a basic, understandable introduction to Objectivism, the philosophy of the novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand.

If this is what you want, I’d like to recommend my Introduction to Objectivism page. Not only does it have a clear and straightforward presentation of the philosophy of Objectivism, but it also has a large number of links to resources for learning more.

Introduction to Objectivism

I’d also like to recommend reading Ayn Rand’s novels, such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainheadif you haven’t recently–to get a fuller feel for the type of person that Objectivism praises, and the type of life that it holds out as an ideal. As I like to caution, however, Rand’s novels are romantic novels, and they feature extraordinary and dramatic situations. The principles her ideal heroes live by are the ones she advocates, but one must be careful about being too literal, (or, in Ayn Rand’s terminology, “concrete-bound” or “anti-conceptual”) in applying those principles to real life.

Happy learning! 🙂

Sword of Apollo

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Related Posts:

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

Other People as Egoistic Values Versus Other People as Objects of Self-Sacrifice in Ayn Rand’s Philosophy

Human Emotions are the Products of Beliefs and Subconscious Value Judgments

Laissez-Faire Capitalism Solves “The Tragedy of the Commons” and Deals With Negative Externalities: A Dialogue

Why Healthcare in the US is So Expensive, and What Can Be Done About It

The Basics of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy: Introducing my “Introduction to Objectivism” Page

The happiness of a man whose enlightened mind illuminates the world. Silhouette of Howard Roark with light rays emanating from his head.Hot off the digital press is my “Introduction to Objectivism” page. It conveys the basics of Ayn Rand‘s philosophy in an overview summary. It also explains some of the benefits of learning about her philosophy–called Objectivism–a little about the nature of moral and philosophical principles, and a little about how this rational philosophy fits in with modern science.

Exploring Objectivism is an intellectual adventure that really gives you a greater appreciation for your life, the world around you, and the power of abstract ideas to bring good or evil, success or failure.

So jump on in! 😀

Click here: Introduction to Objectivism

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Related Posts:

The Structure of Objectivism

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

Human Emotions are the Products of Beliefs and Subconscious Value Judgments

Laissez-Faire Capitalism Solves “The Tragedy of the Commons” and Deals With Negative Externalities: A Dialogue

Why Healthcare in the US is So Expensive, and What Can Be Done About It

QuickPoint 7: Good Teamwork Is Self-Interested

Kobe Bryant of the Lakers passing the ball.

There’s no “I” in “team.”

So goes the common saying that encapsulates the common idea that good teamwork is selfless. But, punchy as the saying is, (and as correct as its literal meaning is) the idea that good teamwork is selfless is entirely wrong.

When a sport is team-based, it is, by its nature and rules, a cooperative activity. A proper motivation for any individual to become a player of that sport is to enjoy playing as a member of a team and to contribute to the success of the team. To enjoy the team sport, each individual should enjoy putting his skills at the service of the team’s success. The player’s personal interests should be aligned with those of the team.

It is not a selfless sacrifice for Kobe Bryant or LeBron James to refrain from showboating and hogging the basketball, when doing so would be detrimental to their team’s chances of winning. Their personal interests are best served by playing good basketball and winning games.

Ask a football player, who lost the SuperBowl for his team by showboating with the ball, whether what he did was good for him. The answer should be clear enough without having to ask.

Let us rid ourselves of the confusion that sees so many social values, such as teamwork, friendship and love as inherently selfless; while also equating “self-interest,” “egoism” and “selfishness” with shortsightedness, foolishness, childishness, materialism, and the harm of others. Let us clearly recognize that one’s own self-interest–one’s happiness–is not bought at the expense of the interests of other people.

I highly recommend the non-fiction works of Ayn Rand, such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Philosophy: Who Needs It, along with her novels, such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

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Related Posts:

QuickPoint 6: Psychological Egoism is False — Not Everyone is Selfish

Atlas Shrugged, Altruism and Egoism

Why a Proper Ethics is Not a Set of Social Rules, But a Complete Way of Life

Values Are Relational But Not Subjective

QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual

What Squeegee Bandits Can Teach Us About the Welfare State (Voices for Reason)

Don Watkins makes an excellent and concise point about consent and moral responsibility in this blog post at Voices for Reason:

What Squeegee Bandits Can Teach Us About the Welfare State

Here’s a bonus video: “Is Inequality Fair?” by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute:

 

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The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

QuickPoint 6: Psychological Egoism is False — Not Everyone is Selfish

The Virtue of SelfishnessAyn Rand properly recognized that people do not necessarily act in their own self-interest. There is a difference between having a psychological motive to act in a certain way and a self-interested reason to act in a certain way.

Having a psychological motive can simply mean having a subjective whim, and an action taken on this basis can be very damaging to oneself (and so, not self-interested.) There is also self-sacrifice out of a desire to “be good,” i.e. to follow the duties of an irrational morality.

(Imagine a young woman who has the passion and ability to become a great artist. She wants to become an artist, has ideas for great paintings, and being an artist would be her means to a happy, flourishing life. But she accepts the morality of altruism, and she is convinced that, rather than going to a top art school, it is her duty as a “privileged American” to devote her life to saving Third-World children. This is not self-interested, just because she wants to save Third-World children out of a sense of moral duty. Nor is it self-interested just because she may get some pleasure out of “being moral”–at first.)

Given one’s basic nature, situation, experiences, abilities and psychological makeup, one’s own self-interest is objective, not a matter of one’s momentary whims. Any pleasures one pursues must be consistent with one’s overall, long-term well-being–both physical and mental–to be moral.

Those who refuse to think and continually subvert their own minds are not selfish. They need their minds–their ability to reason–to achieve any positive thing they value. What can they achieve without reason? In principle, only their own destruction, and, to the extent they use force, that of others.

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Related Posts:

Atlas Shrugged, Altruism and Egoism

Why a Proper Ethics is Not a Set of Social Rules, But a Complete Way of Life

Values Are Relational But Not Subjective

QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual

Human Emotions are the Products of Beliefs and Subconscious Value Judgments

Yaron Brook: Shrugging the Stigma of Success

In this recent talk at the University of Texas-Austin, Dr. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, discusses the general American attitude toward success in business and how it is influenced by traditional moral ideas. But does traditional morality really make sense? Is it reasonable? Dr. Brook argues that it doesn’t and it isn’t.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

For anyone who found this talk interesting, I highly recommend reading the book, Free Market Revolution, which Dr. Brook co-authored with Don Watkins.

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The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

QuickPoint 4: It Is Not Racist to Judge One Culture Superior to Another

A culture is a set of ideas and practices that constitute a general way of thinking about the world and a typical way of life. Ideas can be correct or incorrect. Practices based on those ideas can be conducive to human life, or destructive of it. In short, ideas and practices can be objectively good or bad for people.

The judgment of certain cultures (ideas and practices) as better than other cultures is entirely separate from the phenomenon of racism. Racism, broadly, is the idea that one’s race, genetics, or ancestry is a determining factor in the content of his or her consciousness. Consequently, it is the idea that one can determine something about what someone believes by studying his genetic or ancestral lineage. This often takes the form of moral value judgments based on race or ethnicity.

There are some cultures that have historically been associated with large numbers of people in certain genetic groups, such as “Jewish culture” and “American Black culture.” But there is no necessary connection between genetics and culture. Anyone can be a part of any culture, according to his education and personal choices. Thus, a judgment of “American Black culture” as inferior to “Chinese-American culture” is not a judgment of an African lineage as inferior to a Chinese lineage. It is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that the cultural ideas and practices that have traditionally been accepted by large numbers of African-Americans are less conducive to human well-being than those that have traditionally been accepted by large numbers of Chinese-Americans. (It is this difference that is reflected in vastly different crime rates between the two groups.)

The irony here is that it is actually racist to consider a person’s culture to be determined by his genetics. Thus, it is actually racist to consider the evaluative ranking of cultures “racist.”

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Related Posts:

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

Values Are Relational But Not Subjective

Why Morality is Not “Evolved,” But Defined and Chosen

Why a Proper Ethics is Not a Set of Social Rules, But a Complete Way of Life

Atlas Shrugged, Altruism and Egoism