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April 29, 2007


Val Larsen

In this response to my original post, Nathaniel initially suggests that my claims are invalid, “more amusing than true.” But in the bulk of what follows, he illustrates the truth of one major premise of my argument by reflecting upon and documenting the misery often experienced by poets and musicians who live unconventional lives and suffer more than their fair share of unhappiness. He develops a tertiary strand of the argument by discussing how artists and musicians benefit humanity (at their own expense) by letting more conventional and happy people vicariously live life unwisely but passionately and intensely. Artists may reveal certain heights and more certain depths of human sensation and emotion that others can safely experience by consuming art. Nathaniel raises the possibility that artists might find consolation in the thought that their lives provide self-indulgent entertainment that the stuffy bourgeoisie need to make their humdrum lives bearable. I apparently have more respect for the virtues of the bourgeoisie—steadiness, self-discipline, wisdom—than Nathaniel does, so I wouldn’t put it quite that way. But artists—Coleridge, young Wordsworth—were part of what I had in mind when I framed the non-conventional as social entrepreneurs.

But perhaps I was not as clear as I should have been, for Nathaniel doesn’t really address the main argument I was making in citing the Greek view. The first premise of the argument Nathaniel seems to accept: those who live a more conventional, traditional life are more likely to live a happy life than the social innovators who make their own way. The second premise is that the life of a parent or grandparent will be happier if those who are most dear to them—their children and grandchildren--are also happy. (This premise is, I think, self-evident.) The third premise is that parents can influence the way in which a child chooses to live his/her life. (Again, this is pretty self-evident.) But when applied, this influence works out quite differently for traditionalist and non-conformist parents. Happy traditionalists who successfully influence their children to adopt their tradition have a fair prospect of seeing their children and grandchildren likewise happy, for their well-tested tradition encodes wisdom/adaptation to reality discovered through the distributed intelligence of many lives. The non-conformist innovators, on the other hand, by example and, perhaps, precept encourage their offspring to be likewise innovative. If premise one is accepted, most of these experiments in how to live a life will yield less happiness than adherence to tradition would yield. Likely to be less happy themselves, these parents’ unhappiness is likely to be compounded as they see their offspring likewise mired in the consequences of living in a self-made brave new world. (On the other thread, I do the math, in a rough and ready way, and it yields a 2% chance of parent, child, and grandchild all being happy.) Even if, by happy chance, the social entrepreneurship of the parents is one of the rare, fortunate experiments that produces a good outcome, an increment in happiness (marking the way for others and making social progress possible), the offspring of these parents are unlikely to benefit from the success since the non-traditionalist parents’ example encourages the children to follow their own bliss (typically, for the young, their hormones and other appetites).

Nathaniel suggests that the thrust of my multi-generational argument is “you’ll be sorry someday.” No. I argue that the innovator is more likely to be sorry now. And if not sorry in their own brave new world, they are likely to live (nowadays much moreso than in the days of the Greeks) to see the sorrows of children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren who they condemned to live without the benefit of a strong tradition. It strikes me that a wise and caring parent or prospective parent would take these quite foreseeable consequences for their posterity into account as they make their own life decisions.


why shall we judge the value of our actions on how "happy" we are. Are we not all part of the mechanism of the cosmos, and are not our pains and sorrows the mere grinding of the cosmic gears, nothing by the creaking bones of GOD, if you prefer that metaphor.

Is it not the case that the lungs breathe not for themselves, but for the oxygenation of the blood and thus the sustenance of the body. However, it would be improper of the lungs to beat like the heart, because it is the natural law and innate nature of lungs to breath like bellows.

If the lungs were to beat or the heart to breath, the blood would not flow properly, the cells would die, and each could not perform it's natural function.

Now does not this law apply to all things, not just the organs of the body, but to the way in which whole organisms interact with one another. And does not the sun, the soil, the rain, the tilt of the earth and seasons, the pull of the moon, and everything from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy, attain a higher pleasure not it service to itself, but by supplying it's unique contributions to the process of the cosmos.

I should think then that the there is a state beyond what is called happiness, a state that transcends pleasure and pain, a state of insuppressible moral resolve and spiritual well being, that comes along with the realization that one is contributing to the process in his unique way.

As such one may find that his proper place is to suffer on a cross as a martyr, and though he shrieks out in pain, his spirit may not be broken, for he knows that even his pain is in service to the higher.


Val, is the pool of apparently happy innovators in which I swim a statistical anomaly? I tend to doubt it, really; it would seem that the quote:

"...the non-traditionalist parents’ example encourages the children to follow their own bliss (typically, for the young, their hormones and other appetites)."

reveals the true source of our divergent intuitions regarding the outcome distribution of non-traditionalists. Val identifies unformed hedonism with non-traditionalism - not that he assumes them to be isomorphic but that the former is a subset of the latter.

For a trivial definition of "non-traditionalism" this is true, of course, since raw dissolution couldn't be said to be a tradition so much as a direction on the spectrum of personal entropy. However, neither is it an innovation. One can claim that non-traditionalism leads people to dissolution more often than attempting to adhere to traditionalism, but that's a independent empirical question.

Val Larsen

Under the logic of your argument, Froclown, the coward is as admirable as the hero, the mass murderer as praiseworthy as the philanthropist, the sexual abuse of a child as exqusitely delightful as a masterful performance of Swan Lake. All are alike, by definition, supplying their unique contribution to the process of the cosmos. Now, instead of Neitzsche, you are channelling Leibnitz: all that is is good in the best of all possible worlds.


That this is the best of all possible worlds seems plain, if God is omnibenevolent, perfectly foresightful and created everything whatsoever.

Val Larsen

Nato, for the young--especially teens--hedonism (sometimes mixed with utopian idealism) is pretty typical, unless natural impulses are restrained and channeled by pretty powerful parental and community expectations and sanctions. Binge drinking, drug use, promiscuous sex, gang violence, are all more typical of young people guided by their own impulses than of older people. But the choices need not be hedonistic to misfire. Remember that my underlying model is economic entrepreneruialism. Most entrepreneurial venture fail, but that doesn't mean they were hedonistic or even un-thought-out. Many are pretty carefully planned. The problem is structural. Reliable information is hard to come by before the fact (even when one is looking) and complete information is virtually never available, so there are almost always unpleasant surprises. So successful innovations are rare relative to the number of attempted innovations. Is there some reason why you think this will not be the case with social innovation? To address my argument, you need to address its premises or logic. While I stand by it, as the parentheses indicate, the hedonism point was an incidental aside, not a major element of the argument.

Nathan Smith

Val may have created confusion in his earlier post by saying that a man can't be called happy "until he has been dead for several generations." Perhaps this was just hyperbole. Now he seems to be saying that a man isn't very happy if, during his lifetime, his children and grandchildren get into a lot of trouble. Perhaps he also means that, even if his children and grandchildren *are* happy, if they are happy in ways that diverge completely from his own life-pattern, so that he is little able to understand or relate with them, or perhaps simply has little occasion to see him, he can't get much pleasure from them.

If Val was serious about the "until he has been dead for several generations" point, this is more counter-intuitive. Probably we don't know, in the usual sense of the word "know," whether a man even exists after his death. If we believe he does, we know very little about what state he is in, whether he is able to observe what goes on on earth, and whether he cares about it in the same way he does now. It stands to reason that when the body dies, affections which have a merely genetic basis will either fade or be changed; thereafter perhaps something like love or religious communion will prevail. Jesus made a point something like this even during his earthly life:

Matthew 12:47: "He answered the one who was telling Him and said, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, 'Behold, My mother and My brothers! 50 'For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.'"

Another point is that while self-conscious traditionalists may be better able to keep their children under their wing, if their children do break from them the break tends to be much sharper. A freethinker is used to people thinking for themselves and coming to their own conclusions, so he will be better able to relate to children who have chosen a different path from his own. The Amish in some ways have an enviable family life: they have many children and generally stay close to them all their lives. But those who leave the faith are "shunned," by a system of rituals to keep them separate and alienated.

The other point that must be made is that one doesn't necessarily lead a "conventional" life just by wanting to. Marriage may illustrate. A lot of people would like to get and stay married, and try, but either can't find anyone who will agree to marry them, or else can't get the internal dynamics of marriage to find their way to equilibrium so that one or more marriages fall apart. The same goes for education and career, of course.

Or for, say, buying a home, or keeping a job for life. In a more crowded world, some things are getting scarcer, while at the same time, there are new opportunities. One has to adjust one's consumption basket. Any young American whose parents held blue-collar jobs in New York City and were homeowners probably *can't* follow in his parents' footsteps. You have to adapt.


Val, in the modern economy, companies that don't innovate tend to fade away. Start-ups certainly tend to die for a number of reasons, but it's a rare non-traditionalist who is trying to create ex nihilo*. Thoreau is not the dominant paradigm. Instead it's a mix-and-match of applying appropriate examples based on what merits one can see. One might say we must all be traditionalists to some extent, since we are all following examples (even if we are modifying them to suit in some way). Those who try to follow no example at all are certainly going to have trouble succeeding.

Also, I second most of what Nathan said.

*Of course, neither are start-ups, but the degree to which start-ups fail for lacking resources and luck versus the newness of their ideas is the degree to which they are not really breaking any paths.

Val Larsen

Nato, it has always been part of my argument that innovation has potential benefits. They just don't accrue to the innovators as a class. With respect to innovation by companies, I have several things to say. First, some research suggests that financial returns are better for companies that get into a market second or third than for the revolutionary innovators. Microsoft is one good example of this principle as are most Japanese businesses. Second, there are marginal innovations (Keats writing a new sonnet) and revolutionary innovations (Whitman writing Leaves of Grass and inventing a completely new poetic form). You won't be surprised to hear that I much prefer Keats or Housman over Whitman, and part of the reason is that the technical quality of the innovations within an established frame tend to be higher than innovations de novo. Which is not to say that Whitman made no contribution. It is true that all of us must combine in some measure tradtition and innovation. Optimal positioning with respect to the mix of tradition and innovation will not be at the endpoints of this continuum. But I would contend that people at the extreme of following tradition will be better off (on average more happy) than those at the extreme of innovation. And if happiness is the dependent variable and the predictors are traditionalism and innovativeness, the beta for tradition is larger than that for innovativeness. But the model would have to reflect the fact that when there is lots of tradition, the payout to a little innovation is high and, more strikingly, visa versa.

Val Larsen

Nato writes:

"That this is the best of all possible worlds seems plain, if God is omnibenevolent, perfectly foresightful and created everything whatsoever."

The traditional answer (which establishes that this is not the best of all possilbe worlds) is that God created humanity with free will and that human freedom permits evil to enter the world contrary to God's will. Given your "perfectly foresightful" premise, I have my doubts about whether this argument holds up. But I will let Nathaniel or Joyless Moralist address the problem you identify. Mormonism denies one of your premises: "God created everything whatsover." This tends to dissolve much of the problem of evil. It does raise other theological questions.

Nathan Smith

In response to the "best of all possible worlds," I guess I don't have much to add to Val's rehearsal of the traditional answer. There are no possible worlds in which *God* behaves better than He does, but there are lots of possible worlds in which *we* behave better than we do.

I have a feeling that that argument will be regarded as falling short. At the moment I'm not sure why. It seems satisfactory enough.


As I have tried to say before. The lion who slaughters the antelope are not more or less praiseworthy than the antelope who live peaceful vegetarian lives.

However, the antelope despise rather than praise the lion, yet despite the antelopes disapproval the lion himself has nothing but pride in his hunting skills and way of life.

Thus, the murdering rapist is not more or less praise worthy in his contribution to the cosmos, than the benevolent doctor. However, We who seek to not be murdered do not praise him, we in fact hunt him out and seek his destruction and removal from our lives.

Yet, if he is truly in his heart a murdering bastard, and that is the way "GOD made him" then no matter how much we despise and persecute him, he will never loose pride in his acts, his spirit will be unbroken.

If however he is not truly a murderer at heart but fell into the act by mistake, then he will be struck with remorse and repentance, his spirit will be shattered by our accusations.

Thus, just because you can do something, doesn't mean that is the thing you are built for. Fish can leave the water and in doing so they drawn. But a fish who is eaten by a shark serves his purpose as a fish as much as one who lives to ripe old age frolicking freely in the seas.


I'll agree with Val that those riding at the extremes of tradition do better than the extremes of innovation, as probably most of the latter die young and bewildered.

most of the rest of it seems to regard a difference in what we consider social innovation. Of all commenters on this blog, froclown seems to be the only one who could plausibly fit Val's archetype of a true innovator; the rest of us are identifying values in the ambient traditions and adopting them. Tom and I adopt traditions that are newer than Val, JM and Nathanael, but I don't think we could be said to have invented so much as configured our traditions according to our idea of the good. Further, we advocate high configurability to match the individual rather than more whole-cloth traditions as our theistic interlocutors seem to advocate.

This high configurability is in itself an innovation of sorts, but we didn't invent that, either. I've certainly seen it work for others.


Well, I think the only real difference between my views and others, is that other's seem to think there is an opposition between what is good for the individual and what is good for society in general.

Thus, your views stem from the notion that there must be a common notion of that is "THE GOOD" which people must then constrain their personal pleasures to some degree in adherence to the "GOOD".

The opposite view is one that the individual whims are "the GOOD" and the objective good is a lie that interferes with individual hedonism.

I'm trying to put forth the view that neither rampant hedonism nor strict adherence to set morals laws are beneficial.

Hedonism only seems good to the individual, the life style of a rock star may seem like fun, in the short term, but eventually the liver fails, the constant touring takes it's toll, etc. Thus, this sort of life style leads to depression and a broken spirit.

However, if own lives in strict obedience to set moral laws, imposed by external factions, then one may be healthy (if one chose the right leader) however one may feel like a child kept locked in doors or a bird that never learned to spread his own wings and fly. Thus this life style also leads to depression and spiritual distress.

However, if we take the view that the objective good is to express one's subjective talents according to one's curiosity and creativity. This is not self destructive hedonism nor is it the self denial of blind conformity.

Hedonists accept their unique nature, but deny their duty to the external world. (the result unguided self destructive decadence)

Conformists deny their unique nature and accept whatever duty they are assigned by "authority". (The result, a puppet/slave used to fulfill the decadent hedonism of the authorities in autocracy, or the unchecked obsession of group think (mob rule) in democracy.

But one who accepts that there is no antagonism between the individual WILL (passion/curiosity) and the WILL of the cosmos (duty) results in an individual who expresses his true nature by performing his duty. These are one and the same, he is not constrained to obey laws and morals, yet he does not fall into vices that would interfere with his work.

For example a mathematician whose life's work and fascination is to unite Quantum mechanics with Relativity, does not become a drunkard or obsessed with sexual fetishes, because these obsessions would interfere with his ability to concentrate on his equations.

People become criminals and addicts, in rebellion against the laws and morals which restrict or interfere with the free expression of who they are. Remove these restrictions and things flow smooth.

Wem ust realize that our duty is to the infinite cosmos, not to the social institutions, laws, churches, peer opinions, etc.

As the protestant say the only thing that truly matters is your direct and personal relationship with "GOD". By GOD I mean the infinite cosmos of being as such, not the abstract idol worshiped by church goers.

Val Larsen

With respect to the problem of evil, Nathaniel writes:

"I have a feeling that that argument [fee will explains evil] will be regarded as falling short. At the moment I'm not sure why. It seems satisfactory enough."

I think the problem follows from God being "perfectly foresightful," as Nato puts it. Even if it be granted that free will means creatures can choose to do evil on their own, God (who is outside of time) knows before He creates them what they will do. So He has the option of only creating creatures who will freely choose the good. So orthodox believers seem to be on the horns of a dilemma. Either God's creatures surprise Him with what they freely choose to do (in which case He is not omniscient) or He chooses to create Hitler knowing perfectly well what Hitler will do. Since creating Hitler was presumably optional for Him, why is he not accountable for the evil Hitler did given that he could have left Hitler uncreated. In creating him, He indirectly commits the evil--or so it seems to me.


Are se sure that what displeases or horrifies us, is necessarily what GOD would consider evil?

Who says Hitler was "Evil" was it GOD who said this or is it men who say this?

I'm sure men would say that a flood that kills nearly all life on earth is evil, but for GOD this was a good thing. Men would say that sending an army to slaughter whole tribes of people and to rape the unwed women, forcing them to be wives in your own tribe is evil, Yet this is exactly what GOd commands of Moses to do, and presumably God felt this was not an evil command.

So, maybe the slaughter of 6 million of "GOD's Chosen people" was in God's opinion a good thing, it cleaned out his herd, purified the blood line of his "sheep" and separated the wheat from the chaff, so that the few remaining Jews could rebuild in Israel from healthy stock.

I am not so sure that GOD considers the holocaust evil, any more than a pig farmer considers it evil to castrate the animals he doesn't want to breed and to kill off the swine who are contaminated with disease or are genetically not as fit for the table.


The problem with froclown is that he's such a slave to political correctness.

Nathan Smith

Ah yes-- so what we have is not really the problem of evil, but the problem of reconciling free will with divine foresight.

If I have free will, it is impossible to have perfect foresight about what I will do. You might, of course, predict what I will and guess right, but I could have done something different. The problem is not your limited knowledge about who I am, about my physical capabilities or my preferences or my beliefs or my character. The problem is that my choice simply *is not determined* beforehand.

If God created Hitler with a nature such that Hitler was bound to become Hitler, He would be guilty of Hitler's crimes. In that case, indeed, Hitler would not really be guilty of them, since he would have been created such that those crimes were the inevitable outcome of the interaction between himself and his environment.

If Hitler has free will, if Hitler's choices are not predetermined, responsibility is removed from God and transferred to Hitler *BUT* in that case how can God have foresight? What are we to make of the apparent tradition in Christianity and Judaism, as well as Greek paganism and no doubt other traditions, that God (and prophets enabled by Him) can foresee the future?

I noticed this problem very early. I remember that when I was about 7 years old, I was reading the story of Samson, and I seem to remember there was some prophecy about Samson, that he would deliver Israel or something like that... I don't remember now exactly what... but I realized that if Samson had free will the way I did, God wouldn't have been able to predict his future, because Samson might make any number of choices that would prevent it happening. I concluded, with a simplicity that seems amusing in retrospect, that God must "plant," as it were, certain figures in the unfolding of history, like the fake audience members who participate in magicians' tricks. God's "plants" are not normal people but a sort of dummy, lacking free will, who play the part God needs them to play. God can predict history because He knows when he will insert these agents of His.

At the time, I don't think I regarded this as a doctrinal innovation. It seemed like an inevitable inference from divine foresight.

So what would I say now? I see two possible explanations of divine foresight which are consistent with free will. First, God can predict His own behavior, so He can, for example, foresee His own Second Coming. I can keep my own promises most of the time; God can, all the time. To the extent that future events depend on some divine act, rather than on human actions, divine foresight is unproblematic. The second is more difficult: there may be "laws of history," large-scale patterns in human affairs that make individual choices unable to alter history in certain ways. Currency crises, once underway, can be like that: all the participants realize that what is happening is disastrous and irrational, yet none of them by his own choice can do anything to stop it. If God knows the "laws of history," some divine foresight becomes possible.

Only some, since the laws of history do not determine anything. Certainly no law of history made me write this blog comment. Are there really laws of history, at all? I'm not at all certain of that-- but that's a very difficult subject. In any case it would seem that the laws of history, if there are some, are more likely to be probabilistic rather than certain affairs, which raises the possibility that God might foresee, yet sometimes get it wrong. This is certainly not a bad description of the actual record of prophecy, but it doesn't fit very well with the theological notion of an omniscient God.

A third answer, which is not much of an answer, is that we do have free will, and divine foresight is just a mystery. (Or that God is "outside of time," which is the same thing, since we can't really conceive of a being, or at any rate a conscious being, who is outside of time.) This doesn't quite make all the problems go away, for it seems that God sometimes reveals some of his foreknowledge to men, but this creates "Back to the Future" paradoxes: by revealing the future, you change the chain of events that will give rise to the future you just revealed, thus falsifying your prophecy. Does God make His prophecies in a very careful way so as to make sure that they are all subtly self-fulfilling? Or does God only prophecy that which He will bring about Himself, in which case He doesn't need to worry about falsifying his own predictions through the consequences of the predictions?

This is vexing. Peter's thrice-denial of Jesus is a powerful story. But wouldn't you expect that, even if Peter *would* have denied Jesus three times were it not for the warning, surely one would expect-- not with certainty, but with high probability-- that the warning would prevent Peter from doing it. Or, on the other hand, since everything affects everything else, the warning might have altered Peter's behavior slightly and led to the occasion in which the betrayal took place. If Jesus knew this, wouldn't that make him sort of responsible for Peter's denial? Or perhaps Jesus foresaw both chains of events, the if-I-do-tell-him and the if-I-don't-tell-him variations, and knew that Peter would betray him three times either way, so he could foretell this without *either* (a) being responsible for it, *or* (b) being proven wrong. But that seems like a somewhat contrived solution.

Then again, Jesus was not merely God but God *incarnate*, and it's not clear to what extent divine attributes still applied to him. Perhaps he could simply have been guessing, with a high probability of truth based on his knowledge of Peter's character-- but Peter *could* have refrained from denying Jesus with his lips (though perhaps he could not have avoided denying him in his heart, in his lack of faith)?

These speculations don't seem to be leading me to any good, but what alternatives am I missing?


"If Hitler has free will, if Hitler's choices are not predetermined, responsibility is removed from God and transferred to Hitler"

Of course, from my perspective on free will, if God creates Hitler in such a manner as he turns out the way he does, then they are *both* responsible. Nathanael's radical free will, on the other hand, allows God off the hook. I tend to suspect that this is why theologians are overwhelmingly hostile - even dismissive - of compatibilism, but otherwise it seems quite a popular favorite. But that's exegesis, not refutation.

One would also say that if there are certain laws of history, it would seem radical free will would not fully apply to humanity en masse, and thus God would again be responsible for those outcomes. Any tongs of fate substantial enough to allow God foreknowledge are ultimately going to conduct the heat of evil back to His hand.

Of course, there are a number of ways around the problem of evil, and I would regard the LDS, Jehovah Witnesses and a number of other sects as having in some sense solved it, though not in ways everyone likes.


well, for one thing, GOD did not create Hitler, his parents created him, and unless GOD specifically grabbed Hitler's parents and forced them to have sex, then I don't see how "GOD" created Hitler.

Also, I don't even like political correctness and am certainly not a slave to it.

I say call a spade a spade. However, what a spade thinks of himself and what some one else thinks of a him may not be the same.

If your opinion of black people is that they are worthless "niggers" then that is your opinion. I don't hold that opinion, and I doubt that most black people hold that opinion either.

You have no right but to hold your own opinions and act on those opinions, however if you attempt to do racist fueled violence, then you better believe that I will try to stop you, and so will others who do not hold your opinions.

However, there is not absolute power who can dictate to us what out opinions should be. I can advise people not to hold racist views because that is in my nature. I can fight against racists because that is in my nature.

However, what I can not do is speak on behalf of "GOD" and declare that racism is immoral or wrong in an ultimate cosmic sense, because I do not know what plans "GOD" may have, I can not know that he did or did not create you to be a racist, and I can not know what ultimate reason he may have created racist for.

Reading the story of the tower of Babel, it seems to me that maybe GOD creates racism, in order to keep people apart because if man kind ever formed a one world culture of government they might just erect a palace higher than the heavens and a kingdom that challenges the throne of GOD.

So maybe Racist are necessary to keep people apart so they do not make the same mistake as Lucifer, that of challenging the absolute authority of GOD?

Is God's behavior in this example "GOOD" or "EVIL".

And who are you to decide, unless as I say we each have absolute right to our own opinions, which are Truly "GOD" given by the process of cosmic evolution, (not some mythical megalomaniac from the bible)


"Also, I don't even like political correctness and am certainly not a slave to it."

When I called you, froclown, a slave to political correctness, I was being facetious in the same manner as the statement "The problem with Stalin was that he just let his political opponents walk all over him."

Nathan Smith

"Of course, there are a number of ways around the problem of evil, and I would regard the LDS, Jehovah Witnesses and a number of other sects as having in some sense solved it, though not in ways everyone likes."

I don't think it's the problem of evil. That's solved already: God gave us free will, and we do evil. Maybe you can ask: Why did God give us free will if it could lead to so much evil? And then you have to say that free beings are better than automatons even if they somehow do wrong. It's hard to prove that one way or another; one begins to step outside of the kind of work logic can do.

The problem with divine foreknowledge is still there whatever you do about the problem of evil. Even if you throw free will out the window divine foreknowledge still has some very odd implications. Chains of causation being what they are, a prophecy about the future will almost change the future in some way, and so every true prophecy has to be either self-fulfilling, in which case prophets who foretell bad things are responsible for them, or else it has the prophet has to deftly choose just those events which are features of the-world-with-the-prophecy and the-world-without-the-prophecy.

Sometimes I think the most theologically innocuous and plausible account is to say, "Well, people make all kinds of predictions in the name of God, and some come true, and some are so vague you never know whether they have, or will, come true or not, and others turn out false, and those ones are usually forgotten. People like saying that something was foreseen or foreshadowed, it makes a compelling story, so they say it." As far as I can see, any other notion of divine foreknowledge has even more scandalous implications.

I am harsh with compatibilism because it's an obvious dodge. The normal compatibilist line is to point out that when we say "he did it of his own free will," we refer to an absent of specific external compulsion, and then they pretend that this special case can be generalized to all accounts of free will and voluntariness. But that's a special case, semantically speaking. We can easily make a pair of lists like the following:

Voluntary actions: Singing a song, jumping up and down, driving a car to the airport, writing an essay

Involuntary actions: Breathing (most of the time), crying out when surprised, flinching when someone moves a hand rapidly towards your face

Once we make it clear that we are speaking *literally* of free will, anyone can recognize that the guy who gave $5,000 to the bandit to spare his family did do it of his own free will *in that sense.* And that is the relevant sense when we are discussing the existence of choice.

If you're a determinist, fine. But you have to admit that that does go against a certain very fundamental intuition that we have choice, and that a-- if not *the*-- natural response to it is to be shocked and to assume that it eliminates the possibility of responsibility for our actions. ("*Radical* choice," if you like; I suppose once has to submit to labels; but there's nothing radical about it, it's an utterly ordinary and taken-for-granted-by-normal-people position.)


fine if we are going to go this route.

Who is to say that God selects "the best" of all possible worlds.

Some physicists in Quantum mechanics still adhere to Everettes Multiple universe theory. That is that there are practically infinite worlds in which things are different in some way or another.

That is in one universe Hilter's father chose to support his art and the result was the holocaust never happened in the universe we remember there was a holocaust.

God Creates us so that we have free will, and that freedom means we choose to experience one future consequence rather than another.

However ultimately in the multi-verse as a whole, we never actually choose one or the other, good or evil, as all possible choices are made and all possible future worlds exist, predetermined by destiny.

You may think, but it's unfair that "I" have to live in this universe, when there is a "better" universe next door.

However, "you" also live in that other universe, because there is a "YOU" in every universe, a you who made a different choice.

Thus, perhaps there is an all good universe and an all evil universe and an infinite continuum of in between universes, and "GOD" created them all, and you exist continuously in all these universes, however the nature of your discrete awareness prevents cross share of information between selves, (save maybe in certain quantum effects, perhaps linked some how with prayer or meditation.) But probably not.


"I wouldn't hang out with Joe. Didn't you hear he's had business dealings with known criminals?"

"Really? That sounds bad! How do you know?"

"He gave this violent gang leader five thousand dollars - of his own free will!"

Anyway, why would God create people who would choose to do so much evil? And even if there's some explanation for that, why would God create a world prone to drought, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc and bodies so prone to disease, spontaneous abortion (God's the world's most prolific abortionist!), birth defects etc etc. Is it all a mystery?

Nathan Smith

Well, it is a mystery to some extent, yes. But I'll venture an explanation of sorts. The hell that we can create for ourselves through our own pride and voluntary alienation is worse than any physical pain. We're programmed to be afraid of pain, we can't escape it, and it's pretty bad at first, but the truth is, it's amazing what we can get used to. A saint can go hungry for days and his soul will still be full of joy. The worst of sinners can live in a royal palace with a harem of beautiful mistresses and still torture himself with his own bitterness and hate. Now, the reason that there is pain and danger in the world is to teach us love. It *forces* us to swallow our pride and *labor* together, and through laboring together to learn to love one another.

I wrote about this in one of my personal favorites of all the essays I've written, "Work, Service and Worship." Link:

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