Thursday, June 09, 2011

Free will to love God, or free will from a loving God?

Dear Mr. Supposed Philosopher:

I recently read your article concerning Rob Bell's error about God and free will, and now I have a question for you. Would you agree that God's love is based on the free will he has granted us; or, on the other hand, do you agree that free will was given to us to demonstrate our love towards God?

I look upon you as very religious, and I thought a man of your deep piety could choose wisely in this conundrum.

Signed -

-- Choosy Mutha

Dear Muthalooker:

You've asked me to chose between two arguments which, from your post, seem to be as follows:
ARG. #1:
1. God gave us (created entities) free will
2. A creator giving a created entity its own free will entails the creator loves that entity.
3. Thus, God loves us.
ARG. #2:
1. God gave us (created entities) free will.
2. A creator giving a created entity its own free will entails a duty to love that creator.
3. Thus, we should love God.
First, there is nothing here that says I'm logically forced to choose one or the other argument. Indeed, since they both share their first premises, and since the conclusions of both are not controversial among Christians, then I'm not immediately worried about which conclusion is "right"--i.e., theologically responsible to hold.

Next, however, I caution that there are problems with premise #2 in BOTH arguments, since they are both open to a kind of counterexample disconnecting freewill and love.

Consider this thought experiment. It seems we humans are eventually going to construct artificially intelligent entities. Suppose we figured out not only the deep mystery of how physical brains can exhibit the property of consciousness (That was easy!), but also of how they maintain free will (No problem!).  And, as is often the case, once we got the science down, the technology was not far behind--we then build a freewill agent.

Per ARG #1, does that mean since we gave a created, artificial entity a free will, we love it? Hardly. We might simply be using it for some ends--asteroid mining, or troop moral on Mars station 7, perhaps; and, we have every intention to throw it away or "deactivate" (= kill) it when we are done with it for the assigned task. Granted, it might be unethical what we've done, but I'm merely showing a counterexample seems available to premise 2 in ARG #1.[i]

ARG #2 fares somewhat better, I think; but, even here a problem arises. Again, on supposition that we somehow build a freewill agent, must we acknowledge a duty toward it? Talk of duty is one option for a systematic ethic. But it might turn out that we're mistaken about duties--there just are no such things. Maybe there are consequences and social contracts between agents, but some free-floating, esoteric relation known as "duty" is just an old-fashioned, mistaken concept from human cultures past. Thus, your second argument works only if one believes there is such a thing as duty. There is some controversy about this in ethics, so unless we get clear on that, it looks like ARG #2's strength can't be resolved.

Overall, then, ARG #1, seems unsound; and ARG #2 is convincing only to those who think there is some special "force" or relationship independent of human preference called duty.



[image] "Consequentialism: It's Duty Free (ethics) Tee Shirt" (Accessed 6/9/11)

[i] Compare in the Old Testament where God uses Job's horrible suffering as an end (among others) to teach Satan a lesson. The Bible seems to indicate God uses people as means-to-ends quite regularly.

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