Thoughts Spurred By MAOMW-RD (10/11)

Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings  Rene Descartes

  • Thoughts Spurred By Page 162
  • “Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings” – Rene Descartes
  • Cobalt TiNor…… Early June 2011
  • #Opinions #Books #Rene Descartes #God #Free-Will #Book of Genesis #Book of Galatians #Book of Ephesians #Book of Philippians #Almighty #Definitions #Omnipotent #Freedom #Slavery

 “It follows from his [God’s] supreme perfection that he could be such a cause, that is, that he was able not to give human beings free will; but since we experience that we have a free will, it seems to me to contradict common sense to believe that the will depends on God in its operations as it does for its existence.” – Princess Elizabeth to Descartes Oct 28, 1645

“But when we think of the infinite power of God, we cannot avoid believing that all things depend on him and, consequently, that our free will is no exception” – Rene Descartes to Princess Elizabeth, Nov 3, 1645

Elizabeth leads up to a point here that I’ve been talking about for at least 10 months. Elizabeth points out that it seems common sense that our free will cannot be both created and governed by God. Naturally, it can be created by God without a doubt but for God to govern it is to restrain it, and restraint is basically a lack of freedom which in effect takes us to the probably normal thought of restraint being slavery.

Descartes says we have free will, but that our free will is dependent on God as is everything else in life. He says that in order for our idea of a “supreme” and “infinite” being to live up to those titles, that everything must be subservient to that being. Descartes says our idea of God demands that his sheer existence must include his governance over our lives.

Initially I thought, “first of all that still leaves us slaves, and I would probably say more along the lines of a stupid puppet because somehow we think we are making our own decisions but somehow we are not making our own decisions. That is the same as there being no free-will; either we do not have free-will or we understand God wrong.”

But thinking further this reminds me of Paul who constantly said that he was a servant (Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, Ephesians 3:7, Philippians 2:7, etc) and often talked about slavery, and what is slavery except forced servant-hood? Also, when we look back at Genesis and see that in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve restraints (Genesis 2:17). Restraints again, tend to make us think slavery or some derivative thereof. How many children have called their parents “slave-drivers” or felt as though they were treated as “slaves” simply because of a rule? Many people I know personally have or know someone who has expressed that feeling.

Now for me, the idea of God seems inescapable; regardless if you want to call it something else. It seems to only makes sense that God in some way, shape, or form exists, otherwise you endow “natural processes” like evolution or aliens with supernatural abilities which is nothing but a distilled version of an Almighty Creator.

Now having said all this, I have stated for over a decade that the biggest cause of disagreement and arguments are different meanings for one word which creates a chasm in either parties understanding. One thing I have learned more and more from reading philosophy is that while we can communicate (regardless of the size of the words) we don’t always know what the other person means. In different career paths and bodies of knowledge the same word can exist with completely different meanings. For instance a woman I know overheard a conversation two men were having about routers. What they were talking about confused her because she thought of a router like a wood-working power tool, but they were talking about a wireless router for a computer network.

Needless to say the confusion was hilarious, and had she been part of the conversation there would have been no type of agreement at all. It would be impossible, because the two people are using the same word for completely different ideas, and even if by chance they did agree, it would be useless. You would think you know the person and then when it comes time to put that agreement to action it will create conflict because you believed that the two of you were on the same page. You find out when you need that agreement most, that it is actually nowhere to be found. It would be like John telling you that he would die for you and then a year later you go to John needing him to fight 12 men to get your IPod back. I’m pretty sure John would not consent, and you would probably have some hard feelings. Here John is, who said he would die for you, and yet he is not willing to be physically assaulted upon your request. John is thinking he would die in your place if it came down to it because he feels that your life is more valuable than his for some reason. John did not say that he would die at your request, John is not willing to die for your IPod. In other words, we all need to understand each other.

John said “I would die for you” and implied restraint and reason, where as your interpretation was wanton selflessness. So that brings me back to the idea of restraint equaling slavery. By the example in the Bible, God has given us free will but there are some stipulations (Genesis 2:16-17). Free will doesn’t mean we can do what we “will”, but it means we have the freedom to “will” or in other words the freedom to want, wish, and desire. (M-W “will” definition) We know we have free will, which is shown and proven day in and day out.  The problem is we equate free-will with omnipotence to some degree; just because we “will” something or “want” something does not mean that it can be done or that we can have it.

If I have it in my “will” that I will lift a car completely off the ground with nothing but the muscles in my body, that will; that desire is impossible. Now you would be one strong man if you could lift a motorcycle completely off the ground with nothing but your bare hands but it is completely impossible to do the same with a car. So when we say free will we should not mean that carrying out our will is implicitly implied.

We could stop there, but I believe it’s worth noting one more thing. Now, at the same time although our free will is dependent on the Almighty God, it does not mean that he has taken our freedom from us. “Almighty” means that God is able, not that he is actually utilizing the ability, but just that he is able to use to the ability. For us to say that because God is able to take away our free-will, means that we have no free will, is like saying “because I am able to kill you, that means that you have never had life”. We must recognize and accept that ability and action are two different things, regardless if we are talking about mortal man, nature, inanimate objects, or the Almighty being most of us call God.

So in conclusion, we have free-will, free-will is dependent on God, God has put restraints on our abilities but not our “will”, and even if God put restraints on our will, restraint does not equal slavery or a total void of freedom, and simply because God has the ability does not mean he is using that power.

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