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Smith Stubbs

Professor Spendlove
PHIL 1000
15 November 2016
Free Will

The issue of free will and divine foreknowledge states that if God has divine
foreknowledge then we as people do not possess free will, or god does not have divine
foreknowledge, and we do have free will. The issue demonstrates that the two concepts
are incompatible so either one or the other exists, but not both. I will be arguing that
divine foreknowledge and free will, both exist, and are compatible, this idea is known as
compatibilism. (TheProblemofFreeWill) I will do this by demonstrating that one of the
three basic conditions necessary for free will to exist, is not actually a necessary
condition. The three conditions for free will are (1) Voluntary decision making (2) The
ability to do otherwise (3) The Action can be deserving of praise or blame. I will
demonstrate that (2) the ability to do otherwise, is not a necessary condition for free will
to exist, thus making free will and divine foreknowledge compatible. A person is free so
long as they are able to voluntarily act upon their true desires without being forced, or
prevented from doing so. If a person voluntarily acts according to their true desires they
are praiseworthy, or blameworthy for their actions.
The issue of free will states that there are three basic requirements that constitute
the necessary conditions for free will to exist (1) The ability to make a voluntary decision
(2) The ability to do otherwise or differently (3) The action can be deserving of praise or
blame. The second condition of free will entails the problem of free will and divine

foreknowledge being incompatible. This is due to a principle known as necessity of the

past (Holt 721) If god has divine foreknowledge then what he knows is going to happen,
must happen. If something happens now that goes contrary to what gods knowledge was
in the past, then god didnt possess divine foreknowledge, but if what happens is in
harmony with gods foreknowledge then he knew it in the past. So if god possesses
divine foreknowledge, then by necessity of the past nothing can happen contrary to his
knowledge, and therefore in reality we dont have the ability to do otherwise in our
decisions because god knows what were going to do. Even with the future being
determined by gods foreknowledge, his foreknowledge doesnt obligate, or cause us to
make decisions. The concept of necessity of the past is true, however it does not keep
us from possessing free will in the present.
To demonstrate that the necessity of the past principle is true, and compatible
with the existence of free will, we will look at an example. Tim is at the bakery deciding
on whether to buy donuts or a cake, and in the end he decides to buy a cake. Tim, in this
moment made a (1) voluntary decision (2) God knew he was going to buy cake, so he
could not have done otherwise (3) He is praiseworthy or blameworthy because of his
voluntary decision. Even though god had prior knowledge of Tim making that decision,
Tim was not forced by gods foreknowledge, nor was it even causation for his decision,
so long as gods divine foreknowledge and necessity of the past being the only things
keeping Tim from choosing otherwise, he can still possess free will. Which would redefine the requirements for free wills existence to only need conditions (1) and (3).
Those conditions being (1) Voluntariness, and if our decision is made voluntarily, we are

responsible for it and therefore (3) praiseworthy or blameworthy, in spite of not being
able to do otherwise. (Timpe 5b)
One objection to compatibilism is the Tool and Designer argument, which would
state that god designed us to fulfill a specific purpose; in that sense, we are tools and god
is the designer. (Vihvelin 3.2) The argument goes on to say that we are only able to make
voluntary decisions that coincide with our nature, or the form in which god created us; in
other words, god is essentially the original source behind our desires and voluntary
decisions. Therefore, we are not free due to the nature that god created us with being
responsible for our true desires and voluntary decisions. (Vihvelin 3.2) This argument
does go into more depth regarding our desires and why we desire what we do, however it
fails to disprove our voluntariness in our decision making, which is one necessary
condition of our free will; and if we are unforced and voluntarily make decisions we are
praiseworthy, or blameworthy for that decision. The argument merely states that our
desires and voluntary decisions are determined by our nature. With this statement being
true, if we act according to our nature, and true desires, we are still doing as we desire,
even if that desire was determined by god. It could be said that someone is only free so
long they do what they themselves truly desire, or act upon, according to their nature, but
none the less, that individual is voluntarily doing what they truly desire and are therefore
free. (Ansgar)
Another example that poses an objection to this form of compatibilism, involving
our nature and desires, is the idea that drug addicts are not free, while yet fulfilling their
desires to do drugs. This is where the term true desire comes into play. While a smoker
that wants to quit smoking may have an impulsive desire to smoke, the underlying desire

or true desire is the smoker wishing that he did not have the desire to smoke. Suppose
that this smoker wanting to quit gets the urge to smoke, so he lights a cigarette, and
smokes. The smoker is not free because his true desire is not the one that causes him to
act. The circumstances can go the other way as well; suppose that the smoker does not
want to quit smoking, so he keeps smoking, the smoker is acting upon his true desire, so
he is free. Therefore, a person is only free so long as their true desire is the one that
causes them to act.
Divine foreknowledge and Free Will are compatible, of the three conditions
necessary for free will (1) A voluntary decision (2) The ability to do otherwise (3) The
action can be deserving of praise or blame. In reality only conditions (1) and (3) are
necessary for free will. This is because condition (2) is incompatible with gods
foreknowledge, yet gods foreknowledge does not force us, or cause us to make
decisions, or do anything against what we desire. Therefore, we can be free and god can
possess divine foreknowledge. A person is free and praise/blameworthy for their actions,
so long as they are able to act according to their true desires and are not forced to do
otherwise, or prevented from doing as they truly desire.

Works Sited:

Ansgar Beckermann: Free Will in a Natural Order of the World The

Determinism and Freedom Philosophy Website Web. 15 November 2016
Holt, Dennis C. Foreknowledge and the Necessity of the Past. Canadian
Journal of Philosophy, vol. 6, no. 4, 1976,
Pages 721-730
Timpe, Kevin Free Will Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Web. 15
November 2016.
Section 5b. Frankfurts Argument against the ability to do otherwise

Vihvelin, Kadri, "Arguments for Incompatibilism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of

Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
3.2 Manipulation and Design Arguments