Ellipsis Omnibus

Disillusioned but not disenchanted…

Free Will & Fatalism

Freedom of the WillAugustine:

The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope & Love-
“But as He foresaw that man would make a bad use of his free-will, that is, would sin, God arranged His own designs rather with a view to do good to man even in his sinfulness, that thus the good will of the Omnipotent might not be made void by the evil will of man, but might be fulfilled in spite of it.”~122

“For it was by the evil use of his free-will that man destroyed both it and himself.”~36

A.J. Ayer

The Problem of Knowledge-

“Just as the myth of the internal camera leads people to say that the past must still exist in order to be remembered, so there is a tendency for them to think that if future events were precognized, they would have to exist already.”~166

“That the course of events will be what it will be is a logical truism; yet many people are reluctant to admit it, because they think that it commits them to some sort of fatalism… It does not follow, however, that the event is necessitated in any but this purely verbal way. It does not follow that it is causally determined, though it well may be. And it does not follow, nor is it likely to be true, that it would occur whatever else occurred. Certainly, if an event is going to happen, then it will occur whatever else does occur: but this is not at all the same as saying that nothing makes any difference to its occurrence…”~169

“Thus, the recognition of the tautology that what will be will be is not at all a ground for concluding that our activities are futile. They too, indeed, are what they are and their consequences will be what they will be; but it does not follow, nor is it in general true, that whatever they were their consequences would be the same…. If his only ground for saying that an event is fated to occur is just that it will occur, or even that someone knows that it will, there is nothing more to his fate than the triviality of what happens at any time happens at that time, or that if a statement is true it is true. His bogy would not be a fraud if he could establish that what happens at one time must be causally independent of what happens at another, and in particular, that the future must be independent of the present; but this he cannot do… Surely the differnce is that while we cannot now do anything about the past, we can do something about the future. Admittedly, we cannot make the future other than what it will be any more than we can make the past other than what it was. But whereas our present actions can have no effect upon the past, they can have an effect upon the future. They can make it other than it would have bee, hand they not been done.”~170


“The word ‘freedom’ has no meaning: there are and there can be no freed beings; we are simply the product of the general order of things, our physical organization, our education, and the chain of events. These things exert an irresistible influence over us. One can no more conceive of a being behaving without a motive, than one can conceive of one arm of a balance movind up or down without a weight.”—Diderot

Anthony Hoekema:

Created in God’s Image-

‎”To be a creature means that I cannot move a finger or utter a word apart from God; to be a person means that when my fingers are moved, I move them, and that when words are uttered from my lips, I utter them… Denial of either side of this paradox will fail to do justice to the biblical picture.”


“When we go back to the source of our actions, he argue, we find that they are always the necessary results of our desires and wishes, over which we have no control. People have believed that we are free because we have a will, and the power to choose, but they have not paid attention to the fact that our wishes and desires are necessarily caused by objects or factors which are entirely independent of us.” (paraphrased by Maurice Cranston)

T.H. Huxley:

“Half the controversies about the freedom of the will rest upon the absurd presumption that the proposition ‘I can do as I like’ is contradictory to the doctrine of necessity. The answer is: nobody doubts that, at any rate within certain limits, you can do as you like. But what determines your likings and disliking?  The passionate assertion of the consciousness of their freedom, which is the favorite refuge of the opponents of the doctrine of necessity, is mere futility, for nobody denies it. What they really have to do if they would upset the necessaries argument, is to prove that they are free to associate any emotion whatever with any idea however, to like pain as much as pleasure; vice as much as virtue; in short, to prove that, whatever may be the fixity of order of the universe of things, that of thought is given over to chance.”

F.H. Jacobi:

Main Philosophical Writings & the Novel Allwill-

“Every avenue of demonstration ends up in fatalism.”

Immanuel Kant:

Critique of Pure Reason-

“If thetic be the name for any body of dogmatic doctrines, antithetic may be taken as meaning, not dogmatic assertions of the opposite, but the conflict of the doctrines of seemingly dogmatic knowledge in which no one assertion can establish superiority over another… Each of them is not only in itself free from contradiction, but finds conditions of its necessity in the very nature of reason – only that, unfortunately, the assertion of the opposite has, on its side, grounds that are just as valid and necessary… These pseudo-rational assertions thus disclose a dialectical battlefield in which the side permitted to open the attack is invariably victorious, and the side constrained to act on the defensive is always defeated.”~393-94 (where the antinomy between freedom and determinism is one of these conflicts)

John G. Kemeny:

A Philosopher Looks at Science-

“It is admitted, on the one hand, that the future will take place in one definite way and, on the other, that it has not yet taken place. Beyond this very little can be added.”~187

Martin Luther:

Concerning Christian Liberty-

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

A.W. Pink:

The Doctrine of Sanctification-

“Inability to pay a debt does not excuse a debtor who has recklessly squandered his estate; nor does drunkenness excuse the mad or violent actions of a drunkard, but rather aggravates his crime. God has not lost his right to command , even though man through his wickedness has lost his power to obey.”

Paul Roubiczek:

Existentialism, For & Against-

“[Determinism] is the natural outcome of the scientific method; it is bound to work in the direction of establishing causality… As the method is designed to disclose necessity, freedom can never be proved in this way; to discover it we must start from experience…

“Despite all the powerful external and internal compulsions which often defeat us we shall not understand man unless we take into account his freedom as well…

“Yet, in actual practice, the theories prove to be of no excuse; in spite of them, responsibility remains; we still feel responsible and insist that man ought to feel responsible. Thus, to understand man, we really cannot avoid the attempt to do justice to this feeling.”~14

Dwin Seligman

The Economic Interpretation of History-

“In other words,e very man has the will power and may decide to act or to refrain from acting, thus showing that he is in this sense a free agent. But whether he decides in the one way or the other, there are certain causes operating within the organism which are responsible for the decision”

C.H. Spurgeon:

A Defense of Calvinism-

“That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other.

I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

Mark Twain:

What is Man?-

“A man’s brain is so constructed that it can originate nothing whatever. It can only use material obtained outside… It is merely a machine; and it works automatically, not by will power. It has no command over itself, its owner has no command over it.”

”Whatsoever man is, is due to his make, and to the influences brought to bear upon his heredities, his habit, his associations. He is moved, directed, commanded, by exterior influences – solely. He originates nothing, not even a thought… None but gods have every had a thought which did not come from the outside.”

H.G. Wells:

Scepticism of the Instrument-

“I have it very much in mind that various terms in our reasoning lie, as it were, at different levels and in different planes, and that we accomplish a large amount of error and confusion by reasoning terms together that do not lie or nearly lie in the same plane… It will be obvious that a great multitude of things may very well exist together in a solid jelly, which would be overlapping and incompatible and mutually destructive, when projected together upon one plane. Through the bias in our Instrument to do this, through reasoning between terms not in the same plane, an enormous amount of confusion, perplexity and mental deadlocking occurs.

The old theological deadlock between predestination and free-will serves admirably as an example of the sort of deadlock I mean. Take life at the level of common sensation and common experience and there is no more indisputable fact than man’s freedom of will, unless it is his complete moral responsibility. But make only the least penetrating of analyses and you perceive a world of inevitable consequences, a rigid succession of cause and effect. Insist upon a flat agreement between the two, and there you are! The Instrument fails.”

Joseph Butler: 

Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature-

“…if upon supposition of Freedom the evidence of Religion be conclusive, it remains so, upon supposition of Necessity, because the notion of Necessity is not applicable to practical subjects: i. e. with respect to them, is as if it were not true. Nor does this contain any reflection upon reason, but only upon what is unreasonable. For to pretend to act upon reason, in opposition to practical principles, which the Author of our nature gave us to act upon; and to pretend to apply our reason to subjects, with regard to which, our own short 140views, and even our experience, will show us, it cannot be depended upon; and such, at best, the subject of Necessity must be; this is vanity, conceit, and unreasonableness.”

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"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."--G.K.Chesterton

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"This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it... It is by not thinking that we cease to wonder at it."--Thomas Carlyle, 'On Heroes & Hero Worship'
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