The limit of Free Agency

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nibbler
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by nibbler » 16 Nov 2018, 12:27

I've had a few conversations with orthodox friends along the lines of what Roy mentions in his post.

I don't think we (orthodox members and people in general) are completely comfortable with the idea that we might not always be able to choose our behaviors.

One thing that comes out of these conversations is that we're very concerned with fairness. To suggest that there could be one set of rules for one person and a whole other set of rules for another is unsettling, we don't think it's fair.

I've found it hard to have these conversations with orthodox friends because they do not want to place any limit at all on our agency. I think the feeling is that to do so would erode the standards we're all supposed to be holding ourselves to. If we aren't in complete control of our behaviors at all times it chips away at agency. If you chip away at agency it chips away at (our) judgment, then things really start to get interesting. It's easier to maintain order by telling ourselves that there are no limits to our agency.
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dande48
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by dande48 » 16 Nov 2018, 12:48

nibbler wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 12:27
It's easier to maintain order by telling ourselves that there are no limits to our agency.
But things start getting sticky, when dealing with "sin". If you "choose to yell at your kids", you're a bad parent. Best to realize you're sleep deprived, stressed, and lost your head. Or consider the bishop who approaches a porn addict by saying, "Just don't do it!". It's really not that simple. According to free agency, if you do something bad, you are a bad person, because you chose to do it. There is very little room for forgiveness. But if you consider the countless outside factors effecting your actions, you can truly say "I messed up." "I did something I wish I hadn't done."
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by nibbler » 16 Nov 2018, 13:02

Maybe it's another case of "anything when taken to extremes."

The benefit in belief in 100% agency is that it causes you to reflect on your own behaviors. You may or may not be able to fully control your own behaviors but making the attempt to change your own behaviors is probably going to be more productive than excusing behaviors by playing the blame game.

And the other extreme, beating yourself up for things over which you don't have near as much control as you believe you have.
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by dande48 » 16 Nov 2018, 14:09

nibbler wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 13:02
The benefit in belief in 100% agency is that it causes you to reflect on your own behaviors.
But couldn't the opposite be true? For me, setting agency aside helps me to analyze why I do what I do. For example, why do I stay up late, when I know I have work in the morning? Why do I procrastinate? What motivates me to work out vs what causes me to be lazy? 100% agency condenses the answer to "because I chose to." Setting agency aside, you can really look at the behavioral triggers and factors behind your choices, and adjust accordingly. Figure out "how to control myself".
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Nov 2018, 14:47

The focus on analyzing and adjusting accordingly shows a belief in one's ability to change in a self-directed manner, which is a component of agency.

;)

I believe in the general concept of moderation in all things. (How is that for combining a qualifier with an absolute? :lol: ) It is a more difficult standard, but I believe it is where the most understanding and growth exists.
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by dande48 » 17 Nov 2018, 10:38

Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 14:47
The focus on analyzing and adjusting accordingly shows a belief in one's ability to change in a self-directed manner, which is a component of agency.
That assumes you're actually making the choice to analyze and adjust your behavior and self-directing that change. If you can't condense the reasons why solely down to "because I chose to", it's not agency.

That being said, I agree sometimes its important to believe in agency (even if it isn't true), and sometimes to admit life is largely beyond our control. Fully on board with the middle-way, but that's from a subjective point of view, focused on "what's best" not "what's true".
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by DarkJedi » 17 Nov 2018, 13:21

dande48 wrote:
17 Nov 2018, 10:38
Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 14:47
The focus on analyzing and adjusting accordingly shows a belief in one's ability to change in a self-directed manner, which is a component of agency.
That assumes you're actually making the choice to analyze and adjust your behavior and self-directing that change. If you can't condense the reasons why solely down to "because I chose to", it's not agency.

That being said, I agree sometimes its important to believe in agency (even if it isn't true), and sometimes to admit life is largely beyond our control. Fully on board with the middle-way, but that's from a subjective point of view, focused on "what's best" not "what's true".
True, Dande, but sometimes I choose to do something because I have examined the options and either want the reward or I'm afraid of the consequence. For instance, I live in the northeast and was affected by the big early snow storm on Thursday. It took me three hours to get home from work because I chose to drive 35 miles per hour on the highway (as did many, many others in the line I was in) rather than increase the risk of crashing my car. Others chose differently and passed us. I still had a choice and exercised agency and I still chose to do what I did - but more out of fear of consequences than because I truly wanted to take three hours to get home.
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by dande48 » 17 Nov 2018, 17:48

DarkJedi wrote:
17 Nov 2018, 13:21
True, Dande, but sometimes I choose to do something because I have examined the options and either want the reward or I'm afraid of the consequence. For instance, I live in the northeast and was affected by the big early snow storm on Thursday. It took me three hours to get home from work because I chose to drive 35 miles per hour on the highway (as did many, many others in the line I was in) rather than increase the risk of crashing my car. Others chose differently and passed us. I still had a choice and exercised agency and I still chose to do what I did - but more out of fear of consequences than because I truly wanted to take three hours to get home.
Not trying to beat a dead horse here, but I really find the topic interesting. I most agree with the concept of free agency, but not because I choose to. Biology compells me. ;)

Would you have made the same choice if it hadn't snowed? Or if you hadn't seen or heard of so many horror stories from people driving fast in bad weather? Or if you were more genetically prone to risk taking? I'd say in this instance, you took in several parameters and output a course of action which (according to your assessment) achiveved the right balance between your immediate survival (not dying in a crash) and long term survival (getting home). I wouldn't say it was more of a choice than if you plugged in all the data into a series of equations and followed the results.

Even if you "chose" to speed on home, would that really be a choice? Or would you be doing it because... your risk tolerance was higher? Work was more stressful and you were desperate to get home? You really had to poop? Some guy on the net said you don't have free agency, and felt compelled to prove to yourself that you did? :D
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by Roy » 18 Nov 2018, 13:53

dande48 wrote:
15 Nov 2018, 22:23
It is limited to any area you can control, and limited out of any area you can't. I think that's the whole of it.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by DarkJedi » 18 Nov 2018, 14:26

dande48 wrote:
17 Nov 2018, 17:48
Would you have made the same choice if it hadn't snowed?
Of course not. Why would I drive 30-35 in a 65 if it wasn't snowing?
Or if you hadn't seen or heard of so many horror stories from people driving fast in bad weather?
Probably. I do value my life.
Or if you were more genetically prone to risk taking?
I don't seem prone to much risk taking, true - but even the risk takers were only able to go 40ish in their AWD/4x4 vehicles. It was that bad.
I'd say in this instance, you took in several parameters and output a course of action which (according to your assessment) achiveved the right balance between your immediate survival (not dying in a crash) and long term survival (getting home).
Of course I did. Isn't that usually what we do when making decisions?
I wouldn't say it was more of a choice than if you plugged in all the data into a series of equations and followed the results.
Are you implying that informed decision making is not the same as free agency? Just because I made a decision based on available data doesn't mean it wasn't my free choice. I could have chosen otherwise, I chose this option. That doesn't make my choice any less "free." And, this needs to be said, free and agency are never used together in scripture (and neither is used very much at all). Are you sure you're not trying to conflate fate and agency? I believe in agency, but fate not so much.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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