The limit of Free Agency

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Roy
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by Roy » 18 Nov 2018, 15:56

DarkJedi wrote:
18 Nov 2018, 14:26
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.
I think I understand what Dande is saying. Let me go back to my cereal analogy.
As an anology, suppose the combination of nature and nurture presents me with an option of Fruit Loops or Raisin Bran for cereal.
Suppose I really like fruit loops and choose fruit loops. What makes me "like" fruit loops? Did I choose to "like" fruit loops?

I am not saying that we have no choices. I believe that we have limited choices based upon our circumstances. I also believe that the combination of nurture and nature that make up our internal worldview strongly influences our choices.

I may choose fruit loops day after day never knowing why a) I prefer fruit loops over raisen bran or 2) why life never gave me any other options of cereal to choose from (I may have discovered that my true cereal love was Captain Crunch!)
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Roy
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by Roy » 18 Nov 2018, 16:16

Prior to my faith crisis I felt that through the combined power of my righteous agency and covenant blessings, I could control the uncontrollable. I can't blame religion too much for implanting this idea in my head. The ability to control the events in my own life was a deep craving. Had I not experienced a shock to my system sufficiently strong to break my worldview, I would have happily continued along believing that I was protected by my righteousness and smart decisions.
Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 11:20
I also try to live with the idea that, in the end, it doesn't matter, since the Atonement /grace covers the gap, however large it is.
What a beautiful concept! I liked the concept introduced in "Believing Christ" of the merging of the two bank accounts. Christ's account is infinite. His infinite goodness will swallow up your account whether or not your account is feebly (paycheck to paycheck) in the black or severly overdrawn in the red. Regardless of personal situation, our merger with Christ is His act of gracious love for we are all "uprofitable servants"! God sees in us something so much more than our bak accounts (metaphorical and otherwise).
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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dande48
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by dande48 » 18 Nov 2018, 17:23

DarkJedi wrote:
18 Nov 2018, 14:26
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.
I guess that's what I am saying. Agency/free will as I understand it, means that any decision is ultimately arrived at by an internal "you", separate from the external world. A lack of agency, on the other hand, implies that all decisions are arrived at ultimately and solely because of external factors outside of the direct control of the internal "you". I believe if you were to take two humans, with identical external influences (biological makeup, past experiences, etc), and present them with the exact same choice in the exact same situation, they will always make the same "choice". You in your position would not have made any other choice.
DarkJedi wrote:
18 Nov 2018, 14:26
And, this needs to be said, free and agency are never used together in scripture (and neither is used very much at all).
I completely agree... and think this is why many denominations disagree; attempting to reconcile the justice of God, with His omnipotence and beingg the primordial cause. But maybe we're all just looking at different perspectives of the same thing. I think Joseph Smith came up with (or had revealed to him) the concept of "intelligences" to account for this (D&C 93:27-38); That there is an uncreated part of us, responsible for our agency, that God did not create nor is ultimately responsible for.
DarkJedi wrote:
18 Nov 2018, 14:26
Are you sure you're not trying to conflate fate and agency? I believe in agency, but fate not so much.
I do think they are different concepts. Fate is much more broad; If humans are self-determinate on any level, there is free agency. If anything is self-determinate (human or not), there is no such thing as fate. While I don't believe humans are really self-determinate, I do believe something out there is. I guess that's a different topic.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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SamBee
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by SamBee » 19 Nov 2018, 11:56

dande48 wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 11:30
AmyJ wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 06:15
...the illusion/perception of agency is just as important as the actual limits on our agency.
Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 11:20
I try to live like I have full agency, while understanding that I don't.
Personally, I believe free agency is 100% an illusion. I don't believe it really exists. At the same time, I think it is vitally important to pretend it exists, especially within ourselves. We should take responsibility for our actions, and should hold other people accountable for their actions (though to a much lesser extent). It's necessary to act as if free agency exists, in order for society to function, even though it isn't real.

But I also think we should approach even our own past actions with the utmost charity. It's why we're told not to judge. When people do bad things, it's not because they are bad people. It's often because they were hungry, tired, stressed, or afraid.
I don't believe in 100% determinism, and do think free will exists in certain circumstances. For example, you replied to my post and I replied to you. I don't think that is something preprogrammed in either of us. But I can't will myself to appear next to you, or control your mind (at least without a complicated selection of suggestions and hypnosis etc).
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DarkJedi
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by DarkJedi » 19 Nov 2018, 13:02

Dande I don't think we really disagree either.
I believe if you were to take two humans, with identical external influences (biological makeup, past experiences, etc), and present them with the exact same choice in the exact same situation, they will always make the same "choice". You in your position would not have made any other choice.
Others did make different choices, though. Some chose to drive faster, some chose to "wait it out" (would have been a long night), and some chose just not to go anywhere. There may have been other choices, those are just options that came to my ind that I actually heard reported. I did consider staying put, but I clearly wouldn't have made a different decision this time because I didn't. Next time, given the added experience of this time, I may. (I now have a change of clothes in my trunk.)
I completely agree... and think this is why many denominations disagree; attempting to reconcile the justice of God, with His omnipotence and beingg the primordial cause. But maybe we're all just looking at different perspectives of the same thing. I think Joseph Smith came up with (or had revealed to him) the concept of "intelligences" to account for this (D&C 93:27-38); That there is an uncreated part of us, responsible for our agency, that God did not create nor is ultimately responsible for.
This is good because I've been reading a lot of what Givens has written about this. (Just finished People of Paradox and now reading Wrestling the Angel - both books talk about this exact topic among others.) It's actually very fascinating. There apparently was some religious thought both ways on the topic, but the "dominant" religions in the Palmyra area (Methodism and Presbyterianism) both leaned more toward Calvinist/Wesleyan ideas and are quite firm in their views of no pre-earth existence and of predestination. This is what Joseph was up against, especially since these views are also common among other Protestants because of the influence of Calvin and Wesley. And I think Joseph's view on the subject was much more liberal than the modern church. (I've said this before here: I'm not sure Joseph would recognize the modern church.) I don't think we really know much about pre-earth and it's hard to wrap my mind around eternal existence as some nebulous entity, but it is sometimes fun to think about. This is also all tied into the "all things are matter" teachings by Joseph, asserting that spirit matter is just more refined. All of it could be, who knows? :? :problem:
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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dande48
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by dande48 » 19 Nov 2018, 20:40

Good post, Sam Bee. It's given me a lot to think about.
DarkJedi wrote:
19 Nov 2018, 13:02
I don't think we really know much about pre-earth and it's hard to wrap my mind around eternal existence as some nebulous entity, but it is sometimes fun to think about. This is also all tied into the "all things are matter" teachings by Joseph, asserting that spirit matter is just more refined. All of it could be, who knows? :? :problem:
The thing I struggle with most, when it comes to the premordial existance, is that I do not identify at all with the "me" before I came here. I guess this is a whole new (but related topic). What makes me actually "me"? I share none of my premordial memories, none of the experiences. Not the language, the culture, the bodily sensations. Not the hopes or worries or dreams. I'm not sure if I have any connection to a pre-mortal "self". Heck, I don't feel like I have any connection to my mortal self from 10+ years ago, but at least I still remember it. At least I built upon its foundation.

Should God bless or punish me in this life, for something some distant past "self" did that I do not even remember? That doesn't seem just. And what about the blessing or punishment in the life here-after? Because if there's an afterlife, the "self" there will be judged by what I do, despite the fact that I am an eternity removed away from it.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

Curt Sunshine
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by Curt Sunshine » 19 Nov 2018, 21:36

That is why I love the Mormon concept of the judgment being based on our efforts rather than the objective outcome of those efforts (doing our individual best, with no direct comparison to anyone else) - and the idea that God is the ONLY one who can make a righteous judgment.

I believe deeply in the idea that every human already passed the ultimate test and that this life is simply a chance to continue to grow - as one stage within a "time and all eternity" during which eventual exaltation will occur. We have to preach and live as if there are serious consequences of not trying, but, in the end, I really do believe nearly everyone, if not everyone, does the best they can. Technically, Mormon theology says nearly everyone accepted Jesus and was "saved" in the pre-existence. From even the most orthodox perspective, the ultimate result of agency for almost everyone, to whatever extent we have it here, is a reward (additional glory).

I like the nearly uniquely Mormon concept that nobody will leave this life and live in a worse state than what we had before this life - with the theoretical exception of a few "Sons of Perdition". I like that traditional Hell simply is not a possibility in our theology for the VAST majority of people, since even traditionally evil people receive a degree of glory just for being born. I go further than that with my own beleifs, but I love that even the strictest interpretation of that aspect of our theology is FAR more "grace-centered" than nearly all of the rest of Christianity.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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SamBee
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by SamBee » 20 Nov 2018, 08:18

If you type in "60 minutes Australia" into Youtube, there is an interesting video about "foreign accent syndrome". Three women, two English and one Australian, developed this after severe migraines/stroke - one sounds French, another east Asian and the Aussie sounds eastern European although she's never visited Europe and is fourth generation Australian. None of them had any control over this and have even lost friends as a result. All of them are native English speakers. The only possible element of free will here is that one developed it after being given an anti-convulsant and I guess she could have turned it down.

But... like I say, I do think free will/agency exists. When you post on this forum, or go hiking in the country or decide to visit a shop... just because. The words I write here fit into the structures and grammar of English, so I'm limited that way, but you guys speak the same language and can decode it, but I can also choose what I write here: Orange hamsters take the bus back home, before the steam train arrives... makes little sense, right? But I have the ability to write such sentences, should I wish to! That's free agency. No one forced me to write that, I'm not on any drugs, don't own a hamster or anything else!
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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SamBee
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by SamBee » 20 Nov 2018, 08:24

Curt Sunshine wrote:
19 Nov 2018, 21:36

I like the nearly uniquely Mormon concept that nobody will leave this life and live in a worse state than what we had before this life - with the theoretical exception of a few "Sons of Perdition". I like that traditional Hell simply is not a possibility in our theology for the VAST majority of people, since even traditionally evil people receive a degree of glory just for being born. I go further than that with my own beleifs, but I love that even the strictest interpretation of that aspect of our theology is FAR more "grace-centered" than nearly all of the rest of Christianity.
I like this. There are some very evil people in this world who deserve punishment, but all those people who did twisted things once or twice or never had the chance to leave an evil environment, well they shouldn't be treated the same. A man who steals a loaf of bread for a starving family is not the same as John Wayne Gacy, but even he was abused as a child so it grows complex.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DarkJedi
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Re: The limit of Free Agency

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Nov 2018, 13:20

SamBee wrote:
20 Nov 2018, 08:24
Curt Sunshine wrote:
19 Nov 2018, 21:36

I like the nearly uniquely Mormon concept that nobody will leave this life and live in a worse state than what we had before this life - with the theoretical exception of a few "Sons of Perdition". I like that traditional Hell simply is not a possibility in our theology for the VAST majority of people, since even traditionally evil people receive a degree of glory just for being born. I go further than that with my own beleifs, but I love that even the strictest interpretation of that aspect of our theology is FAR more "grace-centered" than nearly all of the rest of Christianity.
I like this. There are some very evil people in this world who deserve punishment, but all those people who did twisted things once or twice or never had the chance to leave an evil environment, well they shouldn't be treated the same. A man who steals a loaf of bread for a starving family is not the same as John Wayne Gacy, but even he was abused as a child so it grows complex.
I like this as well. Related to this is that I think our modern understanding of the words justice and just is a little different than in the past, although if you look up in the dictionary those definitions are there. Maybe this is more an American thing, but I think because our legal system is meant to bring "justice" to people we see justice as meaning punishment. A DA might say "Justice was served today as this man is going to prison for the rest of his life without parole" or someone might say "She got her just desserts." There's another definition of justice - fairness. I think that's what the atonement of Jesus Christ is about - fairness. As Curt points out, it's not about punishment. It's fair because we all have part in it, and in the end it will right every wrong because Jesus paid the price.
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."

My Introduction

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