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Jory have the ability to make our

Jory DayanRabbi Noah SonenbergJanuary 25, 2018Philosophy 12Is it Really Up to Us? One of the oldest arguments of philosophy, is the question of free will. Do we have the power to do what we want? Or is everything predetermined? There are two philosophical approaches that can be taken to answer this question, Religious, and Secular. The Rambam and Martin Luther take the religious approach, answering the question, “If G-d knows everything (including what we will do), how could it be that we make our own decisions? And also, If G-d has a will that must be fulfilled, how can G-d ensure his will is fulfilled without taking control of us?” Although it would seem there are only two approaches philosophers can take to answer this question, there are in fact three. Either we have the ability to make our own decisions, we do not have the ability to make our own decisions, or some things are fixed while other things are up to us. The Rambam believes that everything that we do is because we chose to do it. While Martin Luther believes, that almost everything we do is predetermined, and only some small decisions are up to us. The Rambam (Rav Moshe Bar Maimon), a 12th century Jewish philosopher, believes in free will and states, that everything we think and do, is done by ourselves, and is not something willed by G-d. When faced with the question of G-d’s all knowing power, the Rambam points out that G-d is not finite and time bound like us, and therefore, if G-d knows what we will do at any given moment, it is not necessarily because our decision has been made for us. Rather, G-d has already seen our decision made, and therefore knows before we do. The illogical notion that if G-d knows what we are going to do, he must have made it happen stems from a fallacy of denying the antecedent. People often believe that if G-d knows everything we know, whatever we don’t know, G-d should not know, but this is in fact false. The Rambam also bring very solid evidential proof for his reasoning that we have free will pointing out, “Obedience or disobedience to the commandments depends not on the will of Hashem but on man’s free will.” (Shemonah Perakim, The Eight Chapters; Maimonides’ Introduction to Ethics of the Fathers; Perek Chelek; Discourse on the World to Come). Showing that the commandments come as an indicator for the fact that we in fact have free will, because if G-d created commandments for beings that do not need to be commanded, this would be illogical and imperfect, contradicting with our understanding of G-d’s characteristics. Another argument that is often made to disprove the Rambam’s philosophy, is that G-d has a will that must be fulfilled, and should G-d let us do what we please, there is no guaranteeing G-d’s will will be fulfilled. Therefore G-d must be in control of us in order to ensure we fulfill his will. The Rambam rejects this statement by pointing out that we as human beings have free will. However, we are not the only things in this world that are G-d’s creations. Rather the entire world is G-d’s creation, and although G-d does not control us, G-d has the ability to manipulate the world whatever way he see fit, in order to ensure that our decisions we make freely, do not interfere with the fulfillment of  G-d’s will. This is one of the Rambam’s stronger points, as it fits in with the idea of Gam Zu Letova. A good example of this is the story of Rabbi Akiva in the cave, when a series of unfortunate events, end up saving Rabbi Akiva from being attacked by robbers. Hence proving that G-d has the ability to provide us with free will, while still ensuring that his will be fulfilled. Martin Luther was a 15th/16th century Christian philosopher, who stated, “The inner man cannot be forced to do out of his own free will, what he should do, except the grace of God change the heart and make it willing.” (The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 1). Declaring that most decisions people make, are swayed by G-d in order to ensure they do what G-d expects them to. Although Martin Luther admits that some decisions are up to us, they are only those that will not have an effect on a greater outcome. However, despite the fact that G-d does not control those decisions, they are often influenced by inclination and desire, attributes given to us by G-d. Often philosophers argue Martin Luther’s philosophy by turning to the commandments. Pointing out that if G-d controls us the commandments must be pointless. Martin Luther counters this point by saying that the commandments are demonstrative, showing us how savage we’d be without G-d’s control, and all of the unfortunately simple things that would seem like common sense that we would need to be told. Martin luther also points out that we are such miniscule beings relative to G-d, and to think our actions can have an effect on G-d is foolish. This however is contrary to his philosophy, because that could also mean that anything, we as human beings do, that would be contrary to G-d’s will, assuming we have free will, couldn’t actualy have a major effect on G-d’s plans. However, Martin Luther continues to point out the flaw in believing G-d created beings to enact his will without controlling them, because being perfect, G-d would only fulfill his will in the most efficient way possible, and it is inefficient to create beings that G-d would be constantly forced to punish and influence via nature in order to keep them from going against his will, despite already proving we can’t have a major effect on G-d’s will. Through these proofs, Martin Luther argues that G-d is in almost constant control over us, and we do not have free will. The question of free will is a largely argued philosophical argument, and goes well beyond the Rambam’s position on free will, and Martin Luther’s arguments behind determinism. But through my research behind these two sources, I’ve found that I agree more with the Rambam, as he uses more logical argument, and leaves less holes for further argument. I particularly agree with the idea that G-d’s commandments would be unnecessary if G-d were controlling our actions. Knowing that to give commandments to beings that need not be commanded, would be flawed logic, and G-d has no flaws. I also feel that the argument made to disprove Martin Luther’s philosophy, by pointing out the flaw in saying that we are too miniscule to have an effect on G-d, is a very strong argument against Martin Luther, because it not only contradicts with his philosophy, but it uses his own words to do so. Based on this I believe G-d gives us free will, and we have the power to do what we want, and receive punishment and reward accordingly, and I would answer the philosophical argument of free will versus determinism using the Rambam’s philosophy.


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