Thursday, February 16, 2006

So, my friend Yaakov ( ) has a blog on his myspace account and he asked an interesting question. Namely, he was interested in the age-old philosophical question of pre-destination and "bechira" or free choice. If one's actions are already known and mapped out by an omnipotent and omniscient G-d, are we still accountable for our actions? Why? Whats the point? Etc...

These are my opinions and do not reflect those of any Rabbi that I have consulted with or any particular philosopher. If they match those of one you are familiar with, then I just got lucky.

Now, see, heres the dilemma. You are trying to comprehend the future from a present tense. If g-d exists in a timeless world then all that is, was and will be exist in the present tense. Time does not progress but rather exists as a singularity.

A little moshul: Imagine being tied to the side of a moving trainthat moves down an infinite track. In addition to being tied down, you are also blindfolded, save for one eye which has a long narrow pipe attached to it. The only vision you have comes from whatever passes through the end of that pipe. Bear in mind that this is the only form of perception you have ever had. You would therefore naturally assume that this is all that perceiving is. How would know to assume that if the pipe were removed you could see all the vast scenery in one panorama?

This is the human perception of time. We experience it in a progressive fashion as dictated by our natural laws of physics. As Einstein's thesis on special relativity points out though, time progression is not uniform. At high speeds or excessive forces of gravity, time comes to an almost complete standstill when viewed relatively to a body at rest or in moderate gravitational fields.

More importantly, what this indicates is that time is a whole. It is a continuum that is only particularly viewed as progressing in the forward direction due to the laws of entropy. We look at the stars and see dots of light. The vision of the star as it is now at this moment. In the true sense of space-time though, stars are long spaghetti-like strings, with one end being a large gas cloud and the other being an exploding supernova. So to humans, in the true time sense, are long worms with baby legs on one end and old-man legs on the other. Time progression is simply a perception, much in the way that the eye perceives color. It is not a physical property but rather a cognitive translation.

This does not change free-will however, or at least it does not demand it as you might assume it would. Our actions are still our own. We perform them and are accountable for them. Just because they can all be viewed, beginning to end, simultaneously by a timeless g-d, does not remove our accountability for them. That is again, merely a perception of ours, bound as we are within this progressive constraint.


At 2:10 PM, Anonymous yaak said...

WEll Xvi ,first thanks for the shout out...well ill say my piece and then you could argue with me over that, i got two theories; number 1)......the experiences , our hardships make us who we are.... because we are not robots, therfore we act and react to situations... we are not all the same and dont react to situations the same way... we are all here for a reason, to do good, bad, bad to good people or good to bad people, because of that the route we take is the easiest way to get there. we dont understand that because as i said about the acting and reacting, we all shape eachothers lives.. every experience you have had has shaped and molded you in some way, and this is happenin with millions of people ... we cant see it's the easiest route because we can't comprehend the thousands of small things that has brought us there.... and if not for all these things working out just right then we wouldnt have been who we are and wouldnt have affected all those people along the way, and helped shape them

2) although this is a bit abstract, bare with me, we have choice, there is no question. however the way we choose does effect how we end up, even though gd got it all figured out beforehand , why? because for every choice that you made you also made the other choice, i'm not going to say in a different dimension, but its a similar concept

that day that you chose to go to dougies instead of kd, you really went to kd and got into an accident or something and your complete life continues to go on....they say when it will be your Yom Din you are replayed your entire life and then your life that you had the potential of and the way you turned out if you hadn't choosen to make a right turn on bedford and i on that day at that we all have all made the choice that we wouldve regreted and lived with it, just we didnt know it because we CHOSE to continue with this direction instaed of the other....hope i dont sound too crazy... if you need clarification.... hit me up at my myspace page

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Interesting approach, Xvi. Now that we've established you do in fact have free will... why the heck haven't you come for a Shabbos yet?!

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Sara said...

whoa- broad topic u broached there. the Rambam addresses the following philosophic dilemma inherent in free will and God's omnicient nature in the Mishna Torah;
how can the two exist simultaneously?
the typical answer that is offered is that knowledge is an abstract- it is not causitive.
the Rambam, however,offers a different approach (more along the lines of what you were saying, Xvi) that there is a quantitative distinction between human knowlege and divine knowledge which causes our inability to understand knowlege in any terms but out own. God can't have evolving knowledge like we do, bc that would suggest imprefection on God's behalf. so God has his own Godly sense of knowledge based in his Godly sense of time- which is unfathomable to the human mind- but perfectly compatible in reality.

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Sara said...

btw- where did u get the moshal from... it was "interesting"

At 1:20 AM, Blogger XVI (R) - NY said...


The second one is an interesting concept. Ive heard it tied similarly to what I was saying before. In a sense, there are an infinite number of parallel existences that exist simultaneously. We do not experience them all, but rather, at every moment of time, we take of an infinite number of choices. The decisions we make determine which particular path of predetermination we happen to take. This concept has been explored by string theorists, but they were discussing the movement of "sentience" or "consciousness" between alternate dimensions, which could potentially be crossed at sub-quark levels. This works just as well, interchanging the word consciousness for neshama.We make a decision and it guides our neshama into a particular existence reflective of the choices we have made. There are then, and infinite number of "predetermined" destinies that we fulfill. Make sense?


As I explained to your lovely and expectant wife just yesterday, i would hate to be a burden on a woman in her final trimester. i am aware of the starins that can be involved in hosting someone like myself. The constant catering to my every need and desire can be particularly stressful and an all-around unecessery burden. More realistically however, is the true fact that B"H there is an honestly annoying amount of simchas occuring in my life right now, and they demand most every shabbos I have had over the past while, and for the forseeable future. It may sound like Im complaining that people are getting married and dammit, I am. Only for my weekends sleep though. I promised Serach that I would grace you with my presence at the very next availability which will probably be in 3 weeks. Im really looking forward to it.


As for the Rambam, he is correct in most ways but I prefer to find an answer that is comprehendable to the human mind. Philosophy does not allow for leaps of faith and so I try to reconcile theological questions with empirical evidence and scientific proof as much as possible, regardless of how much faith I may/may not have.

As for the info, the facts and theoretical speculations are all derived from my readings on Einstein's relativity and general String theory concepts, mostly gleaned from Dr. Brian Green's "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos." All wonderful reads that are available from the Xvi Library upon request. Another wonderful text available is Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" where the basis of the moshul was derived from. He describes this perception of time belonging to an alien race: The Tralfmadorians. Odd, but insightful. Perhaps the second greatest American anti-war novel, following only catch 22, which is also available for borrow.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Haven't been paying attention to most of the discussion, but I believe scientists are moving away from string theory toward 'superstring' theory. I have little understanding of either one, though, so don't ask me for more...

And we're looking forward.


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