Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How does God judge? (2)

More Wittgenstein:
How God judges a man is something we cannot imagine at all. If he really takes strength of temptation and frailty of nature into account, whom can he condemn? But otherwise the resultant of these two forces is simply the end for which man was predestined. In that case he was created so that the interplay of forces would make him either conquer or succumb. And that is not a religious idea at all, but more like a scientific hypothesis.

So if you want to stay within the religious sphere you must struggle.
That's from 1950, so we might begin by noting that there is nothing new about this question of determinism and free will. (And you can find people wondering about the same things back in 1750 too.)

I think Wittgenstein moves the question forward by asking about religious versus scientific ideas. I'll expand on that a bit, here are two questions:
  1. Are you sure you turned the stove off?
  2. Are you sure you will keep your wedding vow?
Wittgenstein would say that those questions have a structure that makes them look like they are more closely related than they really are. But they are really very different questions with very different criteria and standards.

And we can see how different they are by asking how we would check in each case. If I want to know if I really turned off the stove, I walk over to it and check where the dial is and see if the burner is hot. But if I want to know if I really meant it when I made my wedding vow there is no dial to check.

The only proof that I have is that I am still working at it, that I am, as Wittgenstein says, that I am still struggling.

More tomorrow ...


  1. That's right, essentially we're all a work in progress. You might have sincerely meant it when you made your wedding vow given your state of mind, the information you had, and the circumstances you were in at that time. But those could all change--either at a moment's notice or over a period of time-- nobody can predict the future. That's why Aquinas' actus this and actis that is inadequate because they occur in a vacuum, out of any context, and that's not reality. I always liked Wittgenstein.

  2. Its interesting, I've heard couples say, after spiritual counseling, prayer, and thoughtful consideration, that they reached the conclusion that the best way for them to respect and honor their marital vows was to let each other go to search elsewhere for the happiness they felt they both deserved.

    Life is an ongoing process.