Monday, December 4, 2006

Memories of the Future

I am at a loss. I like philosophy, and at times I think that I have a decent grasp on a few things. But all my personal philosophizing on free will and predestination hasn't seemed to help me to make large-scale decisions, like where to attend school, who to marry, what career opportunities to pursue, etc. I like it when a philosophy is practical. I really strive to make my philosophy be useful in real life, and to be useful in real life it must represent reality. For example, ethics works very well in making correct predictions about the way the world really is (that is, certain actions are right and others are wrong) and then we can use those predictions to guide our daily actions. But not all actions have more than an ethical dimension. Sometimes we have to make a choice between two goods. How do we decide which path to take if both take us to good places?

I believe in predestination. I also believe in free will. Both exist in the same time and space, but most of the time we can't see that. Looking back I often think to myself, "I can see why this or that happened; if it didn't I wouldn't be here or so on and so forth." Looking forward is much more difficult. When I look forward I think to myself, "I can't see what or what not to do; where or should I go or what should I do?" Our destiny is difficult (if not impossible) to discern looking forward; and looking back sometimes doesn't give up many more of the answers we want.

At some point we have to decide if we believe that we have a destiny and what to do about it. I think we all have a destiny, in the sense that God knows what we will do, but our destiny is also controlled by the choices we make. So in effect we have to choose the destiny that is already "decided" for us. But how do we know what to do if we can't see the end product. Christians often call destiny "God's will" but if you look close I think you'll find that they are the same thing. Different social circles have just different names for it (no self respecting atheist is going to talk about "God's will," but he will likely feel comfortable wondering about his destiny). Enough semantics, how do I know what "God's will" is for my life? Can our destiny be known in the traditional sense? Can I go completely on my feelings? Does tradition have anything to say about my personal situation? Can my destiny be thought out rationally? What if each of those sources of knowledge tell me a different thing? Should one take preference over the others? If so, why? Without answers to these questions how can we keep from being paralyzed with uncertainty? (Sometimes I envy those people still in their chains watching the shadows on the wall. They can just float through life without worrying about such questions.) If I knew what "God's will" for me was I would be able to act or not act with confidence. A great number of times I have decided my actions based on an argument from reason. I don't know if tradition had much direct influence (although no man is an island) in my decision. And my decisions, at times, have flown in the face of my emotions. So for me I guess reason does take precedence over the other two. I hope that it's the right decision. Unfortunately, with life we can never really know if the decisions we make are the best possible decision.

Some stuff doesn't make sense to me. I try to figure it out, but it's just too complicated sometimes. So I end this entry not with a conclusion, but with a request. A request for my reader to shed some light on the subject of discerning God's will. Make a comment and maybe we can learn together.