23 October, 2006

Predestination: Capricious Conclusion

I am listening to Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground on tape.

Evidently, this was his breakout novel, if you can call it that, and the thoughts he introduces here underpin the rest of his writings. I'm enjoying the book enough that I will probably go ahead and listen to Crime and Punishment.

The protagonist has an immense amount of fun with his depressing and negative view of life, so I am loving it. I have spent the first couple hours of the book with a huge smile on my face. I don't know whether that's appropriate, but there you have it.

Our cave-dwelling, bureaucratic, emotional writer (I don't know why the book appeals to me. :-) goes on at length before he seems to arrive at the keystone of his argument. He begins to rail against predestinationists - scientific predestinationists, but all the same - and their understanding of man as a creature that seeks his own best good. He talks of advantage, and how men are always supposed to be seeking their own best advantage. He thinks that is all well and good, but that they leave the best advantage of all out of their calculations.

In assuming that man wants peace, wealth, and freedom, the scientists become unable to predict a real man's behavior. The man will often do that which is not to his own advantage, and no scientist can explain why. They are able to prove with certainty that every man always does what he perceives to be to his best advantage. And, yes, they can prove it with mathematical precision, but they can only prove it using math. A man is not a "math," and they cannot explain, much less predict, what a whole man will do in real life.

"Twice two makes four," he says (and I lifted the phrase in my previous post because it's really cool) is simply not true of a man. If it were true, it were no sense to bother being a man. A man is but a ledger entry if, "twice two makes four," can explain him. There has to be something more.

(Those of you who may know Dostoevsky inside and out, please forgive me. All this is from one listen, one third of the way through, to my first of his books. I cannot reference anything but memory to see if I'm portraying him even reasonably close to rightly. Much less do I know whether he undoes everything he says in part 1 before he closes part 3. Part 1 was just fascinating enough to give it a post.)

Dostoevsky finds his answer in, "caprice."

Man finds his greatest advantage sometimes in the simple exercise of caprice. Man wants to be able to go his own way even more than he wants to go the best way. It is for freedom that he was set free (I believe the verse allusion to be mine, not the author's,) and he will run freely, whatever the cost. He will spite even himself, if in so doing he might distance himself from twice two is four. The conscious exercise of caprice is so great an advantage, in and of itself, as to often overrule all the advantages of being right.

What think ye?

Does predestination require deterministic fatalism? (Am I just living out a script, and have no control over the outcome?)

Is caprice a great advantage? (Is the exercise of free will more beneficial than doing good for others?)

Is caprice an outcome of the fall? (If I were not a fallen man, would I always do the right thing, even if it were predictable?)

16 comments:

Milly said...

Thinking. You are making me think.

DugALug said...

CP,

Doesn't 'caprice' mean to be impulsive? If that is so, it would mean to act without concern for a destination. Or live without regaurd to consequence?

So, if you are a predestinationist, then this would mean to ingore what you know to be true and live as if you don't.

To live caprisciously is to be cavelier in all that we do. I don't think this is how you want to live is it? I am certain that on some levels, following the lead of the spirit seems to be a 'caprice' move. But it is directed by God, and this is just the opposite.

If that it is necessary to cope with your existence on earth by living in a caprice state, then perhaps you should reconsider this whole predestinationist thing. :)

Here in my circles, we call that (being caprice) living in fantasy land.

Some interesting thoughts amigo!

God Bless
Doug

japhy said...

Does predestination require deterministic fatalism? Am I just living out a script, and have no control over the outcome? Only if everything is predestined. If there are certain points in our historical timeline that God has predestined (such as those necessary to ensure the lineage of Jesus's human parents would be what it is), so be it, but I don't believe that every single thing is pre-ordained by God. Otherwise it is just a script, and I couldn't tell you why God is having me write this.

Is the exercise of free will more beneficial than doing good for others? The concept of felix culpa (joyous fall) argues that because of humanity's falling-away from God, bringing about the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and his subsequent crucifixion and resurrection, we have something tangible and historical that we otherwise would not have had. C. S. Lewis writes about it in Perelandra. I would like to think that God can produce good ends out of an evil and that Jesus Christ is a testimony to that. We would not have needed such a gruesome display of the truth of God's love for us had we not transgressed against God in the first place, but it would seem we are better off for having it.

codepoke said...

Hey, Milly!

It ain't on purpose! Really. I'm casting wide on this stuff. I'm just throwing my net out as far as I can and pulling up everything I find.

It's been a while since I've thought this hard. :-)

Kansas Bob said...

Fatalism - yikes ... did you say that? Here is something that I wrote about faith and fatalism a while back:

Fatalism is very subtle because it can mask itself in very religious ways. We can mistake a sort of spiritual paralysis as "waiting on the Lord". We can be immobilized by fear and think that we are living in dependence on God ... all the while not taking risks ... not stepping out in faith ... thinking that God will move when even when our hearts are dark with fatalism. You know, when our faith is focused on the whole of God - His sovereignty, His Power and His Love - we can have a healthy faith. When we focus on one aspect of God, like His sovereignty, we develop an unhealthy faith.

codepoke said...

Doug,

If that is so, it would mean to act without concern for a destination. Or live without regaurd to consequence?

American Heritage:
An inclination to change one's mind impulsively.

Of course, the word is translated from Russian, so there's no telling what shades of meaning we might be adding or missing from his original thought.

If that it is necessary to cope with your existence on earth by living in a caprice state, then perhaps you should reconsider this whole predestinationist thing. :)

Precisely what I am doing, my good man. B-)

Here's my thinking.

You thought I was losing my mind before, right?

Well, here we go.

I think God wants to be tickled.

Really.

Have you ever noticed that you cannot tickle yourself? I am given to understand that this is because the nerves in your side are connected to the nerves in your finger. The sensations hit your brain at so closely to the exact same time, that you cannot be surprised by them. When you give a person who cannot tickle himself a device that delays the sensation for even a fraction of a second, he can tickle himself silly.

Which would be quite silly, but that's not the point. Focus!

God cannot get His hands on a device that will fool His own Spiritual nervous system. He cannot tickle Himself, but He must think it's fun, or He would not have made it such a big part of our lives. (You know some of your best memories involve tickling - just admit it.)

So, what does God do?

Well, He creates Adam, but it's still not good, because Adam cannot tickle Himself either. This kind of bums God out, because all He's really done is recreate the whole problem in a lesser being. He's going to have to do something that is outside of His own image. Something amazing.

The thing about Eve is that she was (emphatically) not just an extension of Adam. She was not a little remote control toy for him, such that whenever he thought, "I want a beer," she immediately rose and squeezed a beer-tree fruit for him, and brought it to him on ice (from the ice-tree.) She was (emphatically) a person in her own right, whom Adam needed to ask for a beer to see what she'd do.

(No, I don't drink beer, but it sounds better in the story, and that's what matters, right?)

So, she hands him his beer, and just as he's sucking down a big snort, she wiggles a finger between his ribs. He snorts for real, beer goes everywhere, and the chase is on.

And God says, "All things are good."

But God still doesn't have anyone to tickle Him.

Or does He?

Could it be that the image of God is just a little more mysterious than we tend to believe? Could it be that Eve is part of the image of God in a way we have never imagined?

Could it be that the church can give Him a foretaste of tickling even now? Could we maybe surprise Him just that little bit that makes life worth living? When you share something intense with a friend, you "know" what they should say, but you don't know what they "will" say. When I write a post out here, I know what you should say, but ya'll never do >;-)

And the surprise is better than best answer I could hope for. I come back (even when I cannot get back for days) because I never know what I will hear from ya'll.

What if God lives for that surprise?

I believe He does.

Then caprice is key.

Predestination, or at least it's most popular form, cannot answer the need for caprice, but it is a need. About what do lovers complain most? The rut they're in, right? That rut is my biggest fear of heaven. 13.5 billion years from now, how will God be keeping our love fresh?

I don't know, and I want to see.

codepoke said...

Thank you, Japhy.

I understand your point, and appreciate it. I want to question ...
The concept of felix culpa (joyous fall) argues that because of humanity's falling-away from God ...

... though.

Doesn't that kind of fly in the face of Romans 6 (let us sin that grace might abound?)

I would like to think that God can produce good ends out of an evil and that Jesus Christ is a testimony to that.

Amen! I agree with your conclusion. I just have never heard of this happy fault doctrine.

codepoke said...

Amen, KB

Fatalism = bad.

It is a thin veil for a number of depressing things.

In my life, fatalism was not brought on by predestination, though. Predestination allowed me to break the grip of fatalism. I was shell-shocked. Too many things came too fast (not so many, so big, nor so fast as in your story, though - praise the Lord for carrying you through all those fires!) and I was too weak to face them. I became like a soldier cowering behind a wall, afraid to raise his weapon.

It was believing that God had ordained good works for me to walk in that set me back up on my feet. When I had to do the good works, I could not rise. My enemies were vastly stronger than I was. But when God had ordered both the path and the means for walking it, I could believe Him and get up on my feet.

Fatalism [not equals] predestination.

Milly said...

I love tickling my children. Yet I have no idea how it really feels. I’m not ticklish I don’t ever remember being ticklish.

I like the idea that God wants to be tickled.

Back to my fence to enjoy.

Weekend Fisher said...

Could anyone have predicted that God would create this world? Pick anything in it. Pick a hundred different things in it. "Caprice"? Creativity -- the ability to bring about what wasn't before. Does it require a little unpredictability, hinge on will and design and desire in a way that 2x2=4 never can?

And if we're in the image of God, I'd say we've got that creative nature -- call it unstable or capricious if you will.

Imagination: giving form to thoughts of things that are not. It's what makes lying possible. It's what makes inventing possible. It's what makes art possible. It's what makes murder possible.

I suppose all the possibilities were there when we received the image of God.

japhy said...

Doesn't [felix culpa] kind of fly in the face of Romans 6 (let us sin that grace might abound?)

Felix culpa is not a "way of living". If it were, yes, it's directly anti-Romans 6. But that's not what it is.

In the Latin of the Holy Saturday mass in Catholic Churches (before the late 1960's), part of the liturgy went like so: O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem. That translates approximately to: "Oh fortunate fault which granted us so great and good a Redeemer". The phrase itself comes from Thomas Aquinas. It doesn't praise sinfulness, but it acknowledges the role that the first sin played in bringing about Jesus Christ in the flesh.

Weekend Fisher said...

I've heard "felix culpa ..." attributed to Augustine of Hippo, fwiw.

japhy said...

weekend fisher - could be. I didn't dig very deep to find a felix culpa reference, and the first one I found mentioned Aquinas. I'd expect it to be much older than him, though. Augustine sounds right.

Maeghan said...

caprice ... An inclination to change one's mind impulsively.

That's a new thought to me. Does it really mean freedom ... or free will?

Does predestination require deterministic fatalism? (Am I just living out a script, and have no control over the outcome?)

That's a tough one.

If one has free will, he chooses his way and lives in its consequences.

If one has his life predestined for him, he lives it as per planned, no diversion. But the Planner plans in love, that makes the difference.

This doesn't make me a Calvinist, (I am not into having labels anyway) just a person thinking things out ;)

Is caprice a great advantage? (Is the exercise of free will more beneficial than doing good for others?)

I am not sure if one should link caprice with free will. Caprice is doing something impulsively and free will is having the freedom to do something which may not be impulsive but could be thought through and through.

And why do you link free will with doing good?

Is caprice an outcome of the fall? (If I were not a fallen man, would I always do the right thing, even if it were predictable?)

Think think think ... :)
I do not think it will be predictable because there will be many right things to do, but which right?

Maeghan said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that I like your mention of the "Twice two makes four", though I believe I have not fully make out its significance.

Again, good stuff :)

codepoke said...

Maeghan,

This doesn't make me a Calvinist,

Hahaha!

And why do you link free will with doing good?

Link against, really.

It is not my invention. Non-predestinationists regularly describe how it was necessary for God to allow people to use their free will for evil. This was the point of the book. That free will is what makes a man alive. If he did not have a free will, he would always choose what is best, but because he does, he sometimes picks what is, "better," namely that which is less than the best but by his capricious choice.

I do not think it will be predictable because there will be many right things to do, but which right?

Nice point. :-)