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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Do Elves have free will?
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Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 4:46pm

Post #26 of 157 (5102 views)
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Fading and will? [In reply to] Can't Post

I personally do not see a connection between fading and will. Elves are doomed to fade--that is, they become less noticeable in this world, but not due to any choice on their part. I am doomed to be female, which throughout a large chunk of history would have rendered me invisible, too. That doesn't mean that I don't have free will, just that in some places to this day it doesn't matter to anyone else there. Elves can do whatever they want, just no longer in plain sight.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 4:59pm

Post #27 of 157 (5110 views)
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Gimli [In reply to] Can't Post

Galadriel foretold that Gimli would attain much gold, and yet gold would have no power over him. I think she based this on his character, rather than bestowing this upon him. So when it comes to dwarves and greed, it's an inclination, not a doom.

When it comes to genes and personality, traits are what you inherit, but character is what you do with them, by the exercise of your free will. I come from a passionate family that just naturally feels things intensely; many in my family are therefore hot-tempered, but I have made the decision not to be, and have studied the means by which one may control temper, and i have practiced mildness until I do not autumatically lash out when hurt anymore. I still feel everything intensely, good and bad alike, but I no longer let the intensity of these feelings rule me.

Gimli can still gaze on gold and jewels and other mineral wealth, and his heart will still sing with joy for the beauty of Aule's works, yet these feelings do not rule him nor determine his decisions. He chooses not to strive to possess all of the beauty that he sees. Because of his character, he can express this trait, as well, in appreciation of the natural beauty of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond. Perhaps falling in love with Galadriel was a turning point in this regard, for plainly he could never possess her and had no right to even try. But he himself chose to learn the lessons of love without ownership.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 9:44pm

Post #28 of 157 (4925 views)
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I don't think so; however [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't take notes. There may have been additional supporting statements, for instance, that aren't included in Splintered Light, and I don't remember her reiterating the interesting point that Elvish fate (which is tied to the physical world) is influenced by the free will of Men (whose fate extends past the physical world)--which is also paraphrasing, I'm sure.

But I believe the basic thesis is the same: Men have free will; Elves don't.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 22 2008, 9:56pm

Post #29 of 157 (4941 views)
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Did you believe it before reading "The Silmarillion"? [In reply to] Can't Post

Say, when you first encountered Galadriel choosing not to accept the Ring from Frodo?

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a.s.
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 10:15pm

Post #30 of 157 (4965 views)
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I never even thought about it prior to that [In reply to] Can't Post

Let's see: I read the Sil in 1977 as a 23 year old who had, to that point, been reading and re-reading LOTR for many years. And I can't claim to have gotten much out of the Sil at that time. I couldn't even tell you if I noticed that Elves might not have free will after reading it the first time. It wasn't until years later that I even began to discuss Tolkien with other fans. And then I began to read references to the Sil and the question was often raised (then as now): Do Elves have free will or not?

By that time--older and more concerned with mortality--I had already thought a great deal about Providence and Free Will and etc. And so I had began gradually to understand LOTR from that viewpoint.

But as for Elven free will or lack thereof, I don't think this was an issue for anyone until 1977--and then only for those who had read the Sil with more attention than did I!

LOL

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 22 2008, 10:47pm

Post #31 of 157 (4896 views)
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Why Does It Matter [In reply to] Can't Post

N.E.B., I'm curious as to why you keep harping on this question of what people would have thought before the Silmarillion was published. The fact of the matter is that has been published, as has HoMe, and UT, and the various linguistic works, etc. Sure you can say that all that really matters is what Tolkien actually published himself, but how boring would that be? Tongue

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 22 2008, 11:43pm

Post #32 of 157 (4903 views)
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"There isn't time to dig trenches. We'll have to buy them ready made." [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd rather grouch than harp. But come now, I only asked the question twice. Or three times, counting Mythcon, but Flieger didn't offer an answer. And there I was also asking, as FFH did here, who it is that's saying these things about the Elves and Men? But my point is: why in the works that Tolkien managed to get published, and in the narratives themselves as opposed to the comments on the narratives (and here I include the key remark from "Of the Beginning of Days" -- and who is it that reports on Ilúvatar's decision made an "age" after the Valar have decamped for Eä?) is there no indication that the characters lack free will? And why did he include a hint of that idea in the other works?

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Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 1:59am

Post #33 of 157 (4886 views)
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Limited free will [In reply to] Can't Post

I would not call the non-empowerment of women for most of human history to be a good example of what we are talking about here, since it is the result of domineering/underriding assumptions about women by men, not some divine mandate. However, taking the analogy for what it is worth, if you had been a woman in the eleventh century let's say, then you would have had three options: (1) you could have accepted your unremarkable place in society; (2) you could have rebelled against the societal standards, and failed; (3) you could have rose to become one woman in a sea of men who actually became prominent and noticeable. What you could not have done - or, at least, what nobody did until the twentieth century - would be to change societal standards to the point where men and women begin to approach some level of equality. And arguably that still hasn't happened, even now in the early twenty-first century, at least in some fields (e.g. most national leaders are still men).

My point is that Elves, in Arda, are doomed to fade - indeed, as you say, to become less noticeable in the world. They do not have the freedom to escape this fate. In this sense, their free will is constrained. They do have the freedom to make choices that will influence whether they disappear entirely (i.e. become extinct), or instead simply become less numerous and less dominant than Men. In this sense, Elves do have free will.

The difference, then, between Elves and Men is that Men can make choices that will determine whether they remain the dominant species in Arda until the Second Music, or whether they themselves subsequently fade, and if so, how.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 2:14am

Post #34 of 157 (4913 views)
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Apart from Ilúvitar's underlying plan... [In reply to] Can't Post

The only argument that I can think of that really claims that the characters have no free will is because the dooms pronounced by the Valar (Melkor included) all become true. Everything the Noldor try in Middle Earth crumbles to dust, from Hithlum to Imladris. The cursed Túrin causes misfortune and death everywhere he goes. Gandalf accurately forsees Bilbo's sparing Gollum winds up saving Middle Earth. Even fairly minor prophecies still come true. Do the characters have free will or not?

I think it is worth bringing up the following for consideration: suppose that there is a divine plan set out for you, but you can choose whether or not to follow it. Because there is such a plan, if you choose rightly, you can do things against incredible odds, where nobody else could even really consider. Yet, if you don't answer destiny's call, or you answer it badly, then you can unravel the divine plan and cause some awful catastrophe to happen as a consequence. You could liken it to some kind of a computer game - it's built for you to be able to win it, but your choices will determine whether you actually do.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 23 2008, 2:59am

Post #35 of 157 (4908 views)
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The works in question were in existence when LOTR was published [In reply to] Can't Post

I could see your point more if the works in question weren't in existence when LOTR (really, I mostly discount the Hobbit for this discussion) was published. But they were. And, of course, Tolkien wanted them to be published with LOTR, which would have completely changed our perspective about LOTR from the beginning. I would say the bottom line is that the issue simply doesn't come up in LOTR because the focus is elsewhere, and perhaps because Tolkien had addressed them elsewhere. The idea of Men having free will and the ability to "fashion their life .. beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else" was already in existence in the pre-LOTR versions of the Ainulindale - in fact, it already was stated in the original Tale of the Music of the Ainur! It seems that it was an awfully well-settled concept in Tolkien's mind by the time he wrote LOTR, even if it is not reflected in that work.

As for the question of who is saying that, it is the Elves saying it, for sure. The Elvish origins of the Ainulindale was never lost (until it was largely removed by the editors of The Silmarillion). But Tolkien made a clearly distinction between "Elvish histories" and "Mannish myths". I think he clearly intended to have material that was reported by the Elves to be much more representative of "the truth" than material reported by Men.

Although LOTR does not directly address the question of whether the Elves had free will, it certainly addresses the broader issue of fate versus free will. One of my favorite discussions of Tolkien's treatment of this issue is Verlyn Flieger's discussion of the scene at the Cracks of Doom, in Splintered Light (apologies for the long quote):


Quote

At the Cracks of Doom it is otherwise. There, weakened by his long journey and his wounds, finally broken under the strain of his burden, Frodo succumbs to the force of darkness. Working on the growing darkness within him , the Ring has eroded his will so that he is no longer, as he was on Amond Hen, himself. He is separated from his true being and has become what Gollum so dreadfully embodies. Frodo's words as he sets the Ring on his finger and claims it are filled with awful irony: "I do not choose now now to do what I came to do," and "I will not do this deed" (LOTR 924). His use of choose and will makes it clear that he believes he is acting freely. But the negative, the repeated not is telling evidence that his will has been perverted and his choice preempted.

The moment is shocking and powerful. The mind wants to reject it. It is unthinkable that the best hobbit of them all, after his long struggle, his sacrifice, and the humility and mercy he has shown, should go bad. It is the triumph of evil. Having engineered such shock, Tolkien with consummate timing shifts the spotlight to Gollum, shows his reaction to Frodo's action -- more overwhelming than the reader's -- and brings the scene to a close with the final triumph of evil undoing itself.

An yet, what has happened has happened. It was not necessarily destined, not necessarily foresung in the Music, and yet the concatenation of events is such that nothing else could have happened. The ring is governed by fate, its very creation foresung in the Music. Gollum and Frodo, each as a Hobbit of the race of Men, of human kind, have the power to act beyond the Music and to have their actions shape events. In a letter, Tolkien described the destruction of the Ring and the salvation of Frodo as "grace," the unforeseeable result of free actions by Sam, Frodo, and Gollum. [Golllum] "did rob and injure [Frodo] in the end -- but by a 'grace,' that last betrayal was at a precise juncture when the final evil deed was the most beneficial thing anyone cd. have done for Frodo!" (Letters 234). Fate and free will have come together to produce the inevitable, unpredictable, and necessary end.


'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


ElanorTX
Grey Havens


Aug 23 2008, 4:25am

Post #36 of 157 (4879 views)
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Peter Kreeft, in his book The Philosophy of Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

pp. 61-65 Are we both fated and free?

[edited for brevity] [itals orig]
"Free will and destiny are always present in every story we find realistic, "true to life." A story without predestination means one without an author or a plot and thus without authority. But a story without free will, a story about machines or falling raindrops, is not a story either. Every story must have free persons making free choices that could have been made differently -- otherwise there is no drama....

"We may not know how destiny and freedom can both be true, but we know that they must both be present in true-to-life stories because they are both present in life."

Kreeft goes on to discuss Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and its argument that God is not in Time. He also cites Thomas Aquinas, saying man is free because God is all-powerful. "God not only gets everything done that He designs, but gets everything done in the right way: subhuman things happen unfreely, and human things happen freely. Just as in a novel, the setting is not free and the characters are."

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 4:33am

Post #37 of 157 (4861 views)
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What you would have done [In reply to] Can't Post

...if you were an exceptional woman in the middle ages would be to enter a convent and rise through the ranks to become Abbess. They were as powerful as a lot of corporation heads nowadays.

As to your main point, I really don't think the Elves fading has anything to do with the issue of free will. I think that issue really involves freedom of choice in one's life and actions, by both of Morthoron's definitions above, as well as FFH's quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

We've discussed whether Frodo was freely making the choice to take the Ring to Mordor. Was Fëonor free to choose to lead his rebellion? To burn the ships? Was Luthien free to choose to love Beren in defiance of her parents? For that matter, was Huan free to leave his master and follow a new one? Or were they all puppet-tools in the working out of the Music? I think the answer in all these cases is 'yes'.





Sunset, July 3, 2008

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 5:03am

Post #38 of 157 (4864 views)
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Predictions are not requirements. [In reply to] Can't Post

The standard answer to your question is that some beings are gifted with foresight, but that doesn't make them puppet masters. Gandalf may have had some insight as to what would happen, but did not cause it.

Morgoth is more powerful. But even his curse meant that whatever Turin chose to do would have a bad outcome, but he made his choices freely. Had he made better choices, he still would have ended badly (maybe falling to an unexpected assassin, a wild animal, a falling meteor, ...).





Sunset, July 3, 2008

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 5:18am

Post #39 of 157 (4882 views)
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By 1952, Tolkien knew that "The Silmarillion" wouldn't be published. [In reply to] Can't Post

...with The Lord of the Rings. And yet he did not choose to include anything in LotR to indicate that Elves lacked free will (which is what I'm focused on -- I think most LotR readers take it for granted that Men have free will, as most readers assume that to be true of themselves). Why not? Did the Elves acquire free will after the First Age? To get back to my question for Flieger: has Galadriel read the Quenta Silmarillion and that troublesome passage in "Of the Beginning of Days"? As she passes the test, does she know that Fëanor didn't have free will when he refused to surrender the silmarils? Did she know that her apparent choice will be corrected by Ilúvatar if she makes the wrong decision?

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a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 11:36am

Post #40 of 157 (4910 views)
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free will and other runimations [In reply to] Can't Post

Since I am--at bedrock level--only a relatively uneducated person and that education in a practical art and science (Bachelor of Nursing) who has become interested in the subject of Providence and tried to read without instruction so that I may miss points others have been taught, I am going to have to start by getting some kind of definition of free will. I'm not trying to imply that only highly educated people can understand these concepts; I'm trying to convey that I have learned them in an unusual way and may have gaps in my knowledge that a person with a PhD or DD degree might take for granted "everyone knows".

I might not know. So have some patience.

Cool

Free will must mean more than just the ability to make a choice. Free will must mean--first of all--that our wills are not controlled. Such an argument presupposes that there is a force or forces capable (at least in theory) of controlling our wills. Perhaps free will as a concept is only truly important if we propose that there is a God who made the universe, who is individually interested in each human soul, who remains in control of final outcomes for each individual soul, and who exists out of time forever--always was and always will be.

For example, someone who believes we are simply physical matter that lives while we live and ceases to exist in any way when we die might state that we can make choices and even that our choices obviously affect other people's choices and effect change in our finite world and that therefore our wills are free.

And yet, what we choose to do in such a scenario cannot affect our own personal infinite fate: we aren't infinite and we aren't going to heaven or hell and so what we do matters only while we are alive (I mean, matters to us personally).

So the argument about free will in the context of God's existence must be an argument about our destinations, as well as an argument about how our choices are made while here, in time, in a physical realm. Our free will must not only be unconstrained by an external force at the moment we make our choice and act upon it; our free will must be unconstrained by God's will for our soul's destination, or predesitination.

If this is the working definition of free will in the context of God's (Eru's) existence, (and it's the definition I understand and am arguing from), then it appears that Elves and Men do not share the same kind of will. Men have the ability to make choices that change the final destination of their immortal souls.

Elves are constrained by the existence of the physical Earth, are in time bound to the Earth and immortal only as long as the Earth exists and so the fate of all Elves is the same: they cease to exist when the world ends. They are ultimately bound to the Music in a way that Men are not.

Therefore their wills are constrained by God's (Eru's) will--and they do not have free will.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 12:25pm

Post #41 of 157 (4917 views)
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why does "fairness" enter the argument? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The issue of the fairness of punishment was one of my own major arguments in favor of free will in debates last weekend




If there is a God who created all things and governs the very workings of his personal creation, how does the issue of whether or not his rules are "fair" matter? If he, in fact, made all the rules then "fairness" is moot.

Isn't it?

Is it "fair" that God made us with diminished capability to obey his will--fallible and capable of sin and unable to resist it--and created a Hell for sinners? It doesn't matter. If God makes the rules, he makes the rules, and we can't constrain him by saying what he did was not fair.

Similarly, if Tolkien the sub-creator made the rules for the characters in his story, it is moot to argue that those rules aren't "fair".

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

(This post was edited by a.s. on Aug 23 2008, 12:26pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 12:36pm

Post #42 of 157 (4869 views)
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*if* there is free will for any created being, then [In reply to] Can't Post

it remains a gift from the Creator, and only always exists in the context of Providence anyway ("operative only within 'provided circumstances'"). Isn't that the mystery at the heart of religious belief in free will?




Quote

I submit that the usual dichotomy drawn between Fate and Free Will in these discussions is false. Tolkien makes it quite plain that Will is operative only within "provided circumstances" (i.e. of the World (ambar) and of Fate (umbar); see Letters p. 195): thus they are not mutually exclusive terms.




a.s.


"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 12:45pm

Post #43 of 157 (4891 views)
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free will implies the ability to sin [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The closest things that occur to me are a kind of powerful and "genetic" compulsion, which, though not the same thing as predestination, does tend toward the attenuation of free will:




I think this is the same as saying one's free will is capable of being thwarted by temptation to sin (which is why Catholics pray for avoiding the "near temptation of sin") and that we are also incapable of not sinning and thus the need for grace.

The ability to sin is, in fact, a hallmark of a free will, is it not?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 23 2008, 1:46pm

Post #44 of 157 (5187 views)
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Constrained by the Music [In reply to] Can't Post

"A.S.", you are certainly right so far as you go, that the one sense of "fate" as meaning our "ultimate destiny" is part of what the Ainulindalë passage is concerned with. Tolkien makes it quite clear there and elsewhere (including The Lord of the Rings) that it is in "ultimate destiny" that Elves and Men chiefly differ.

What is tricky, though, is that it is equally clear in the Ainulindalë passage that Tolkien is not thinking only of this, for the passage reads: "Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else" (emphasis added). Very clearly this special virtue that Men are given is operative within the World and throughout Men's lives, not merely in their ultimate destiny.

And so I can readily understand Verlyn's take on this: if one uses this passage as the basis upon and lens through which all other published evidence is evaluated, and if one equates this "virtue" with "free will", it is easy to argue that Elves do not have free will. I'm not saying it makes for a convincing or satisfying argument -- after all, none of the Elves ever act as though they don't have free will, and in fact they are often presented as having to make crucial choices with serious consequences (moral and otherwise); while Frodo and other Men are often described as fated (or possibly so) -- but it is an easy and obvious argument to make.

But I begin my paper by noting that Tolkien does not say here that Men have a unique gift of "free will", but rather that they are given a "virtue". Verlyn assumes they mean the same thing; I submit they do not: virtue is ability and strength and efficacy, not merely will (i.e., purpose or intent). Moreover, if Verlyn is right, it is very hard to explain (in addition to the points I allude to above) the existence and content of the unpublished notes I presented, which discuss the Elvish thought on the roles of fate and free will within the World and make no mention of any limitation of free will to Men. What it does do is draw distinctions between what Men mean by "fate" and what Elves mean by it, and as to the "given conditions" within which will is constrained to operate. And that, I think, is what we must do as well: what does "fate" mean in the Ainulindalë passage? What does the Music of the Ainur, which is "as fate", encompass, and so what exactly are its constraints, that Men alone can go beyond? And just as importantly, what does the Music not encompass and constrain? And what are the "powers and chances of the world", amid which the special virtue of Men operates? And are fate and free will really at odds with each other? (As I have said, I submit in my paper they are not.) Tolkien touches on all these points, both in the unpublished notes and in numerous published writings (particularly Letters).

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 23 2008, 2:02pm

Post #45 of 157 (4867 views)
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Machine stories [In reply to] Can't Post

"A story without predestination means one without an author or a plot and thus without authority. But a story without free will, a story about machines or falling raindrops, is not a story either."

Tolkien makes a remarkably similar point in the unpublished note on "Fate and Free Will".

--
Carl F. Hostetter


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 2:38pm

Post #46 of 157 (5019 views)
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*if* free will, by definition, [In reply to] Can't Post

does not include a property of determining the final destination of an immortal soul (or immortal essence) of an individual person, then I agree that Elves have free will.

Certainly Elves are shown making moral choices with consequences, both for themselves and for others--one of the hallmarks of a free will (that what we choose to do matters and we are not puppets being moved by a someone else).




Quote

Moreover, if Verlyn is right, it is very hard to explain (in addition to the points I allude to above) the existence and content of the unpublished notes I presented, which discuss the Elvish thought on the roles of fate and free will within the World and make no mention of any limitation of free will to Men. What it does do is draw distinctions between what Men mean by "fate" and what Elves mean by it, and as to the "given conditions" within which will is constrained to operate.




I can (and do!) get lost in some of the linguistics; however, I can see that we are shown two sides of a coin: an immortal race of Children of Iluvatar who all end when the physical realm they exist in ends, and a mortal race who continue in some form or other after the physical world ends. I think Tolkien is working out how Providence might come into play if we have these two scenarios, and so perhaps this discussion of "free wills" is a discussion about a concept that doesn't apply. Maybe I am attempting to use a definition that only ever applies to Men in the Primary World of our Earth anyway?

The context of free will "within the World", in other words, is not the same concept as free will in a world only inhabited by mortal men with souls that go to eternal glory or eternal hell dependent upon the actions of their free will--our real world. Tolkien might be showing how "free will" would look if we had it as a gift of Iluvatar but had no final destination beyond the physical world--if we were Elves, in other words.

Thanks for this conversation, by the way.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 3:44pm

Post #47 of 157 (4856 views)
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The "fairness" relates to moral responsibility [In reply to] Can't Post

At least, that's how I read it. God can make up any rules he likes, presumably. And he can punish us if we fail to follow them. But if he doesn't allow us to make a free choice about following the rules, it would surely be unfair to punish us if we don't. He couldn't, for example, have a rule decreeing that everyone should have blue eyes, and punish the brown-eyed, because we have no will in the matter. Or at least, he couldn't do that and remain a just God. That seems to be a point of Catholic doctrine, according to what I read in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry - there can be no moral responsibility without free will. And without moral responsibility there can be no just punishment.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 4:15pm

Post #48 of 157 (4829 views)
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Turin's Curse [In reply to] Can't Post

I have always believed that the nature of Turin's curse was not inescapable, yet structured so that escape would go counter to his character. Every single misfortune that befell him came from pride. Morgoth, in my opinion, could exert his influence to keep laying snares before Turin's feet that the man could have sidestepped at any time had he changed direction. Morgoth knew that he would not. he could not directly exploit Turin's virtues, but through pride he could pervert them into something that he could exploit.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 4:16pm

Post #49 of 157 (4835 views)
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Are you defining "free will" [In reply to] Can't Post

in terms of predestination?


In Reply To
The context of free will "within the World", in other words, is not the same concept as free will in a world only inhabited by mortal men with souls that go to eternal glory or eternal hell dependent upon the actions of their free will--our real world.



That has certainly been a major difficulty in Christian thought over the centuries - whether or not we humans are able to affect our final destiny by our actions on earth. But I don't think that's the same thing as "free will". Even if we can't affect our final destiny, we can still have the moral responsibility to do our best during our lifetime, which implies free will.

(I'm not sure it's quite accurate to say that it's in "our real world" that souls go to eternal glory or punishment - it may be the "real world" of the adherents of certain faiths, but it's certainly not the only "real world" out there!) WinkEvil


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 4:36pm

Post #50 of 157 (4938 views)
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Hell [In reply to] Can't Post

But did God create Hell? Or is it just a side-effect or byproduct, a cosmic accident, as it were? Consider that if you have an infinite being, His emotions would also be infinite--infinite joy, infinite sorrow. In order to have a perfect heaven, one must dump the infinite sorrow outside its parameters. Imagine one's dismay when beings you created to love persist in attaching themselves to things associated with your sorrow! Then you enter into various attempts to de-attach them and save them from the mess.

(For Biblical support, I cite Jesus's use of the word "Gehenna" for Hell, which was actually the location of the Jerusalem municipal dump. If he had meant a place of deliberate punishment, wouldn't he have referred to a jail or prison?)

According to Catholic theology, anyway, Hell is not actually a place, but a state. It is the absense of God, equivalent to Tolkien's Outer Darkness. People can be living and breathing right here on earth in a state of Hell.

The "Hellfire and Brimstone" goes right back to Gehenna, where civil servants burned sulfur (brimstone) day and night in the belief that the fumes would kill the maggots and solve the fly problem. "Where the fire burns without ceasing and the worm dies not" refers to the futility of such measures, a metaphor for the insanity of damnation, where one endlessly repeats the same mistakes, expecting different results.

There is the vision of the Lake of Fire, to be sure, yet visions deal in symbols all the time. Some say that it represents the burning frustration of hungering for God and not admitting that God is precisely what one needs.

My point being, Hell is a consequence, not a punishment. Fairness, therefore, would not be an issue of whether or not a divine being punishes people for things that he knows that they will do, but whether or not said divine being does his utmost to clean up the mess that keeps luring people into misery. One could interpret the death and resurrection of Jesus as God confronting His own Shadow side and taking responsibility for it, thereby creating an exit from damnation. In any case, whether one treads on such thin ice with me or not (thin ice on a burning lake? Guess what just froze over!) there exists in most religions some provision to make damnation or condemnation less than inevitable.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

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