If we live in a universe where everything has a cause, doesn't that imply that we don't have freewill regardless of god existing or not ? In what way does the omniscience of god add to this incompatibility, that without it free will and determinism would be compatible ?

  • Welcome to Stackexchange. Your question seems to have room for improvement. Which god? There are too many. And even if you say which god, which kind of omniscience or other superpowers do you claim that god to have? For questions about gods, the relevant stackexchange subsite for cult members of that religion might be more appropriate. Whatever question you really mean, there probably already is a question about it as this is a popular topic.
    – tkruse
    Commented May 14 at 15:50
  • 3
    It might be helpful if you first try to find the existing question that most closely answers your question, and then ask about anything not answered in there. Candidates: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/8081 , philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/52040 , philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/38573 , philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/98089 , philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/1012 , philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/42989 , philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/100573
    – tkruse
    Commented May 14 at 16:00
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    If we live in a universe where every event has a sufficient cause then we would not have libertarian free will. The problem with omniscience arises because, according to some religious doctrines, we do not live in such a universe and do have libertarian free will. At the same time, they still assert that God is omniscient in some sense, see SEP, Foreknowledge and Free Will. The problem is to explain how God can know what has not been determined yet because free will can choose different alternatives.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 14 at 20:16
  • i think of it as an argument against omniscience rather than free will
    – andrós
    Commented May 14 at 23:05
  • if the reference to causation is meant to allude to enlightenment (the onscience of emptiness), i would point out that buddhists don't talk all that much about free will, and though there may be overlaps with the two discourses, it's probably worth pointing out that buddhists don't lose their selves, as they don't exist in the first place. i.e. omniscience does not exist (we might suppose), if there is any free will, rather than isolated wholes enjoying the fiction of knowing they began ignorant
    – andrós
    Commented May 14 at 23:13

4 Answers 4


Your question relates at least two problems, which entangle the whole question even more.

  • Problem 1: We experience free will. How can this experience be explained on the basis of deterministic laws?

    This question falls into the domain of neuroscience, and is under investigation there.

  • Problem 2: How to make compatible the concept of divine omniscience and free will?

    This question belongs to the domain of theology where the concept of omniscience comes from. Theology makes some proposals to concilliate both viewpoints. Please look up the different links collected by @tkruse.

    I am not convinced of any of the given theological answers. I prefer to consider the concepts of a divine omniscience a problematic construction, which brings more open questions than answers. Hence I propose to dismiss this problematic concept.


First, let's tackle the notion of free will in a purely deterministic universe, one devoid of any deity. The idea that every event has a cause suggests that our choices are merely the outcomes of preceding events. If that's the case, the whole concept of free will starts to look very shaky indeed. We like to think we're making free choices, but if everything is determined by prior causes, then our decisions aren't really free, are they?

Now, let's add an omniscient god into the mix. This god knows everything—past, present, and future. If such a being exists and knows the future, then the future must be fixed. It can't be otherwise because divine knowledge can't be wrong. So, if our future actions are already known, how can we say we're acting freely? We're just following a script that's already been written.

Some might argue that the incompatibility between omniscience and free will is irrelevant because free will is already untenable in a deterministic universe. But that's missing the point. The omniscience of a god makes the problem worse, not better. It doesn't just confirm that the future is determined; it enshrines it as a cosmic certainty.

So, whether or not there's a god, free will is a questionable concept. We can't escape the deterministic chains of cause and effect, and adding an all-knowing deity into the equation only tightens those chains. Free will, in any meaningful sense, becomes a mirage, a comforting illusion we cling to despite the evidence against it.

  • To give some pushback; why does omniscience imply a fixed future? Is it not possible for God to know the outcome even if unfixed? Commented May 15 at 19:48

In what way does the omniscience of god add to this incompatibility, that without it free will and determinism would be compatible?

This is similar to what wikipedia would call "weasel words". If you think that free will is only incompatible with determninsm if there is omniscience, then suggest it, do you think? Anyway, I don't know how these are traditionally related.

Supposing you were right that there is no free will, when an omniscient god exists, and there is an omniscient god (aware of all causes or some other quality), would it show that there is no free will or god, rather than omniscience signalling the end of causation?

Which gets us to the point at last: if god knows this has a cause, how does that mean that it has no cause? All you have done is thrown some words together in a self contradictory and not very religiously salient way.

Or do you mean that omniscient beings lose their free will? Beats me.


It is a mistake to discuss freewill in black and white. At most, you can talk about fraction of freewill.

For example, if you watch a movie that you like and saw many times. What is a fraction of freewill you experience? Close to 0. But if you watch this movie for the first time, would the fraction of freewill increase? Then again, if you are a character in the movie, then your fraction of freewill is close to 0.

Even if your particular life has already been replayed many times, there is still a fraction of freewill existing.

  • 1
    In a deterministic universe, the concept of "fraction of free will" becomes problematic. If all events are determined by prior causes, then any notion of free will, whether fractional or otherwise, is undermined. Determinism does not allow for partial freedom; it asserts that all events, including human actions, are the result of preceding events.
    – Groovy
    Commented May 15 at 11:12

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