If each moral choice a person makes is free (as in free will) it seems to follow that the sum or totality of all those choices is also free. In other words, if each individual sin can be avoided, then sinning in its entirety can be avoided. I thought maybe there was an abstract way to represent necessity in the sum of all choices implying necessity in at least one of the particular choices.

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    Even if each choice is free it does not follow that taking any of the available options avoids sinning. And which options are available depends on choices previously made, as well as (and, perhaps, primarily) on choices made by others and random chance. So I do not think that this individualization of necessity is going to work. Indeed, there is a well known argument of Plantinga showing that even an omniscient and omnipotent God can not prevent free creatures from sinning without subverting their free will.
    – Conifold
    Aug 29 '20 at 20:30
  • @Conifold The argument assumes each individual sin can be avoided. I realize there could be different definitions of sin that would change that. I'm looking for a way to represent the contingency/necessity of the parts and the whole with symbolic logic or something like that. Is there any way to do that? Aug 29 '20 at 20:59
  • It is not the definition of sin that prevents it, in Plantinga it is the metaphysics of free will that does, regardless of what counts as sin. I am not sure what you are trying to do, but perhaps you could use the necessity operator of modal logic to do it. Something like □(∃xS(x)) → ∃x□S(x), if one necessarily sins somewhere then there is some necessarily sinful choice? Again, I do not think this works, some choices are only sinful in concert with other choices, not on their own. It is only sinful to promise when it's a lie.
    – Conifold
    Aug 29 '20 at 23:57
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    @Conifold Modal logic looks like it's probably what I'm looking for. Thank you. Say you get 100 choices in life and your first 99 choices were not sinful. If it's impossible to go through life without making a sinful choice, then your 100th choice will necessarily be sinful. Does that make more sense? I'm critiquing a simple claim that we're able to avoid each particular sinful choice yet can't make it through life without making a sinful choice. Aug 30 '20 at 3:22
  • Say your first 99 choices led to you having to choose between stealing and having your family starve to death. You are not fully responsible for the dilemma, as it is brought about also by choices of others. Which of the choices then is necessarily sinful? It is not the 100th, as it could have been avoided by different earlier ones, but alternative choices could not guarantee avoiding this or some other dilemma either, as it is unknown in advance what they lead to. The problem is that life is not a sequence of independent trials with complete information.
    – Conifold
    Aug 30 '20 at 20:25

Can you eat lava?

  • Yes: But it'll incinerate my mouth and kill me
  • No: It'll incinerate my mouth and kill me The Philosophical concept is, Can you eat lava. There's two answers The Logical sum is: Lava will incinerate your mouth upon ingestion...it's your choice to put it in your mouth.

Sin cannot be avoided without rejection of all inhibitions or willful actions. Rather than worry about approaching sin, worry about addressing the circumstances that encourage sinful behavior. The Seven Sins are a rock paper scissors, inhibit one, you encourage another.


Immanuel Kant did draw this exact conclusion, that if a given ought can be fulfilled, then the set of all such given oughts can be fulfilled. Now he also says that sin is radically tethered to human nature, and unavoidable inside of time.

But now he says that real choices are not made inside of time, that the appearance of multiple choices being made is just the application of a general choice to particular issues, but this application is not chosen as such. Having made our eternal imperfect decision, we perforce exemplify this decision in daily life.

Unfortunately, he also thinks that we sort of can make a second eternal choice, but he concludes that if our original choice is inexplicable, so too this one---but here we don't even have the analogy of general principles and particular inferences to help describe this second maxim in the first place.


I can't help think of the Buddhist perspective. Though the language doesn't map, I believe the core concepts do.

There, actions with future rewards or punishments in mind are all, karmic. The path to avoid being controlled by ideas about the future, is to recognise that such future-directed action is all part of the causes of suffering, through desiring specific outcomes. This is done though the Eightfold Path, a way of turning attention to how best to be in the moment, using now-directed values, to the full range of householder or monastic life - replacing the Three Poisons, of greed, confusion & hate, with wisdom generosity & loving-kindness, which gain their benefits in the actions themselves.

The step-by-step process of ceasing to cause suffering, is reckoned by Buddhists to be able to result in a reorientation, that is compared to ordinary being, like being awake is compared to be asleep. This us also called unshakeable liberation, or enlightenment. It relates exactly to understanding and manifesting freedom, from coercion by our psychological causes and conditions, in choosing how best to be.

"We are not punished for our sins, but by them."

-Elbert Hubbard

"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

-Revelations 22:11-12

There are various groups combining such Buddhist thinking with Christianity. Zen seems especially well suited to this. The Christian analysis of grace to my mind is lacking serious challenge to conventional intuitions about identity. It's notable that the Desert Fathers originated the hesychasm, chanting of the Jesus prayer, and wrote some of the most profound Christian teachings.

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