Jules LequyerJules Lequyer was a French theologian and philosopher who anticipated much of today's "open theism, the idea that the future of the universe is "open," that God's foreknowledge at best knows about multiple alternative possibilities. In particular, perhaps influenced by Calcidius, the 4th-century translator of Plato's Timaeus, with its description of creation ex nihilo, Lequyer argued that human beings are creative only if they are free to choose among those future possibilities. Although Cicero had translated some of the Timaeus, Calcidius' Latin translation was the only known source into medieval scholasticism, so it influenced religious thought through the nineteenth century, including especially Lequyer and the German thinkers Gustav Fechner and Otto Pfliederer, both of whom argued that God could not know the future and also have power over it. The idea that "God cannot change his Mind" was the source for Augustinian and Calvinist determinism, even if scripture explicitly says "amend your ways and the Lord will repent the evil that he hath pronounced against you." (Jeremiah 26:13) The familiar idea of God as an omniscient and omnipotent being has an internal logical contradiction that is rarely discussed by theologians. If such a being had perfect knowledge of the future, like Laplace’s demon, who knows the positions, velocities, and forces for all the particles, it would be perfectly impotent. Because if God has the power to change even one thing about the future, his presumed perfect knowledge would have been imperfect. Omniscience entails impotence. Omnipotence some ignorance. Prayer is useless. As to omnibenevolence, Archibald MacLeish said in J.B, “If God is Good, He is not God. If God is God, He is Not Good.” Lequyer's connection of freedom to human creativity "to make, and in making, to make ourselves," is the core insight of information philosophy. Creativity, the generation of new information in the universe, whether a quantum measurement or a new idea, must involve indeterminism
Information is neither matter nor energy, although it needs matter to be embodied and energy to be communicated. Why should it become the preferred basis for all philosophy? As most all of us know, matter and energy are conserved. This means that there is just the same total amount of matter and energy today as there was at the universe origin. But then what accounts for all the change that we see, the new things under the sun? It is information, which is not conserved and has been increasing since the beginning of time, despite the second law of thermodynamics, with its increasing entropy, which destroys order. What is changing is the arrangement of the matter into what we can call information structures. What is emerging is new information. What idealists and holists see is that emergence of immaterial information. Living things, you and I, are dynamic growing information structures, forms through which matter and energy continuously flow. And it is information processing that controls those flows! At the lowest levels, living information structures blindly replicate their information. At higher levels, natural selection adapts them to their environments. At the highest levels, living things develop behaviors, intentions, goals, and agency, introducing purpose into the universe. Information is the modern spirit, the ghost in the machine, the mind in the body. It is the soul, and when we die, it is our information that perishes, unless the future preserves it. The matter remains.Lequyer was a great influence on Charles Renouvier and William James, perhaps indirectly on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, and on the idea of emergence, that new things are constantly being created, including what William Hasker calls the "emergent self." Without such a self-creation, moral philosophers question the existence of responsibility for our actions.
Excerpt from "Hornbeam Leaf."
One day, in my father’s garden, at the moment of taking a hornbeam leaf, I suddenly marveled at feeling myself to be the absolute master of this action, insignificant though it was. To do or not to do! both so equally within my power! A single cause, me, capable at a single instant, as though I were double, of two completely opposite effects! and, by one, or by the other, author of something eternal, for whatever my choice, it would henceforth be eternally true that something would have taken place at this point of time that it had pleased me to decide. I was not equal to my astonishment; I drew back, I recovered, my heart beating precipitously. I was going to put my hand on the branch, and create in good faith, without knowing it, a mode of being, when I raised my eyes and paused at a slight noise coming from the foliage. A frightened bird had taken flight. To fly away was to perish. A sparrow hawk passing by seized it in midair. I am the one who had handed it over, I said to myself with sadness. The caprice which made me touch this branch and not another had caused its death... But what if this present determination, rather than initiating a train of events, merely continues the past train of events by an other, from long ago certain for some being superior to me, and occurring in its time in this general order that I have not in any way made? If I seem sovereign in my innermost heart, was this at base, to not feel my dependence? What if each of my acts of will was an effect before being a cause, so that this choice, this free choice, this choice that is apparently as free as chance, might have really been (having in it nothing of chance) the inevitable consequence of an anterior choice, and that choice the consequence of another, and always the same, to trace backward to times of which I had no memory? This weighed in my spirit like the dawn full of sadness of the coming day. An idea . . . Ah! what an idea! What a vision! I am fascinated by it.... I understood the fallacy of muttering these ridiculous words at the moment of acting: Let us ponder, let us see what I am going to do Were I to seriously reflect, I would no more succeed in becoming the author of my acts by means of my reflections than my reflections by means of my reflections; if I was occasionally overrun by the feeling of my power—for I have yet the feeling of my own power—it is only the feeling of its passage in me and it submerges me in its waves, the power employed to hold together this universal ebb and flow. I knew that, not being my own principle, I was the principle of nothing. I knew that my defect and my weakness were to have been made. I knew that whoever had been made, had been made stripped of the noble faculty of making. I knew that the sublime, the miracle as well, alas! the impossible, was to act: no matter where within me and no matter how, but to act; to give a first push, to will a first act of will, to begin something in some fashion (of what might I have been capable if 1 might have been capable of something!), to act, one time, entirely of my own authority, that is to say to act. And feeling, by the pain of losing the illusion, the joy that one would have had to possess so beautiful a privilege, I found myself reduced to the role of spectator, by turns amused and saddened by a changing tableau which took shape in me without me, and which, sometimes faithful and sometimes lying, showed me, under the appearances ever equivocal, both myself and the world, to me always credulous, and always powerless to suspect my present error or to regain the truth. There was only this truth, now so clear to my eyes, of my invincible powerlessness to ever defeat any error, if by another error, I tried any useless and inevitable effort. A single idea, a single idea, reverberated everywhere, a single sun with uniform rays: what I had done was necessary. This that I think is necessary. The absolute necessity for that which is to be at the instant and in the manner that it is, with this formidable consequence: good and evil confounded, equal, fruits born of the same sap and the same stalk. At this idea, which repulsed my entire being I uttered a cry of distress and terror. The leaf fell from my hands, and as though I had touched the tree of knowledge, I lowered my head and wept. Suddenly I raised it again. Recovering my faith in my freedom by my freedom itself, without reasoning, without hesitation, without any other gauge of the excellence of my nature than this inner testimony that makes my soul created in the image of God and capable of resisting him, since it should obey him, I said to myself, in the security of a superb solitude: This is not so, I am free. And the chimera of necessity disappeared, similar to the phantoms formed during the night by a play of shadow and light from the hearth, which immobilize the child with fear under their flamboyant eyes, who is woken with a start, still half lost in a dream. Accomplice to the magic spell, he ignores the fact that he held it together himself by the fixity of his point of view, but as soon as he doubts it, he dispels it with a glance upon the first movement that he dares to make.Normal | Teacher | Scholar