The topic of Free Will, or Bechirah Chofshis, in a religious context almost always begins with a seeming contradiction: How can it both be true that God knows the future, and that humans have free choice to act how they choose? Indeed, this is a classically troubling question — and one that has preoccupied philosophers, religious or not, throughout the ages — and should be a point of consideration for any thinking Jew. This “Fundamentals” essay series will address and deal with this famous paradox, including how a thinking Jew could or should deal with the problem, as well as some other interesting aspects of Free Will in a Jewish context.
In order to do this, we will be examining, elucidating, and elaborating on some key selections from Rambam’s writings on the subject of Free Will. Of course, as stated above, this philosophical topic extends far beyond the reaches of Judaism, and certainly beyond the reaches of just a Maimonidean approach. This series is not mean to be all-encompassing nor exhaustive. Instead, it is intended to leave the reader with what this author thinks is one of the most important, intriguing, unique, and perhaps most compelling, approaches to Free Will. Rambam’s perspective perhaps leaves the least left unexplained, and while we do not, of course, expect any amount of human endeavoring into our subject to perfectly nor adequately explain it, the approach we will be exploring herein should certainly serve as a strong foundation and starting-point for future thinking on the topic, and in and of itself allows one to sleep at night.
Read the other installments in this “Fundamentals” series here.