Order ↔ Freedom

It seems that order and freedom are incompatible. But they presuppose each other, so that if they are incompatible, neither can be real. All our experience testifies that both are real. They must then be compatible. How?

Order presupposes freedom. Without acts, there could be no actualities, and so nothing to coordinate or order. But motions that are not free – that could not, i.e., have been other than they are – are not acts. Such motions are wholly determined by their causal inputs; so whatever is in or by them moved may exist concretely – as, e.g., an axe – but as not itself acting, does not exist actually.

To be is to do; no doing, no being.

Freedom presupposes order. Acts cannot occur except in the context of an ordered milieu, which they intend – which they are about, and address. It is not possible to decide among options except they be each completely ordered; there being nothing definite in chaos, it cannot characterize a real option. It is impossible to choose even a jot of chaos, for there is nothing definite in chaos to choose. To be at all then – i.e., to be a free act – is to be completely ordered. And order is at bottom a quality of relations among disparate things – which is to say, disparate actualities, disparate acts, that must all be free in order to be acts in the first place.

Acts must be free to be ordered; acts must be ordered to be free. Order presupposes and supervenes freedom, and freedom presupposes and supervenes order. Order and freedom come along together – they vene – inseparably, as a package deal.

Order ↔ freedom.

But complete order seems to rule out any jot of freedom. Insofar as such order wholly ordains, does it not wholly determine?

Freedom seems incompatible prima facie with the Principle of Sufficient Reason, with Natural Law, with the causal closure of the world system (in virtue of which only might it be a coherent cosmos in the first place (for, anything less than complete causal closure would introduce chaos – nonbeing – as an aspect of being; which would be, impossibly, to generate a concrete instance of a contradiction in terms)), with GNON, with Divine Providence, with the Lógos, with Omniscience, with predestination (Calvinist or Catholic)), with God as such (howsoever the Ultimate be construed), with the very notion of order (for events that are not completely ordered are not ordered, simpliciter), and so with definite being – which is to say, ordered being – per se. Indeed, it seems incompatible with causation.

Complete order seems to rule out free events, subsuming them entirely in the one integral cosmos of which they are features, and facts, but not disparate acts. It seems to reduce all events to aspects of a single great thing.

A single great thing cannot be a cosmos. It cannot be a host in ordered array of battle – this being the literal meaning of kosmos (and of Sabaoth). The cosmos is manifestly not a single great thing. It is many things, coordinate in and together integrally constituting an organic whole.

Excursus: The difficulty of the relation of freedom to order is then a type of the more general difficulty of the relation of the parts to the whole of which they are parts.

But freedom and order seem to rule each other out absolutely. What’s the solution?

It is not far to seek. As I have so often found with other perplexities, it is to be found in eternity.

Eternity is for us after all I suppose fairly far to seek, but still: the solution is right there in front of us, and indeed within us; for, all time transpires in eternity, which is its foreground and foundation, its source and end. We are in eternity, and eternity is in us. Utmost transcendence is inmost immanence.

Excursus: Eternity is the matter of our being, and of all being. That is not to say we ourselves are eternal.

The first thing to notice is that acts can be ordered in respect to each other, so as to constitute together a cosmos, only insofar as they are already completely actual – only, i.e., insofar as they have already been enacted, and are as the Scholastics say “fully in act.” What does not yet actually exist cannot be ordered; nor can it be anything else, for that matter; for, until it is fully in act, it does not yet actually exist, so as to have any property whatsoever. Until it is fully in act, an act is not at all. It has until then no properties such as relations – orderly or not – to other things. Thus an act that is still in the process of being enacted, and so is not yet fully in act, is not yet defined. It is not defined by its antecedents, because until it is fully in act, it is impossible to ascertain its causal relations to its antecedents. This is so both of its antecedents in the order of time, and of its formal priors in the order of metaphysical logic.

Each creaturely occasion of becoming is then as it comes to be utterly free. It is not determined by anything because it is not yet anywise determinate. Ab initio each such occasion is free of all order and definition, which can be definite and therefore ordinal – which can in any way obtain or pertain, or so be real, ergo in any way at all pertinent, to any other – only ex post facto; so is it not predefined, for in order for it to be predefined, it would already have to be fully actual, and so, fully defined.

A fully predefined motion is not an action. It is an effect and thus an aspect other prior motions.

Acts are defined, and become real, in virtue of their enaction. Prior to their completion in act, they are not defined. So are they free.

Acts being all undefined until they are complete, it would seem as though we would find them not at all ordered to each other once they had come completely into being. Yet we find always that, once acts have come definitely into being, so that they have such features as orderly relations to other acts, they do indeed manifest such orderly relations, comprehensively and with immaculate mutual fit. They are ordered to each other to a fantastic degree of complexity and specificity. This, not just with respect to the events in their causal inheritance, but also in respect to contemporaneous acts, that all percolated into being in complete ignorance of each other, yet that all somehow managed to arrive each at their final states and thus their joint configuration in perfect ontological agreement. So deep, so comprehensive and so perfect is their mutual agreement, that it is impossible that any one of them might have been by itself competent to the almost infinitely large computational task of reconciling itself to all the other contemporaneous events of its cosmos – and of reconciling all those other events to each other. This impossibility is absolute: no entity or event within and partially constitutive of a cosmos could be competent to a dispositive ordination of that cosmos, of which it is but a part. Parts participate but cannot determine the whole they partake; or else, they would themselves each be that whole.

Because the coordination of the cosmos cannot derive from any one of its parts, nor might it derive from any combination of them, nor even from all of them. As each one of its parts is insufficient to the task of coordinating the whole, so is each amalgam of such parts. The whole in its coordination is far more than a glomming together of its parts; indeed, the amalgamation of its parts in and as the whole can proceed only on the priority of the order of the whole.

Whence then the vast deep mutual coordination of events that we discover at each new moment, that no prior congeries of such events might have arranged under their own purblind initiatives, or in any way procured (for, what present occasion – or any assemblage of such occasions – has power to procure some future occasion?)?

That coordination of all things, in virtue of which only each particular thing might come reasonably to pass, can derive only from an Omniscient intelligence, that sees in his eternal nunc all things that ever come to pass, and reconciles them in and to and by himself, by his Omnipotence.

How does that transpire for us, in the order of time, wherein all things are for us looking forward so murkily, as in a darksome glass?


I wonder whether to head to the store for the dog food now, or after I have taken the dog for a walk. It becomes apparent to me upon reflection that it would be more efficient for me and the dog, mutatis mutandis, if I took the latter course: he can wait for me for a few minutes in the car while I shop, being exercised, tired, and so relaxed about my brief absence in the store. So I take it.

My apprehension of the logic of the walk of the dog versus the logic of the purchase of the dog food is an apprehension of the Omniscient Lógos, who eternally sees all things, and reconciles them to each other by and in his reconciliation of all things to himself. The logic of my decision about the dog food now or later is apparent to him, and salient and suasive, from before all worlds. He knows from before all worlds that it makes more sense for me to walk the dog before I shop for his food. So is his eternal knowledge then by derivation apparent to me, so that I see the logical advantage of shopping for the dog food after I walk the dog. So then likewise is that logic apparent, salient and suasive too of all other things, at all times and in all worlds.

I could not apprehend the logic of the situation vis-à-vis the dog food and the dog, and so arrive at a decision about them, if that logic were not given already to me as an accomplished fact a priori, and so as a forecondition of my own very being at each moment. We cannot apprehend what is not there to apprehend.

The logic of being is a forecondition of each being. But to and for and in the Omniscient Lógos, the logic of being in general is also the logic of each being in particular, and of all beings.

So then is it likewise for each creaturely occasion. So does that apprehension of the Lógos of all creaturely occasions of a given cosmos inform each of them, and so shape them, so that they all agree together – so that, being with each other compossible, they can constitute together a coherent cosmos, from one instant of its life to the next.

So is it for each cosmos; for each mansion.

No order, no act in respect thereto; but the order of acts cannot be given or apprehended by them ex ante, but only ex post; so must each act arise from a logically prior (but not temporally previous) integration of all acts sub specie aeternitatis. In eternity, all creaturely acts happen, and are ordered in respect to each other, at once together, no matter when they occur in the order of time.

Then the motions of *every other entity in my cosmos* instantly adjust to my decision about the dog food, so that when I have made it, they are reconciled to my motions, immaculately; and, what is far more, I am reconciled to theirs, immaculately, as I trudge toward the store. All the galaxies agree with my errands; in no other way might I do them: for, how might I move in such a way as to disagree with the gravitational field of *the entire cosmos*? Or, equally: how could the cosmos move in such a way as to disagree with the gravitational fields of my motions?

How might I head to the grocery, were the stars in disagreement with that motion? What, am I greater than the stars of heaven?

But then, also, and equally: how might the stars move in disagreement with me, yet allow me still to walk to the store?

The stars cooperate with me and Charlie immaculately as I trudge toward Safeway and he waits for me in the car, so that no jot of disagreement in our disparate motions renders any motion whatever that does come to pass incompossible with any other.

We cooperate all inasmuch as we are each from our first beginnings at each moment acquainted with and informed and guided by the Lógos of things, as our First Principle, and our First Principal.

The bottom line then, the way that order and freedom comport and agree, without contradiction, is this: free creaturely acts derive their first ordination, in virtue of which only they can subsist in the first place, from Omniscience about all creaturely acts as completely effected and in act. The root and origin of each creaturely occasion is Omniscience about all creaturely occasions. So likewise with the effect of each such occasion. All acts and all their effects upon other acts are subsumed and known eternally by the Divine act in his nunc, which is contemporaneous with all things; which, indeed, is both before and after all temporal things in their order of time. Those things must be all free in order to be acts, and thus things. But Omniscience knows them from before all worlds, so that they can be to each other ordered ab initio, and ad terminum, *and freely.* In no other way might they know about each other in the first place.

The way to visualize it is this: think of the whole created order, from beginning to end of all worlds, popping into actuality all at once, coherently. This is how it must be, in eternity, wherein there is no time, no before or after. That popping is not predetermined, for in eternity there is nothing before it that could determine it. It all happens at once. So is it all at once free, and also at once coordinate; for, each constituent occasion of the whole takes its first origin from the One who knows that whole, and so specifies for each constituent its locus and role therein.

Notice finally that all the aspects of order named in the first few paragraphs of this essay – the Principle of Sufficient Reason, GNON, the Laws of Nature, and so forth – are transtemporal. They are not to be found in any particular time, or at any particular place, but are rather operant at all times and in all places. They characterize *everything in the cosmos,* and also the cosmos entire. Order then is a feature of the whole cosmogony, and not an internal factor of its development. The order is not pushing things around inside the cosmos, and determining them. It is the logical forecondition of the cosmos to begin with, and also the completion of its integration into a coherent whole: Alpha and Omega.


Post Scriptum: none of the foregoing is easy. It is difficult. I have labored for decades to understand it, as far – nay, as near – as yet I do. But what should we expect? Should we expect that reality would be easy for a little boy to understand – or a college sophomore, or indeed a doctor? It is a silly notion; a puerile notion. I Corinthians 13:11.

Christian faith – and intellectual honesty – calls us to, and indeed demands, a continuous and – on the sheer fact of infinity – everlasting transcendence of our already achieved understanding.

If your creed seems to you commonsensical, so that you can make good sense of it and feel at ease with it, why then – as Feynman said of QM – you have not yet begun to understand it. Not that you might ever finish understanding it, of course. It would be odd indeed – as contradictory – if any finite mind could complete the comprehension of infinity.

Then the glory and joy of the whole religious project is the endless Jacobian grapple with infinity. If you are grappling with something less, well then, you are less than you might have been, and ought to have been. You have cheated reality, and yourself.

You have mistaken your divine interlocutor, and chosen instead some idol or other.

Go for the Infinite One as your Lord. There can in logic be no higher or better. Anything less is failure and shortcoming.

20 thoughts on “Order ↔ Freedom

  1. Pingback: Gödelian Incompleteness → Creaturely Freedom – The Orthosphere

  2. Form, in the arts, is what gives meaning its shape, through which ideas may be conveyed and by which they may be understood and appreciated. Mastery of form, a task many rebel against and refuse, because it is a seeming stricture to the novice and a total barrier to the hack, enables the freedom the artist himself engenders. The attainment of freedom in the arts lies within and through order.

    • Exactly so.

      Modern art wants to excise form, because as you say that seems easier – and because unusually or surprisingly disordered objects – “transgressive” art, they call it – bother us who encounter them, and as perplexities that call out for some solution, attract our attention. And until we conclude that they are worthless, we labor under the worry that they might be important in some way that has so far eluded our understanding. So we get exhibitions of blank canvas, or of piles of junk, and concert performances of noise.

      It can’t work. Pure formlessness is the zero of being. So being of any sort imposes its forms upon all and sundry, willy nilly. The blank canvas, the empty gallery, the vacant concert hall: these constrain us – and the artist – with their forms. Modern “artists” suffer those constraints as oppressive. True artists love them, as the media of fulfillment for their creative work.

  3. I’ve been mulling over this recently and appreciate your timely insights.

    “Acts are defined, and become real, in virtue of their enaction. Prior to their completion in act, they are not defined. So are they free.”

    I might be too far afield but would you say we each are such acts? And as such, do not reach our completion until death?

    • Thanks, Hambone, I appreciate your engagement with this topic.

      Our lives are constituted of acts. So, a human life considered as a historical whole is an enacted career of discrete acts. The verdict of Tradition is that human lives considered as historical wholes are also acts. This, in rather the way that any assemblage of acts can constitute an act; can be constitutive parts of an integral whole. The same thing works for ages, cities, molecules, or other integrations of discrete acts that then can act in their own right.

      Yes, I would say that our lives as wholes reach completion at death. But this is so of course only of our intracosmic lives; for, our lives are everlasting.

  4. Pingback: CCXCII – Scoot and Hambone Talk About Stuff Again – Times-Dispatch of Vichy Earth

  5. Dry and wet are incompatible, but both real. However, order and freedom exist on a continuum. Maximum order means, presumably, minimum freedom and vice versa. However in a universe that is completely chaotic there is complete freedom of action but no free will; since consciousness is the result of an ordered system.

    • That is where absolutes become pointless in relation to tangible reality. The states in question can exist as mental models only, because if they were real there would be no actor/ mechanism/ medium discernible from anything else that could express said state in any meaningful way, let alone translate them into (any kind of) language. There is no relevant further description, or rather specification, of total chaos, neither a total inert state. Everything happens or nothing happens? Temporality still does not ‘fix’ this, so it is a useless consideration.

      This is why philosophy not based on some kind of dynamical, as well as ‘practical’ ontology seems to end up in semantical ‘black holes’ at some point (pun unplanned). Whatever can actually transcend its own self-contained realm is just much more interesting.

      • @ Lea: Yes. The concrete is prior to the abstract, in logic as well as in fact. There can be no such thing actually as a form that is not a form of some actual thing. So, for forms to have effects – to inform – they must be forms of concretes.

        “Concrete” is coterminous with “dynamic.” What is concrete must be accounted for by all others, and so it thereby acts upon them so as to transcend itself.

        Temporal relations do not indeed fix anything. They are rather artifacts of the fixity procured by the actual occasions of which they are the relations.

    • @ Steven: Yes. “Condition of complete chaos” is incoherent, and so that condition is neither quite conceivable nor therefore possible – there can under complete chaos be no acts, nor any definite (which is to say, ordered) things, or therefore motions or notions (such as the notion of complete chaos). So, complete chaos is logically and thus metaphysically impossibile. There must be order.

      But an order must be of things actual, or else it is inactual, ergo irreal: not, i.e., a true instance of order. So, order presupposes free acts, and vice versa.

      But this is not to say that order drives out freedom, or vice versa, in a zero sum game. On the contrary: freedom can proceed only on the basis of completed fact, which is to say, of complete order; of, i.e., perfect order, that has no jot or tittle of disorder left over. And again, order can be established in the first place only as among perfectly free motions; among concrete acts.

      Freedom presupposes perfect order, then, and (reciprocally) order presupposes perfectly free acts (that can be then facts which want to be ordered so as to constitute some cosmos). It turns out that the resolution of this (speciously apparent) perplexity lies in the atemporal character of the mutual presupposition of freedom and order. Both freedom – the origination of disparate events – and order – the reconciliation of disparate events – transpire and subsist in eternity. We do not therefore need to obtain either before we can get the other. They come along together ontologically, all at once as a package deal.

      I should note also that time is just a way of parsing free acts so that they are to each other ordered. I could equivalently say that time is just a way of parsing ordered acts so that they are in respect to each other free.

      Time – and space – are derivates. That does not mean they are not real.

  6. Thank you for this insight and the hard clarity of your writing. I’ve read the piece only once, but will return to it again. You’re right: “It is difficult.” It feels like Parmenides and Heraclitus not only conjoined, but viewed as mutually dependent aspects of eternity. Unless I am way off, given that freedom presupposes perfect order, then freedom is roughly cognate with identity.

    • You are welcome, Kenneth. I look forward to hearing of any further thoughts you might have on the topic.

      Parmenides and Heraclitus as mutually dependent: exactly. Sub specie aeternitatis, the Tao does not flow, but just is; sub specie temporitatis, the Tao flows. But time subsists in eternity, which is its logical prior. The Tao does really flow, then; but only for those who are within it. The Tao is to itself quite still, albeit perfectly lively nonetheless: a happening, and a rejoicing. This is Donne’s One Equal Music:

      Bring us, o Lord God, at our last awakening
      into the house and gate of Heaven,
      to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
      where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
      no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
      no fears or hopes, but one equal possession;
      no ends or beginnings, but one equal eternity,
      in the habitations of thy glory and dominion,
      world without end.

      The last awakening is not to the last moment of our lives, but rather to the sempiternal rest of our lives – rest not just as peace, although certainly that, but also as what remains yet to transpire; the sempiternal remainder that awaits us after our careers here below are completed. In that rest there shall be nothing to hope for, not because there will be nothing to look forward to, but rather because there will be no doubt that we shall eventually be able to realize all the goods that we might look forward to achieving. The hope will be gone for us then because all doubt of sempiternal increase of goods will be gone. So, no worries, then. What a thought!

      Again, the one equal music is not a monotone, nor yet even a single composition endlessly repeated, but rather music flowing forth forever, and ever newly elaborated. It is music without defect or noise. And music is infinite. It cannot be exhausted. So the song of the seraphim and cherubim is always the same – Holy, holy, holy! – but it is never simply repeated. On the contrary, it is ever more glorious, ever more beautiful.

      This is what Mary was talking about in the Magnificat: My soul doth magnify the Lord. When our song is joined to that of the angels, we shall with them magnify the glory and beauty forever, without limit of increase of joy.

      As to your suggestion about identity, yes, albeit with a clarification. Freedom (with prevenient order) is a forecondition of any act. In any such act, an actual being is defined and realized concretely: it is then to itself identified, and to all other beings then identifiable as just what it is, and not some other. All orderly causation hangs upon such identification: a thing cannot be affected by another that is not already perfectly definite and so identifiable as just itself and not some other.

      The identity of a thing then is a product of its completed free act.

      • I submit a few tentative sentences and get a second essay in return! And this: “When our song is joined to that of the angels, we shall with them magnify the glory and beauty forever, without limit of increase of joy.” For that, sir, I will remember you in my prayers tomorrow.

  7. A big eye opener for me was when I realized that freedom is the total opposite of everything we naturally consider good.

    Get married –> no freedom to sleep around
    Have a stable job –> no freedom to get up and move across the world
    Have kids –> no freedom to live only for yourself
    Join a religion –> nerf yourself by having to abide by a specific form of morality and askesis, limiting your freedom, instead of being able to act like an amoral sociopath to get what you want.

    I mean, I guess you could define “freedom” in a different way E.G. “freedom to live in a Christian country” if you want to get into word games. The funny thing is, that’s not even an exaggeration. There are so many contradictory ideological and pragmatic definitions of “freedom” that you can basically make it mean whatever you want.

    Good propaganda necessitates that, since the masses of people believe in “freedom”, that we call ourselves pro-freedom and paint our enemies as anti-freedom– which lucky for us is actually true (freedom to not be enslaved in a techno-control grid). But one shouldn’t always let vague, nebulous things like “the truth” get in the way of effective techniques.

    • We live and move always under the constraint of some system of order or other. Some such systems are evil. Fortunately, the evil systems of order are doomed, for they tend to disorder and chaos, and so to greater mortality or morbidity or reproductive failure than their competitors: e.g., Marxism, anarcho-tyranny, homosex, etc.


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