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March 26, 2024


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As far as I’m concerned, the matter of free will v determinism completely disappears with the realisation that there is no separate ‘me’ who can choose or employ something called free will. Or, come to that, no ‘me’ to do or affect anything. All we have then is a very human feeling (as Klaus states) “…it reflects our desire to imagine an eternal executive -- a deciding soul -- within each of us, an irreducible essence who controls everything, freely thinking, freely choosing.”

Joan Toliffson in her ‘Outpourings’ points this out: - “Reality can't ever be captured in concepts (like free will or no free will, self or no self, this or that). Whatever you say is never quite right. No word or concept is ever complete enough. If you say that you can't learn to ride a bicycle because there's no you to do it, or no free will, you'll be foolishly disempowering yourself. And yet, if you look carefully at who or what is riding the bicycle or "choosing" to do so, you won't find anything or anybody, nor can you really explain how exactly "you" do this bicycle riding."
And : - "Does that mean that we should be totally passive or inert or maybe wildly licentious because, "It's all just happening," and "We have no choice"? No. It means that the "me" who could apparently choose to be this way or that way is a phantom, a mental image with no substance.”

"...This is a common mistake people make when first encountering determinism, conflating the notion of things being casually determined with things being static. Determinism claims that the interlocking pattern of causes and effects is fixed and inevitable, but that doesn't mean that your nature or your behavior is fixed."

Really? Why not? Everything is 100% determined, except when it isn't?

"If you, a smoker, watch a documentary that shows images of lungs riddled by cancer, you may decide to stop smoking. That fits perfectly with deterministic thinking, which would explain that the complex chain of causes and effects in the past led inexorably to the moment in which you watched that documentary."

"You may decide"? How does "you may decide" fit in with the theory that everything is already decided?

Determinism and astrology are birds of a feather.

As previously mentioned, a separate non-physical self is needed for there to be free will. One way to understand the illusion of being (having) a self with free will is to imagine being on a plane from say London to New York. The plane is our life; we board it at the start of our journey (birth) and disembark at the end (death). While on the plane we are able to choose what to do, whether to chat to our neighbour or not, watch the in-flight film or not, to have the vegetarian meal or not, read a book etc. – all activities that affect in some way our fellow travelers. And all such affects originate from our conditioning absorbed from our particular culture, education, various beliefs etc. It is from these hotch-potch of accrued mental influences that choices automatically emerge – nothing to do with a free will, just manifestations of our conditioning. And all the time the plane (our life) is moving on from birth to death – along with the feeling of assumed freedom amongst its passengers.

The same analogy goes for our actual lives: here we are spinning through space on planet Earth which came into existence and will someday cease to exist – all determined by natural laws. And here we are, making choices and decisions, all based on equally predetermined natural laws and our own particular mental conditioning.

But here’s the paradox; because we do make choices, though limited choices based on our particular cultures and our social and mental conditioning, it does feel that such choices are free and indeed, our limited choices and decisions do influence others and the world around us yet all within the en-compassing vehicle of an interrelated, predetermined universe of which we are a small yet significant part.

I don't see how the analogy is a convincing argument for absolute determinism.
There's no question that everyone is influenced by their environment. But it's a giant leap to conclude that every decision anyone makes is fait accompli. Moreover, there's no way to prove it.

Hard determinism isn't science, it's metaphysics.

sant64. The whole point in evoking the concept of determinism is to combat the idea of free will which had its origin in religious thinking. I think it’s relative to remember that the issue of free will has its roots in Augustian theodicy. Augustine, to solve the problem of God being held morally responsible for the fall of Adam and Eve as he (God) was the creator of everything, including evil, he introduced (or rather popularised) the idea of free will, benevolently giving man the choice – meaning that God is not responsible for evil and also not for man sinning.

Klaas rightly makes the point that: - “... a common mistake people make when first encountering determinism, conflating the notion of things being casually determined with things being static. Determinism claims that the interlocking pattern of causes and effects is fixed and inevitable, but that doesn't mean that your nature or your behaviour is fixed.”

Determinism should not be confused with the self-determination of human actions by reasons, motives, and desires. Determinism is about interactions which affect cognitive processes in people's lives. So, we can choose a course of action but basically that decision would still emanate from our particular cultural, parental, religious – or any other – conditioning. It all feels like free will but is determined by nature and nurture.

Terms such as ‘hard determinism’ and ‘soft determinism’ can all be argued philosophically, but the reality is, to have anything like a free will we need to possess an independent essence like a separate self or soul – which is really metaphysical thinking.

OT, but somewhat connected to this topic of determinism:

The other day I noticed something really surprising to me.

I watch a lot of YouTube channels on religion and philosophy. Some of them Christian, some Muslim. Some of them by believers, some atheists. A wide spectrum. I've been watching them for years.

And I just realized all of them have one thing in common. It was so obvious I was a bit shocked I'd never noticed it before:

It's ALL GUYS in these videos!

Where are the females? There simply are none. No exaggeration, I can hardly recall seeing a single female on Youtube who is into philosophy or religious apologetics. By and large, women are simply not interested in religious debate on either side of the table. All the zillions of video channels offering debate on religious concepts are staffed by men.

What does this lack of women signify? Well, women are definitely not being kept out of these debates on religious philosophy. They're more than welcome to join in, or start their own Youtube channels. But it clearly doesn't look women they *want* to do that.

On the other hand, men are strongly attracted to philosophy and its attendant controversies. Hence the plethora of Youtube channels on that subject, and blogs like this one.

Of course, women are attracted to religion as much as men are. But they're not attracted to theology. In general then, men and women don't see religion in the same way.

Glimmers of this gender difference occurred to me back when bookstores still existed. I spent god knows how many hours in bookstores among their volumes on religion. And I noticed that invariably if a woman patron was present, her interest was in books on things like astrology or crystals, and not the latest Ken Wilber tome.

So there are two broad ways to look at this phenomena. One is that men's interest in the philosophical is evidence that men are smart and really take religion seriously, and it's a pity that women don't do likewise.

But there's an equally valid conclusion that could be made: Male obsession with philosophy is a sickness.

The fact that women don't care about philosophy might well show they're more enlightened than we men are.

We are like an onion conscious of the N° 9^99 outer skin
and that has zero free will
But the most inner part(s) have 100% free will


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