This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
Paul Ree: "To say that the will is not free means that it is subject to the law of causality. Every act of will is in fact preceded by a sufficient cause. Without such a cause the act of will cannot occur; and, if the sufficient cause is present, the act of will must occur. ..."Schopenhauer: "...materialism is the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself."Of course, the sufficient cause of an act of will is the will itself. An act of the will may well be the sufficient cause of some action the agent undertakes, but to assert that an act of will is (sufficiently) caused by an event or state external to the will itself is to assert that there was no choice possible and thus no choice made; that is, it is to deny the reality of the will and of the act; it is to empty the words 'will' and 'act' of meaning, while continuing to use the words meaninglessly.I'm sure Mortimer Adler has something on this (but I can't remember where I read it), and specifically making the distinction between act and action ... and event."To say that the will is free would mean that it is not subject to the law of causality. In that case every act of will would be an absolute beginning [a first cause] and not a link [in a chain of events]: it would not be the effect of preceding causes. ..."The will can freely choose or not choose one of the options presented by an existing chain of cause-and-effect; and the the will can choose to instantiate a novel causal chain which becomes woven into the "causal net."Acts of will are not *merely* events. To say that the will is free is to say that the will *is* a will, that it is a subject and not simply an object.===Is it not amazing (and amusing!) that a man would undertake all these words in the attempt to convince another (free) will that it is not indeed free? Were Mr Ree's strange confusion about the nature of reality and about the nature of wills indeed true, then *how* could another will ever be "convinced" by his argument, except in the random event that the argument is, or triggers, the sufficient cause for some will or other to be "convinced" that it is not free?And, since his argument was not itself, nor did it trigger, the sufficient cause to "convince" me of the "truth" that I am not a free will, then I shall simply dismiss his argument with one word: bullshit.
Paul Ree's paper, defending determinism, is a sophisticated form of special pleading. If you define everything as having a "cause", then, of course, the acts of the will are not free. So, the acts of the will, themselves, are shrewdly defined as being propelled by some sort of cause. Therefore, someone who takes this line of approach has already won the debate, by merely stipulating a congenial maxim. In this case, it's: "the will....is subject to the law of causality".What does this really mean? Does "causality", iteself, have a cause? What is meant by "cause"? Do all effects flow from a single "cause"? If so, whence the manifold of differing material objects, each with it's own radically differing effect (i.e. water vs. fire, boiling water vs. freezing water, gravity vs. anti-gravity devices, inorganic vs. organic matter, animal life vs. human life, etc.)? What would the idea of multiple types of causes actually mean?It seems to me that this idea of "causality" is overstated and overrated.If a proponent of libertarian freedom wants to climb aboard the determinist's vicious circle in order to justify his position on freewill, by reconcilling it with Ree's "causality" principle, then he needs to be prepared to chase his own tail around.The libertarian will have "dropped the ball", as they say, if he/she chooses to allow the freewill debate to be framed by the determinist. But, that's one of the consequences of living in a libertarian universe!!
Exactly, Gregory: both that Ree's "argument" is framed in such a way that the "conclusion" is a premise (and a key premise, at that), and that any will-libertarian who chooses to take such an "argument" seriously, so as to attempt the fool's errand of engaging it as an argument, might as well explicitly surrender from the start.That's why I responded as I did.Gregory: "What does this really mean? Does "causality", iteself, have a cause? What is meant by "cause"? Do all effects flow from a single "cause"? If so, whence the manifold of differing material objects, each with it's own radically differing effect (i.e. water vs. fire, boiling water vs. freezing water, gravity vs. anti-gravity devices, inorganic vs. organic matter, animal life vs. human life, etc.)? What would the idea of multiple types of causes actually mean?"Thanks. I hadn't yet looked at things in that way. I mean, I am aware that on the materialistic and mechanistic view of reality, *all* current states and events existing in the universe ultimately follow mechanistically from one single (uncaused) event: the Big Bang. But, the implication you've brought out hadn't occurred to me.
Illion:This whole notion that "causality" as the ultimate explanation for the world, is silly to me. It's silly in the same sense as trying to explain Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" by saying that it was caused by tracing a single straight line, from the top of the canvas to the bottom, with just a mere #2 pencil!!It's interesting that you mention the "mechanized" view of the universe. I think this "model" falls very short of being an adequate way to picture our world....yet, it continues to be the dominant metaphor in both the scientific, and popular, imagination; especically when the idea of "causality" is discussed.However, this is often blurred in discussions of Biological Evolution. I get the impression, on certain occasions, that Darwin's proponents are devotees of a "mechanistic" view of the world. Yet, their language and presentation, very often, veers into an "organicist" view of the world...that dreadful "vitalism" that science has allegedly discarded.My own observation is that these kind of "one size fits all" theories of the universe are like the "#2 pencil" analogy I cited above....they fall short of being, in and of themselves, as adequate explanatory pictures.
Hello Ilion and Gregory,I think you both have made some good points against the exhaustive determinism/hard determinism position of the paper by Ree.Gregory you intimated that there are different explanations for different things ("My own observation is that these kind of "one size fits all" theories of the universe are like the "#2 pencil" analogy I cited above....they fall short of being, in and of themselves, as adequate explanatory pictures."). I believe this is an important observation. John Searle makes a distinction between causal explanations of **how** something occurs (which is what science studies answering the question: How does this happen?) and personal explanations of **why** something occurs (which is what philosophy, theology, psychology, etc. studies when answering the question: Why did you do it?). EXAMPLE = “Joe” shoots a gun. How does it happen? He thinks about it decides to do it and uses his arm and hand muscles to pull the trigger. The gun through a series of events including an explosion causes a projectile/bullet to exit the chamber at high speed in the direction of the intended target. We can calculate the speed of the bullet, from where it was fired, etc. with some precise calculations. We can study this moving bullet using Physics and chemistry. That is a causal explanation. On the other hand: Why did “Joe” do it? “Joe” is a gang member and his target is a guy from another gang. Both explanations are equally valid and both are important. Hard-core determinists tend to over-emphasize causal explanations while leaving out personal explanations. Robert
Robert:I understand the distinction, and point, that you are trying to make. The hard determinist is not concerned about intentions, motives, decisions or agent causation. As far as the hard determinst is concerned, these notions are the ill-conceived fantasies of wishful metaphysicians.My observation takes much more in to consideration than simply the physics vs. intentional states of the human will-debate. More fundamentally, it involves the problematic nature of invoking "causation" as an explanation of the ordinary, observable phenomena associated with physical objects/events.What you have brought up is a complementarity rapprochement between scientific explanations vs. ordinary/non-scientific explanations of particular events. That is not what is in view here.I was simply pointing out that the complex and varied phenomena of nature defy a simplisitic invocation of "causality" as a means of explanation. If everything was simply "hot", then, perhaps, tracing the cause for heat to a source, might make some sort of explanatory sense. Yet, not everything is "hot"; take ice, for example. Nor is everything explained by categories of temperature. Substances can be solid, liquid or gas. Yet, solids, liquids and gases can be either "hot" or "cold". They can also have "mass" and "density".Therefore, what do we mean to say when we posit a "cause" for these variegated objects and realities? Doesn't it make more sense to speak of multiple causes, than to simply refer to a cause? And if there are multiple, qualia-specific sources for particular sense objects, then how are sense objects presented to the human mind in a unified way....such, that we can experience the material world as a uni-verse?These are simply brushed aside....or declared resolved, by the naive Naturalist who simply repeats the same stale "causality" mantra.In terms of explanation, I think that the world should be seen, and hence "explained", as a work of art; ordered and arranged, in such a way, so as to be appreciated qua art. Why should it be seen thus? Because only an artist can take disparate elements and put them together in such a way as to transform them into something sublime, thought-provoking and evocative. More than that, art raises the dignity and value of human life in terms of enjoyment, contemplation and celebration. And that is precisely how we observe the world, or should observe the world...as a canvas presented to our very senses--as a means of raising the dignity, value and quality of human life above the brutes and animals. That is, precisely, what differntiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and makes us more than mere animals. And, as interesting and fascinating as the atomic elements of the canvas and paint might be, it's not what the artist really wants you to appreciate.You cannot be said to have truly "observed" the world if you haven't been struck with the idea that it is a beautiful, panoramic canvas for human admiration. All other animals may learn from nature, but humans--and humans alone--are able to admire and discuss it.And, "yes"....I am a speciest.
Yes, the events we witness here-and-now typically are the results of multiple causes. We commonly speak of a "chain" of cause-and-effect, but a more apt metaphor is to speak of a "causal web" (and somewhere recently on DI, I did just that).However -- and especially if we are 'materialists' -- when we trace back all the knots in the "causal web" (or, follow backward all links of all the "causal chains"), we find that eventually everything converges on one "cause," and a simple and mechanistic one, at that.But, how can one simple mechanistic "cause" give rise to multiple incongruous "events?"====I feel like almost Phil Collins -- this post brought to you by "stutio"
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