There are some lively discussions on determinism (every effect has a cause and every cause an effect - or something like that) that end up with the idea that 'free will' is an illusion.
Not to get to far into it here (because we will - oh, we will) but, basically, since every event (action) that occurs is simply the result of a previous event, at some level, everything is predetermined by what happened before. And, it follows that, on an absolute level, everything is absolutely predetermined. Therefore, even our thoughts and choices are the result of some precursory string of cause and effect. Therefore, we have no real free will.
So, given that line of thinking, does it follow that we have no personal responsibility for our actions since we had no real control over them?
In an effort to reframe this disussion, make continuing discussion more digestible (smaller chunks), and help everyone who wishes to continue to take another stab at organizing the various poistions in their minds (so to speak, I am closing this discussion - in one hour. It is now approximately 10 am est U.S.) At 11 I will close the discussion and link to the new one I have started if that works.
I am now closing this discussion - go to http://www.atheistnexus.org/forum/topics/the-illusion-of-responsibi... for a new take.
What? Excuse for harming someone? That is NOT what I said. What I am exploring is whether or not you have a choice as to your actions - in the case of no free will and, especially, in the case of no causeless effects and no 'effectless' causes.
I am not speaking of whether or not we can predict what will happen next - only that it cannot be altered if everything is part of an inexorable chain of causes and effects. This seems to be the point that gets missed. A bullet follows a path that can be predicted if all the variables are known. But its path is unaffected by whether or not the variables are known or the path was predicted - unless the act of predicting or finding out the variables becomes a cause or set of causes in and of themselves.
Determinism does not, necessarily, require us to track it for it to be true. However, it appears to be true every time we track it. (This is a koan - e.g. if a tree falls in a forest but there is no quipment to detect the changes in air pressure - does it emit a noise?)
But I assert that any completely nonsense event we may observe will be dismissed as something of 'unknown cause' not of 'no cause whatsoever' because of our predilection to be deterministic. Since a nonsense event cannot be falsified, is unlikely to be repeated - it cannot be proved to have occurred at all - unless it is a causeless cause - meaning, it had no cause but resulted in effects. But even then, I contend we would simply consider its lack of cause as our current ignorance as to its cause.
" bullet follows a path that can be predicted if all the variables are known."
again, I say: what's your point??? so what? not all variables ARE known, but if they were, I'm sure that you could then put in fatalism. You'd obviously have to be omniscient though. It's a useless speculation. it isn't a pragmatic argument.
what exactly are you trying to get at? you seem to be supporting determinism now...are you just trying to get the facts clear to set up an argument or something? all you're doing now is describing what fatalism is. You're not making an argument.
It doesn't matter if you have enough info to predict the path of the bullet or not - if determinism is true, then the path of the bullet is fixed even as the hammer strikes the firing pin. This concept can be extrapolated into the future even as it can be 'observed in hindsight' as you suggest.
I am not arguing for the sake of supporting anything. I am trying to get clear on the nature of an idea. And, it seems that you cannot prove the existence of a 'non-deterministic' event because the definition of proof and, even evidence, are intrinsically entwined with the concept that reality is deterministic.
it's in the application that I question your thinking and makes me not sure if you get the difference between fatalism and determinism.
You have correctly outlined the idea of how actions are determined, but it is in the application of deterministic knowledge that I think we're a bit confused though... at least that's what I was confused about all this time.
If you just want the statement without the personal application? yes, every human choice is determined by the factors leading up to it. is there randomness in the universe? I'm not completely studied on that, but I'm rather sure about how everything human is action/reaction.
There is reason to believe that the future will conform to the past although it's not a given, but then we're just getting into an analysis of Descartes and nothing can be known besides "I am, I exist" due to the falability of the senses. that's besides the point.
Look - if you want me to 'step out' of this exploration for a second, I can confidently say that, while there may be no free will if everything is an effect of a cause and a cause of an effect - my ignorance of the totality of all the implications means that this distinction is moot enough for me to simply go with the illusion of free will and take responsibility for my actions - even when I am, on an absolute level, not actually responsible. It behooves me to accept this illusion in case determinism is not correct and some aspect of free will is, in actuality, in operation and I can to some degree, actually, make real choices.
That is to say, since I cannot predict my own predictability, I might as well act as if my actions are choices rather than reactions to stimuli - just in case they are. (wow - that's like a strange version of Pascal's wager - without the problematic part of 'which god?' The answer is 'no god' but the possibility that nonsense happens.)
As a determinist, I think you're going to do exactly as you could be expected to with regards to your view on free will. You have no choice in the matter. You(the sum of your genetics and experience, up until this moment) are reacting to fully caused actions. If you should change your view, that event will have been fully caused as well. You're not fated to see it one way or the other. I can't successfully predict what's going to happen with your view on the subject. I'm simply missing too much information. But I do know that wherever you end up, there will be a fully deterministic explanation for it, no exercise of free will to pin it on.
Fate probably implies a 'hand of fate' which - if taken further than metaphor - might as well be theistic. Yes, I get where you are coming from. I'm reasonably certain you are correct. Nevertheless, I am bound to consider my actions as driven by 'choices' even if this is only an illusion. As you suggest, since I cannot clearly see the determinant context, I must substitute it with something, I suppose, as a placeholder for my ignorance.
You're anything but ignorant, Howard. I deeply regret that you've read me as suggesting that. I still feel you're confusing determinism with fatalism, but that's common. Though I understand the difference between the two to be important, I've clearly failed at expressing it. I sincerely thank you for a very enjoyable discussion.
@ nate - dude - no regrets. Crap. I hate 'textual vacuum.'
What I was expressing is that, in light of my ignorance of what is really going on (the totality of the determinent context) and 'my' (human) propensity to feel I play an actual role in my choices (rather than act out of that determinent context) I am free to imagine a 'placeholder' called free will.
In other words, since I can't really know any better, determinism (at least going forward - probably not in retrospect) is moot and the illusion of 'free will' is virtually viable - which allows me to take some responsibility (and credit) for my actions.
I didn't even imagine you were calling me ignorant. I enjoy this kind of back and forth as well. My mind is a work in progress.
your approach has positive and negative consequences.
positive? well... i guess it gives you comfort. rather theist in that sense.
negative: the illusion of fault justifies hate, blame, and discrimination.
what is the purpose of that hypothesis? You can find comfort without free will just like you can find comfort without god. I can explain a bit of it to you. I already started/tried. What, exactly, do you think is a benefit of the free will illusion? What do you lose by not believing in it?
"It behooves me to accept this illusion in case determinism is not correct and some aspect of free will is, in actuality, in operation and I can to some degree, actually, make real choices."
LOL let's replace this statement with "god"
It behooves me to accept the god illusion in case atheism is not correct and some aspect of Christianity is, in actuality, in operation and I can to some degree, actually, make it to heaven.