Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Necessary Concomitants; The Argument from Animalism

Determinism Alone is Nonsense; Determinism and Free Will
are Necessary Concomitants.
Steve Berthiaume wrote in Atheists Parents.Org the same kind of thing we read in most "naturalistic" essays these days. He even sounded as if he had lifted the words right out of Naturalism.Org when he said naturalism "is the idea that humans are fully included in the natural world."

I am not a determinist, I am a "free will-ist." I admit the factors which are called "determiners" exist, but not that we have no free will. I am "fully included in the natural world," and if anyone can explain how anything in existence could not be fully included, I'd like the explanation, please. Aside from that, I'd like to know what in existence is only partially included in the natural world. There is no other world. The supernatural world does not exist except as an idea within consciousness that we can talk about. As a concept, even that concept is fully included, but it is not reified.

"Every action has a cause, and nothing we do occurs outside of the causal chain," writes Berthiaume. "There is no 'free' will in the classical, Cartesian dualist sense, as every choice we make is based on myriad factors such as environment, upbringing, genetic inheritance, etc.

"[S]ince our actions are determined by something other than our "free" will, [ ] how can we hold people responsible if they were not the ultimate originators of their behavior, if their action was the not result of their own free choice?"

Well, we can hold them responsible if we admit of free will. But Berthiaume tries to explain how we can hold people responsible even when all their actions are "necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy But Berthiaume goes on to attempt to explain how we can hold people responsible even when they have no choices.

"Since everything has a cause and is, in turn, a cause of something else, holding someone accountable for his actions plays a part in determining future actions. For example, if I know I could be punished for an action, the threat of punishment will influence my decision whether to act."

Isn't this an act of free will even in the face of determinism? As I stated in yesterday's blog determinism and free will are necessary concomitants. "It is precisely the world around us that give us choices in the first place!" I wrote. "No world; no choices. No choices; no consciousness." I reminded my readers that even Ayn Rand said, "man does not create reality and can achieve his values only by making his decisions consonant with the facts of reality." Those "facts of reality" sound to me like genetics, environment, upbringing, and anything else that may be a "deterministic" factor, such as "it is raining, so I must use my umbrella."

Well, duh! Them's the "facts of reality," sir, about which your actions must be consonant.

"There are also social benefits to being held responsible for one's actions," he continues, "a primary one being a peaceful society. If no one felt they would be held accountable for their actions, society would break down. By the same token, our basic desires for self-preservation and for the safety of those we care about cause us to hold our fellow citizens responsible for their actions. We institute deterrent sanctions which can cause people to think twice before they hurt us or our loved ones."

So, 1) we have no free will, but 2) we can be held accountable for our actions because such things as "threats to freedom" (or a spanking) might "influence" our decisions. But what if, deterministically speaking, those threats were not great enough to overcome the other determinants? And since determinants are the cause of all our choices made without free will, do you have the right to decide that your threat is morally good enough to be a punishable offence when in the mind of the offender your deterrents are not deterministic enough to overcome the other determinants?

If you want to claim determinants are the cause, and claim Man has no free will, then who are you to make the decision that man-made threats used as deterrents are good enough as written? It wouldn't be your call; it wouldn't be your decision whether or not the deterrent is strong enough because you are not the one making the deterministic decision.

Now let's go back to the "social benefits" of holding people responsible for their actions. The same problem comes up: in a world without free will, who are you do to decide what is morally of "social benefit?" Anything you choose is going to be artificial, "determined" by society's own determinants. If you choose something like "the greater good," then it must be asked why the determinants that belong to the "greater" portion of society take precedent over the determinants of the minority.

Determinism is not objectionable, morally speaking, when it is objectively admitted that without determinants there would be no choices at all, and nothing to be conscious of; and that without existents of determinism, and free will absolutely could not exist, but neither could determinism, and no things could be "fully included in the natural world" because there would be no things. Determinism and free will are necessary concomitants.

The Argument from Animalism:
Excerpt from "The Search for the Single Intelligible Object"
In "Moby Dick," Ishmael says, "Man in the ideal, is so noble and sparkling, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes."

Hear! Hear! We can achieve throwing our costliest robes over each others' ignominious blemishes, if we can quit being philosophical skeptics and, as a culture, ignore men's faults instead of being the "paparazzi" and the journalists of all our blemishes. Being an advocate of Man at his best is achievable, because "Man at his best" is an achievable ideal. Jerry Springer is apparently a very decent person; but his "reality" show gives us not blemishes, but indecency. It is the indecency of exposing men and women at their worst,to the world, for the purposes of entertainment. It is the height of naturalism in the arts.

Naturalism in the arts is the opposite of Romanticism, wherein literature and music advocate the highest standards of Man, in the context of his hierarchical metaphysical stature of "qua Man." And Man qua Man means this and only this: the ability of Man to act in accordance with those highest of standards whether or not he succeeds in his attempt. Naturalism in the arts journalises man's ability to forget standards, or to dispense with them, or to compromise them. Anyone who does not care about the effects of his actions can forget, dispense with, or compromise standards that have been identified as being better than the ones he uses.

Many men have not had this ideal of Man's in mind when they added their opinions to the collected opinions of Mankind. Some, such as naturalism, have denied any form of ideality is available to Man, or is within his capacity to achieve. This defies logic, and it denies reason.

Socrates, for example, drew a line between ignorance and "ideal" knowledge. He said his wisdom was in his knowledge of his ignorance. "Ideal" knowledge was out of bounds for men and available only to the gods.

Kant wrote an entire systematic "investigation" of "pure" knowledge, idealizing it, yet admitted that is was beyond men's capacity to use it to discover all truths.

Montaign wrote of Man as an un-ideal being, no greater than a worm or a sacrifice to existence nailed to the place men found least desirable to live, "lodged here in the dirt and filth of the world, nailed and riveted to the worst and deadest part of the universe, in the lowest story of the house, and most remote from the heavenly arch." "Apologie de Raimond Sebond"" from "Essais," considered by many to be the ideal example of skepticism.

It makes one wonder if anyone living now who had a similar skeptical world view of his species, would not have a desire to find himself transported to Wonderland or Disneyland or Oz—and would he find anywhere in the universe a livable place? There was a reason for such a world view, if you wanted to subscribe to it: "[I]t was believed by ancient and medieval Arabic, Jewish, and Christian thought that the center [of the universe] was the worst part of the universe, the basement, the sump, where all the muck was collected, so being at the center was not worn as a badge of pride." Mano Singham's Web Journal April 20, 2005

Dante, reaching the Empyrean, wrote that the counsel he approves as best is that “which holds [the] mean semblance [of Earth] of least account.” In other words, Earth is the least important of concerns.

Vile, hideous, disgusting world views often come from the result of viewing man in the light of his animalism, in the “tragedy” of being animal, of having an animal’s limitations both in not being an omnipotent creature, and in being limited in ability to comprehend the universe, i.e., being not-omniscient.
“The tragedy of being both rational and animal,” says the “Syntopicon of the Great Ideas of the Western World,” “seems to be in having to choose…” That choice is between the evasion of admitting man's animal nature is the only cause of his cognitive abilities, and what Ayn Rand, in "The Virtue of Selfishness," called, “the fullest perception of reality within one’s power.” It is hard to admit one is an animal when he/she blames the limits of being an animal on all his/her woes and conditions, or upon the fact that "determinism" only works on animals; if one were not animal, if one were a spirit in heaven, for example, animalism would not be a condition you would have to apply your "fullest perception of reality" toward.

The "tragedy of having to choose" between the evasion of human (i.e. animal) sensory cognition as the cause of Man's knowledge of reality, and the recognition that no matter where rationality comes from physiologically, one possesses rationality and must not make “animal” metaphysically more important than reason.

To do so would be to claim that it would be acceptable to be animal without reason, though this is definitely not what skeptics of this ilk mean. What they mean is: Reason is incapable of saving the human animal species from being little more than the animals who live without it. Decrying our animalism in this way denies the almost universally accepted definition of the essence of Man as being a "rational animal." Reason cannot exist without a life form for it to reside in.

And that is the virtue of being animal. When I was in the second or third grade, our music teacher taught us the song written to a poem by Joyce Kilmer. I hated—immediately—that song's words which began: "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree." I knew at that early age that poetry was more important than the most beautiful tree, because poetry speaks of what makes us capable of appreciating that tree in the first place. I despised the music teacher for teaching a song that denigrated my powers of conception over a "thing" that did nothing except look pretty and "that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair."

Anything, for Kilmer and other naturalists, is better than being animal. The human animal, in the ideal "over [which] any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes," is greater morally than any tree.

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