Monday, October 27, 2008

Objectivism v. Determinism is Romanticism v. Naturalism

Determinism is the doctrine that every fact in the universe is guided entirely by law. As such, it is a metaphysical proposition that denies or invalidates or ignores the laws of the workings of human thought. It does so by categorizing the laws of deduction and induction as "fully caused" by genetics, environment, memes, and other cancelations of free thought, i.e., free will.

Determinism, then, is the denial of free will on the grounds that life exists! Psychologically it means that the will is not free but determined by mental states and at the same time by physical conditions, since the former cannot exist without the latter.

Daniel Dennett would have us believe that free will exists, even when he himself believes it does not. He says is necessary for men to believe in the belief of free will so that determinism will not cause them to think they have no will at all! [1]

Such belief in the belief of free will is "designed to prevent any plunge into pessimism that determinism might engender among those who suppose we must have free will for life to be worth living." 3 Strikes Against Fatalism

This is not something men must be taught overtly or learned as knowledge through empirical experiences.

"You can much more easily believe that it is proper, that it is good and virtuous and beneficial, to believe that the Ultimate Cosmic Sky is both perfectly blue and perfectly green. Dennett calls this 'belief in belief'." Eliezer Yudkowsky;

Yudkowdky was not making of fun of Dennett's theory of "belief in belief." "I think even Dennett oversimplifies how this psychology works in practice," he writes.

"Many religious 'believers,' Dennett argues -- and he doesn't mean just politicians at Sunday morning services -- don't so much believe in the metaphysical claims of their chosen religion as commit to a 'belief in belief.' Most Christian believers in God couldn't articulate the Ontological or Cosmological proofs for God that are advanced in Christian tradition."

Deterministic adherents of scientific naturalism (SN) do not believe man has free will; they believe in "determinism," the idea that men are "fully caused", i.e., "entirely the product of genetics and upbringing..." [Tom Clark; Naturalism.Org]

I have been making the case for months in this blog that Clark, Dennett, Susan Blackwell and dozens of others are wrong. I have given many arguments as to why they are wrong. I have not said before today that they are wrong metaphysically, but they are correct in one respect so far as epistemology is concerned.

Let's begin with this quote, the same quote Tom Clark uses to defend this deterministic theory of the causes of man:

"The [belief in the] lack of free will, sometimes called determinism, maintains that peoples' decisions are the result of an unbroken chain of prior occurrences; each action is caused by the previous one; individuals don't really have choices." news story from The Vancouver Province, 2/28/08.

Clark is no where near being an anomaly within the large and influential brotherhood of SN. As a matter of fact, besides the many well-known names listed on his website, Clark told me, "There are several contemporary philosophers that also take this view, among them Derk Pereboom, Tamler Sommers, Joshua Greene and Bruce Waller."

The reason that the determinism found in SN is wrong--and you must understand that determinism is the entire basis for their system of beliefs, that their castle is built on this acre of sand--is because it isn't metaphysically of any consequence.

To paraphrase Ayn Rand (whose Objectivism scientific naturalists abhor), it is a nightmare view of existence to believe the unbroken chain of prior occurrences must be "the constant and primary concern of their lives." The Ethics of Emergencies; "The Virtue of Selfishness"; Rand

Why do I say it is the constant and primary concern of their lives? Because of what Clark says in many other places in his various web pages. To quote:

A) "When hearing about determinism, or the idea that we are fully caused to be who we are, people often jump to the conclusion that if this were true they would lose power and control. This is demoralizing. [ ] This conclusion, of course, is mistaken. People and their wills aren’t disempowered when we explain them in terms of antecedent causes." [Not their "wills"; merely their "free" wills.]
B) "Getting clear about this is crucial, since science is in the process of dismantling the myth of the ultimately self-made self." [italics added]
C) "But it’s important to see what’s demoralizing isn’t the empirically and logically well-supported conclusion that we don’t have contra-causal, libertarian free will..."
D) [Determinism's critics] "cannot articulate a clear, scientifically defensible account of how contra-causal, libertarian free will might work."
E) "Human beings act the way they do because of the various influences that shape them, whether these be biological or social, genetic or environmental."

Clark doesn't mean in E) that we incapable of thinking and making decisions about those influences; his point is, we can't escape those influences. Well, duh!

There is much more, on almost every page. I think, however, that a defensible account, as Clark calls for, does not rely on science. The right answer does not require science. Why? Because the science that Clark and others use has nothing to do with the metaphysical value of having and using whatever will they admit we do have.

What they do with their empirical science, which by the way seems to be acceptable truth, is apply it to the subject of our wills as non-contra-causal. Basically, contra-causal means that we can overcome whatever it is that causes us to make a decision, such as answering a ringing phone, taking a sick child to the doctor, eating when we are hungry, sleeping when we can no longer keep our eyes open, etc.

Clark, Dennett and the other determinists are epistemologically correct in this proposition. Mean are not free to escape the fact of existence and of everything that happens in existence. But to make it the essential fact of a doctrine is to give metaphysical equality to both the choices we freely choose to make when we choose to make them, and to the non-contra-causal causes that force us to choose to make a choice or not. The freedom which the determinists admit we do have is a metaphysical positive force, and the things that are prior to choice, things which we cannot change, can only be explained as causes when they are prior to being.

Since "fully caused" is the deterministic proposition that "being" is a "process", man cannot have "being" without the necessity of making choices. His "being" at this very moment has more metaphysical force in existence than the natural forces that brought him to make his choice. Those natural forces can only be explained in terms of his "being." It cannot be explained the other way around, since two or more men may arrive in the same place through different choices made against the backdrop of different natural forces.

In other words, the natural forces over which we have no control, which are deterministically said to "fully cause" us, can only be explained by the result achieved by our choice, which is to say that "being" is the definition of the causes. The causes are not the definition of the "being."

A woman from the roughest neighborhoods of Detroit, and the pampered son of a Houston oilman, can both end up in the same place, let's say Hollywood, and that will be the state of their being. That state cannot be attributed to the "non-contra-causal causes" because they would have gotten there anyway, if that was what they envisioned for their "being," i.e., for their existence.

But the correct response to being "non-contra-causal agents" is to say that without those things which we cannot contra-cause, there would be no such thing as life itself. Determinism seems to be a straw man argument that because we cannot contra-cause the factors of life that "fully cause us to be who we are," that we are somehow supposed to see ourselves in a different light--which is exactly the point of their entire base of philosophical literature. They want us to see ourselves in a different light, both epistemologically and metaphysically.

I'd like to know what the point of that is. I still cannot figure out why knowing that we rise because the cock crows and wakes us, or that we eat because we are hungry, or that we rob a store because we think we have no other choice in a desperate need for cash, is supposed to make us think differently about ourselves.

I think these are things we've always known. Victor Hugo proved it with his novel "Les Miserables", described this way in Wikipedia:

"The story starts in 1815, in Toulon. After five years of imprisonment in the bagne of Toulon for stealing bread for his starving sister and her family..."

So, in 1862 Hugo was telling a story--with overt moral lessons he wanted to demonstrate--that people do things because they need to (steal bread); because they stupidly steal (silver) from the Bishop of a church; that they accidently steal (a child's coin) when they don't know it; that they are forced to sleep on the street when innkeepers refuse to allow felons (the bread theft) at the inns; that people can turn their lives around and do good for others only to have it ripped away from them by petty officials and civil unrest and mistaken identies and by loved ones who mistake your actions for poor character rather than for a poor raft of choices that life forced one to make.

Dagny Taggart committed manlaughter with a gun at point-blank range against a poor slob of a military guard who had no idea of the mess he was in--because he didn't have the power to contra-cause the mess he was in. Neither did Dagny have the power to contra-cause the fact that she was forced to kill the young man. But, without such forces of life, there would be no "being." Rand and Hugo knew that when they wrote in the Romantic style. They used what will their characters possessed to create the beings that they were, and that they were to become.

The fictional writings and the art of the determinists is rightly called "Naturalism."

As Rand stated, "...that which you call 'free will' is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character." Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual

Without the forces of life itself which you cannot "contra-cause," there would be no choices at all to make. The poor guard had the power to think or not: Dagny gave him the choice twice, and when he refused "to think", she killed him without a second thought of her own. Dagny was acting Romantically; the guard was acting Naturalistically. See where it got him?

Who needs science to demonstrate that nothing can be contra-caused, that nothing should be contra-caused, and that determinism is metaphysically impotent precisely because nothing should be contra-causable?

Anything that is out of your control is non-contra-causable in its nature.

But just because each of us is "fully caused", as deterministic scientific naturalism would have us call ourselves, does not mean this: "It may strongly seem as if there is a self sitting behind experience, witnessing it, and behind behavior, controlling it, [but] this impression is strongly disconfirmed by a scientific understanding of human behavior." [ibid Clark]

So, now there is no "self", but there is experience; there is no "self" but there is behavior which has something "controlling it". What could it be if not "self"?

But I have to admit, never in my life did I ever think my will was divorced from existence; in other words, I never believed it was "free" will in the sense that determinists want to prove it is not free.

If Hugo, and Rand, and I and millions or billions of others already know our "free" will is not "free" of reality, what's the point of arguing it?
[1] Chapter Eight, "Belief in Belief" in "Breaking the Spell"; Daniel Dennett

If you think Obama
is definitely going to win,
you might want to read this:

The Philip Berg lawsuit against Barack Obama in which he claimed that BHO wasn't eligible to be president due to not being an American citizen has been tossed. According to judge Barclay Surrick, Berg didn't have standing, saying:
If, through the political process, Congress determines that citizens, voters, or party members should police the Constitution’s eligibility requirements for the Presidency, then it is free to pass laws conferring standing on individuals like Plaintiff. Until that time, voters do not have standing to bring the sort of challenge that Plaintiff attempts to bring in the Amended Complaint. MORE

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