Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The Scientific Kind Says "It Wasn't My Fault"

Seeking to get back to the strict subject of naturalism in the Academy Blogger--rather than using naturalism as the theme for the subjects of capitalism, the forthcoming Obama administration, altrusim, socialism, justice, etc.--we are reminded that as far as this Academy is concerned "naturalism" is the metaphysical position that nature is all there is and all basic truths are truths of nature.

However, there are epistemological variations of naturalism which, metaphysically speaking, make a mess of the idea of "basic truths."

"(1) If nature is understood in the restricted sense of physical, or material, nature, naturalism will be the tendency to look upon the material universe as the only reality, to reduce all laws to mechanical uniformities and to deny the dualism of spirit and matter. Mental and moral processes will be but special manifestations of matter rigorously governed by its laws." Catholic Encyclopedia

This "restricted" sense is restricted enough to be called determinism. It is also referred to as scientific naturalism.

The problem with determinism vs. metaphysical naturalism is where determinism gets its descriptive name: everything including human history is determined, not by a pre-determined, planned destiny, but determined by all the causes which have gone into the creation of existence as it is at this moment.

Thus, we are unable to overcome the nurturing we received as an infant, for example, and must abide by the conditioning of the brain by that nurturing. The mind is a fallacy, as is free will.

"[W]e are caused (by our genetic endowment, upbringing, and social environments)..." writes Tom Clark. " Human beings act the way they do because of the various influences that shape them..." [italics added]

On first reading, on first impression, that might sound perfectly natural. But it is not natural to think that to take tychistic* (random) acts of nature and acts of other human beings, as they effect us, is metaphysically the same as being caused by them. So what if they did "cause" us? That is called life; it is called existing. Without nature and other humans to interact with there would be nothing in existence--except you.

Making a big deal out of the idea that our genes, our upbringing, our learned behavior, manners, etiquette, speech patterns, education, memes, and everything that makes living what it is, is to make a big deal out of life as life. Memeing Naturalism Memes.Org

Life and existence are a big deal; but to say we are "fully caused creatures" because we sometimes cannot escape the rain, a family member's death, having the measles or having big feet is to say that everything except our will is the cause of our having to use our will!

It is a tautology. And a ridiculous one at that. Are we supposed to say, "Because things affect us, we must use our will, which is not contra-causally** free of those things which affect us; therefore, since things force us to us our will, those things have fully caused us."

Unfortunately, this epistemology leads to such social policy thinking as this, found on Clark's website along with much more in the same vein:

"Given the circumstances both inside and outside the body, [behavior of individuals] couldn't [be] other than what they [do in response]. Nevertheless, we must still hold individuals responsible, in the sense of applying rewards and sanctions, so that their behavior stays more or less within the range of what we deem acceptable."

So first Clark says we cannot act in any other manner than that which is apparent after we have acted; then he says we must hold people responsible for behavior they could not control, and we know they could not control it because in other places Clark states: "...we can no longer take or assign ultimate credit or blame for what we do. This leads to an ethics of compassion and understanding, both toward ourselves and others. We see that there but for circumstances go I."
Because we cannot change the cosmos, and because we cannot be the director of the world stage and all its actors--because we cannot contra-causally change tychistic and human events--we cannot take either full blame or credit for our actions.
In other words, my life is determined by everything and everyone but my self. It wasn't my fault.

*tychistic: chance as an objective reality, operative in the cosmos, a term derived from the Greek tyche: fortune; chance; employed by Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)

**contra-causal: the ability to reverse, prevent, or in some way alter tychistic events, and acts of life, e.g., birth and death; violence and pacifism; witnessing a "wardrobe malfunction," etc
P.S. I just found this
"Nicolas Sarkozy, who is about to rotate out of the European Union's presidency, has a reputation for being a little bit daft. Now meet his successor, Czech President Vaclav Klaus. British historian Timothy Garton Ash has called Klaus "one of the rudest men I have ever met." Klaus has called global warming a "myth" and Al Gore an "apostle of arrogance." He blames the world financial crisis on too much, not too little, regulation; is close with Vladimir Putin; and has frequently lambasted the organization he will now head. "Oh God, Vaclav Klaus will come next," read a headline in a recent Austrian paper. "There is palpable fear that Mr. Klaus will embarrass the world's biggest trading bloc and complicate its efforts to address the economic crisis and expand its powers," writes The New York Times. Good news: The Czech presidency is largely a ceremonial position, and this fact is expected to limit Klaus's power in the E.U."
No, the good news is that maybe the "rude capitalist" will take some initiative and show the world how to deregulate, begining with his own nation.
But it just goes to show the NYTimes is not pro capitalist, i.e., a supporter of individual sovereignty; nor does it believe the weather is merely changing, as it has every few centuries since it first got an atmosphere with identifiable seasons.

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