Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"A" Becomes "Not-A", Presto Chango!

Free Will is All About "Don't Forget About Me"

"We all know what George W. Bush decided to do," says Naturalism.Org, discussing the subject of free will, using Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq as the example.

"But if we could turn back the hands of time and give the President a second chance, with everything exactly as before, might he chart a different course? Could he choose otherwise?
"With the help of free will, surely he could.
"Or could he?
"With everything as before, including Bush, why would he?"

Naturalism.Org does not believe in free will. It believes in science without the interference of metaphysics. Metaphysics is not science. Naturalism.Org is interested in science, but not about the conclusions of broader, more comprehensive thinking that begins with science and ends with philosophy. Like the science of physics, scientific naturalism has its own means of distancing itself from metaphysical judgments.
On the subject of free will, it says: "'s no surprise we defend this conception against science, hoping to keep those nasty dogs of determinism at bay." [emphasis added]

But it is not against science when we identify the unchangableness of a thing that remains "as it was before." It is merely common sense to say that if "A is A", and we go back in time to a place where "A remains A", it is "A".

If "A" is something that human will is capable of changing, it cannot itself change when everything else remains as it was. In other words, for an example, if someone swings a fist at you the first time and you duck because the act of defensively raising your arm to deflect his swing in not in your arsenal of self-defensive behaviors, what makes the author of the Bush scenario think that, turning back the hands of time, when the identical situation occurred you would do other than you did the first time?

In order to change your will and thus your behavior, at least one thing in the scenario must change. To declare that "with the help of free will you surely could change A into B or C or D" is to ignore the fact that omnipotence is not part of man's description. You can't change that a man takes a swing at you; you can't change that certain defensive moves are not part of your knowledge; you can't change that the one thing you know how to do without thinking about it first is to duck. If everything stays the same, everything stays the same including the outcome.

It is morally objectionable to set up a premise that has no chance of ever becoming reality, and changing "A into not-A" has no chance of ever becoming reality.

The owner of Naturalism.Org, Tom Clark wrote this: "In a piece on recent murders in Connecticut, [the author] defended the concept of evil as a matter of free choice, nothing explicable by looking at genes or environment. Why do people do horrible things? Not, he says, because they were shaped by nature and nurture, although of course genes and environment have their effects, but simply because they are evil.

"It's disturbing that [the author] supposes the appeal to innate evil reflects a rational comprehension of behavior, since it's precisely the opposite: he's insulating horrific acts from explanation, from understanding them in terms of their causal antecedents." [emphasis added]

First, the idea of innate evil is not the same as evil by free choice. Clark is disingenuous by turning A into not-A, free choice into something innate. What is innate is not by choice, free or otherwise. The author is not talking about innate evil; he is talking about evil by choice--as he plainly states.

But to determine that evil, determined to be through free choice, is then the result of causal antecedents makes evil neither innate nor of free choice: it makes it deterministic.

"Again," Clark continues, bemoaning that someone has chosen to believe in free will, "choice is king: it's held to be independent of how dysfunctional the killers were, something that floats free of any explanation involving the factors that shaped them. But of course we don't need to suppose killers are moral levitators, as Daniel Dennett puts it, to hold them responsible, although we won’t any longer think of them as self-created monsters."

But Clark himself forgets--in this argument--that choices are made in spite of causal antecedents, which is the very crux of his own argument for scientific naturalism. "People and their wills aren’t disempowered when we explain them in terms of antecedent causes," he writes elsewhere on his site. "Just as my antecedents, genetic and environmental, had the causal power to create me in all my glory, I too have causal power to influence the world. So don’t forget about me." [emphasis added]

If we are not to forget despite antecedent causes about the will of men, then I can think of people such as murderers, terrorists, rapists, and child abductors as nothing less than self-created monsters. You can say they chose to go on a murderous spree; or you can say they did not choose to do something else. Being beaten up by your father as a child; watching your mother get hit by a car; having your face burned by battery acid; having no shoes because your family is too poor; getting angry at the rain because it soaked your new clothes; or being hungry, tired, cold, lonely, depressed, achy, or lovelorn, all of which are antecedent causes, are not reasons to choose to do evil, nor to choose not to do what is right and good. They are not reasons to choose not to do evil. The "factors" that shape a persons's choices are moral whether or not biological, social, or environmental influences are consuming one's cognitive powers.

"Mental defect" may often be a proper defense in a court of law; but improper behavior based on faulty epistemology, or the metaphysically evil thoughts that can sometimes follow improper epistemology, are not "mental defects." They are defects in the process of thinking.

“The lack of free will," Clark quotes another story, "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.

"This conclusion, of course, is mistaken," he posits. "You can’t logically attribute power to the world and not to the agent," which is what the previous examples do: concede the causal efficacy of what created the person, "but deny that the person plays a role in how things unfold in her immediate neighborhood, and sometimes well beyond. Although we don’t have ultimate control over ourselves – there’s no evidence," he says, "we are self-created in a way that can’t be traced back to non-self factors – we have plenty of local, proximate control and power: our actions, controlled by our wills, often have the intended effects. This control and power doesn’t go away when we admit that the will itself has causal antecedents, that it didn’t create itself." [emphasis added]

That, Mr. Clark, is what free will consists of, and in the end holds people repsonsible for "playing a role" in the choices they make, choices which are of free choice and which then cannot be described as "innate." Innate would be mental defect. Free choice resulting in wrongful acts, even accidental wrongful acts, are the result of free choice, of a will that just didn't "create itself."

More on Islamicism

The commentary below came from Walid Phares’ “Phareswire.”
"Even within the walls of a detention center, avowed jihadists are working and using every means possible to advance jihad. The jihadists’ tenacity and willingness to sacrifice themselves is a sobering reality and reminder of what we are up against."
[For the complete commentary, click on the word commentary above.]

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