Sunday, October 02, 2005

Free Will? P1

Do we really choose our actions? What if you have been hypnotised, or you are a brain in a jar (e.g., The Matrix), or if your biology has been influenced to such a degree by evolution that you only act in concordance with your inherited traits; is it all just brain-chemistry, governed by physical laws; what when you discover, in retrospect, that the actions you thought were free at the time you enacted them, were really controlled by your upbringing, your life-situation and so on. ...... Can the human sciences explain our actions, and hence show that they were not free? (Can human behaviour be free and still predictable, somewhat in the same way that some mathematical functions are deterministic, yet unpredictable?) Is the brain a special kind of computer, in which mentality and intentionality are implemented?

All these questions pose serious threats to the notion of free will. But there is one more question, one that is far more serious, and which presumably has graver consequences than many of them: that of determinism.

"Determinism is the view that, for everything that happens, there is a condition or set of conditions which are causally sufficient for that thing happening." - Oakley (2001).

Determinism applies even if there is a "mind-substance", different from the physical stuff of our brain (and everything else). It seems to imply that there is no freedom for human beings (or for anything else, for that matter). The consequences of determinism seem grave. If no one chooses freely, how can we blame, praise, or punish? How would you look upon another, who acted friendly towards you, if you knew that the person had no choice in the matter? And wouldn't you yourself feel trapped, knowing you could not control your actions (even though you had the feeling you could control your actions)?


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