Type of paper: Thesis
Free will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. According to the historical views, the constraint of dominant concern is the metaphysical constraint of determinism. The opposing positions within various debates are metaphysical libertarianism, the claim that determinism is not true and thus free will exists and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not be there. These positions, which agree that causal determination is the relevant factor in the question of free will, are classed as incompatibility. Those who do not believe that determinism is relevant are classified as compatibilists, and offer several alternative explanations of what constraints are relevant, such as physical and mental constraints (e.g. imprisonment or chains), social constraints (e.g. censure or threat of punishment), and psychological constraints (e.g. phobias or compulsions).The principle of free will has scientific, ethical, and religious implications. For example, according to the religious realm, free will implies that individual choices and will can coexist with an omnipotent divinity. In other ethics, it may hold implications regarding whether individuals can be held morally fit for their actions.
If time was not the way it appears, even though it is relative and subjective to other events, can we at least know that the past is gone, now is the present, and the future is coming? This goes along with the discussion of free will vs. determinism- if time could be existing linearly (even if it is subjective and relative), then we cannot that say we have freedom. If all time exists already and does not occur chronologically, then the future and past present are already there and how can we be said to have any freedom. If, as in Augustine’s version of time (p 239), God exists outside of time and we exist inside it, but this does not mean that everything has already happened, even if we seem to appear to be living through it chronologically. It is very true that we cannot live if that is the case.
We cannot possibly see into the future if all time is simultaneous. It is also impossible to see into the future if time is chronologically linear. Moreover, we cannot both see into the future and change the future by acting differently than we predict. This is all explained under occult phenomena. Philosophers and scientists seem to believe that time is not simultaneous, but naturally chronological. The past is over, the present is now, and the future is almost to be determined. It looked carefully at any positivity of things outside the confines of scientific explanation. The Magazine called “The Skeptical Inquirer’’, offers a large monetary reward to anyone proving any extra sensory phenomenon, and to date, no one has collected the cash. It is quite possible, for those who insist that they have prevision of future events, that they are merely making very astute predictions based on all previous occurrences (p 300-308). We may be aware of more than we believe to know, at a subconscious level, and at that subconscious level we may synoptically and critically compile huge amounts of input and have a “predictive” output of a highly likely future event.
Most people do this a lot, and many times we are wrong, but when, once in a while, we are correct, we tend to cling to these correct predictions and see them as extrasensory/occult previsions of future events. They may be nothing greater than complex critical thinking and logical prediction. We learn from history and become One Peaceful Worldwide Civilization. We are the culmination of the evolution of the fittest warriors and the genetic war winners, so it is an important battle to have the mental stamina to overcome our biologically driven violent tendencies and thoughts. Chapter 5-1 indicates that we do have the possibility of learning some of the basic and more important lessons of history and, therefore, we do have a chance (maybe for the first time) to stave off the demise of a civilization and to break the pattern that most people objectively observed. We would always need to (p 307-8) reject and realize the Us-Them mentality (that was once very helpful in survival but is not no longer necessary), stop being so “xenophobic” and actually aims at educating ourselves so we can learn to appreciate the major differences in other cultures.
Other cultures have started as they are for a reason, and learning these reasons can help us accept them and see that we are moving to the end, not so different. We also need to realize that if we were born in another culture, we would in all likelihood hold the views that the culture holds rather than the ones we hold right now, consequently because of being born here. We have this particular arbitrary worldview simply because we happen to have been born into this context and not another. Toleration of what does not harm us can end the “us-them” mindset. We also need to consider the “myth of race (page 338-40) as the false idea that it is. All of these things will definitely help us overcome and see past religious, social and political differences. Rational people can and should want to do this. So, we can learn much from history. Whether we will or not is a very subjective viewpoint. However, if we do not, our culture, objectively speaking, is probably headed for the same demise as every other civilization since the start of time.
As said by Toynbee, the trend is for the next civilization to pick up the other best parts and resuscitate them into the civilization if we do die. This might not be the worst thing in terms of the general history of civilizations in the world, but it doesn’t seem so more from our perspective as we are the ones going down. As we move to chapter 4-3 we are able to see some of the concepts about freedom and determinism. The hand that is dealt to us represents determinism; the way we play it is free will.” (p 256) As human beings we would love to see this idea talked about in discussion. Free will is a true philosophic topic that is not the same as freedom/liberation. It is a question of whether we have free will over our actions or whether we are determined by a materialistic universe.
Various free will debate usually comes down to the idea that we are free because we have something other than our material selves (like a soul or a mind- a la Cartesian duality) that is responsible for allowing us free choice. If we are just material, then the debate has been that we are subject to the physical laws of causality just like every other material thing, and that rules out free will and since the Big Bang have no control over what comes next. The similarity to a collaborative effort yielding something that is more than the sum of its parts would make our brains to become so complex that the collaborative efforts of the brain’s physical/chemical/neurological processes have created an end that is aware of itself (which is what self-awareness probably is). Likewise, these processes have led to our high level of rationality- the mental processes that occur have, in a way, surpassed themselves and can turn around and look at themselves critically. Self-awareness and rationality are both abilities we have which can evaluate the actual physical/chemical/neurological processes that created them.
Similarly free will is another end result of these complex processes. Also, it is the ability of the physical/chemical/neurological (aka material brain processes) to actually affect the very thing that created them in the first place. Free will is a sum that is much greater than its component parts (the material processes) and which has surpassed the actual processes and is able to influence the very processes that made free will exist in the first place. Another very important idea that restated in other words is that just like a collaborative effort yields more than the sum of its parts, the brain (due to its complexity in chemical and neurological functioning) has yielded end results which are more than the sum of its parts- and we dub them: self-awareness, rationality, and free will. These end results have the ability to affect the very processes that create them. Physical processes, once complex enough, create ends that influence the beginning physical processes.
In conclusion, the difficulty of these arguments for compatibilists lies in the fact that it entails the impossibility that one could have chosen other than one has. For example, if someone is a compatibilist and she has just sat down on the sofa, then she is justified to the claim that she could have remained standing, if she had so desired. But it follows from the result argument that, if he/she had remained standing, she would have come up with a contradiction, violated the laws of change or nature.
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