My weekly workload has collapsed and will stay low for most of July before August will bring it back to some respectability. Naturally, I'm caught in a win-win situation, where a lack of hours brings more leisure time to do what I like to do and a surplus of hours gives me money for random expenses like car repairs, which I like too.
In my extra time this week contemplating, my mind settled back to an old philosophical chestnut, namely whether we have freewill. A burst of inspiration suddenly revealed to me a weapon to destroy the argument of anyone claiming that determinism is a logical necessity.
Paul once related an idea from a book he was reading about how the human mind has a natural tendency to look for causes for phenomena it experiences. For example, if people saw a comet and then a nature disaster occurred, there was an inference of causality. In the book, it related how this could be a source of the belief in the supernatural. The sins of mankind had to lie in a past flaw/sin at the beginning of creation; people of different areas spoke differently because God punished the people for building the Tower of Babel; deformities and being born in poverty must have been a result of sins in a past life and so on. This is a reasonable theory and could explain the capacity for rational people to believe in things such as luck and the desire to see coincidences as providence. More crucially, it shows that a natural mode of thinking can lead to beliefs that are not necessary logical.
If we have a look at the scientific mode of thinking, it is easy to see that it is a formalised systematic analogue to the same mental process. It looks at the effects and seeks to attribute causes. This naturally is a powerful technique and has been highly successful. But the conclusion of determinism could be an example of how such processes being victims of their own success.
Determinism is the theory that all of our choices are essentially pre-determined by circumstance. For example, I'm going to make a cup of tea now. Why? Because I have a sensation in my throat; I'm partial to tea; it's cool in this room; I'm a bit sleepy and may be in need of a pick-me-up. I could try to demonstrate my freewill by going against such factors to make a point. But my decision to make this point are also pre-existing; I'm writing this blog (which itself had pre-existing causes); I'm a contrarian etc. So if all the effects have causes, then there is no free will, thus determinism.
But the logic leading to determinism could be underpinned by the same assumptions that lead us to beliefs in luck, karma and a creator. If you assume that all effects and choices by sentient and non-sentient beings and objects can be attributed to causes, then you are begging the question when it comes to freewill. It is an assumption to say that all effects have a 100% materialistic cause.
We could assume that our choices are to some degree a result of circumstances and to some degree the effect of the executive functions of the brain exerting its freewill over the choices available. The executive function is what weighs up the significance of each of the factors and effectively makes the choices. Naturally circumstances are the data that the executive function may consider, but to say that the circumstances force choices upon the executive functions is to make an assumption beyond what one knows.
I see this perspective as a valuable point to raise against anyone who considers determinism to be a logical certainty. It doesn't prove freewill; in fact you'll notice that it can be used to attack someone who intellectually asserts freewill. But any awareness of the assumptions that lead to non sequitur 'conclusions' has to be a good thing.
I'm annoyed that I had never noticed this point in fact. It does have implications and uses in other discussions. Anyway, I came to blogger this morning because I knew there was a philosophical topic I was going to blog. Freewill was not going to be the topic, but I couldn't remember the topic that had inspired me to have a more philosophical blog. While writing this one, typically, I recalled the topic which will be the basis of a blog in the near future: Was Mother Theresa selfish?
Any thoughts on freewill and/or Mother Theresa, please comment.