make-up post, last post, goodbye post.

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

So in my last little baby post, I communicated that I was sick, and that I’d post back in the next few days. I didn’t. I realize this, and I apologize. Life moves fast for a second semester senior, and there’s a lot to think about.

I’ve also been informed that this is to be the last blog posting necessary, which is understandable, considering that the rough draft of the paper is due in a little bit under two weeks now. Scary.

So my last bit of research (at least for these purposes) comes from a link that I embedded in my post two weeks ago. Here it is again, in case you’re lazy.

A primary function of philosophy is the rejection of certain ideas that form an argument. For example, if I create an argument as such:

1) Bobby went to the store.

2) Whenever Bobby goes to the store, he buys beets.

3) Therefore, Bobby bought beets.

One might reject that Bobby went to the store at all, saying he instead went bowling, rendering the argument practically useless. This link deals with some rejections, and some rejections of rejections, for the hard-determinists argument. They go as such:

The author of this piece divides determinism into two different standpoints: the theistic (meaning “God-related”) standpoint and the naturalistic standpoint, which is similar to what B.F. Skinner and my two commenters mirror in their thoughts– mainly, that human actions are purely attributable to a mixture of science, natural phenomena, and chance.

This is an important subdivision. I have tried to shy away from bringing God into the argument deliberately, but theistic determinism is a standpoint that certainly cannot be rejected in an argument as divided as this (not to mention I am both a Christian and, particularly, a Calvinist, making me biased).

As for the arguments, all of them are quite sound. It is the responses to such arguments that distinguish the more accepted arguments from those that are less believable. For example, the naturalistic argument. Human behavior is clearly self-causable, and therefore the argument is no longer sound. Of course some would reject that human behavior is self-caused, but I believe it can be. Moreover, admitting that human behavior is self-caused is confirming that free will exists, proving hard-determinism from a purely naturalistic standpoint to defeat itself. This is quoted from the link:

“A determinist insists that both determinists and non-determinists are determined to believe what they believe. However, determinists believe self-determinists are wrong and ought to change their view. But “ought to change” implies they are free to change, which is contrary to determinism.”

I love that. I seriously laughed. And it makes perfect sense too. If I ought to believe in determinism, then I need to change. But to change, I need to have the ability, or the will, to change. And by doing so, I undermine determinism altogether. Golden.

At this point, I’m pretty much convinced that hard determinism cannot possibly be accepted given intelligent research. That being said, a number of individuals, B.F. Skinner included, probably beg to differ. I’ll be taking a look at his piece “Beyond Behaviourism” a little bit to use in my paper. I’m also expecting a copy of Augustine’s “On Free Choice of the Will,” which I’ll read through. These represent the fundamental ideas from both sides of the spectrum.

As far as I go? I really liked that link. I like the idea of theistic soft-determinism, but I’m still not even sure if the paper is to be in the first or third person, so my opinion may not count for a whole lot. Still, I’ve picked up a lot. I know the argument’s details, but more important even than these is the fact that this issue affects everybody, everything, everywhere.

Final summation? I wrote this post freely.





March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

bah. i’m sorry guys.

but i’m going to have to ask for a bail on this one. i’ve been sick all weekend, my head is pounding, and i really just can’t bring myself to meet the deadline today. i hope everyone is understanding.

new post should be up tomorrow or wednesday, if i’m feeling any better.

thanks so much.


Categories: Uncategorized

human source!

Alright! So I met with my human source on this issue. His name is Alex Arnold. He’s a fifth year philosophy graduate student, whom I have been in a mentoring relationship for the past two years or so. Convenient, eh? Anyway, here’s a bit more about him if you’re interested.

Alright. So I asked his take on the argument, and here’s the jist of it. An important thing to consider (that I haven’t been to date), is the difference between compatibility and moral responsibility. It only seems to get more complicated, doesn’t it? According to him, one must consider, assuming that the two (free will and determinism) are NOT compatible, whether or not determinism or free will are compatible with moral responsibility, which is to say, that person x still is still held accountable to their morals before/during/after committing action p.

He himself does not believe that the two are compatible, but that free will is compatible with moral responsibility and hard determinism is not. This is the deciding factor. He makes an excellent point here, and I get the sense that I would not have even considered moral responsibility otherwise. I’m meeting with him again tomorrow with pen and paper, so I’ll have some direct quotes and branching research a wee bit later in the week. Promise.


the history of the issue.

March 2, 2010 3 comments

So in my last post I mentioned that I noticed (with the help of my instructor) that this argument dates far back into time, as far as 1596, at the time that Henry IV, Part 1 was written (for those of you not aquatinted, my class is currently running through this play). Here’s the deal. I’d first like to talk a little bit about what I found in Henry, but I think that this is also an excellent opportunity to examine the early workings of free will and determinism.

Henry. For those of you that just so happen to own the Dover Thrift Edition (it has some very pristine crowns on the cover), flip to page 5. For those of you who don’t, here’s a link to the play. This is taken from Act I, Scene II.

“Falstaff: ” . . . and let men say we be men of good government, being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under who’s countenance we steal.

Henry: Thou sayest well, and it holds well too; for the fortune of us that are the moon’s men doth ebb and flow like the sea, being governed, as the sea is, by the moon . . .”

Man alive. Talk about determinism eh? A few swift punches, please. This is a sobering thought though. Even five hundred years ago, fatalists, or as we have referred to them, “hard determinists” are pinning stuff on the moon and the sea. There is proof in a number of other pieces by Shakespeare that also indicate he often entertains the idea of fate. And his audiences loved it. This begs the question, how many other people do? How far back was the idea of fate, or the notion of free will, conceived?

Well, it wasn’t difficult to establish at least as far back as St. Augustine, who lived in 354AD. Whew. Here’s an article I found on Catholic Online. Even though I’m not a Catholic, I found one thing worth commenting on. Augustine automatically sort of assumes that our actions are free, saying that humans have a sort of “good will,” and follow this will for the retention of wisdom. Other than that, the article was pretty scarce, but they referenced Augustine’s text Free Choice of the Will, so I’m going to try and get my hands on a copy of that and examine it for the next posting. I also stumbled on this, which I want to discuss later. Sorry if that seems random.. needed a place to put it, and I’d like to know what you guys think about it.

On the flip side of the argument, I was pretty much unable to find anything. A few mentions of BF Skinner, but that was quite late in the game, as compared to Augustine. He’s old . . .

And forgive me if this is grasping at eggshells, but I think this raises a good point. If free will has been around so much longer, does that suggest that free will is the more widely accepted argument? The answer seems trivial. Does it mean, however, that it is more sound, among intelligent quarrelers (if you will)? I’m inclined to think yes. I still just think it takes too many guts to take a leap like that and really believe hard determinism.

In any case, I’ll be looking at some BF Skinner stuff, Augustine’s piece, and that link I mentioned earlier next time.

And a cool little note. In researching this section, I at one point googled “primitive hard determinism,” and . . .

Win. Beautiful progress.

Keep commenting, and I’ll do the same.


comments. LOST. shoutouts.

February 23, 2010 5 comments

I received a number of interesting comments that I’d like to address in this post. Congrats, Tyler Barnum and Conor Dorgan. You guys just became research.

Both of these comments dealed with the purely scientific POV as concerned with our ability to make conscious choices not directly influenced by purely scientific processes. The problem is, both of these gentlemen linked directly to science. I think I should probably clarify a few things.

Quote: “I assume that the emotions we feel are tied into chemical happenings.” Ah. See the problem here is, I reject this premise. I don’t believe that emotions are purely attributable to chemical reactions. Surely, reactions occur that make in necessary for the choice to be carried 0ut (persay, the effect), but I don’t believe that the cause is directly linked to science at all. This brings up a very logical question. Where, then, do emotions come from? This question marks a shift between metaphysical reasoning and epistemological realms, which are most unfortunately slightly out of my topic’s radius. I did a quick google search and came up with this scientific POV and this philosophical POV. I, of course, like the second one, but I think the first is probably the one that you guys are referring to. Ah. Another roadblock of disagreement. A song comes to mind . . .

Quote: “I[f] there was no randomness then I suppose the fate of every human being was decided within seconds after the big bang, for why would any particle or whatever ever take a different path.” I also reject the big bang, but that’s also a whole ‘nother ballpark. More interesting is how you mention randomness. I would be cautious to attribute conscious choice simply to randomness. After all, human beings are creatures of order. We don’t do random, or at least don’t like to think we do. Soft-determinism, which has now sunk in and which I unfortunately am biased early on to prefer, mandates that the cause of such free actions is not just randomness, but influenced by beliefs and desires. If believes and desires were random, our world would be even more screwed up than it is right now. Scary thought . . .

Quote: “If there is no randomness (and possibly even if there is) then life has been scripted since the initiation of the universe, as was any other physical object. We are vessels for action – actors in the largest play ever contrived – and it was all spontaneous.” You hard determinist, you. Expect a prompt punch in the face. All joking aside, the fact that “it was all spontaneous” is in itself a contradiction. After all, if determinists believe that effects have causes, what caused such a spontaneous “big bang?” HA! A breakthrough.

Switching gears suddenly and quite awkwardly, I’d like to talk a little bit about the actual research I’ve done this week. First, to my addiction: ABC’s hit series LOST. Watch this clip. Don’t worry about the numbers, scribbles, or creepy cave. And PG13 warning: blood. Ha. Start paying attention around 1:42-2:28, which deals with Ford, the man in the room with the bald guy.

Locke, the bald guy, mentions how Jacob influenced him when he was weak, miserable, and vulnerable (the flashback with the kid is Ford, the guy in the blue, after his mother and father were shot). He was manipulated, and his choices lead him to the island. It seems like a semi-win for both extreme sides of the argument, but a clear win for compatibility. A clear outside force contributes other than just cause (emotion), but causes and effects still play the fatalist role in leading Ford to the island. Just something I picked up and wanted to address.

And there’s even more. Henry IV has shed some light on the exact same issue, albeit more geared towards the fatalist point of view. Hal mentions moons and sea cycles, determining states that set the fate of men in stone. I’ll do a formal post on this later in the week.

And more and more, I’m finding that this issue is much more widespread than I previously believed. It’s something we face every time we make a choice. Was it free? I’m realizing the impact of this topic, which I think is a vital step towards an effective study of it.

Thanks for everybody who commented this week. I’ve tried to get back to your blogs as well.


the substitute

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Just a quick iPhone update. I happen to be a LOST addict, and last night’s episode dealed with one of the central characters being fated to end up on the island. I’ll be dealing with this a bit later.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , ,

topic change. generous post. symbiosis. peanut butter.

February 15, 2010 7 comments

Ah. So I have indeed fallen behind. Hopefully everybody will forgive me this time. I guess I’ve had a particularly off week. In any case, I’ll be posting a very generous amount today, so hopefully that will help cover last week as well. I also intend to post 2+ times per week instead of the mandated 1, as I am switching topics.

Wait. What?

Yes. After some further consideration, and a close examination of the packet, I’ve decided to change my topic to “Free Will and Determinism.” This is a debate that intrigues me, that I will have ready access to, and that I think I’ll genuinely enjoy researching and writing about. More-so than the Blink-related previous topic, in any case.

Alright. I’m happy to say that, as I said, finding exposure to this topic really is quite simple. I’ve recently acquired a copy of Riddles of Existence, a collaboration between Theodore Sider and Earl Conee on some basic metaphysical issues. Chapter 6 of this collection is titled “Free Will and Determinism.” How appropriate. I’d like to talk a little bit about what I found.

Sider authors this chapter. Besides being a very amusing writer, he presents the issues quite well. The chapter deals primarily with the notion that every cause has an effect. One of the things that struck me is that he gave no distinct opinion between the left-hand side and right-hand side of the argument, leaving the reader to form their own opinion. The left and right-hand side? Hard Determinists vs. Libertarians (NOTE: libertarian in the metaphysical sense has no correlation to that in the political sense).

Hard Determinists are better known as fatalists, those that believe in fate. They believe that everything in the universe that has an effect must have a cause. This means, therefore, that everything can be explained in the sense of physics. Sider uses this example: consider Hitler’s decision to invade Poland. The invasion of Poland is Hitler’s effect, the decision his cause. We might then say that Hitler’s decision was the effect of a cause earlier: perhaps a move by the Allied Advance that required a counterattack. Eventually, all history leading up to Hitler’s invasion of Poland becomes a series of causes and effects, even before the time that Hitler was born. The question then becomes, how can we blame or prosecute somebody who had no say in invading Poland? Someone who was caused to do so? This becomes a difficult truth to accept. And to some degree, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Sider counters with this: “If you come across someone who claims to believe in hard determinism, here’s a little experiment. Punch him in the face, really hard. Then try and tell him not to blame you. After all, if causes and effects determined this moment, then how can you be to blame?” I thought that was pretty funny. I also became readily concerned as I read this. As a human being, I simply just believe that my choices are free. It’s a principle that this nation was founded on. It’s something that you just come to accept from day one. For somebody to bring that into question is pretty bothersome. Isn’t there any other alternative? Thankfully, yes.

Libertarians believe in free will. They believe that humans are not subject to the laws of cause and effect, but instead that we are given the option to choose freely what we do. Some libertarians believe in a part known as the soul, a separate entity not explainable by science, whereas others may claim that humans are a race that simply surpasses the laws of nature. Most of us don’t really consider it, but we are for the most part libertarians. After all, it takes a lot of guts to believe in fate so readily.

I really don’t like hard determinism. I do like libertarianism though (who wouldn’t?). The problem that I found arises is finding the balance between the two. It certainly seems plausible that causes and effects determine a majority of situations, but I’d still like to know that I’m choosing crunchy peanut butter over smooth at Martin’s because crunchy is, to be fair, a million times better. Sider doesn’t answer this question, or give any indication as to which he believes. My next move? To try and find an author that does.

And I did. Curtis Brown, professor of philosophy at Trinity University, writes a killer response to the problem. The solution? Compatiblisim. The link can be found here. I love reading in philosophical format, but if it bugs you, here’s basically my take on what Brown says.

Brown says that both Libertarians and Hard Determinists believe that freedom and fate are not compatible with each other, which is to say, neither can live while the other survives (I can’t believe I just made a Harry Potter reference. . .  smite me). The view that Sider fails to mention is soft-determinism, which basically states that the two are compatible. Soft-determinists, or “compatibilists” believe that actions that are free are indeed caused, but are influenced by our beliefs and/or desires, and therefore are not completely subject to externality. As much as I know about it, I tend to like the idea of compatibility. That being said, I came around the idea just yesterday, so it probably hasn’t fully settled. Perhaps it is because it seems incompatibility would keep one chasing his or her tail for days on end. Compatibilism poses its problems too, however. Some of these are listed on that site. Isn’t there any sound solution? My hypothesis right now is that there isn’t, but that I can get a pretty good idea why that is. Both sides have some convincing stuff. In any case, I will obviously be looking into this in further research.

One last thing. I have realized that it would be easy to simply update one’s blog every Monday and not reach out to help other people on their senior exit expedition. I have done it myself, and it bothers me. I want constructive feedback like everybody else does. I guess I’d like to kind of set up a primitive system. If you are willing to take the time out of your day to scratch my back, then I’ll be sure to pay your blog a visit and do the same. It’s not much, but it’s my idea of the first step towards a kind of symbiotic blogging community of senior exiters.

crunchy peanut butter is still my choice. ha!