iambiguous wrote: ↑Wed Jan 26, 2022 3:58 am
Indeed, the more you delve into it, the more perplexing -- exasperating -- it can become. An antinomy. On the one hand, it seems clear that if the brain is but more matter, it is not the exception to the laws of matter. On the other hand, it seems certain that we are in fact able to freely choose among options. It's somewhat analogous to the inhabitants of Flat World trying to grapple with the existence of our own three dimensional world. How to finally connect the two both theoretically and "for all practical purposes".
Right. And yet, we have to. Because you and I have to wake up each day, and decide whether "choosing" something is worth doing. So as tough as it is, it's not the sort of question that we can shelve until we find a practical application for it; the practical application is, in fact, everything we do, every day.
Then the part where "for all practical purposes" those who lead successful, accomplished lives insist that it is all of their own doing, while those who lead lives that are anything but can think to themselves "well, it's all 'beyond my control' anyway".
Yes, you've got it. And this brings us to the point where the ethicists become involved. For it's a matter of what they call "praise" and "blame."
To illustrate, if I win the Academy Award for best picture...do I deserve it? I'd like to think, yes. But if my production was merely the cumulation of previous inevitable forces, why am I on the podium, taking the award and smiling? Should not every Academy Award simply be given to "the Universe"?
And on the other hand, if I am caught standing over a body, with a bloody knife in my hands, and I say, "Well, her death was inevitable, given the previous causal-material chains in play," is that an excuse for my actions? Should the only entity in jail actually be "the Universe," too?
If, an hour ago, God knows I am going to be typing these words, how could I not be typing them?
You obviously ARE going to be typing them, then. But again, we need to realize what the shape of the problem really is: it's not with God's foreknowledge, or "omniscience," but only with the conjunction of omniscience with some sort of divine action of compulsion or force.
To say again: "knowing" is not "making." For you see, I did anticipate that you would, in some form, respond to this message. You might say I knew you would respond -- and as it turns out, it seems that my knowledge of that fact was correct, too. You might say I had "perfect foreknowledge" that you would respond.
Of course, my knowledge is never "perfect." Still, in this case, it was verifiably correct, and we cannot now doubt it, can we?
But my question to you might be this: "Did my knowing MAKE you write back to me?" Did I seize your hand, and move it on the keyboard for you? Did I compel the surges in your brain, through my foreknowing of what you would do, so that you no longer had a choice but had to write back?
Or is the case much simpler? Can I know what you're going to do, and not make
you do it?
Same thing with regard to theodicy. Theodicy and so-called "acts of God". Natural disasters here on planet Earth that have destroyed the lives of millions. If God was only able to create planet Earth in accordance with the laws of matter then He is not really responsible for the natural disasters themselves.
Well, He'd at least be responsible for starting the causal chain and setting up the law-conditions that made the disaster possible. But you're right: it wouldn't necessarily mean he had personally engineered the rockslide or the tidal wave.
But as far as theodicy goes, Susan Neiman, in her book Evil In Modern Thought
, comes up with a useful distinction between personal
disasters (like murder or fraud, say, where there is a definite human agent involved) and natural
disasters (like avalanches, earthquakes and cancers, where there is no discernable human agent responsible for what happened). And she says (quite rightly, I think) that any proper theodicy would have to deal with both kinds of "evil," not just shift everything to one or the other.
So that's a good way to structure the theodicy problem, I would think.
I think it comes back again to the mystery of mind itself. It's easy to grasp "external" constraints/compulsions in our life. Someone puts a gun to your head or circumstances all around you unfold such that you really have no viable option but to behave in a particular way. But "internally" your thoughts and feelings just seem -- viscerally -- to be all your own. In a way that is different from external factors.
That's nicely put. I think that's right: we do seem to feel a kind of "existential" difference, don't we? And it's something that a Materialist or Physicalist explanation is going to have to say is nonsense. For them, it cannot be the case that internal and external inducements have any real difference, since ultimately, both must originate externally.
The short step toward the internal, just before we act, must be something that creates or induces the illusion of difference...but no real difference actually exists, they would have to say. Our "internality," like "externalities," are just physical-material actions.
But suppose there is no difference?
Yes, that would have to be what they would have to insist.
Then back to how we can finally know for sure.
Here we do get into epistemology.
For we then have to ask, is that a reasonable expectation on our part? How much of what we call "knowledge" do we actually possess on a "for sure" basis? And if we don't need, in order to get up in the morning, to know "for sure" that there will be a floor beneath our feet when we put them down, how important is it for human creatures to possess "for sure" knowledge?
Doesn't high-probabilty knowledge function for us as if it were "for sure" in most things we do? Don't we feel quite secure in putting our feet down to the floor in the morning? And wouldn't we regard it as a little petty and "philosophical" in the worst sense of that word, if somebody were to say, "Well, you really didn't know for sure that the floor would be there"?
Only even when we do convince ourselves that we finally know for sure that might be only because given the laws of matter no less applicable to the human brain we were never able not to convince ourselves of this.
Ah, yes...this is a major, major problem.
If my knowledge is actualy reporting to me not on the basis of things true but on the basis of whatever previous material-physical chains caused me to think, why should I trust the pronouncements of my own brain?
This is a very serious, but little realized, critique of the Materialist or Physicalists worldviews: if Materialism is true, then science is not a matter of truths being discovered; rather, its products are simply whatever the material-physical causes dumped into my material-physical brain. How should I privilege scientific "dumpings" of that kind above any regular "dumpings" of ordinary events?
It's like we would have to say, "The reason Galileo knew the Earth moved is because the material-physical causes of the universe made him think so," instead of, "Galileo knew the Earth moved because he had observed and calculated it." We would have to say it was material happenstance, not scientific knowledge, that was behind his discovery.
And, of course, the same would be true for all science. None of it would be anything other than material-causal phenomena. And material-casual phenomena do not, themselves have any view of whether it's better for us to see truth or delusions.