Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Non-Determinism in our Cosmos, and How That Relates to Free Will

I'm going to have to flesh out this post, but wanted to point something out.

1) Determinism is nothing more than a 19th Century fantasy.

The works of Cantor, Boltzmann, Godel, and Turning undermine this notion.  An excellent (and inspiring) video on this is the BBC's "Dangerous Knowledge":

2) If "free will is an illusion", why is there no way to shake it off?

This is actually one of John Searle's arguments.  We can "shake off" (through analysis) other illusions, but nobody can credibly explain what it would be like to "shake off" the alleged "illusion" of free will.

Nevertheless, despite the overwhelming reports of people who claim to have free will, there are those who will continue to claim it is an illusion -- and that they perceive it as such.  Since we can't discount these persons self-reports of their internal states, we are left with three possibilities:  a) the "illusion" people are mistaken, b) the "not illusion" people are mistaken, and c) some human minds have free will, and some don't.

I think the best way of approaching this trilemma is to examine (c).  If some people truly do not have free will, serious ethical (and moral) questions arise.  For example, how can someone who doesn't have free will be held responsible for their actions?  After all, there was no way for them to decide not to do whatever it is they would be responsible for if they did, indeed, have "free will".

Further, in regarding (c), knowing that some of our unfortunate fellow brothers and sisters on this planet are lacking free will, what could those of us who have free will do to help these poor persons undergo the least amount of suffering as possible?