Previous Entry Share Next Entry
On Determinism
One issue I've been wrestling with lately is the concept of conscious free will - the idea that we actively make our own choices and define our own lives - in conjunction with determinism, which holds that there are conditions under which certain outcomes are assured (gravity is an example - barring extreme circumstance, what comes up must come down).

In some interpretations of determinism, free will is considered an impossibility, because all of your actions - including the choice to change your mind - come from existing states of your brain. Choice, then, would be an illusion.

On the other hand, conscious thought continues after the instant of decision, and gives us the chance to change our minds, or to change our goals so that the next time a decision has been called for, we will make a different choice. This level of control over our own actions could be labeled free will, even if it's somewhat delayed from the initial choice.

Determinism also complicates the question of moral responsibility, the dilemma being as follows:
1. Either causal determinism is true, or it is false.
2. If it is true, then I am compelled to act as I do, and am not morally responsible for my actions.
3. If it is false, then how I act is random, and I am again not morally responsible for my acts.

I want to believe in moral responsibility. And on a practical level, arguing philosophy with the judge won't get you off a murder charge.

I am unwilling to believe that the future is wholly set, or that I have no freedom to choose.

I am inclined to see causal determinism as a series of if-then statements - an understanding of certain systems (like physics, or people) allows you to predict the outcomes of certain situations, but it is not certain which situations will arise.

I believe that I make my choices based on my experiences, my motives and my own view of my situation, and as such they can never be wholly random, but that I make them nonetheless.

I believe that my actions have consequences, and that questioning the sources of my decisions, while not unimportant, will not change the fact that I have to go out and live my life as if I had some measure of control.

I am also highly suspicious of the level of comfort that this belief gives me, and as such will do more research, but it seems consistent enough for the moment.


Log in

No account? Create an account