Free will II

File:Lady Mary Coke.jpgPeople act (and choose) as they do because they are who they are.
They have not made who they are.

Thus, in two lines, Richard Oerton disposes of free will, in favour of determinism. Events have causes, and the conscious or unconscious choices and acts of a human being also have causes, in her upbringing and environment: we are not entrapped by remorseless fate against our desires, but our desires themselves have causes.

Perhaps I should not ask a Determinist to define free will, but Oerton postulates an Originator, something outside the causal chain. It is under the control of the person who possesses it, or it would not be his free will, but it is not linked to his character or his desires, which arise from his circumstances. It requires the ability to choose freely between stealing and not stealing, when other circumstances are equal. I will not take a laptop from an unlocked car, but this does not feel particularly like a free choice between two alternatives. Therefore I empathise with the person who does, who might not notice the choice either, just the opportunity.

Could I have done otherwise- that pound I gave to the collector in the supermarket? Yes, I could have walked past him, but- I was not motivated to do so, and the motivation is within me, from a chain of nature and nurture causes. I have done in the past, and it might be that my thwarted motivation to give before became stronger in this case because I had not given the previous time (I see myself as charitable) rather than my generosity wasting away because of a bad habit.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Allan_Ramsay_%28artist%29_-_Portrait_of_the_Artist%27s_Wife_-_WGA18996.jpgWhat about a choice over which I spend a great deal of time agonising? My motivations may be evenly balanced, but eventually one wins out, causing that choice just as they cause any other. If I am desperate to get the best outcome even in my choice of breakfast cereal, every visit to the supermarket will be a trial, but if I reason that of many choices there are several good enough options it becomes easier. That reasoning also comes from my nature, which is to reason and amass ideas.

It seems that there is no such thing as pure chance- if you know the exact force and angle of the spin of a coin its result may be predicted. But if there were pure chance, divorced from cause or personality, affecting someone’s acts, that could not be called his “free will”. Whether I make a decision consciously or unconsciously, it comes from those causes. The unconscious, making a decision 0.35 seconds before I consciously realise I have made it, is still me, with my character. I might want to falsify a prediction, being counter-suggestible- but then the prediction is itself part of the causal matrix around my decision.

“We cannot prove that our minds make sense rather than nonsense, because our only way of doing this would involve us using and relying on our minds, assuming what we set out to prove. But this ultimate uncertainty has to be ignored.” We cannot define what the “mind” is, but we can define and explain determinism. Therefore, the fact that we cannot make any sense of free will shows it does not exist.

Tomorrow: the self-forming action and my own self-forming.

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