I came across a thought-provoking post that made my morning exercise bike ride good for my mind, as well as my body.
Within a certain context, the debate between free will and determinism is certainly useful — it’s made a lot of people a lot of money, and it’s kept a lot of brains busy for a long time. I think these foundational questions keep coming up, because they do serve a deeper purpose, as well — they help inform the meanings of our lives, and as you say, differences between the two mindsets color our attitudes toward punishment, crime, and so forth. So, maybe there’s something to them… though I do agree that the arguments don’t necessarily operate in the same “space”. They aren’t mutually exclusive; they can complement each other. The fact that they keep co-occurring in arguments over and over speaks to that.
It’s interesting… my own research into the neurobiological underpinnings of the human experience has led me to a deep appreciation of just how free will and biochemical cause intersect at the most basic, fundamental level of our lives — in the trillions of synaptic clefts that fill our system with a non-intuitively massive amount of separation. We’ve got a whole lot of distance embedded in our nervous systems (in linear 2D terms, over 2000 miles worth), and across those synaptic gaps, neurotransmitters are constantly at work. They’re active, right now, as I write this (and you possibly read it), transforming distance into intimate connections that truly (literally) enliven us. Neurotransmitters can — and do — exert a causative influence. And on top of that, they can be changed and shaped by our attitudes, our conscious behaviors, as well as how we choose to think and feel about things.
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that rather than either-or, we have a both-and situation. And when we combine the strengths of each argument and see how they can co-exist and complement each other, it gives us a richer and more generous concept of humanity. It also gives us more to work with — and it lets us avoid sinking a lot of time into arguing about who’s right/wrong, so we can have productive discussions about how to actually address the pressing questions of our times.
How Philosophical Analysis Creates Useless Problems from
Bad Philosophical Habits: Free Will and Determinism
Philosophical problems are a lot like habits, some are good, some are bad, and some never seem to change. This could not be truer for the dichotomy between Free will and Determinism, which has been debated amongst intellectuals from as early as 1525. Some philosophers champion free will, others champion determinism, and a select few suppose it to be the case that free will and determinism are compatible. To say the least, many great scholars have spoken of this subjects within their writings, for instance: Kant, Hume, etc. There have been numerous attempts to formulate a resolution to the dichotomy of free will and determinism, but none have been satisfactory. The reason, I suspect, this problem has reigned over philosophy for so long is because intellectuals have failed to take notice of one key detail: strictly speaking, there is no solution for the dichotomy.
To understand why this ancient problem has no solution, it is a necessity that we first understand the details which support the dichotomy: namely both, the meaning and usage of free will and determinism. After that, we shall be able to see why, in fact, the free will and determinism dichotomy is a pseudo-problem: a problem with no mind-independent solution.