More "miscellany" (General)

by David Turell @, Friday, May 13, 2022, 18:49 (16 days ago) @ dhw


dhw: […] At least there is some sense in the argument that our unique mental faculties make us special, but the fact that our solar system (why the whole cosmos?) allows us and every other organism to live puts us on level terms with the duckbilled platypus. However, obviously I haven’t read the book and can only comment on what is written here.

DAVID: Denton is a Ph.D. & M.D. Like Adler and Schroeder he is one of the authorities who shapes my views.

dhw: They are no more “authorities” than Dawkins and Dennett.

DAVID: Do you accept any authority but yourself?

dhw: As an agnostic who admits that he does not know any of the answers, but who considers (and also concocts) a variety of possible theories, I would consider myself to be the least “authoritative” commentator. But in my view, no one can be called an authority on questions to which there is no known objective answer. To be precise, anyone who claims to be an authority on God’s purpose, methods and nature is self-delusional. The only possible authority is God himself, if he exists.

I am no authority, but I have specific, carefully reasoned theories, which satisfy me, but cerainly not yhou.

Free will

dhw: This is all very much in line with the conclusions I tried to draw in earlier discussions. However, I do wish writers would actually provide a definition of what they mean by “free will” before embarking on such discussions. I can’t remember my own exact definition, but it was along the lines of: an entity’s conscious ability to control its decision-making process within given constraints. These were 1) outside constraints imposed by the situation or by Nature (you can’t “free-will” yourself to fly), and 2) constraints affecting the decision-making process itself, such as heredity, upbringing, education, illness, accidents, chance encounters. On the one hand, as this writer argues, we can’t escape the chain of cause and effect, so you can argue that free will is a fiction. On the other hand, you can argue that all the above influences have contributed to my identity, and my identity is mine alone. Therefore decisions are mine and mine alone (i.e. as above, no one outside of “me” made me do it), and this denotes freedom. Another all-important factor would be the source of consciousness, but since this is unknown, I would suggest that the question of whether we do or don’t have free will – as I have defined it - remains open.

DAVID: Your approach is quite thorough. Our decision making is freely done from moment to moment, but all of the influences you describe must be in play. It comes down to the question: free of what?

dhw: Yes, that is why I insist that such discussions should begin with a definition of the term. We seem to be in agreement, but I wonder if you accept my definition or have one of your own.

I general accept your definition. I accept God as the source of consciousness. However, our biochemistry follows strict instructions; cells have no free will. Our consciousness allows us to make constant choices, so we are not mental automatons, and in that sense God allowed us free will.

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