History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Will, free or unfree, and the anglo-saxon case of the ‘mister…’

April 29th, 2015 · 1 Comment


The debate over free will has its best resolution in Kant and Schopenhauer, but this is unacceptable to hard scientists. But we are passing through an era of the debriefing of scientific reductionism. But the issue of free will is not sacrosanct: ironically, ‘believers’ in free will should have their own ‘private debate’ (in public, reductionists are free to gate crash). The question reminds me of the use of ‘mister’ in common parlance, derived from ‘master’ and originally associated with class issues, but in the ‘mister’ form an ironic clue to the free will debate. At one extreme ‘free will’ is like ‘mister’: it is your admittance ticket to the realm of ‘mister’ as ‘freedmen’, etc… Free will or not. You are a mister (male) with reference to almost nothing, but a ‘master’ of your own self. It doesn’t mean you have free will. You are just ‘mister’, ditto with gender variants. The will is a complex question, but has a whole slew of parallel properties that are a part of the self-description of man, ‘free’ or not.
The issue is like that. ‘Free will’ is an evolutionary (not in the sense of Darwin) category designation and refers to a set of properties, latent or active, that constitute the will in man, hence a candidate to be a mister. That’s a long way from the superman comic version. It amounts to saying that human psychology has a ‘will’ dimension’ which may or may not be ‘free will’. A yogic analysis of man, or the parallel sufi version, would point out that the will is the prerequisite for being a ‘mister’, but really ‘free’ will requires a path of liberation. That’s an important exception and important argument. But the rights and duties of ‘man’ as ‘mister/and-or someone with free will’ are given as properties granted in ‘natural law??’ and are the basis of the analysis of legal judgments of culpability, etc.. This argument is a little ragged, but it offers a way to reconcile the issue of ‘will’ in an organism of the human type as free or unfree in degrees with a solution to the necessity that man conform to legal culpability. Man to be man must be subject to culpability, as a responsible individual, but the degree of real freedom in man is open to a question of degree. IN fact, a yogic analysis might find man quite mechanical with the inability to free himself from his reactions.
The ‘mister’ approach, which could be improved, is one way to reconcile the contradictions.

Tags: General

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 NK // Apr 29, 2015 at 11:43 am

    I would also add that Sam Harris types don’t realize that they haven’t progressed from semantic arguments. You may define “free will” in a certain way and then explain it away/claim it doesn’t exist, but how do you know you’ve objectively defined “free will.” This is the problem with all claims of AI, consciousness, etc. It’s not clear if any of the parties are even coming up with adequate definitions, asking the right questions, etc.

    The history of physics/mathematics should be a cautionary tale. Euclidean geometry was thought to capture the “true, objective” nature of geometry, but we all know how that turned out.

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