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Vexen Crabtree 2015


Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards

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Vexen Crabtree 2015

Einstein on Free Will

I've added the following text to "Determinism versus Agency: There is no Free Will" by Vexen Crabtree (1999):

The facts of determinism - that external factors that form our development, such as experiences, and internal factors such as biochemistry, predestine us to our fates - are noted as mentioned by neurologists, physicists and philosophers. Above these, these facts are proclaimed also by none other than Albert Einstein:

“I do not at all believe in human freedom in the philosophical sense. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner neccessity.”
- Albert Einstein (reference on www.humantruth.info/free_will.html)

I'm reading a collection of Einstein's writings called "Ideas and Opinions" and well chuffed to come across this two-line chestnut!

(Nothing feels better than reducing one of the world's greatest minds to little quotations!)

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I tend to think determinism is rather bleak, but perhap it has a saving grace.

"that external factors that form our development, such as experiences..."

If that is so, then each of us must at some time and point (and really that means all the time) be influencing other people (and things). So, whilst we have no free will as such, we do at least get to influence other people just as they influence us.

Of course, the manner in which we influence them, will be the result of how we were influenced at some point...and whatever it was that influences us, was the result of how somebody else was influenced somewhere even further back...ad infinitum....all of which genereates an infinite regress, a complex web of causation which...ultimately would have to go back to a First Cause. And I don't like the sound of any of that.

Have your read anything by Gilbert Ryle? He seemed to have a thing for finding infinite regresses, and, if I remember correctly, tended to think they were proof that a theory was invalid? Certainly, it seems a bit like passing the intellectual buck to reduce things to a first cause that we cannot actually define.

Well, its "bleakness" is not a detraction from its truth, and I think that the defence of social justice would be determinisms greatest feel-good factor. If events didn't cause behavior (i.e., if there is true free will), it would be immoral and wrong to punish people. As it happens, everyone knows that events ultimately influence behaviour, so, we do things like try to prevent crime, convince people to act morally, and teach people things. Without determinism, there would be no methods available for justice.

Your point about infinite regress is true; and it *is* true that causality is a phenomenon with a seemingly "infinite" [1] regress. Nonetheless, randomness does not constitute free will. The probabilities of quantum events doesn't dissolve the infinite regress of causality, and, it may be that what we now consider to be "probabilities" (like brownian motion) may later on turn out to have discrete components and therefore be easier to predict. (Note: The determinism vs. free will argument needs events to be both uncaused and non-random in order for free will to be a philosophical meaningful idea).

I've never read Gilbert Ryle (though I've seen his name mentioned in plenty of books, I'm sure), but, I think his dislike of infinite regress is best suited to philosophy, rather than the physics and maths that underlies determinism.

[1] Read 'forever' within the constaint of the existence of the universe.

Of course it einstine belived that there was absolutly nothing random in the universe he belived that if you bought things down to a small enough level there was no uncertainty. You may have found his quote "God does not play dice."

Current theory seems to point to physics on a subatomic level being all about percentages of the chances of various outcomes and uncertainty. In that Uncertainty that Einstine did not then belive in is the possibility of choice (Although of course not the certainty).

I was particularly lost by your second paragraph! Not your fault, so I'll give a brief answer to your comment that randomness is important.

Probability may be important in quantum physics, but, it does not result in free will.

It dose not result in free will. You wouldn't exspect a die hard agnostic like me to say that anything leads un earingly to anything. but it dose make it possible.

The second paragraph means that you can not predict where a sub atomic particle will be from one moment to the next. you can mearly give a percentage chance of what it may do next. It is possible that on a subatomic level there is true randomosity*

*I just made that word up but I may not have been the first to do so and I'm sure you understand it.

(Deleted comment)

Re: Hey I was thinking of you

1. I agree with his principle and your analysis of his mode of operation. Buddhism may contain truths, but as a whole isn't true.

2. "free-thinker" is a self-label, like philosophical labels, that people use to describe themselves but which don't explain why people actually have the beliefs they have. So, "free-thought" isn't responsible for his untraditional approach to Buddhism, but, it's the label he uses to explain his approach.

3. Culture: Steve Bruce (I think, or Grace Davie) calls a modern individualistic approach to religion as the "cookie-counter" approach, where people pick-and-mix aspects of religion (like the New Age mix of Mind-Cure, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc). They completely ignore the all-consuming paths that allowed those religions to arise in the first place. This modern cultural shift is the explanation for his untraditional approach: He is following individualistic culture, and calls this part of it 'free will'.

So... I know what you mean when you say a "free thinker" may be impossible... but I don't see the term is effected by such philosophical condundrums... a 'free thinker' describes the approach, not the scientific underlying physical cause of the approach. So although I know why you don't the existence of 'free-thinkers', I think the issue is one of terminology, and I personally don't mind if people call themselves it.

... I completely agree that knowledge of the all-pervading incluence of culture and friends... may help you sort out the true cause of your own beliefs... but I don't think it does people much good in altering causality, it merely displaces it and makes it the causes of beliefs harder to work out!

Re: Hey I was thinking of you

Thanks for agreeing that I made a fair observation. :)

Also, your educated opinion on the matter is VERY helpful.

Okay, so the label "free-thinker" isn't a name for a person's worldview and ethics? Instead his perspective has been designated as "cookie-counter" by a Steve Bruce or Grace Davie? Finally, his expectations and tacit values have been unconsciously learned from being born and raised in the present "individual-centred" culture? Hmmm that name, the "cookie-counter" approach, is a pretty accurate descriptor!

Yes, this classmate does syncretically try to put many principles from many different philosophical disciplines together to make a customized moral code and knowledge for himself. Also I suspect that he not only takes one thing here and another thing there from the philosophical tradition, but also sorts through the social sciences and accepts some assumptions from each that he thinks will suit him. Yeah, he's put together a hodge podge, unwieldy set of moral armour and worldview with holes in it. :) LOL. ...Well, I had to say that. Okay, I have to rant a bit. Vexen, I'll finish soon.

Well, he's too much of a generalist. Or he doesn't know and understand much about each topic he's picked at. Really, he's not expectional or skilled at anything. For instance, he doesn't know that there's 8 principles of Buddhism. Also, I'll mention this: he had studied broadcasting and journalism in the early '90s and got acquainted with the pre-digital equipment. Well, guess what? I know more than him about this pre-digital equipment because I come from a media family and he just dabbled with the stuff but never holistically got to understand and apply the pre-digital equipment well. Also he doesn't know the history of pre-digital equipment. I was the one who told him why Betamax went obsolete (Beta was outmarketed by Sony).

Okay, done!

Now I'll say that he's decent. He's been nice to me, and he has put forward the wornout "we'll agree to disagree" solution and I accepted this. Finally, I don't want to be an asshole. So I'll say that I don't know much about the subjects that I study and apply because as I apply each one, I realize there's much more to learn and someone else will always know more than myself!!! LOL.

However, I want to be a jerk to him! The "we'll agree to disagree" sophism is lame due to conventional overuse. Hmmm, I should provoke him again and hope that he'll come up with a new marketable truism; one that will surprise me and I'll say, "That's a good one! ...That can be put on a card." But, he's being genuinely decent to me. So, I won't be a jerk.

Okay, in sum, you said that "free-thinker" describes the approach, not the scientific underlying physical cause of the approach. Hmmm, interesting.

Also, I see the same situation that you do:

*You question your tacit assumptions but after you change, you then go by a new set of expectations that soon become unconscious dogma.*

Thanks Vexen for replying to my post!


Re: Hey I was thinking of you

1. "free-thinker" can still be a name for a person's worldview; it describes their approach. You can guess that a freethinker will not follow traditions (unless they agree with them, or understand them), and will be individualistic.

2. The cookie-counter approach to religion is the pick-and-mix method by which some people - especially New Agers and in alternative 'holistic' medicine, etc - pick various bits of religious lore, but do not accept any entire traditional paths.

3. Free-thought and cookie-counter religion are both results of increased individualism in Western cultures.

That free-thought is a growing product of a particular cultural paradigm is not a value-judgement; just because we know something's causes doesn't mean that it becomes less valuable. (For example: Sociologists have studied the selfish reasons that cause people to behave seemingly altruistically. Just because the cause of altruistic behaviour might be selfish, it doesn't mean that the behaviour is any less commendable.)

Re: Hey I was thinking of you

This ia an interesting thread. I plugged in free will, and discovered your site. I've come to believe we don't possess free will---and I basically agree with Einstein. Yet there's that part of that remains spiritual, and I'm wondering could it be we choose before we arrive to experience come what may? Or in fact is nothing free, but a product of the forces that be. I've also been reading a theory about the big bang and how the universe expands until it collapses to begin again. Which by my way of thinking that resonate because that particular theory could coincide with the way the earth and the seasons move in cycles. I've described it as a Universal Groundhog day that takes place within the span of billions of years. Yet as similar as each cycle is, nothing is identical.

Free Will Test

Hi guys,

Please check out this free-will test I've complied from various sources. Its at http://www.whatyouseeyoucannotbe.com/inves/freewill/freewill.html I'm very interested to hear other people's opinions on it.



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