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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.

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