Month: March 2012

Train of Thought this Morning.

Train of Thought this Morning.

First I thought of this passage.

What? A speaker is but a prater; a rhyme is but a ballad. A
good leg will fall; a straight back will stoop; a
black beard will turn white; a curled pate will grow
bald; a fair face will wither; a full eye will wax

But a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the
moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it
shines bright and never changes, but keeps his
course truly.

-Shakespeare’s Henry V

Which made me think of Kant:

Act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature.

Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals 4:421

One thing to notice about this passage is that Kant is combining determinism with freedom.  That is, we cannot be free unless we will universal laws.  And laws are unyielding and determined.  Letting our whims and inclinations guide our actions is to be wanton.

This made me think of Conways’ Game of Life.  And how, purpose like structures can form out of simple deterministic rules.

Which reminded me that indeterminism, as often expressed using quantum mechanics to explain how the brain can be undetermined, is not helpful for explaining or accounting for freedom.  A degree of randomness inserted at certain points into human thinking does not help us to be free.  More and more I find that deterministic systems (or mostly deterministic systems) are the only systems capable of freedom.  More needs to be said here.  But I’ll just leave that topic for another time.

I do think that questions of freewill often center around specific points in time, say when deciding between chocolate and vanilla shakes.  But if we adopt compatibilism, the idea that freedom is compatible with determinism, we can see human decisions, habits and processes as happening overtime rather than discrete events to be metaphysically dissected.

This mad me think of freedom as ability, as advocated by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen.  The fact that Johnny can’t read is more important to Johnny’s freedom than whether quantum mechanics is inserting random signals into Johnny’s brain.

This made me think of Restorative Justice as a replacement for the retributive model of punishment.  RJ fits very nicely with compatibilism.

Lastly, as a note to my religious friends, I do think that what I’ve outlined can sit well with Christianity and other religious traditions.  However, you will probably have to give up on the idea of Hell, as many Christians have…and of the soul as undetermined.