Response to: Feel Free To Differ

I wrote responses to a few paragraphs in this article. I feel that it misrepresents determinism as well as misses the point of what the free will debate is about.

Grant Bartley: “Determinism itself comes in different flavours. Hard determinism of the most absolute sort is the theory that the entire history of the universe was already fixed from its very beginning by the setting of the laws of nature and the original states of the matter in it. This is no longer tenable due to the intrinsic indeterminacy – the random behaviour – at the heart of matter that is explored in quantum physics. But physics does apparently allow a somewhat less absolute determinism – the idea that the behaviour of the world is determined by previous physical activities, but with some randomness as to what the particular outcomes will be. So a quantum determinist could defend an indeterministic determinism!”

Chandler Klebs: A person either is a determinist(they believe all events are caused) or they are an indeterminist who believes some things happen acausally for no reason at all. Honestly I find uncaused events absurd and define as a hard determinist, but some among my peers such as ‘Trick Slattery define themselves as a hard incompatibilist. This means that free will is nonsense whether determinism is true or false. If determinism were false, it would only mean strange events happen but they happen without a cause. This means that no human or even a god is the cause.

Grant Bartley: “I think there are two major problems for hard determinists (and so also for compatibilists) to address. Firstly, How do you justify your assumption that causation is only physical, not also mental? The idea that minds can’t choose is so far only an assertion by determinists, and one that’s not justified in experience (and so is not empirically sound), since all our experience of willing informs us that we do make choices, and that we do so effectively. So what sound basis exists for saying we don’t choose?

Chandler Klebs: There are so many errors in this paragraph. First of all, determinism applies whether we define causation as physical, mental, spiritual, political, sexual, financial, or whatever. Prior causes, whether natural, supernatural, or something else are required for our existence. A person need not be a materialist(everything is physical) as I am. It also doesn’t matter whether you believe in gods, ghosts, unicorns, or the flying spaghetti monster. If you say you made a choice, then tell us why you made the choice. It’s not about whether we consciously choose. It’s more about the fact that we don’t choose which option we choose. We are simply born with different preferences in food, sexuality, and other basic things such as left or right handedness. Our choices are caused by what we desire, but we don’t choose what we desire.

Grant Bartley: “The second problem is: Why would consciousness evolve if it doesn’t do anything? On a more rigid determinism, our conscious states and our actions are the results of automatic brain activity; so our actions would be the same with just the brain activity and without the consciousness. However, consciousness is an expensive luxury, being created through specially-evolved, dedicated and energy-hungry brain areas (eg V4-V6 for colour vision). Consciousness is evidently not just a fortuitous free side-effect of other brain activity, as some determinists misrepresent it. So why evolve it?”

Chandler Klebs: I’ve never heard of a determinist who makes the claim that consciousness doesn’t do anything. Quite the contrary. To be able to eat requires consciousness of being hungry and consciousness of food available nearby. No amount of consciousness or lack thereof allows someone to choose to stop feeling hungry. Consciousness is another philosophical debate entirely that has very little to do with determinism, indeterminism, or libertarian and compatibilist definitions of free will.


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