Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Somewhat-not-really-like -15%-Eureka moment By Ashlee

Going into my “Phil’s Day Off”, a lot of my questions such as, “Do all our decisions rely on determination?” or “does free will exist?” (Basically any sentences that ended with a question mark in my first metaphysics post) were still left unanswered. However, one of the major questions I decided to orbit around was, “Is it at all possible to go against determinism, if that is the superior state?”

I’m desperately hoping that I am not the only one going into Phil’s Day Off blindly lost as to how I could prove anything. It’s not a huge surprise that the question still applies, but on the bright side, I can now (sort of) say with confidence that I know where I stand in the argument of determinism vs. free will (around 65% sure!). Instead of using my time on Phil’s Day off to have quiet time to myself, I came up with an experience that would guide me in proving the topic I was striving to understand, which eventually lead me in thinking for hours.I decided to rely most of my decisions for the first half of my Phil’s Day Off on a coin flip. I would ask questions I would usually leave myself to answer on the coin; I believed that this act would result in me being solely dependent on an external factor. This would mean that I am going completely against what I was determined to do by making the most random choice…but did it?

I spent the whole day making decisions mostly dependent on my coin. I use the word, “dependent” here as there were many inquiries that arose on way.  Some examples of the questions I made through my coin:

  • Should I go get ice-cream?
  • Should I continue studying for my law test, or take a 30 minute break?
  • Should I take a bath?
  • Should I floss tonight?
  • Should I go to work, or call in sick (I was pretty sick)
  • Should I go to McDonald’s with my friend at 2 AM?

After a couple of rounds of asking the coin a question, I decided that there was a huge flaw in such hypothesis; was I really asking the coin, or was this whole experiment a hoax in disguise? This experiment wasn’t proving much and here is why:

  • I still held authority to the questions being asked. For instance, I wouldn’t casually ask, “Should I commit genocide?” and even if I did, I would never carry out such act, no matter what the coin said
  • My answers may have been dependent on the coin, but it was ultimately me who chose to do a coin flip in the first place
  • For some questions, I flipped until the answer was something I wanted it to be, for instance, for “should I go get McDonald’s with my friend at 2 AM” (because she was nagging me), I flipped until I got a, “no” because I was tired. This means that even the coin flip, which seems like the most random and dependent source of decision, has room for personal input

The second inquiry I obtained during my confusing journey of metaphysics was what lead me to solidify previous thoughts. I still believed to have the ability to influence my decisions greatly; so what was controlling my decisions that I could prove? From where I stand today, the most I could validate, were my morals and emotions.

The single strongest reason holding me back from supporting the theory of determinism was my value towards morality. Believing that human impulses reply on the world, where all decisions are determined would instantly abolish any form of responsibility anyone has for their actions (or words). To make this more clear, even a murderer would technically be able to justify their crime by saying that they were determined to do so with the power of the universe. Determinism would have to mean that the universe holds no distinction between what we label to be, “evil” or “good”, but everything is solely dependant on fate. By supporting such theory I would automatically disapprove all existing morals of mine; I could no longer be authoritative over my own values.

There also exists that my feeling of freedom was too strong to be unnoticed; the science aspect of myself believes that my brain receives signals to control my muscles into carrying out physical actions, but the feeling of my mind overpowering my entire self is superior over the thought of something else possibly being in charge of it.

There were many situations and ideas that simply stumped me, including my friend Ben (second shout out!) asking, “If a child was raised, being brainwashed by his/her parents, and that specific environment caused him/her to make certain decisions, would such situation still be accountable for the concept of free will?” This one still makes me think, and I’m sure there are still many questions out there that will cause me to ponder. My answer to this very question is that, being brainwashed by an environment in adolescent years are minimising the amount of choices available, and there are still room for personal input (in most examples I am imagining now, may not be the case for all). As this can lead to a sensitive area for many with such ease, I won’t extend it, but my answer is that with the amount of situations that can exist, there are also an infinite amount of probabilities.

Going back to my original question of the possibility of contradicting to determinism, is impossible to answer objectively. Although I can now prove that my hope for the existence of free will derives from my morals; they are both justifications for each other’s existence. My morals could not exist without true ownership, which also cannot exist without my personal authority into thinking so. My Phil’s Day Off wasn’t consisted with a continuous chain of epiphanies, but it did lead me into having a solid opinion on my own beliefs of our freedom.

p.s. Apparently I can’t attach a photo of my special coin because the file is too big?

 

 

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“Do you believe in destiny?” by Ashlee

A conversation I had with a friend, he asked, “you guys seem to be perfect for each other, do you believe in destiny?” I recall debating the question and factoring out all probabilities before answering, “Yes”; but does that lead to a conclusion that humans aren’t free? Are we not capable of truly making our own decisions? Are even the most impulsive or random choices destined to be? If we don’t have free will, why are we here? After pondering those issues, I decided that in order to justify my existence and purpose, I should believe in free will, but does that mean I am just being cowardly of the potential existence of determinism?

So, what is determinism? Determinism, a noun, the principle that all events, including human action, are in the end, determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have even gone to the extent of taking determinism to imply that human beings have no free will, therefore, cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. Such definition that the concept of determinism concludes to the idea of humans living with an absence of freedom, or that they can’t be hold accountable for their actions leads me to ponder the question: “Are humans ever free?”

The Libertarian free will is the conviction of human actions being freely chosen, and truly free actions will necessitate options so that there are other potential chances of probability. The belief concludes that decisions aren’t necessarily caused by anything that happened before it, but solely is the result of non-physical events. This means that all our choices are based on our impulses and there is no external factor or a prophecy that can factor into that.  After looking more into a libertarian’s views on free will, they validate their point with the distinction between event causation and agent causation. Event causation is the argument that no physical event can occur without being caused by a prior event, while agent causation is the belief of a being starting a whole chain of causality, with no other causes.

On the other hand, I perceive determinism to be linked with reductionism greatly; reductionism is the view that all parts of the world, and of our own experience, can be traced back/reduced down to one singular thing. If this is the case, then moving backwards, it could define that everything is the inevitable result of what came before including our actions.

The main reasons drawing me back from hopping onto the idea of determinism completely, is that the concept of determinism would validate any actions committed, including those classified to be wrongful. Can a murder argue that they were determined to kill the victim and that the universe disregards the good and evil, and that such action was meant to be? Another reasoning that many libertarians seem to argue is that it’s nearly impossible to disregard the feeling of freedom entirely; if we feel free, we should consider the likelihood that we are. So are decisions and circumstances purely a result of belief, desire and temperament leading to an action, or is it just, “meant to be”?

 

Still being unsure whether I hold any authority to my decisions, it’s hard to ignore the concept of determinism if it attacks the purpose of my existence. I still cannot answer any questions I have asked above, nor do I know why we are here. Although after doing much research, it’s evident that my morals are what’s drawing me away from determinism, and that deep down it generates fear of my existence being upon something or someone else’s superiority.

 
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